The Jac: The Green Hour (Rattle Jazz)

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The Jac: The Green Hour
The Jac: The Green Hour (Rattle Jazz)

There has always been the argument that you can't teach jazz in a school, it's an art form which can only be lean red on the bandstand.

While that may be true to some extent, what is increasingly clear in New Zealand is that the graduates of jazz courses in Wellington and Auckland are being given some serious musical tools and ideas to get on the bandstand and hold their own.

The eight-piece Jac from Wellington includes jazz graduates, but also others who have played the classical and rock arenas. That means when they get together -- four horns, piano, guitar drums and bass -- they have a lot of ideas available to them.

And their debut album The Nerve of last year was an impressive collection of originals penned and arranged separately by guitarist Callum Allardice and altoist Jake Baxendale.

This new outing -- again all Allardice and Baxendale originals, with pianist Daniel Millward also contributing a piece -- finds them on similarly assured ground. Where that is, is in what we might call post-Marsalis, the trickledown of the Eighties neo-con movement being respected but with some more contemporary edges added.

The Jac can play like a powerful ensemble (check the clever arrangement on the Baxendale-penned title track by way of example) while leaving space for Allardice to explore the world from John Scofield onward.

Equally, trumpeter Lex French gets away a pointed and increasingly astringent solo on Allardice's The Heist which refers to the blues but quickly leaves that behind to create the perfect in-point for the band to return, then another slippery solo spot for Allardice.

The standout among many is Baxendale's Andalucia in which the contract of post-Marsalis bop is fully explored over rolling and tumbling rhythmic patterns from drummer Shaun Anderson which keep everyone alert. And again the soloists shine in this 11 minute-plus piece which morphs and moves into different emotions as each player steps forward.

It is an example of how these distinct talents not only express their individuality but also come together as a powerful, tight ensemble.

Another damn fine album from The Jac who confirm the place of jazz education and the hardening of musicianship made possible by the crucible of the bandstand. 

The Green Hour is being launched in the Auckland Jazz Festival at CJC on Thursday October 22. For more details on the festival see here. Jake Baxendale has answered the Famous Elsewhere Jazz Questionnaire here.

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