Review – Power of the Idea: The Australian 4 1/2*

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 11.47.58 pmWeekend Australian

8 August 2015

Power of the Idea –

Robert Burke

Jazzhead

4.5 stars

With performers from Monash’s Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music: associate professor Robert Burke on saxophone, pianist professor Paul Grabowsky, plus two lecturers and adding two of New York’s foremost players, this recording can’t fail to exemplify its title to demonstrate all-powerful jazz ideas. The nine sextet originals — five by Burke — were recorded late in 2014 at Acoustic Recording in Brooklyn, New York, and Burke says he gave no instructions about artistic direction in improvisations; these were connected to the central ideas as a basis of the musical conversation. Burke’s opener Mercurochrome travels along its irregular theme impelled by Nasheet Waits’s underscoring drum beats, before racing sax and Paul Williamson’s high-reaching trumpet begin to wander in free improvisation. They’re soon joined by Grabowsky’s chords, Mark Helias on bass and Jordan Murray’s trombone, and then rejoined by Waits’s drums in a forceful solo. The sole Grabowsky piece, Abandon, uses a short piano trio intro ahead of the horns’ theme statement, leading into another high-register trumpet solo as bass, drums and the piano’s insistent chords push it along. Freebopcom, by Murray, investigates its title with a post-bop theme from the horns and piano ornamentation transiting into a robustly swinging bass interlude, Burke’s hoarsely investigative tenor, and the piano alternating between a riding flow and atonal chord hits. This is a groundbreaking collection — complex and adventurous — from fourAustralian and two American players where the compositions and performances create the illusion that they’ve all been playing together for years.

John McBeath