Starting out as a rehearsal band for both students and teachers at Wellington’s NZSM jazz school The Jac soon took on a life of its own. It’s a jazz octet and manages to perfectly tilt between small combo energy and feel and big band sound.
Nerve is a sharp five-track album that bursts with colour and ideas.
Opener, New York Axel Man features a probing bassline as the horns dart in and around cymbal strikes, there’s a great tension to the rhythm of this track as Richard Thai (tenor saxophone) and Jake Baxendale (alto saxophone) take turns to accentuate the melody. Callum Allardice (guitar) and Daniel Millward (piano) provide some anchor to the sway of Nick Tipping (double bass) and Shaun Anderson (drums) – it’s a dynamite rhythm team.
Armada is straight in, the horns happy, bright sounding, a slightly loungey rhythm playing underneath; subverted bossa-nova vamps across the keys and in the bounce of the drums.
Marik slows things down, the ballad opens with a stark stretch of piano, a bob of bass underneath and just the very gentlest of brush curls across the snare. The waft of unison horns creates a sort of siren song before the pulse arrives. Calming, restorative after the opening brace, this track works as a hinge, before we’re back into the attack with Thieves In The Night, the drums providing their equivalent of horn stabs and light dabs of a funk breakbeat too. The piano provides the vamp and then Anderson has at it with a brief solo before the horns take the song along toward the sort of shuffle’n’dodge that Max Roach’s larger combos did so well.
Closing track, Major Major Major is another stately ballad, it has something of the swell behind it, in the rhythm, that is reminiscent of Jeff Beck’s Diamond Dust, but adheres also to a more straight ahead post-bop jazz sound, a beautiful piano dance is perhaps the highlight of the track. At least until Allardice’s guitar solo steps up to share the spotlight. Nerve presents not only wonderful playing but suggests two very talented writers, for these are the original compositions of Callum Allardice and Jake Baxendale. And it’s a smart set of tunes. Lovely feel, the production spot on. A nice slice of local jazz. Worth a listen, absolutely.