Melbourne Jazz Festival 2007
Fortunately an encore jam brought more jazz and less mere entertainment back to the stage with the Danish group that preceded them, led by trumpeter Jens Winther. Along with his saxophonist Tomas Franck, Winther joined Morrison and Morrison's saxophonist David Rex in a loose cutting contest of Charlie Parker's "Donna Lee . Interestingly, Winther's solo was followed by Franck, rather than by Morrison, but Franck's much more muscular attack on tenor far surpassed the more light and feathery Rex who did at times step up with fine Cannonball Adderley-inspired runs. Unfortunately, such contrast in styles wasn't afforded by the solo order of trumpeters, as Morrison of course dexterously got the last word in ala Maynard Ferguson-ish altissimo runs and blasts and slurred Rex Stewart-inspired blues runs, revealing that trumpet is not only his first instrument but certainly the one he's most comfortable playing (that, or it's what this journalist is most comfortable listening to him play on).
Winther's group (which played on two other occasions, though shining brightest at Bennett's more jazz- accommodating ambiance) with Franck (tenor sax), Ben Besiakov (piano), Jonas Westergaard (bass) and Dejan Terzic (drums), severely summoned Miles' mid '60s quintet in tone, delivery and two-horn frontline. The brevity of their soloing was an effective device as was an ability to cease playing in telepathic communication with Terzic's Tony Williams-like fresh and incessant syncopations as the group's consistent yet swirling and orbiting center. The quintet in essence magically transformed into an endless variety of configurations from pianoless trio, pianoless quartet, the full quintet, a hornless piano trio, and/or varied one-off duos. The leader's "Scorpio Dance encouraged Terzic to utilize all aspects of kit and percussion, from bells to feathery brushes on cymbals to a South American rattle, all of which were incorporated to weaving effect around Winther's stop and go statements. This allowed for more colorful textures and developments, creating separate movements within each extended selection. The trumpeter's "Abstract Colors featured Franck more Trane-inspired than elsewhere being more in a Wayne Shorter mode (or his other evident influences of Hank Mobley, Dexter Gordon and even Booker Ervin). Terzic incessantly changed up time signatures on a regular basis, setting up soloists and offering respective call and responses to and with horns. The extended selections performed neared 20-minutes commonly, so the group's elasticity was certainly put to the test in what Winther after their final performance revealingly described as preferring to perform "without a safety net."
Paul Grabowsky, veteran Aussie pianist and winner of the Best Jazz Composition of the Year at this year's Bells (for his presumably non-affiliated jazz tune "Five Bells ), and his trio with bassist Philip Rex and drummer Ken Eadie came to The Edge, joined by tenor saxophonist Jamie Oehlers, who wrapped up several Bell Awards of his own including Jazz Artist of the Year. They moved through a suite of six compositions, and though the set took a few "movements to take off as there seemed to be a few compositional hesitations (separate compositions such as "Abschied," "Psalm and "Helix were threaded together into the medley, though sometimes awkwardly), the quartet hit their stride when compositional building blocks and themes were deconstructed, starting with Oehlers first significant solo, not to mention Eadie's loose kit approach in dissecting meter without overpowering. The leader eventually reached inside the piano to pluck strings at which point Rex, Eadie and Oehlers briefly and atonally played off the group's sudden burst of momentum. Rex' unaccompanied portion (in dedication to the recently departed bass playing countryman Gary Costello) accentuated the hall's acoustics with paced single notes that echoed through the hall. A brief sax and bass duo ensued, before the piano-less trio grew into the full quartet in a layering concept that made the group sound much greater than the sum of its parts but without overplaying the concert space's sensitive acoustics. Each segment thereafter seemed to serve as very patient buildups for sudden group outbursts - not necessarily a tension and release, but a release nonetheless. Ever shifting, the suite maintained listener interest; its ceaseless movement and structure lent itself to lacking full exploration and development, though curiosity as to what direction the music would go provided an element of exploration in itself in a demanding and commanding hour-plus performance, the closing turbulence serving as much more than the "Turbulence of the second movement title.