jazz The Remembering & Forgetting of the Air Jonathan Zwartz Independent ★★★✩✩
ONE of numerous advantages to being among Australia’s leading musicians is that it’s never difficult to persuade other top players to join your projects. This is especially true of Sydney bassist Jonathan Zwartz, winner of two Bell Awards in 2010 for his stellar sextet album The Sea. Most of the performers on that are included on his latest album, although this time it’s a larger group of nine from the cream of Australian jazz players. The mood is set by a rustic quotation from American Pulitzer prize-winning poet Mary Oliver, a specialist on the natural world and dream imagery. The tempos on these Zwartz originals are all slow to medium in a mostly mainstream style of often quite dreamy textures. Pianist Barney McAll opens
Sugar Hill Picnic with a bluesy feel of almost somnolent relaxation, lifted somewhat by James Greening’s gutsy, growling trombone and Phil Slater’s New Orleans trumpet. A similar atmosphere pervades Wait Until the Morning where Richard Maegraith delivers a soulful tenor sax solo of almost heartbreaking intensity. However, the ensemble horns seem to wander aimlessly. More of a jog-along tempo opens
Shimmer and continues as cascading treble piano flows over the prettily voiced frontline. No one is challenged here as the slower tempos and long ensemble notes impart a certain kind of fragility, but musicians of this calibre are capable of far more adventurous and exploratory work. A bonus CD with two lengthy tracks is included, both at a medium tempo: Henry’s Highlife’s bouncy theme is accompanied by cling-cling pop-style piano chords, but lift-off solos from tenor, trombone and Stephen Magnusson’s guitar inject excitement.