Sam Anning, Tam O'Shanter and Sam Bates in Australian jazz CD round-up

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With winter not far away, Australia kicks into festival mode. The Melbourne Jazz Festival kicks off on May 30 with a great line-up including Chick Corea in duo with Gary Burton and Charles Lloyd. At the same time there are festivals in Perth and Brisbane, plus several other smaller events. Whilst the international stars put bums on seats is the quality of the Australian performers that stands out and make these festivals. Also the flow of great new albums continues unabated and to prove the point, here’s three of the best.

– Michael Prescott,Jazz Presenter 5MBS, Australia

Sam-Anning-frontSam Anning Trio

Sweethearts            listenhear collective            ★★★

Sam Anning (b), Julien Wilson (ts, ss, cl, bcl), Allan Browne (d). Rec 24 November 2012

A reed led trio can be a daunting challenge over the course of a full length album, but happily the reverse is true here. This is an album full of sublime playing, gorgeous sounds and great arrangements. To compliment Anning’s luscious bass on this, his second album, he is joined by veteran master drummer Browne and the sensuous reeds of Wilson. This is understated playing, there are no brash solos or over the top performances, restraint is the key here and its works so well. Anning has selected a mix of originals, including the funky and intriguingly titled ”Princess Doug Of Fitzroy” together with some less known standards, for example, incisive treatments of Billy Strayhorn’s “Little Brown Book” and Ellington’s “Creole Rhapsody”. Wilson is the complete musician, the use of multi reeds gives the album a more varied feel no more evident than on the track that bookends the album. On the opening take of Anning’s “Cactus Flower” Wilson is on tenor but in the closing version, he displays his talents on bass clarinet. If there is a criticism, it’s that Browne is often back in the mix and on occasions his subtle percussive effects hard to discern, particularly on Wilson’s clarinet led “Farewell”. Nonetheless, this is a fine album from three excellent players.

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tom-shanterGreening From Ear To Ear

Tam O'Shanter Tales            self release ★★★

 

 

James Greening (tb, sousaphone, pocket t), Andrew Robson (as, bs), Paul Cutlan (ts cl), Fabian Hevia (p), Gary Daley (Acc, p), Hamish Stuart (d), Brett Hirst (b). Rec. Date 29 June 2013

In case you’re wondering, the relationship between this album and the Scottish headwear of the title is a beach. There is, however, absolutely nothing Scottish about trombonist James Greenings latest vibrant collection, recorded live at Sydney’s Sound Lounge. The set kicks off with harmonics from Brett Hirst’s bass before launching into a spirited vibe and a scorching solo from Andy Robson. Such is the exuberance of this recording that it sounds as if every member of this largish ensemble is having an absolute ball and this joy is palpable throughout. This no doubt explains the album’s title. The following track, “Lumpy” is an aptly titled forum for the big instruments to get right down and dirty, Greening on a 14kg sousaphone, Cutlan on bass clarinet and Robson on baritone and what fun they have! “Hazara” is dedicated to the Hazara people and has a world music feel, accentuated by Daley’s accordion and Greenings considerable skill on the pocket trumpet. The closer, “Early Moring” is a slow blues pean to hope and features a stunning Robson alto solo and concludes with leader’s mournful trombone. Greening again proves that he is a composer and trombonist of some considerable stature and this CD cements his position at the top of Australian jazz. And the beach? Greening penned the tunes whilst on Tam O'Shanter Beach, located on Tasmania’s north coast.

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sam-batesSam Bates

Backblocks            Newmarket 3334.2  ★★★

 

 

Sam Bates (d), Marc Hannaford (p), Philip Rex (b). Rec 11 July 2013

The piano trio is one of the most common groupings in jazz and many greats have explored the format; Bill Evans, Oscar Petersen, Keith Jarrett, a seemingly endless list. Making a lasting impression is difficult, but even more so when you’re trying to achieve this from the drum stool. This is the task that Sam Bates set himself in recording this CD. To a surprising extent he succeeded and he achieved this by writing a collection of very memorable and strong tunes plus having the courage avoid the crutch of covering standards. As a result this album is a cohesive whole, one that not only withstands repeated playing, but demands it. Bates choice of Marc Hannaford to give life to his songs was inspired. Hannaford is not a fast or flashy pianist but he is able to give real prominence to the themes and then honour them with quality and imaginative improvisations. The memorable opener, “He Who Laughs” is followed by the short “Rat Escape”, featuring a very strange rhythmic pattern, perfectly underpinning a melody so good it’s difficult to get out of your head. Similar comments can be made for all of the albums seven tracks. Bates proves that he is not only an imaginative drummer, but more than that, a composer of real class.

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