Archive for June, 2016

In the crystalline world of Casey Golden‘s music, evolution has been at work, as it inevitably must in any viable ecosystem.

The new work, an EP made of the four-part Miniature has built on Golden’s previous work, markedly 2105’s Outliers, which consolidated the Trio’s sound, vision and mission statement brilliantly. (Check also Outliers’ little sister album Live at Bennett’s Lane).

Golden Trio Miniature 2

Everything good and great about the Trio is still there. Golden’s compositions still blur beautifully between ensemble and improvisation, a vision virtually impossible to achieve without more than a touch of telepathy and players as empathic and creative as Ed Rodrigues on drums and bassist Bill Williams. The writing has not lost its nods to minimalism, Prog rock, post-rock and European classical flavours (contrapuntal bebop anyone?).

It sounds odd, and yet one of the most attractive attributes of Golden’s music is its un-jazzness. And the new work takes this further into new timbres.

Golden Trio Miniature 1

Miniature cover art by Glenn Smith

Miniature brings in the new sounds of synth and guitar (courtesy of guest Daniel Walsh). They are used sparingly and to great effect – the ‘classic/classical’ spine of the band’s piano trio character is not bruised at all, just gently shaded here, lit with a little rose or green there.

Opening movement of the Miniature suite – ‘I’ – has guitar over its tricksy timing, rising and falling  and oddly bringing to mind ‘acoustic electronica’. Its synth coda does not jar at all, but seems to be as logical as anything else in this movement.

‘II’ begins with an echo of one of the themes heard intertwining through the suite, before a completely absorbing (how rare they are) Bill Williams bass solo.

The third movement is ‘Interlude’. It takes another tack on timbre – the Bach-like piano lines sound dried-out, as if coming from a phone recording. This moves into a watery synth passage – as if listened to under water. The effect is magical – as if this ‘Interlude’ between the first two and the final movements has truly suspended time.

‘III’, the final movement of  Miniature has all the drama of a finale – except that drama is shaped through the lens of Golden’s compositional vision: so it has twists, turns, Zawinul-like suggestions of melody and then bursts of epic melody. The epic and the miniature, side by side, often one seen through the mirror of the other.

This is what sets Golden’s music apart from anything I can think of today. In my earlier review of Outliers I wrote “It is rare that a musical vision is so complete, and completely of its own world.” We are now seeing that world evolve – long may it do so.

 

Published June 2016 on australianjazz.net

In an age of globe-straddling events many smaller explosions go off unnoticed.

One such little ‘Boom!’ is the recent release of the Andrea Keller Quartet’s Greatest Hits, the release of which signals another significant (and just a little sad) event – that of the coming to an end of the much-loved AKQ after seventeen years.

Andrea Keller Hits 2

Pic by Jim Rodon

The album contains twelve tracks drawn from the Quartet’s five albums released from 2001 onwards, the albums winning various ARIA and Bell Awards and a sack of sundry nominations. The personnel across all five is a joy in itself, the morphing Quartet at times having Phil Slater, Shannon Barnett, Steve Magnusson and Gian Slater along for the wave ride of Keller’s startling compositions, as well as the AKQ constants, trumpeter Eugene Ball and tenor Ian Whitehurst.

Bookended by compositions from 2001’s Thirteen Sketches (the impressionistic ‘That Day’) and 2013’s Wave Rider (‘Illuminate’, a string-driven nature hymn), Greatest Hits spans a breathtaking stylistic range, yet never blurs Keller’s singularly focussed vision.

The same gentle humour that named this collection Greatest Hits also lights up the T. Monk-ish lopsided rush of ‘Blue-Arsed Fly’ (Whitehurst absolutely understanding where Keller’s mind is coming from here, his solo a delight) and beams upon the Gian Slater led ‘Twenty Ten’ (twists and turns in the rhythm here, like crossing winter currents just below the surface of a summer river).Andrea Keller Hits 1

Keller’s harmonic sense throughout seems to have its own logic, following its path to places, once arrived at, are just where we want to be. Like all valid jazz writing, her compositional language seems to suit the soloists just fine, too – Ball’s trumpet follows and plays around the smoothly unpredictable chord shifts of ‘Under The Birch Tree’ (and, next, Keller’s own solo makes sense of it all, as of course it should). Phil Slater’s playing across the astonishing harmonic backdrop of ‘The Rain Outside’ is Pollock-like, all strings and knots.

There is blues (2007’s ‘Broken’) and Balkan Dixeland from 2009 (‘Soup Tin Baby’) and lush Shoalhaven dreaming (‘From Nature’s Fabric’). There is Latin, tastes of Europe and of Uluru, underwater sunlight and there are smiles and some deep hurt.

Greatest Hits stands on its own, despite the span of time it holds. Yet it should be seen as a door to the five superb, highly individualistic AKQ albums it samples – Thirteen Sketches (2001), Angels & Rascals (2004)m, Little Claps (2007), Galumphing ‘Round the Nation (2010) and Wave Rider (2013).

 

The AKQ legacy is a rich one. Australian jazz is blessed to have it.

 

 

Published July 2016 on australianjazz.net