Johnston St Jazz Live Stream, April 16
The sheer remoteness of the experience seems not just a consequence of the times, but a metaphor for them. You watch fuzzy little people on a screen, perched the prescribed distance apart – which is already weird for jazz. Yet you know it’s live, so you let that slight frisson take hold, and then hope the sound will be good enough to expose the music’s inner core. Glory of glories, it is!
So first a shout out to Peter Nelson, who recorded this concert so expertly that one could soon forget the two-camera images of the blurry, distant musicians, and zero in what is as close to live music as we currently get.
Hilary Geddes is already a strikingly distinctive guitarist. She played a gorgeous, dark-wood, semi-acoustic Epiphone, and you can hear she’s across the great gamut of the literature, from T-Bone Walker to Fred Frith and Bill Frisell. You can hear her love of the guitar both as a trigger of electronic sound and as an instrument of wood, wire, finesse and touch.
Her compositions also take in a broad sweep of possibilities, and in pianist Matt Harris, bassist Max Alduca and drummer Alex Inman-Hislop she has assembled three of the new generation’s peak: players who showered her pieces with beauty and invention. Nelson captured all Alduca’s generosity of sound, which amplified the sense of monumentalism of the few notes he employed to sculpt a solo on 5am.
Although selflessness is essential for any improviser, Geddes seems almost excessively endowed, occupying too little of the available solo space in this hour-long concert. When she did fully command the foreground on Silos, the second section of a three-part suite, it was so ferociously raw and bluesy that it could certainly strip paint, and possibly kill off a virus. Yet the composition that spawned this solo, which had the air around the notes pregnant with expectation, could have been penned by an Erik Satie more probably than a Buddy Guy, and that’s the fascinating dichotomy implicit in Geddes’ music.