Kevin Field, Ron Samsom, Olivier Holland: Irony (Rattle)

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Field, Samsom, Holland: Number 2
Kevin Field, Ron Samsom, Olivier Holland: Irony (Rattle)

There's an old joke: if you want to make a million dollars out of jazz, start with two million.

Jazz is notoriously unprofitable for its performers and record companies (a decent selling jazz album in the US sells about 3000 copies, the days of 50,000 are long gone) and yet people still do it. Why?

Simple, because they love this music and believe that it is an art form like no other.

Auckland's Rattle label -- which has an unimpeachable track record in releasing beautifully produced, impressively packaged, often award-winning contemporary classical and elsewhere albums -- now makes a serious foray into jazz with this fine trio recording of originals.

Pianist Field (sometimes on Fender Rhodes) has an intuitive sense of rhythmic swing but accommodates some Thelonious Monk-like angularity -- and also brings out fiery and feisty improvisation on his own vigorous Backslider.

The five-minute opener Ironing sets one of the moods: brisk and rhythmic post-bop swing with astute punctuations by drummer Samson and Holland's supportive bass lines. It sits somewhere between late period Brubeck's poise and Monk's muscularity.

What follows sketches out another side of the trio: Samsom's Canadia which is an elegantly reflective piece, which effortless leads into the midnight blue ballad Madame Butterfly with saxophonist Nathan Haines supplying spare warm lines across the top before the chords get more pronounced then Fields departs on a tickling, thoughtful solo.

These broad parameters set, this impressive trio essay their ideas with what seems like ease, but driven by keen intelligence (listen to the way Drea changes shape)

This is an excellent local jazz release -- in fact it stands far above some of the internationals I've been hearing lately.

And here is even better news. This is the first of a planned subscription series by Rattle: three limited edition albums a year for $69 which come in generic artwork and are of the same high quality that award winning producer Steve Garden has brought to recordings by Midge Marsden, John Psathas and others. Subscribers will also receive special discounts on other recordings and notification of relevant up-coming events.

The jazz artists in the catalogue will include established talent and emerging names. You can subscribe or find out more information at

A fine idea. I hope they make a million. Or two. 

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