The Opera House, Wellington Jazz Festival 2013
Saturday, June 8
Reuben Bradley’s CD project celebrating the music of jazz/classical bassist/composer Drew Menzies was brought to the stage for an inspiring marriage of jazz and classical; jazz with strings attached – as it were. The New Zealand String Quartet brought their trademark focus to the event, one of the members even appeared to be thoroughly enjoying herself in the moments when the quartet rested (that gives an instant clue as to which member I’m referring to). But while the game-face was hard to penetrate perhaps it was certainly clear that every musician wanted to be there. This was an important show; an important piece – and beyond the reverence simply a lovely set of tunes both dutifully and beautifully performed.
For this live version Bradley’s jazz quartet featured bassist Brett Hirst, saxophonist Julien Wilson and pianist James Illingworth. As on the album Illingworth was given a few moments to shine, including a lengthy intro to one tune which had him touching on the intense solo performances of Keith Jarrett before falling effortlessly into the bounce of Bud Powell.
Bradley was elated – this much was clear; he relished his captain’s knock because, team player that he so very clearly is, this was about honouring the memory – and music – of his late friend.
And if the self-effacing between-song comments from Bradley only proved some truth in the old adage of never giving a drummer a microphone he was honest and earnest and spoke from the heart when talking about Menzies’ playing, writing and influence.
There was a lot to showcase too, the softer, romantic side (Ladies Man) and tunes that surprised with their twists and turns (I’ve Got Nothing Good To Say, clearly a misnomer if ever there was one and Laura’s Laksa). The strings – many of the arrangements by John Psathas – were often beautifully understated, but provided as much of the engine-room muscle in their own way as Bradley’s drumming and Hirst’s bass playing. So integrated, so well realised is this erm, arranged marriage.
A perfectly timed set, that built beautifully – the intensity set to soar for the finale; almost dizzying, a stunning, wonderful swirl of music that swept up the audience. Many stood to applaud, the room bursting with energy, sincerity and what a wonderful tribute to a talented musical soul; what a superb set of performances to honour Drew Menzies. A clear labour of love.