Posts Tagged ‘Jeremy Rose’

Cameron Undy’s new Twentieth Century Dog album, Bone, has left this reviewer speechless. Which is quite a feat in itself.

The only honest review I could give is “Go listen.” But my pen, once unsheathed, needs to talk, so talk it shall.

Listening to the remarkable improvisations that make up the ten tracks on Bone, I see not a group of separate musicians but a single organism – a big body with waving arms and heads – a Dog of Seven Heads. Surely this music cannot come from separate consciousnesses, even of those consciousnesses are as hyper-conscious as Simon Barker and Jamie Cameron and Ben Kidson on drums and percussion, Jeremy Rose on reeds, Greg Coffin on keys, Ben Hauptmann on guitar, and leader, composer, producer Cameron Undy on barking, growling bass.

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The presser says these pieces are made up out of long buried ideas “dug up, buried in the yard, dug up again” over the ten years that Undy focused his energies on his iconic jazz room, Surry Hills’ Venue 505. These ideas shape the grooves and basic motifs of the improvisations, and also form ensemble sections that rise out of the music and then are gone as soon as they came.

The Dog is big on rhythm too – with two drummers and a percussionist, as well as having a bass-player as leader, it is inevitable that there will be grooves of all flavours, and rhythm games running through the music like pulsing veins. Funk, Afro-beat, jazz: all booty-shaking but mind-bending at the same time.

‘Tail of the Dragon’s’ melodic pass-the-parcel leads to some big-fun messing with time, its play extending into the band comping behind Coffin’s solo, then behind, in and around Rose’s solo. ‘Dog Day’ is taut funk which Ben Hauptmann nips and tugs at until it is reshaped in his image. ‘Bone’ conjure’s the same skull-grinning space-griots as Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi band. bone1

‘Broken Creak’ applies Broken-beat to some serious funk: the drummers slip in and out of sync with each other, like a musical moiré-pattern moving in and out of focus. Undy’s bass solo here is muscular and propulsive while Coffin’s soul-gospel piano passage moves against the lagging drums like a sermon that will not be denied.

Bone was recorded live at Venue 505 over two days in late 2016. The live recording brings so much out in the band (have I said before there is a strong argument at all jazz should be recorded live?), giving the album an in-the-moment electricity that charges the air.

It is not all funk and zap though; the three short interlude pieces – ‘Anagram’, ‘Sunrise’ and ‘Constellation’ – are welcome breathers from the tropical storm of Bone. Rose’s bass clarinet on the latter is particularly affecting, singing a folk-like song of universal longing.

Final track, the long workout ‘Bust Down_Parallelism’, captures everything that is good and real about Bone and Twentieth Century Dog. An almost endlessly inventive Hauptmann solo rises to a boil that bursts like a summer storm, washing away to a half-dark duskscape, only to rise through a percussion conversation into Jeremy Rose’s strutting tenor solo. Composition/improvisation. Magic While U Wait. It’s what the Dog does so well.

Ok, I will shut up now. Go listen to Bone.

 

Bone is available from Earshift Music – http://earshift

 

Published on http://jazz.org.au/ January 2017

The first time I really heard altoist/composer Jeremy Rose was on a side stage at a Darling Harbour Jazz Festival (remember them?) a few years back. He was leading a lean, raw-boned quartet with – I think – trumpeter Eamon Dilworth, but I couldn’t be sure.

What I can be sure of was that I stayed for his whole set, ignoring the main stage for the duration. And, since then, I have kept an ear out for whatever Jeremy Rose is doing.

And I have always been intrigued, amazed, challenged and – to be frank – totally gassed by his restless artistic nature and his consistently questing music, both as a composer and as a soloist.

Through the bony reggae of The Strides, to the funk-Ornettey grooves of The Vampires, to the moody chamber jazz of The Compass Quartet and on to his many other projects, Rose’s pluralistic musical vision has always taken me to some interesting and strangely bejewelled places.

pic: karen steains

pic: karen steains

His latest – with his Quartet – is ‘Sand Lines’. It is a delight to hear Rose back in the arms of (almost) straight-ahead Jazz – an added delight is to hear him rocking so sweet and heavy in those arms.

Opener, the title track ‘Sand Lines’, has Rose’s silvery soprano leading over a staggered ensemble section until the band climbs into a swing section – Rose’s solo breaks into a grin that won’t stop. His soprano tone and playing has the gift that Wayne Shorter has – the ‘eastern’ nasal inflection, a joy of Trane’s sound, is replaced by a roundness and warmth, with those big-throated, round notes opening the tone at just the right points.

Pianist Jackson Harrison glitters like an heirloom diamond in his solo on the ‘Sand Lines’ track. Barefoot drummer James Waples and Rose’s fellow-Vampire, bassist Alex Boneham, push the performance with a combination of grin and sweat. The vibe set up by the energy of the ‘Sand Lines’ track sets the tone for the rest of this rich and tasty album.

Guest Carl Morgan adds his guitar to ‘The Long Way Home’ – Rose’s languid memory of childhood drives through the Australian bush – his snaking solo winding in and out of the background melody fragments.

Morgan also appears on ‘Precipice’ – the tune’s shape a perfect example of Rose’s compositional ability to blur melody and improvisation (in effect, ‘head’ and heart) into a seamless skin. Quite lovely.Jeremy-Rose Sand-Lines_Cover

‘Mind Over Matter’ is Rose’s tribute to the dear and sadly departed David Ades, his mentor, mate and fellow surf-dog. The piece dances in a joyful place, rising and falling as if buoyed by surf currents, summoning Ade’s bright life-lust in primary colours. Harrison’s solo here is particularly sharp – rhythmic play with melodic curves curving around each other in new shapes.

The album’s standout to me is ‘Hegemony’. It is a half-lit ballad that exists on the same shadow-theatre stage as Miles Davis’ ‘Blue in Green’ and shares with Miles’ and Bill Evans’ iconic piece a melodic ambiguity which the musicians build on to deep effect. Alex Boneham’s measured and lovely bass solo takes this already twilight piece into even darker waters, wading thru the indigo.

After nailing such a sharp and intense Jazz album, I am sure we will lose the restless Rose now to his next project – of indeterminant genre – but whatever it is I know I will want to be on his listeners list. Jeremy, you have my number.

Published December 2015 on australianjazz.net

The cover of the new Strides album The Youth, The Rich & The Fake shows an Indian sadhu (white and red painted face and festooned topknot as befits your local holy man) taking a nice deep drag on a chillum of (i would say) potent bhung. If you want to know how the gentlemen is feeling, all you have to do is step inside and let the Strides be your guide.

Australia’s premier proponents of reggae and dancehall, the 8-piece Strides have released their best yet in The Youth, The Rich & The Fake, their thirdThe band is already bristling with championship musicians, rappers and singers, and for the new one they have added guests to the party such as soul sister Ngaiire and Sierra Leonean ragga man Blacker Conteh.

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Across the twelve tracks they spread their message, their virtuosity and many moods, yet without ever losing the roots(-reggae) of what they do so well. The variety and scope is wide as a Barbados beach, yet all are lit by the same sunshine. The easy reggae of ‘History’ with the sinewy horns of Jeremy Rose and Nick Garbett to the fore; the smooth croon of frontman, reggae master Ras Roni, over ‘Murawina’; the clipped ska of ‘Wizard’, with its suggestion of Horace Silver‘s ‘Song For My Father’ under it all; the mellow yet tough dub of ‘One for One’, the sort of dark groove that Fat Freddy’s Drop do so well; the sunny hymn to Jah’s love, ‘One Heart’; so many moods.

Hip-hop flavours add sweet-and-sour to ‘No Drama’ (shades of Slim Shady) and closer ‘Rude Boys’, rapper Ltl Gzeus’ joy-of-sex rap over a spooky funk reggae chug. Ngaire’s two features, ‘Rasta Live’ and especially ‘One for One’ are warm and smooth as skin.

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Standout track ‘Arnhem Land’ shows alto saxist Rose and piano player Danny Pliner stretch out on their jazz chops: Rose’s solo climbs like a snake or like a vine seeking sunlight at the top of the jungle; Pliner’s piano solo goes some dissonant places that would even make our Indian holy man sit up and take notice.

Worked up at Campbelltown’s Art Centre in gritty Western Sydney and recorded in a Byron Bay rainforest studio (U-Live), The Youth, The Rich & The Fake is a unique and uplifting statement of reggae music by one of our – and one of the World’s – best.

 

Published March 2015 on theorangepress.net

A dubby fanfare from Jeremy Rose and Nick Garbett and we are off into the new Vampires album, Tiro – into that unique Vampires place where Ornette Coleman jams at Black Ark, while New York traffic snarls by outside and Bondi surf laps at our (tapping) toes.

The said dubby fanfare introduces Rose’s ‘Mandala’, an upbeat slice of reggae-jazz that is reminiscent of the UP vibe of their last (wonderful) album, Garfish.

But that vibe is a touch misleading – overall Tiro is more blues, more downbeat and definitely (maybe not but maybe because of the blues) more truly beautiful (define that!) than Garfish. It is a leap, horizontally and vertically, from that 2012 album; the band and the compositions widening and deepening as any great band does as it evolves.

Vampires-KarenSteains

Garbett’s ‘Palau’ follows – a churchy NOLA blues that reminds us why we love the Vampires so much – as with Ornette, the piano-less, astringent sound reveals such poetry: funny how less voices make for more poetry. We fill in the gaps from our own experience and it hits us in the gut.

Rose’s ‘Pseudoscience’ is the most Ornette-y track here – over an Alex Boneham ostinato, Rose and Garbett weave and duck and feint and jab almost telepathically. The later track, ‘Colombiana’ also kicks nicely over Boneham’s Fender bass with Garbett’s heavily reverbed solo recalling the lightning sparkle and shimmer of electric Miles. Drummer/percussionist Alex Masso jumps right out at you here, snapping shots and accents all around the frantic funk of the two-horn melody.

The blue mood returns for Rose’s ‘Beautiful Decay’ before the first of two ingenious remixes in collaboration with Paul Bromley at Brisbane’s Tanuki Lounge Studios, ‘Tiro-Tanuki remix’ – 0:49 of the title track tipped at a surreal angle. The second remix is ‘Mandala-Tanuki remix’, a beautifully reverb-heavy dub take on the opening track in 1:27. The remixes are a nice touch and, as well as reminding us of the roots of The Vampires’ music, serve to lighten the mood with some fun and spacey atmosphere.

There is a liner note from Nick Garbett for Tiro’s final track ‘Brother Sykes’, a dedication to a friend lost at sea, the brother of the title. ‘Brother Sykes’ – maybe because it is suffused with such emotive rawness – is the standout here: building from a muffled drumbeat – a muted but merciless hammer of grief – the twinned clarinet-trumpet melody winds its sorrow around its own heart, squeezing it and then stopping when it hurts too bad to trickle away on a limpid melodic downcurve. Then it starts again…MadCds 2 outer pocket 4 P gatefold wallet

The band play around each other here, as if conversing, exchanging their grief – the feeling is one of a wake, funereal and puffed-out. It is a nod to the complete musicianship of Alex Boneham that the bass dominates here, expressing so much in answer to the gray-blues and watery mauves thrown at him by Rose and Garbett. All seems to happen underwater, beneath a heavy lid of mortality.

‘Brother Sykes’ finishes in an unresolved cadence, unsatisfying, hanging there – just as their good friend’s life and possibility was cut too short. It is a remarkable piece of music and a true expression of what great music can be – sadly overlooked in too many jazz releases in favour of clever-clever – a mirror on life, and us, and our path through it all.

‘Brother Sykes’ is a remarkable piece of music on a remarkable album – ‘Tiro’ is The Vampires fourth and doubtless best. It will be exciting to see where Rose, Garbett, Boneham and Masso go next. Long may they run.

Published October 2103 on australianjazz.net

 

Chamber ensembles can be a beautiful thing. Intimacy, flexibility, improvisation, new tone colours, astringent dissonances are all aspects of the small group that cannot work within the heavy logistics of an orchestra or jazz big band.

Chamber ensembles comprising instruments of the same family – string quartets, brass choirs, woodwind ensembles – up the aesthetic ante by creating colours and moods that are utterly unique, and often otherworldly. Check Beethoven’s late quartets – could anything be added or subtracted? I think not. Perfection.

The maker-or-breaker of course is in writing for the small ensemble. With such a limited musical palette of timbres and instrument capabilities, every decision has to count. Done badly, it can be turgid or insipid. To hit the sweet spot that is the intersection of composition, knowledge and vision, it helps to be a hell of a player, listener and thinker.

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Altoist Jeremy Rose is all of those and with the Compass Quartet, he has a hell of a group. Baritone Luke Gilmour, SSO soprano Christina Leonard and tenor Matthew Ottignon make up the other three points of the compass. Without listing their multiple awards, accolades and huzzahs, suffice to say, this is an A-Team of Australian saxophony. Guest pianist Jackson Harrison is also one of Australian jazz’s best and brightest.

The Compass Quartet’s third album, Oneirology (~ study of dreams), is dominated by a four part suite by Rose, as well as containing one piece each from Rose and Harrison. The ‘Oneirology Suite’ was inspired by the recent Christopher Nolan film, Inception – a film about dreams within dreams within dreams, déjà vu and strange loops in time.

Rose’s writing for the suite exploits the full range of the saxophone quartet. Opening movement ‘Daydreamer’ has a nice woozy country vibe, a feeling of lying in a field with your mind drifting. The saxophone writing is warm and choral. Harrison’s piano calls to mind the blue-sky pastoralism of Aaron Copland and suits the mood perfectly.compass quartet2

Yet ‘Dream Within A Dream’, the Suite’s third movement has a fragmented surrealism that folds back on itself to unsettling effect. Rose’s solo, leapfrogging Jackson’s piano over sighing grey chords, is perfectly held and serves to sharpen the claustrophobic mood.

To hear Rose and Matthew Ottignon soloing with such sensitivity in a chamber setting such as Oneirology (~ study of dreams) is a pleasure, as I have been recently grooving to their funky side – Rose in the reggae-jazz Vampires and Ottignon in his afro-beat guise as Mr OTT. They are exceptional players, as are Gilmour and Leonard. But, more importantly, the Compass Quartet are a group that breathe (literally) together. John Shand has said of the group, “The horns curl around one another in dramatic precision, or explode in joyous or sultry improvisation”.

The addition of Jackson Harrison, on paper seemed a misjudgement – I was concerned that the piano would clog the astringent voice of the four saxes and intrude on their conversation by its very nature. Not only was I wrong – Harrison’s measured playing gets the balance right on all tunes – but he contributes the beautifully conceived and wittily titled ‘Charcoal Chorale’ to the set.

Jeremy Rose’s final piece, ‘Interplay’ – a lightly syncopated 7/8 groove – features the four saxes playing around each other, together, apart and in subtly myriad combinations as the piece flies by. Rose’s solo on ‘Interplay’ is a delight for anyone sacrilegious enough to suggest (maybe me) that the alto is the most ‘jazz’ of the horns – nimble, fleet, dappled with flying colours, with an edge of blues cry in its trajectory, a pure joy.

It is all wonderful stuff – and Oneirology (~ study of dreams) is a beautiful album from The Compass Quartet, a group who continue to amaze as they explore deeper and deeper into the possibilities that can bloom from the conversation between four saxophones.

For more information visit: http://compassquartet.com/ and http://www.earshift.com/

Published July 2103 on australianjazz.net 

One of the true delights of any music festival is that, for a few days – or even just a few precious hours – you are in a strange and beautiful new world, away from the tangle and hum of city life. The 4th Jazzgroove  Summer Festival reigned over Sydney’s Redfern-Surry Hills Delta for four days in January, staking out the territory in the name of modern composition, improvised music and the jazz life.

And what a strange and beautiful world they conjured for us among the bricks and grime, the litter and the 7-11 Stores.

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I was fortunate to start at the very beginning, with Tom O’Halloran’s solo piano opener on Thursday at Surry Hills’ Tom Mann Theatre. A smart choice to open the Festival, O’Halloran’s sure touch made the piano sigh and glitter. His closer, a sparkling ‘No More Blues’ served as a teasing appetiser for a weekend of stellar music.

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And stellar was the word (a TV sports cliché yes, but too apt to not use here) for Jonathan Zwartz’s band, up next. A Dream Team of players – Slater, Maegraith, Greening, Julien Wilson blowing (his and) our minds, Dewhurst, Matt McMahon, Hamish Stuart and percussionista Fabian Hevia holding it down with the calm river that is Zwartz himself. And from that calm river flowed strong and sure compositions, with melodic lines that were often country-simple but Gospel-true. From the opener ‘Shimmer’ through to ‘Henry’s High Life’, it was transfixing soul-blues that had the soloists reaching within – Phil Slater and Richard Maegraith especially going deep on the latter tune – leaving the audience at Tom Mann visibly affected. Like all true wisdom there was very little flash, but a universe of quiet fire.

The opening night was climaxed by the mighty Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra, paying tribute to genius jazz composer Bob Brookmeyer (who sadly passed from this earthly plane last year). Even though the Orchestra bristles with astounding soloists, it was the Festival’s International Guest Artist (I suppose Aotearoa counts as international) tenor magus Roger Manins that was featured on all charts. The Orchestra is truly a national treasure and for this, their 10th anniversary gig, they played better than I have ever heard them – snapping and roiling on the fiery pieces and painting colour washed mists on the quieter pieces such as the lovely ‘Fireflies’. Manins stood toe-to-toe with the band on the blasting finale, ‘See Saw’, his tenor sassing back and cajoling the Mothership. Big kudos to drummer Jamie Cameron who rode the roaring beast on all pieces with great style and verve.

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Friday was Fusion Day for me as I took in the electro-jazz of the Alcohotlicks at 505 and later, the flamenco-jazz of Steve Hunter’s Translators down the road at the Gaelic. It had been Sydney’s hottest day ever (!) on record and the evening was still dripping from the day.alcohotlicks

At 505, The Alcohotlicks’ Evan Mannell admitted to ‘shitting himself’ at the prospect of working without a drum kit. He then won us all over with a beautiful funky groove, cut-up on his sample box from Jimi Hendrix’s throaty ‘Who Knows’ riff. Joined by Ben Hauptmann on MIDI guitar and laptop, and Aaron Flower (the hoary traditionalist of the group who merely plays a guitar through an amp) the trio – winners of the inaugural Jazzgroove Association Recording Artist Award  – astounded with tracks from their album Danaïdes. ‘Neon’ was neo-NEU! motorik funk; ‘Baader’ was Goldfrapp/Moroder replicant-porn boogie. Did I sense a few members of the 505 audience shifting in their seats during the Alcohotlicks set? Artists such as these are the ones who move any music forward and all kudos to them for working at the edge of the Jazz comfort zone. A little seat shifting is always a good sign.

steve hunter, the translatorsDown the steaming street to the Gaelic. By now slightly drunk on the merlot and the humidity, I was taken away completely by The Translators. Too loud for the room – not a bad thing at all – electric bass toreador Steve Hunter and the quartet blazed through a set of flamenco-flecked originals that had Míro dancing with Manitas de Plata, Chick Corea dancing with de Falla in my swirling head. At times Ben Hauptmann’s electric mandolin solos sounded like a 70’s micro-Moog, the otherworldly tone beautifully offset by Damien Wright’s flamenco gut-string. ‘Turquoise’ was blue in green in orange. ‘The Last Trannie’ was Madrid via Soweto. Always a fiery and sparkling group, tonight – after not playing together for two years – The Translators shone like a Catalonian sun and lit all our faces with broad smiles. Not so long between sangrias next time, please amigos!

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the fantastic terrific munkle

Saturday my hangover needed the peace of Prince Alfred Park and the gentle afternoon humour of The Fantastic Terrific Munkle. Cool breezes blew, people picnicked on the grass, and from between two huge trees, The Munkle – powered by Sam Golding’s tuba and the (snake-)charming clarinet of Jeremy Rose – wove their musical tales of whimsy, recalling ragtime, Dixie, weird old blues and French salon jazz. The song announcements were made through a megaphone, the guitar amp was powered by solar panels and guitarist Julian Curwin wore thongs. It was all so sweetly organic, it made the afternoon time stand beautifully still.

Too much daylight – bah! Back into the night and the Steve Barry Trio with Alex Boneham and the quicksilver Tim Firth at 505. This is the trio that played on Barry’s recent album, Steve Barry – a startling album made (conjured from the elements, rather) by this startling combination of players. All the telepathic play and spiritual-empathic magic that lights up the album was here on stage tonight. Reminding me of Bill Evans’ trios or Keith Jarrett’s ‘standards’ trios, Barry-Boneham-Firth could spat and spar – as on opener ‘B.W.’ – or dissipate like evening mist across an introspective ballad such as the lovely ‘Epiphany’. Some of the most fluidly intelligent music in jazz has been made within the piano trio format and groups such as Steve Barry’s trio remind me why.

After the rollicking fun of altoist Ross Harrington’s vibey, young and fun Midnight Tea Party – Dixie, klemzer, ska flavours; a huge hit with the 505 crowd – we were treated to the Andrew Gander Band.

richard maegraithIn a Festival line-up luminescent with musical wonders, I can unreservedly say the Andrew Gander Band was the highlight for me – and I am sure many there would agree. His five-piece group hit their jaw-dropping stride from the first note and ascended from there. I had already seen each of Gander’s sidemen in other Festival groups but playing with Gander seemed to push each of them into the deeper reaches of their own musical universe. Tenor player Richard Maegraith seemed particularly inspired, blowing hard into the white-hot areas of his horn’s capabilties. (My friend, CC – who knows about such things – said after one of Maegraith’s solos “I could see his aura and light flashing off him!”) Bassist Brett Hirst twinned with Gander through all of the music’s twists and turns almost preternaturally. Steve Barry would smartly sit out during guitarist Carl Morgan’s solos, allowing the drum-bass-guitar trio to stretch the harmonies and rhythms into new fluid shapes. The Gander originals such as ‘Retrograde’ (with one of those sizzling rock feels that Billy Cobham does so well) and the 5/4 roller coaster ride of ‘Prism’ were just eaten alive by the band, who also managed great takes on radically reshaped standards such as ‘Star Eyes’ and Dizzy’s ‘Con Alma’.

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ben hauptmann, zoe and the buttercups

Where to go from there? Thankfully the Sunday program offered sweet soul relief in the form of Festival Guest Roger Manins and the original lineup of his soul-jazz champions, Hip Flask. To a packed 505, Manins’ testifying tenor led the quintet through ‘Bang’, ‘Big Sis’, ‘John Scon’ and others from their Jazzgroove catalogue. Against the indigo-blue Hammond of Stu Hunter, Adam Ponting’s peppery shards of piano dissonance put Hip Flask in their own category without losing any soul-jazz juice. The intro to ‘Blues for Adam Ponting’ moved in and out of harmonic focus until Manins brought us back to the planet with some real deep earth. (Manins was also one of the drollest bandleaders of the Festival, his tongue popping almost through his cheek at times during his stage announcements…)

By now saturated to the brim with music and fine 505 merlot, I took one last rolling stroll down Chalmers Street, climbing the stairs to the Gaelic to bid the Festival adieu with Zoe Hauptmann and her Buttercups. The six piece snapped my jaded mind awake with their patented country-soul stomp and Tele-blaster Aaron Flower’s always-exhilarating chicken-pickin’. Watching Ms Hauptmann leading her Buttercups up there, a question swam into my mind: Where were all the women musicians at the 4th Summer Festival? Ok, there was Zoe H and new bassist Hannah James (yes, Elana Stone too, but I am not counting vocalists in this equation) – that’s two out of an awful lot of male musicians. This is not a polemic point, nor is the question rhetoric; it is an honest query. The Con and other institutions turn out many many women musicians, musicians who have graduated alongside their male contemporaries, women musicians who are out there any night of the week paying as many gig dues as the guys. So why, when you get to the highest levels of jazz in this country – such as the annual Jazzgroove Festival – are women so insignificantly spoken for?

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In his Sunday night wrap-up speech, Jazzgroove President (and Buttercup trombonist) John Hibbard admitted that this year’s Summer Festival almost didn’t happen. The committee had sat around Matt McMahon’s dining table and voted on going through with it or not. It was that dire. After four days of wonderfully attended gigs by our best and brightest – and some performances that seriously deserve to pass into myth and legend – it is hard to believe that meeting ever took place. But positive energy ruled that day – the vote was to go ahead – and that same positive energy ruled the 4th Jazzgroove  Summer Festival.

And thank God, Miles and Duke that it did.

The Jazzgroove website is here.

Published January 2103 on australianjazz.net 

Frank Zappa’s famous dictum of “Jazz is not dead; it just smells funny” was made at a time when Jazz had left the listener behind, cordoning itself off with fences of impenetrable theory and barbed wire tangles of unlistenable mathematics. Artists like Anthony Braxton, who named many of his compositions with symbols and numbers, chose to forget entirely about that function of music that activates the body below the cerebellum. The only way out seemed through fusing with rock, blues, funk and other, more vigorous mongrel-like musics.

Even though Jazz ultimately found its way again, it still intermittently reinvigorates itself by sucking on the funky, vital blood of other, more populist musics now and again – check current shining light Robert Glasper’s incorporation of hip-hop and urban favours into his Jazz, or our own D.I.G who mixed up House and Jazz so successfully in the 90s.

Sydney’s Vampires have long mixed reggae (Marley et al plus the Ethiopian skank of the great Mulatu Astatke and such) and African funk into their brew. Featuring compositions from altoist Jeremy Rose and trumpeter Nick Garbett their sound is beautifully open and spry – with no chordal instrument (piano or guitar) to thicken the sound, this allows the band to not only keep the jazzheads happy with some curly chromaticism in the solos, but helps the rest of us shake our asses to the surefooted grooves driven by Alex’s Boneham (bass) and Masso (drums).

Their prior releases – 2008’s South Coasting and Chellodene from 2009 – were hugely successful, pushing The Vampires out into the festival circuit and painting grins on the faces of all who heard them. The new one, Garfish is more of the same, thank God (and Ornette Coleman).

The title track opener, Nick Garbett’s ‘Garfish’ walks in with a beautifully  assured reggae stroll – the band, augmented by trombonist Shannon Barnett, moves between reggae, New Orleans march music and a joyous free-blown Dixieland section. Chilean percussionist Fabian Hevia introduces ‘Haiti’ and we are off into a Randy Weston-style Afrogroove. The ingredients are thrown in, the gumbo mix swirls and the album unfolds like a feast.

Much of this material was developed at the 2011 Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music under the direction of US trumpeter Dave Douglas – a musician known for eschewing genres and elitism: a righteous man, in other words. 

The calypso of ‘Dragon Del Sur’, the relaxed Cuban jump of Rose’s ‘Antipodean Love Song’ – it all reminds me of John McLaughlin’s statement that “all music is World music” – we all live in the World, don’t we? The Vampires take what they want and use what they want, to great effect.

And it is this which makes Garfish such a satisfying album – the solos and ideas are what is best about Jazz: adventurous, poetic, free and soulful; but the grooves and good humour here are also as valid as any other element. Seventy years ago, Jazz used to make the best dance records – in 2012, The Vampires make equally irresistible dance music. Garfish will have you shaking your ass while bright jungle flowers grow between your ears.

Published March 2012 on theorangepress.net