Compilation by committee • Miriam Zolin

From Issue 5 of extempore (November 2010)

I have always admired the Jazzgroove Records commitment to being a cooperative, inclusive record label run by musicians for musicians—in the same way that the Jazzgroove Association operates. Unfortunately, those sorts of structures can lead to conflicts, and sometimes a lack of focus. Apparently they can also lead to good things, if this compilation CD, with tracks from 12 recent Jazzgroove releases is any indication.

‘The Rush’ by The Subterraneans begins with shades of Jimi Hendrix and it just gets better from there, with band leader James Ryan’s throaty saxophone and all the rest. Is it jazz rock or rock jazz? Who cares? It packs a punch and had me dancing wildly around the loungeroom—an impulse that did not decrease over about a dozen hearings.

A true ‘sampler’, the CD then moves on to ‘Paul’s Gift’—smooth, sophisticated night club jazz with Greg Coffin Trio. Above imagined tinkling glasses and subdued laughter Coffin’s seductive piano and Cameron Undy’s reflective, responsive bass are framed and held by Nic Cecire’s cymbals and brushes.

Change is relentless and soon Dale Gorfinkel’s vibes are leading us into Simon Ferenci’s bright melodic trumpet and Hugh Barrett’s bubbling, piano playing on ‘Far Far’. This track from Arrow takes a lot of unpacking. Layer on layer… it was only on the third or so hearing that I was even able to hear what Paul Derricott was doing on the drums or Mike Majkowski on the bass, there is so much going on in this deliciously complex and melodic piece.

Tim Clarkson’s saxophone heralds ‘Sajitona’. Tight rhythm and smiles all round as Alex Boneham’s bass threads its way in and out and round about the melody; a warm summery game of hide and seek with Clarkson and drummer Cameron Reid.

The Translators track ‘Turquoise’ is my favourite on this sampler (am I allowed to have a favourite?). With a simple, almost folksy beginning reminiscent of Wyndham Hills recordings of yore, it is not long before Spain arrives, with Damian Wright’s guitar and finally, after a soulful interlude with Steve Hunter’s bass, the palmas tell us we are in Sevilla or somewhere nearby. Let me just blow out my word count here and mention James Hauptman’s drum solo and the exquisite little melody that precedes it.

On first hearing Mark Ginsburg’s haunted saxophone on the Generations track ‘Eli Atah’, I was struck in the heart by the heart in it. The rhythm section on this track sustains the warmth when the saxophone goes quiet. Tim Firth’s sensitive drums a perfect background on this track, Ryan Grogan’s piano grounding or lifting the melody depending on need and a sense of Karl Dunnicliff’s bass holding the emotion firmly in gentle place.

From heart to testosterone. Guitar-o-rama on the Alcohotlicks track ‘Down Town’ with Aaron Flower, Ben Hauptman and Evan Mannell. Is someone playing the guitar like Greg Brown from Cake? Either way, this guitar-fest is a treat. Don’t think for a minute that when I say testosterone I exclude the possibility of lyricism. It’s just got swagger, is all.

In the Dilworths track ‘Return of the end’ we find touches of reflective melancholia in Karl Lakowski saxophone tempered with visits from Hugh Barrett’s piano keeping pace, joined by military rhythm from Cameron Reid’s drums and Eamon Dilworth’s sensitive brass. Another bass solo of note, the plucky Alex Boneham of previous mention. He’s got something going on, that Mr Boneham.

More sophistication and a gorgeous little melody with the ever-enjoyable Tom O’Halloran Trio, a balanced and textured piano trio sound, due in large part to Daniel Susnjar’s lightly percussed drums ’n’ things, Pete Jeavons’ thoughtfully meandering bass and O’Halloran’s all-grown-up (but not in a stuffy way) keys.

Kim Lawson’s all grown up too, of course. His saxophone sound on ‘Heavy Cherry’ is huge, and perfectly under-threaded by Steve Hunter’s bass, which manages to be tight and relaxed at the same time. The trio is so tight that the instruments seem like components of each other rather than separate. If this is improvised, it’s that kind of improvisation that involves mind reading. The best kind. Oh, and the final fat honk is just where it should be.

From fat to happy. Happy happy Sam Golding tuba on the Fantastic Terrific Munkle track ‘Honkey Donkey’. Oompah Oompah. Never wanted to take a tuba home to meet my mother until now! Classic jazz not taking itself too seriously… full of life and vim, it makes you (me) want to skip down Collins Street. A bit. And at just under three minutes it’s barely enough!

But the fates step in and the Munkle gives way to Baz. ‘Razzamatbaz’ takes me to somewhere like the Jim Jarmusch film Mystery Train via rhythm and a kind of otherworldliness—a place that almost exists.

A friend who subscribes to extempore waits excitedly for each issue to arrive, then when she has some free time, she puts the CD in the player and opens the journal at the first page, reading while she listens. I should warn her right now that from the first track on this deliciously varied sampler CD from Jazzgroove she’s going to be on a journey that might make her put the words aside for 70 minutes or so and just listen.

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Track listing

Track Name / Band / CD Title

1 ‘The Rush’ The Subterraneans The Subterraneans 4:13

2 ‘Paul’s Gift’ Greg Coffin Trio It’s Neither either or. It’s both and. 6:54

3 ‘Far Far’ Arrow Big Sea 7:03

4 ‘Sajitona’ Tim Clarkson Trio Crab 5:14

5 ‘Turquoise’ The Translators The Translators 6:08

6 ‘Eli Atah’ Mark Ginsburg Generations 7:10

7 ‘Down Town’ The Alcohotlicks You, You 3:33

8 ‘Return Of The End’ The Dilworths Introducing…The Dilworths 5:53

9 ‘Mosaic’ Tom O’Halloran Trio We Happy Few 10:57

10 ‘Heavy Cherry’ Kim Lawson Trio Alive And Kicking 4:06

11 ‘Honkey Donkey’ The Fantastic Terrific Munkle Music To Dance To 2:43

12 ‘Razzamatbaz’ Baz Lady from Toulouse 2:56

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Issue 5 with CD