Archive for August, 2018

Hot on the heels of drummer Andrew Dickeson‘s recent collab with US horn player Eric AlexanderIs That So? – comes his new one, The Song is You. Where Is That So? went for the classic tenor/piano quartet template, on this new album Dickeson has gone for the more minimal sound of tenor/guitar, lending the music a more astringent and modernistic texture.

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Pic by Karl Powderly

Of course Dickeson is much more than simply a drummer. A writer-arranger and mainstay of Australian jazz for years now, he is an inspiring figure and one within whom Jazz classicism burns bright. Any occasion Dickeson is also the bandleader is always an event. This album, built around the visit to Sydney of alto/tenor player Nick Hempton from NYC is no exception.

The Song is You takes an eclectic approach, evidenced (pardon the pun) by the Monk opener ‘Trinkle Tinkle’. Thelonious’s knotty tune is relished by the group with Hempton taking an authoritative solo over Monk’s anarchy, and Dickeson’s drum solo playing in and out of almost random-sounding melodic fragments. The wit and sense of fun in Dickeson’s arrangements across the album is a joy.

‘Moonlight in Vermont’ takes the unusual approach of Hempton playing the ballad head, solo,  across a Cuban rhythm on high-tuned toms. It is dislocating and vaguely surreal until the band enters, with Ashley Turner‘s cooly considered bass solo a highpoint.

The rarely heard Cedar Walton tune ‘Shoulders’ moves with a robust swing allowing guitarist Carl Dewhurst to really dig in. It is a pleasure to hear Dewhurst again, now that he is back among us. Over the last few months I have heard him play electronic experimentalism, blues-rock and rockabilly. But, listening to his solo here, I can be sure there is a special room in his musical soul for classic jazz guitar, unadorned and blues-soaked. His solo on ‘Shoulders’ is constructed with a clear trajectory, as the fluid single note runs turn to surprising chords dropped in as the band heats up.maxresdefault

‘Blues for Riyo’ is everything a spontaneous blues should be, with Dewhurst and Hempton conversing in an almost telepathic vocalese. Hempton’s tenor tone is beautifully round here; shades of Ben Webster, perfect for the blues. As on the ballad track, ‘You’ve Changed’, the band shows it can do shade as well as light with impeccable taste.

This light and shade comes across on the Bernie McGann home-grown beauty ‘Spirit Song’, Dickeson handling the skipping 3/4 rhythm deftly. But shade is put aside on the album closer ‘It’s You or No One’, a triple-time bop cooker where Dewhurst and Dickeson trade swift and spirited fours, while barely breaking a sweat.

Dickeson’s startling arrangement of the  title track, the Kern/Hammerstein standard ‘The Song is You’ is the highpoint, to me, of the album. A few weeks ago I heard Sydney vocalist Kate Wadey perform it in a relaxed and intimate setting – and I was reminded why a beautiful and enduring tune it is. Dickeson’s take has the tune morphing from 7/8 to 4/4 with rhythm hits, then moving to a 3/4 waltz figure which ritards – not only does this complexity work seamlessly, but Hempton solos easily over it, before the band settles on a driving swing.

With The Song is You Andrew Dickeson has once again produced a work that moves forward while holding to the tenets of tradition in the music. The strength of the jazz past runs through everything he does, while his inspiring and inspired spirit makes it live today.

The Song is You is being launched ay Sydney’s Venue 505 on Thursday 6 September.

Andrew’s website is http://www.andrewdickeson.com

 

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Since Ray Charles created Soul music in the mid-1950s by combining Gospel ecstacy with the secular (and sexual) themes of the Blues, the genre has given us almost an embarrassment of astonishing vocalists. Charles himself, Smokey Robinson, David Ruffin, Chaka Khan, Otis Redding, Tina Turner, Amy Winehouse – it has always been a singer’s music.

But the one who shone over all of them was Aretha Franklin, The Queen of Soul, who passed away this week. Media – mainstream and social – was numb with grief while ablaze with outpourings of love for Aretha, from an incoherent Donald Trump to Franklin’s contemporaries, as well as current stars from all genres.

This was no mere celebrity passing. Since her breakthrough hit, 1967’s ‘Respect’, her music came to be a cultural signifier.

‘Respect’ was perfectly timed. It enlarged composer Otis Redding’s original tired-man narrative while sassily flipping it’s meaning. It resonated strongly with the women’s movement and the civil rights movement, and the general late 60’s right-on vibe. That is why she is iconic – like Dylan, Beatles, Bowie, the Sex Pistols and Nirvana – a signifier of something far more than just the music. Oh, and it was a bitchin’ piece of music, too. ZPlXzR

Franklin’s catalogue contains the same proportion of missteps of any artist with equal longevity, but at her best she was utterly unbeatable. Often heartstoppingly so.

Prior to her success at Atlantic Records, she had been with Columbia, who saw her as a piano-playing Gospel and Blues artist. Her later classic Atlantic sides, under producer Jerry Wexler brought her music up to date, but never tried to leach out the Blues, or especially the Gospel, from that remarkable voice.

Franklin’s voice came from the wounded heart, much like Billie Holliday before her and Janis Joplin after. She was singing for everywoman, and by extension, everyman. But unlike the raw, excruciating hurts of Holliday and Joplin, Aretha’s bell of a voice rang clear and proud, a spirit not to be bowed.

‘Respect’ is strident and builds to a righteous Gospel blast over a simmering, hip-rolling groove. By contrast, Franklins’ reading of Burt Bacharach’s ‘Say A Little Prayer’ is almost introverted, her bell voice pealing softly and wistfully in its small suburban tower. Hers was a vocal scope that should be a lesson to too many current ‘soul’ singers who entirely miss the point of Soul.

A personal note: A few years back, a band I played in was asked to pepper our set with Top 40 material for a regular gig. I agreed but, ever contrary,  brought in songs from the Top 40 of the late 60s. One was ‘Respect’. I wrote a head chart and brought it to the band in rehearsal. From the first note our singer – one of the finest I have ever worked with and one with a flawless top register – shook her head and said “I can’t get up there”. So we dropped the key. And dropped it… and dropped it…

This small episode confirmed to me in the real world what I had always known – that Aretha Franklin’s voice was something supernatural. The effortlessness in musical areas many singers would blanche at, the steely control which came across as silken flow, the absolute immersion in a song’s meaning and message – any song Franklin covered, such as Bacharach/David’s “Prayer” mentioned above, she owned thereafter and for ever more.

Her influence is, and will always be immeasurable. And not only musically – she wore her mantle as a spokesperson and activist regally and, I am sure, inspired many get to their feet in life.

Goodbye, Aretha Franklin. There will never be another true Queen of Soul. You took us higher. Long live the Queen.

 

 

 

In November last year, well-travelled (musically and geographically) composer-trombonist, Dave Panichi recorded Paradigm live in a NYC studio with his New York Jazz Orchestra.

He has put it out as a DVD, which is a special treat as it is a thrill to watch the band work through these nine electrifying arrangements. All pieces are Panichi compositions with the exception of  ‘Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans?’ – but this 7/4 modern take on the standard also has the Panichi stamp on it.

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‘Simple Song’, the second piece in after ‘Footnote’ (a stunning opener in parts reminiscent  of Jaco‘s ‘Liberty City’) is dedicated to Panichi’s mentor Bob Brookmeyer, which explains so much of what makes Panichi such an innovative and fascinating arranger:  the intricate mesh of lines and textures, sections playing off against each other only to coalesce before splitting again. It is all about movement, like the complex interlocking gears and cogs of a watch. Drummer Dennis Mackrel shines here: on brushes for the intro and with sticks further in.

Title track ‘Paradigm’ is a 7/4 groove that has plenty of twists and turns in the writing – Rich Perry‘s tenor solo plays around and against these with great ‘ears’ and ideas.

‘Ruby’ could be a classic standard – it has a strength of melody that makes one feel we have known it for years. Panichi’s solo could not be more apt in colour and tone – ‘composer’s advantage’ to a degree, but he is a warm and soulful player who never puts a foot wrong. paradigm

‘Manhattan’ is a piece of history – performed over 500 times since its 1982 composition – including performances by the Buddy Rich Band as well as all major US festivals and two dozen Sinatra concerts. Its a swinger with an impressionist heart – the piece breaks down in the middle to a lovely feeling of tone-poetry, to be slowly pulled back into tempo by Bruce Barth‘s kaleidoscopic piano solo.

Dedicated to Panichi’s son, ‘Max’ is the most remarkable piece here – startlingly dissonant and boisterously propulsive, it is a capricious ensemble line all the way through. The trumpet and tenor solos of Scott Wendholt and Walt Weiskopf  dance beautifully across its web of textures.

Closer ‘Pyldriver’ – dedicated to Sydney bandleader Ralph Pyl – rolls on a rock groove under blazing brass. Guitarist Pete McCann kicks in the distortion and takes off on one of the most exciting performances of a thrilling set. Drummer Mackrel shows he is a master of the arcane art of big band drumming – his solo is by turns conversational and tough.

Panichi has created something wonderful in Paradigm, this collection of current and earlier works. It is a must for anyone who loves jazz and modern jazz orchestra arrangement – with the bonus of the visuals. Do check it out.

 

Paradigm is available from http://davepanichimusic.com