Sydney Opera House
I like jazz a lot, but wouldn’t call myself a jazzer or jazzhead. I have no idea who played bass on session 4, take 3 of Charlie Parker’s blah blah blah album, or that you can hear the sound of Elvin Jones clipping his toenails in 7/8 time while Coltrane takes off on his own on Giant Steps. But I do like a bit of jazz, or in Washington’s case, a lot of jazz.
Washington and crew came on stage at the ungodly hour of 9.30, half an hour late, and generally about the time I’m nodding off in front of the telly. Wife and offspring (and me if I’m honest) weren’t overly impressed with this tardiness, but we’re here now, so let’s strap ourselves in for an evening of hurdy gury existentialist spiralling jazz odyssey. And that’s pretty much what we got.
I saw him here last year, and the line-up and vibe were the same. Two drummers, trombone, keys, bass, sax and other assorted wind instruments, plus Patrice Quinn on vocals. A big big sound from a very talented band. if you base your gig value-for-money on the number of songs played, you don’t get much for your buck here. Seven songs over two hours pulled from both albums and the Harmony of Difference EP plus a cover. The usual jazz gig format applies. Start together, veer off into solos while the rest of the band look on (occassionally nodding in time), introduce each band member multiple times throughout the set. It’s all very polite. The choir seats had been opened up, so we were in the slightly odd spot of not completely behind the band, but almost. Being so close to one of the drummers made the sound a little uneven, and Quinn’s vocals were often lost in the mix (same engineer as last week’s Flaming Lips gig maybe?). When the band are all playing together it’s a glorious sound, big and in your face, but with melody and swing (with a large dose of funk), atonal honking is kept to minimum. There’s similarities with Herbie Hancock, who we saw here a couple of months ago, drawing on the 70’s funk and jazz (but not jazz funk), particularly on the Brandon Coleman cover Giant Feelings.
There’s a familiarity to Washington’s between-song banter, I’m sure we heard some of the childhood anecdotes last time. but he’s an amiable chap and the stories show his fondness for his fellow band mates. His message to love everyone isn’t laboured and is sincere.
The night ended with Fists of Fury, a cracking side 1, track 1 if ever there was one. After the trombone solo, the band kicked off again and we thought we were on the home stretch. I’m usually a stay til the bitter end gig-goer, but looking round at the family as the bass solo started, it was time to go, they could’ve been there for another half an hour for all we knew. As we made our visits to the loos on the way out, we heard the song building to its climax (still possibly 10 minutes away), but were glad we beat the mass exodus at the end (we weren’t the only ones), and I’m sitting here at work bleary-eyed, but glad we went. In the words of Deadpool “Stupid. Worth it!”.
Lots of ‘cool cats’ both young and old. I even saw a beret or two.
It made me think..
There’s too little of this sort of music around. Music that sweeps you up, batters you around a bit (in a nice way) and then lets you down gently.