Foundry 616, September 20
A day that began with the funeral of the one and only Bernie McGann continued to be inauspicious for Sydney saxophonists when a damaged hand forced Dale Barlow to withdraw from this performance by his own band.
His young colleagues – Harry Sutherland (piano), and Noel Mason (bass) and Tim Geldens (drums) – went ahead without their leader, periodically joined by Jessica Carlton, a visiting Melbourne trumpeter.
It was an opportunity to hear new blood on the local jazz scene display their wares within the walls of a fine addition to Sydney’s list of creative music venues. Foundry 616 boasts an excellent piano, a fine sound system and unusually good acoustics.
Among the players nearly all the requisite skills were in evidence, including musicality, an instinct for avoiding imposing themselves on the music and a lightness in the enunciation of rhythms. The problem was that while everyone had a fire-making instrument in his or her hands, no one was quite brave enough to ignite the music. This was mainly drawn from the heart of the standard repertoire: Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Wayne Shorter, Bud Powell and more. (A McGann tune would not have gone astray.)
To leap the next stage of development – not so much as musicians, but as artists – these players must confront the question of why they are doing it. Loving the music and wanting to replicate it is only enough if the end in mind is nothing more than craft-based. If deeper interaction with music, truth, beauty, expression, emotion, each other and an audience is the point then they must be prepared to play with fire a little, and, at the very least, stoke up the energy levels. Beyond that lies the more dangerous option of burning the accumulated knowledge, itself, and striking out into unchartered territory. Sutherland, Mason, Geldens and Carlton all showed flashes of being good enough to do it if they are bold enough.
The Dale Barlow Quartet plays at Foundry 616 this Friday.