ConVerging at Verge
Liam Donohoe listened to the future of Sydney’s jazz scene.
The LazyBones Lounge in Marrickville, with its aesthetic eccentricity, was a more than appropriate venue for a ConVerge jazz showcase as part of the USU’s Verge Festival.
Upon entering, I was hit with the polyphonic blast of the first band, which featured legendary Australian bassist Cameron Undy. In keeping with their aim of exploring diverse rhythms, the ensemble produced layers of rhythmic cacophony across two pieces.
The first piece particularly stood out as tight, with the gradual, almost minimalistic builds exhibiting a tremendous amount of textural and timbral contrast, taking on a general form that reminded me of The Necks.
The piece contained all kinds of displacement, syncopation, and irregular rhythms, complemented by the seemingly random, angular, boppish scale runs in the horns. The occasional motif and ostinati partially grounded the madness that abounded. I was blown away by this band, and hearing the incredible percussive styling of Chloe Kim, Tom Schien, and Hannah Kim made the entire night worthwhile.
The second ensemble of the night fulfilled their aim of replicating the New Orleans second line style. The pulsating grooves certainly had the whole room dancing.
I must confess that I wasn’t the biggest fan, I think in part because I was still craving the free jazz style I’d heard before. There did not appear to be a tremendous amount of contrast between each of the tunes, and they all seemed to blend into each other. After the third piece, the novelty had worn off. Nonetheless, the brass work was really excellent, particularly from guest trombonist, James Greening.
The third and final ensemble was more experimental fare, combining a traditional rhythm section with an electronic producer. Marcus Whale offered an array of colours and textures uncommon to the jazz idiom. The reverberating ambient noise, linear drum breakouts, and bass ostinati sounded like a more relaxed version of Jojo Mayer’s Nerve project, but perhaps without the same kind of energy. The performance itself was, at times, a bit lethargic, although I sincerely think all the musicians played outstandingly.
I was simply blown away by the young talent on display, and left reassured that Sydney’s jazz scene was in capable hands.