Jazz: NOW Wired, June 20
They’re not patterns so much as shadows, like an image that’s been painted over. Humans being hardwired to make connections, the links and evolutions hiding in the juxtaposition of new material with archival footage in the fortnightly Jazz: NOW Wired concert streams are almost as engaging as the music, itself.
Matt Keegan (tenor saxophone, electronics) and Miles Thomas (drums) – K2 – lift textures and looped beats from the dancefloor, to use as beds for improvised dialogues, as on the jaunty Lockdown, in which the sudden stops were like a door being opened and closed on a noisy room. The edgy, noirish Agoraphobic had the attack and decay on Keegan’s tenor frosted in echo, and when that sound became slightly more acoustic – more human – it seemed almost unbearably forlorn amid the pressing insistence of the drums and electronics. For The New Normal the duplicated saxophone sound shadowed itself in negotiating the chattering drums and snippets of synthetic melody. Audio Vaccine was direct-injected via fat snare beats and electronics carrying a waft of Arabic spice, before the tenor sound fractured beneath the headlong rush of drums on the manic Home School.
From two decades ago at the fondly-remembered Harbourside Brasserie came saxophonist David Theak’s Theak-tet, containing, in Theak and bassist Craig Scott, you have two mainstays of Jazz Studies at Sydney Conservatorium, with all their consequent influence upon the scene. Standing out was the sudden ignition leant to the otherwise demure Lost on Jade Parade by guitarist James Muller’s thrilling solo. Already a phenomenon by then, Muller is too seldom heard here since basing himself in Adelaide.
Given Band of Five Names’ (Bo5N) ongoing existence, hearing this 2001 version with trumpeter Phil Slater, pianist Matt McMahon, bassist Jono Brown and drummer Simon Barker was particularly interesting. While this incarnation seems more of a work in progress in retrospect, certain ongoing concerns were already in place: eschewing cliche; letting floating and propulsion coexist; the telling impact of small gestures; a collective instinct for the natural trajectory of an idea in terms of duration and drama. Rather than rushing to their destination, Slater’s solos made the journey the story.
These days Keegan is in Slater’s quintet, and perhaps one hears the faintest through-line from Band of Five Names back then to what K2 does right now.