Australian Jazz Album Round-up December 2015

A real contrast in musical styles is evident here, from the sax trio of Origami and its stories of Australia, to the adventurous leaning of Alister Spence, who continues to impress and finally the old master, Mike Nock teams up with the younger Laurence Pike, for some wonderful duo improvisations.

– Michael Prescott, Jazz Presenter 5MBS, Australia


Billy Tea To Burgers                          

Self Release ★★★

Adam Simmons (as, b cl), Howard Cairns (b, concertina), Hugh Harvey (d). Rec 20 December 2014

A sax led trio can be a daunting experience, a double CD even more so. However in this instance, Origami, led by altoist Adam Simmons has presented an extraordinary range of material over the 2 discs that comprise this set. Make no mistake; however, this album is Australian to its core. This stems from two tracks on the first disc, “Lunch At Niagara” and “Greggie”. In the first of these tracks, Simmons talks about a road trip from Melbourne to Gundagai over a persistent bass line from Cairns. It is engaging and strangely, bears repeated listening. The same can be said for the tale in “Greggie”, although here the only accompaniment to Simmons spoken word tale is the wonderful drumming from Harvey. You’d be hard pressed to find tales more Australian than these and they’re simply great!

In complete contrast two tracks feature an altogether different instrumentation and feel. With Howard Cairns on Concertina and Simmons on bass clarinet, “Mirage” and “Adios Alistair” create intense, almost sinister music. The remaining tracks feature strong melodic themes and superb, but very distinctive, alto from Simmons. Whilst disc one contains nine tracks, the second disc is comprised of a single 58 minute track, “Here And There”. Within this track the group cover an enormous range of styles and in all available configurations. In some ways it is reminiscent of The Necks, without the repetition. It does, however, ebb and flow constantly thus not only holding one’s attention over the course of the track, but more, it becomes thoroughly compelling. This is one fine album, one that has been on “repeat” for a while now. ‘Nuff said.

Info & samples:  

SpenceAlister Spence Trio


Self Release through Rufus Records ★★★

Alister Spence (p, samples, music box), Lloyd Swanton (bass), Toby Hall (d, glockenspiel) Rec. 20 March 2015.

Following on from his duo album with Myra Melford “Everything Here Is Possible”, Spence continues apace with his exploration of the modern jazz form. Although a live album, comprising mostly of tracks featured on 2012’s “Far Flung”, (even the cover art harks back to that album) it is in reality a further step in this engrossing search. With the same musicians and instrumentation as the aforesaid album, this recording finds the trio in stunning form. Spence has said that he has been looking for a live performance worthy of release and in this gig, recorded at the Sydney jazz co-operative, SIMA, he has found a gem. The opening track “Radium”, from 2009’s “Fit” sets the pace with a different take on the studio version, oddly, if anything, more restrained, with greater emphasis on the jarring rhythm. From there the trio take lengthy excursions into Spence’s oeuvre, with “Felt” being a highlight with its somewhat modern opening and almost mainstream second half. The only new original, “Not Everything But Enough - Opening“ is centred around Hall’s glockenspiel and Spence’s liberal use of samples.  Throughout Swanton, of The Necks, anchors the music with consummate skill whilst Hall never seems to run out of differing percussive colours. The glockenspiel is very effectively utilised to provide both rhythmic and tonal contrast.

Info & samples:

NockMike Nock & Laurence Pike

Beginning And End Of Knowing                    

FWM Records ★★★

Mike Nock (p), Laurence Pike (perc) Rec 4, 5 March 2015

Nock, 75, one of Australia’s leading jazz musicians for several decades, teams up with percussionist Pike, 36, for a series of spontaneous improvisations in a follow up to their first collaboration, 2012’s “Kindred”. On this occasion a government grant to Pike meant the pair could travel to Oslo and record at Jan Erik Kongshaug's Rainbow Studios, where Nock recorded for ECM many years ago. The trip was at Pike’s request as he has long harboured a love of the studio and the ECM sound. Once in the studio the pair recorded hours of improvised music and the resulting CD is a distillation of their efforts. Whilst there have been duo recording with this instrumentation in the past, it’s not often that have they reached the heights of this recording. Nock’s sometimes simple but beautiful flourishes are complimented by Pike’s ability to utilise every possibility from his drum kit. None of the twelve tracks are long, just one is in excess of five minutes and this seems to concentrate the inventiveness and makes each track a cohesive whole. Nock and Pike appear to have an almost intuitive understanding of each other’s playing and together they have created a very fine album and one that bears repeated listening.

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