Jazz

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - John McBeath Tony Hil­lier

In­no­cent Dreamer Jamie Oehlers and Tal Co­hen Assem­bler This com­bi­na­tion of two Aus­tralian mu­si­cians, sax­o­phon­ist Jamie Oehlers and pi­anist Tal Co­hen, is well prac­tised at per­form­ing to­gether and the duo sound of tenor sax with piano is con­ver­sant and pleas­antly re­laxed. The 11 tracks are a mix of stan­dards and four orig­i­nals. Cedar Walton’s com­po­si­tion Fan­tasy in D floats dream­ily as the sax­o­phone leads over rip­pling piano, while there’s more rhythm, al­beit at a slow tempo, injected into Body and Soul, where Oehlers’s tenor sax em­bel­lishes the theme ef­fec­tively at the track’s be­gin­ning. The Duke Elling­ton stan­dard Soli­tude is an­other piece es­pe­cially suited to this gen­tle style and mood, and Oehlers in­ter­prets it im­pres­sively with flow­ing piano as­sis­tance. A sec­ond Elling­ton com­po­si­tion, Take the Coltrane, has a lively open­ing with fast sax and dis­cor­dant piano. The tenor sax takes wing in the Bill Evans com­po­si­tion Very Early and Co­hen’s piano pro­vides an ex­pert bridg­ing solo. The Oehlers orig­i­nal Ar­mistice has the in­tro­spec­tive qual­ity ev­i­dent in most of these tracks, no­tice­able in the ti­tle track, an­other Oehlers orig­i­nal, where the sax soars and glides del­i­cately, as­sisted by the piano’s tre­ble arpeg­gios. Co­hen’s Hach­lata sup­plies a melody that steps up and down in surges. Some sat­is­fy­ing quick im­pro­vi­sa­tion adorns the open­ing to My Ideal and pushes on via a stab­bing piano se­quence, as the sax reap­pears in bal­lad mode with fast in­ter­ven­ing se­quences. This is a fine al­bum by two tal­ented Aus­tralian mu­si­cians who work ex­tremely well to­gether. — from lower reg­is­ter in Pay Day to coun­tertenor in If I Lose — and in­stru­men­tal ver­sa­til­ity scores else­where. Fle­mons’s quills (pan­pipes) em­bel­lish the 1920s songs Bull­doze Blues and Coal­man Blues. His play­ing of bones is a rhyth­mic fea­ture of sev­eral tracks, in­clud­ing Cham­pagne Char­lie, a 19th-cen­tury English mu­sic hall song. Only on the jug band sin­ga­long Stealin’, in which Fle­mons plays an elec­tric ket­tle, and Short Time Come Again No More, a Bri­tish par­ody of Stephen Foster’s Civil War era clas­sic Hard Times, do their vo­cals com­bine. Emily Frantz and An­drew Mar­lin, the multi-in­stru­men­tal­ist and singing US duo driv­ing Man­dolin Or­ange, pro­duce lead and har­mony singing and coun­try/ folk-laced songs of tran­scen­dent beauty on their live-sound­ing third stu­dio al­bum, Blind­faller. The North Carolina coun­ter­part of Nashville’s Amer­i­cana cham­pi­ons Gil­lian Welch and David Rawl­ings, their acous­tic mu­sic is also a throw­back to pre­vi­ous eras, although self-com­posed. Hard Trav­elin’, a short but sweet honky-tonk pot­boiler, and the plain­tive Lone­some Whis­tle have an old-time Lefty Frizzell coun­try flavour. My Blinded Heart has a hint of Hank Wil­liams. Pick­ing Up Pieces has the ring of 1970s Wil­lie Nel­son. Hat Fitz and Cara, an­other meant-to-be combo, also ab­sorb old­time in­flu­ences in their self-styled gospel blues. De­spite be­ing stripped down to voices, gui­tar/man­dolin and vin­tage drums, the pair brew up a storm with their stomp­ing rhythms on Af­ter the Rain while draw­ing on anec­dotes de­rived from re­spec­tive up­bring­ings in ru­ral Aus­tralia and ur­ban Belfast. Cara’s vo­cal range ex­tends from gen­tle folk with Ir­ish brogue to Aretha-es­que soul.

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