The Burden of Memory Jamie Oehlers Quartet Independent
★★★★ 1/2 This album of mostly originals by saxophonist Jamie Oehlers was recorded in New York with the support of Western Australia’s Department of Culture and the Arts. Two of Australia’s foremost musicians, Oehlers and pianistcomposer Paul Grabowsky, were joined by top US bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland. One of just two standards among these 12 tracks is the 1940 hit for Frank Sinatra with Tommy Dorsey’s Orchestra, Polka Dots and Moonbeams, titled And Moonbeams here. It’s taken at the original’s ballad tempo and loaded with emotive expression. Oehlers’s imaginative solo explores the tune’s harmony with quick melodic ideas, succeeded by a ruminative piano sequence, building out the chord structure as Harland adds percussion effects. There are three tracks of “conversations between friends”, each less than a minute of improvised duet moments, showing, as the leader says, that they’re all on the same page and willing to let the music go where it wants. The Dreaming was written specifically for Rogers to play and, after a piano theme statement beautifully substructured by the bassist, the sax interprets the theme, adding an inspired solo to introduce a centrepiece of poetic bass mastery.
As a musical portrayal of the New York weather during this recording Oehlers wrote Deep Freeze, where the theme manages a series of shivers in a disguised way and the piano manifests a clever coldness. The final cut, appropriately Goodbye, is a sorrowful solo tenor sax fade-out.