Posts Tagged ‘Melbourne’

Australian saxophonist Andy Sugg‘s recent album Tenorness is nothing less than a deeply felt love letter to his instrument. Recorded with two different Andy Sugg Groups in those two darkly glittering Gothams of jazz, New York and Melbourne, the eight tracks on Tenorness span the breadth of the tenor’s expression in modern jazz.

As Sugg mentions in his wry and enlightening liner notes, the sax largely exists today because the visionaries of 20th Century Jazz adopted the visionary invention of Adolphe Sax and ran with it. And ran and ran and ran with it.

916584-419033-34

Was it the vocal  quality, the blues expression in the machines throat that got to them? Was it the range that the horn can encompass, from the ballad’s indigo sigh a la Getz to the biting snap of a Pharaoh or Trane? Was it the often otherworldlyness of the tone that suggested new poetics as the music became ever more sophisticated and arcane? Across Tenorness, Sugg answers these questions through example and artistry.

The NYC sessions are more electric and fusion-textured, the Melbourne tracks more acoustic. Opener ‘Out of The Office’ is funky and phat, with Sugg biting and intense and Sean Wayland creating a dense synth solo from the Miles/Weather Report groove.

The ballad ‘Little Sparrow’ is wistful, with Sugg’s modern, vibratoless tone saying all it needs to say. Solo piece ‘The Truer Thing’ brings to mind cocoas and blues and a line from a poem about John Coltrane by Michael Harper:

“In the eyes of my first son are the browns /
of these men and their music”

The NYC rhythm section of Matt Clohsey (bass) and Mark Whitfield (drums) really push the groove of ‘Special K’ in the best way, pushing Sugg to a strutting, joyous solo.500x500

The title track ‘Tenorness’ is from the Melbourne sessions and rhymes with ‘Tenderness’ in its ballad dynamic and the simpatico piano comp. of Andy Vance.

‘Shimmy Hop”s Afro groove and ‘B22”s second line NOLA jump were recorded a world apart but cohere through Sugg’s verve and taste; the former’s Trane/Elvin horn/drums conversation and the latter’s smart and piquant double-tracked tenor standing out.

Tenorness leaves us with the heavy electric funk of ‘Columbia’ – synth washes and below-the-belt bass and almost electric horn – suggesting a future that the tenor is hurtling towards. It has often been the chosen instrument of the mussic’s seekers – those who push and rend the envelope. A younger generation is now doing it too.

Andy Sugg deserves a thanks for being part of that seeking tribe, while still reminding us of the roots that now look for new earth.

Andy Sugg’s website is http://andysugg.com

Tenorness is available at https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/andysugg4

 

 

Advertisements

Elizabeth Bogoni’s striking cover of the new album by WA composer/arranger Alice Humphries’ ECILA shows a deep blue forest symmetrically reflected upon itself. The title across the image is, in fact, Alice’s first name spelled backwards, with the letter C reversed to give us a clue – as well as playing a little visual game-within-a-game. Alice Humphries2

These symmetries and mirror-maze games pop up throughout the ten tracks that make up ECILA, the ensemble’s self-titled debut album. Humphries’ compositions and arrangements are brimming with smart ideas that use all manner of reflections, symmetries, crab-canons and latticed textures to great effect. Australian composer Iain Grandage has mentioned the “rhythmic surprises and games” in Humphries’ music.

But her charts are not some quasi-mathematical brainiac chess-game – far from it: the music here is bursting with life and fun –  as well as great great beauty. And her 11-piece ensemble, made up of some astonishing young talent (check trumpeter Callum G’Froerer on ‘Through The Barrier’ for instance) from Perth and Melbourne, is perfectly suited to Humphries’ challenging arrangements, breathing them all into vivid and deeply-dimensional life.

No less a musical thinker than Mike Nock has described Humphries’ as “…a great talent with a highly original musical conception.” One marker of this original thinking is her use of strings – viola and cello – amongst the usual jazz ensemble instruments. They shimmer on a piece such as ‘Processional’ but, played pizz., scratch at the back of your neck during the little-cat-feet scoring of ‘Blind Panic’. Humphries also uses toys – yes, toys – she and guitarist Brett Thompson employing them on ‘The Music Box’, the album’s nostalgic and evocative closer which brings to mind the atmosphere of Debussy’s ‘enchanted garden’ works, such as ‘Ma Mère L’Oye’.

Alice Humphries 1

As well as intriguing timbres, Humphries reaches into some interesting areas for her source material. Vocalist Allira Wilson is truly captivating on the two vocal cuts here – a cover of Billy Holliday’s heartbreaking ‘Don’t Explain’ and an idiosyncratic take on the early 20th century folk tune ‘Bury Me Beneath The Willow’. On the Holliday song Wilson is strong and clear over a glassy veil of instruments coming in and out like a breeze billowing and receding. On ‘Bury Me…’ the singer stays with the melody, hardly inflecting or bruising its strong, stately flow. It’s a nice demonstration of restraint and, for anyone with ears, it marks Allira Wilson as definitely a jazz voice to watch.

ECILA is a startling debut from an exciting new talent and a dazzling new ensemble. The gratifying part is that, here on their debut, we witness the beginning of a road that I truly hope will stretch far far into the future.

Mike Nock predicts that Alice Humphries is “…on course to make a big contribution to Australian music in the future.” Over the years I have found myself agreeing with pretty much everything Mike Nock has thought, played and said. And I don’t intend to stop now.

Alice Humphries: composer/arranger/glockenspiel/toys

Allira Wilson: voice

Aaron Wyatt: viola

Anna Sarcich: cello

Callum G’Froerer: trumpet/flugelhorn

Tilman Robinson: trombone

Ben Collins: saxophones/clarinet

Mark Sprogowski: bass clarinet/clarinet

Brett Thompson: guitar/toys

Callum Moncrieff: vibraphone/glockenspiel

Nick Abbet: bass

Ben Falle: drum kit

For more information visit: http://alicehumphries.com.au/ecila

To hear and buy the album, go to http://alicehumphries.bandcamp.com/

Published February 2103 on australianjazz.net