The Excelsior Hotel is an unprepossessing, but congenial venue, which now boasts live music seven nights a week. If only every pub, inner city, or otherwise, did as much for the performing arts. Tuesday nights are Jazzgroove's thing. And it's quite a thing: muso's musos, like The Eamn Dilworth Quintet & The Translators.
Dilworth (which name sounds like a very funny, incorrigibly idiosyncratic Warren Beatty film, from some time ago) is a trumpeter. More in the Louis Armstrong, blow your brains out way than, say, a Miles Davis cool cat, but with the latter's penchant for beautiful, memorable melody and deceptively simple, elegant motifs. Often duetting with highly original tenor man, Karl Laskowski, Dilworth's compositions are exceptional; I kid you not, works of enduring, timeless genius. Alex Boneham really works his bass; Hugh Barrett has his way with a Kurzweil, enchantingly set to sound somewhere between acoustic and electric piano; Cam Reid has a light, but dexterous touch, at the kit. Word has it that ED has been inspired by a recent trip to NYC, and it shows: it's good to see players chuffed with their own performances, struggling to suppress their smirkworthy pride. They just knew they were killing us with musical kindnesses; nailing it.
Incredible fact: Dilworth isn't even a grad! He's still studying, at the Con; no surprise he was a finalist for last year's James Morrison scholarship, as there's more than a hint of JM's brand of blast; (a kind of controlled, aural tsunami). The only thing that's even hard to believe is someone must've beat him. The trumpet's a tough enough instrument to play, let alone master: ED's well on the way. But he's a glutton for punishment: he took it up at 8, along with violin, French horn & bass. He's already toured the world, including with hip-hopsters Kid Confucius.
Lettin' Loose is a grand example of his instrumental maturity: plenty of feel, sensibility and empathy. The interplay 'tween all is delicious: Reid delicately sneaking his way 'round the kit; Boneham's subtle bass backbone; Barrett's tasteful tinkles; the building crescendo of sax & trumpet, free-swinging throughout. Watch this space (well, listen): these guys are hooked on rising stars and are going to the jazz moon. They'll take you there, as well. Most of their pieces were original, with one or two reworked (or reinvented) standards, for good measure.
The Translators came on late (for a Tuesday, anyway), but strong. They are: Steve Hunter, electric bass; Ben Hauptmann, mandolin; bro' James, drums 'n' percussion; Damian Wright, Spanish guitar. They all write. An inimitable style of jazz flamenco is their thing. It's fascinating: reconciling the taut disciplines of one, with the spontaneity of the other. They're about to embark on their very first international tour (having warmed-up, up 'n' down the east coast) and they're ready, ready, ready.
Theirs, too, is jaw-hit-the-floor kind of playing. The fast-fingered Hunter tends to take the lead, but knows just when to step back. Ben Hauptmann turns his mandolin, alchemically, by some miracle of technology and magic of technique, into an electric guitar and, more amazingly still, keyboard: forget all your preconceptions about how it sounds and how it can be played. (No wonder he came second in the national jazz awards; but, again, why second?!) Wright has a more restrained, less showy approach, but imbues every piece with the rich, rhythmic structure so characteristic of flamenco. The other Hauptmann is every bit as prodigious as his low-key brother and patently gets off on it.
A piece like Kial, by Wright, has haunting harmonics and an evocative Moorish flavour. It's an imaginative journey: like travelling, without moving your feet more than to tap out the rhythms. Wobbygong, by JH, sets up an African groove and features Hunter slowly opening it up, like a can of worms, before BH explodes into a solo that would turn Hendrix on. Yum Yum, by Ben, has that happy Soweto-style vibe Paul Simon exploited to such powerful effect. Turquoise, also by Wright, does have a certain blueness about it, and goes more singlemindedly down the Spanish road.
Forget Esperanto, The Translators' music is the real universal language.
with Eamon Dilworth Quartet
Venue: Excelsior Hotel
Date/Time: 9 September @ 8:30pm