Monday, 7 April 2014

Sweet, sweet jazz

Every now and then a small surprise comes my way. Totally unanticipated, these times bring a sweetness to life that far outweighs expectations. Such an event happened on Friday night.

Four of us went to The Farmers Arms at Cabarlah for a meal, and The Jazz Crusaders was on stage for the night. Now jazz is not everyone's cup of tea, but I tell you everyone in the room thoroughly enjoyed more than two hours of jazz standards. I was still humming them on Sunday afternoon.

The first bracket, which lasted about an hour, was full of well-known, well-played benchmarks. Typically, I find that bands put their best foot forward in the early part of their show and things slip a little as they tire. Not so with these guys. The second bracket commenced where the first had ended, and things became even tighter and more accomplished. This was when the band seemed to enter a zone of complete control and the playing was exemplary. As the evening wore on, tables were pushed back and couples got up and danced. The band rose to the occasion and the music became even smoother, silkier and tighter.

The rhythm section was comprised of Brendan Reid on electric upright bass and Bill White on drums. I don't think I heard an off-note from Brendan all night, and Bill's beat gave plenty of room for the frequent soloists to flex and depart from what was a solidly held tempo. For a man his age, Bill's soft hands and ever-present kick drum beat were remarkable. In one song, Bill held two-beats per bar on the bass drum for the entirety of the song. Extraordinary.

Keyboards was presided over by the incomparable Graham Muller, and his solos were as complex as they were accomplished. Graham is a bit of a quite achiever. Most of the room would not have heard his delightful chord progressions and his mastery of those augmented sevenths, but those close enough to the stage were rewarded with a display of virtuosity completely unexpected in a country pub.

A Canadian import for the evening, Landis Dell, handled the rhythm and lead guitar parts.The electricity between he and the singer Signy Arnason, was evident. Signy's command of the vocals was noticeable and it was clear that she enjoyed singing the songs.

The real stand-out for the night was the saxophonist. Haling from just south of the border, Rob Harvey displayed a dexterity and finesse that surged passed adroitness to an artistry I rarely see in a local band of any genre. As the evening proceeded, Rob continued to build his solos until the audience was anticipating unusual chord combinations. Never afraid to go for the hard notes, that silky sax turned an enjoyable evening into a sweet surprise that will linger long in my memory.

I spoke with Brendan Reid afterwards and he told me this was the band's first real outing. It bodes well for their future. Brendan and Graham will be playing with the Steve Henry Quartet at the North Toowoomba Bowls Club this coming Friday night. The opportunity to hear musicians of this level of talent come about only a couple of times a year, so don't delay in booking your table.

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