Graham Reid | | 2 min read
Those with a decent memory will recall the iiii label out of Wellington which was enormously prolific and – like the Braille label back in the Eighties from the same city – revolved around a core of practitioners of improvised music.
One of those iiii players was saxophonist Jeff Henderson who has appeared at Elsewhere many times in different guises (player, producer) and with other artists as well as under his own name.
Now Auckland-based, Henderson is the prime mover behind the new label Kiwijahzz which has launched itself with two volumes of Jazz from the Underground Nightclubs of Aotearoa, both of which feature the Trioglodyte group of Henderson, bassist Eamon Edmundsen-Wells and drummer Chris O'Conner, plus various guests.
Certainly Volume 1 – with guests Crystal Choi (keys), Bonnie Stewart (drums) and percussion layer Paul Taylor deploying electronics – opens with some not-unexpected visceral blowing by Henderson on Bra Joe.
But there is much more going on here on these live recordings from Auckland's Wine Cellar in September 2020.
The 18-minute Bra Joe From Kilimanjaro which follows comes on as a slow and moody keyboard/electronica piece (Joe might well be Zawinul) before opening out when Henderson enters with measured lines before paring right back again to haunting electronica washes; there is a playfulness to Off Minor on which at times the sax and electronics seems to evoke bird calls from the bush; experimental, impressionistic improvisation is at the heart of this project (extremely and enjoyably successful too, check the percussively busy Rated X) and the collection closes with a gritty and powerful take on Santamaria/Coltrane's Afro Blue.
It is an impressive and diverse collection, mirrored and refracted by the second volume also recorded at the Wine Cellar, a month later) with guest guitarists Kat Tomacruz and Brett (The Bads) Adams and drummer Stewart.
From the beguiling desertscape guitars of the measured and undemonstrative opener For Alemu Aga (the Ethiopian master musician), Volume 2 stakes out some very different ground.
Again there is wit (the bouncy intro and subsequent conversational tone of the bluesy Boody): but there is also a short drum duet (Bonnie & Chris); a bass and sax pairing (the two-minute Eamon and Jeff); the humid West African sound of Mama Divua Diame with palm wine guitars; the Afro-Caribbean languor of Lejania . . .
For albums announcing a new venture in improvised music (admittedly for the moment just by Trioglodyte and friends), these two volumes stand at some distance from other local jazz – and even the Braille and iiii catalogues – in terms of their daring and global connections . . . and suggest that here is a source well worth tuning in to.
Kiwijahzz is in very good hands here.
These albums are available from bandcamp here and will be appearing as limited edition cassettes in the near future.
KJ003 - Jazz from the Underground Nightclubs of Aotearoa Vol. 3 HatNoHatHat – Jeff Henderson, Paul Dyne, Rick Cranson live at The Third Eye
KJ004 - Jazz from the Underground Nightclubs of Aotearoa Vol. 4 Trioglodyte with Julien Dyne, Jonathan Crayford, J.Y Lee and Paul Taylor
KJ005 - Jazz from the Underground Nightclubs of Aotearoa Vol. 5 Trioglodyte with Julien Dyne, Sean Martin-Buss, Kat Tomacruz and Parks 1
KJ006 - Jazz from the Underground Nightclubs of Aotearoa Vol. 6
Trioglodyte with Julien Dyne, Sean Martin-Buss, Kat Tomacruz and Parks 2 – Post Punk Anthems
KJ007 - Jazz from the Underground Nightclubs of Aotearoa Vol. 7. Trioglodyte with Larsen Taylor & Karen Hu – Two Pieces by Ornette Coleman