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Reviews/Music

Redefining jazz

16 April 2021

Audible Edge Festival continues, with a performance which Garry Lee says challenged the preconceptions of what jazz is and – more importantly – created a platform as to what jazz might be.

“Make a Noise Here”, Audible Edge Festival and Perth Jazz Society ·
Goodwill Club, 15 April 2021 ·

I must admit I attended this concert with slight trepidation. Was I to have my ears assailed by an incomprehensible “jazz noise” that I might find at best too loud?

Thankfully this was not the case. “Make a Noise Here” was a most enjoyable and balanced concert experienced by a large and enthusiastic audience. The balance was achieved in the contrasting approaches of the two ensembles.

Double bassist, Djuna Lee, led a quartet with Melbourne trombonist, Joseph O’Conner, and WA-based saxophonist Simon Charles and drummer Ben Greene. The ensemble played acoustically and the interplay between the musicians was exceptionally sensitive and subtle. There was a sublimation of personal ego for the greater good of the ensemble which created a positive and enjoyable synergistic effect.

Lee’s rich tone and accurate intonation on the bass provided an essential foundation for improvisation that was mostly in broken time. The trombone, in this context, is an ideal instrument and O’Conner was virtuosic employing a range of techniques that reflected the instrument’s role in jazz from “Tricky Sam” Nanton to Rosewell Rudd and Grachun Monchur to Steve Turré .

Drummer Ben Greene led the second ensemble of Dan O’Connor (trumpet), Jonathon Brittain (trombone), Finn Owen (alto saxophone), Dom Barrett (guitar) and Adam Buckley (guitar). Members of the band utilised an array of foot pedals that contributed to the “spikey dissonance” referred to in the program notes. The six piece bass-less ensemble certainly had the potential to implode with so much technology by way of effects – delay, reverb, echo etc – but, perhaps thanks to the seventh member, the venue’s sound mixer, an overall homogenous sound was achieved.

Certainly Greene took the volume to a crescendo at precisely the moment it seemed logical to do so towards the conclusion of the set. The reverb sound on Owen’s alto sax allowed him to create a satisfying lyricism and when O’Connor’s trumpet was featured there seemed a nod to the Miles Davis composition “Sanctuary” from his famous Bitches Brew album. Again the ensemble improvisation highlighted the appropriateness of Brittain’s trombone in this context. The sounds of the two guitars owed something to Dick Dale, Hank Marvin, John McLaughlin (with Miles) and Bill Frisell – electric solid bodies utilising digital effects.

As an experiment in including jazz in the Festival, this collaboration with the Perth Jazz Society (PJS) was an unqualified success. I am sure the co-founder of PJS, the late Don Mead (who owned a collection of over 5,000 jazz vinyls, many of them cutting edge jazz) would have wholeheartedly approved of the role PJS is now taking in encouraging and promoting cutting edge jazz.

Audible Edge Festival continues until 18 April 2021.

Pictured top: Djuna Lee leads a jazz quartet in ‘Make a Noise Here’. Photo Josh Wells

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Author —
Garry Lee

Garry Lee has played jazz vibraphone and guitar for over 50 years. He was a founding jazz teacher at WAAPA has also been a jazz writer, jazz composer/leader, Churchill Fellow and artistic director. Born in Essex soon after WW2, his favourite playground equipment was dismantled tanks and cannons.

Past Articles

  • Jazz with benefits

    The pandemic has brought unintended benefits to the Perth jazz scene, says Garry Lee after listening to James Flynn and David Rastrick at the Ellington Jazz Club.

  • Jazz orchestra’s history of success

    Garry Lee, the first administrator of the West Australian Youth Jazz Orchestra, goes behind the scenes to discover the organisation’s secret to 37 years of success.

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