Venue 505, December 14
They began with As the Flow Cries from Barney McAll’s new An Extra Celestial Christmas album, and ended with Nectar Spur from the pianist’s 2015 Mooroolbark opus. The final note marked the end of the last Saturday night at Venue 505, which closes its doors this week, to rise phoenix-like (amid Sydney’s ashes), in the first week of each month at Old 505 Theatre from February.
How better to celebrate this final Saturday than with three 505 mainstays who have made music together for around a quarter of a century: pianist Barney McAll, bassist Jonathan Zwartz drummer Hamish Stuart? The latter pair didn’t play on McAll’s otherworldly Christmas album, but they instantly latched on to how best to shade As the Flow Cries, which was like a watercolour unfolding in slow motion. Out of vast swathes of emptiness they would suddenly paint the same particles of air at the same moment, so that what was already crystalline and mesmeric was also endlessly surprising.
They danced across playful funk, swampy blues (with a storming solo from Zwartz) and Andy Bey’s Celestial Blues (with Zwartz now at his most mellifluous). Nectar Spur was a fitting finale, being one of McAll’s most endlessly fascinating compositions, with an almost lush poeticism that brought out this trio’s ability to make each other’s lines rhyme. McAll seemed in an enigmatic mood, but still reached a breathtaking level of melodic invention on My Cup Runneth Over, and Stuart has a knack for excavating the profoundest rhythmic option, where most drummers settle for cliches.
Consecrating the stage for Extinction Rebellion Trio was singer/song-writer/guitarist Martha Marlow, who was joined by Zwartz (her father) and Stuart. Marlow inhabits that engaging zone where folk exchanges vital fluids with jazzy grooves and harmonies. She pens songs – as finely crafted as they are sweetly sung – that recall the glory of John Martyn, with their inbuilt rhythmic suppleness. If a Waterhouse painting could sing it might sound something like Marlow did delivering Emily, her homage to Emily Dickinson.
Vale Venue 505.