Joe Chindamo Trio at Bennetts Lane, Melbourne

Ian Patterson By

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Joe Chindamo Trio
Bennetts Lane Jazz Club
Melbourne, Australia
December 18, 2008

Whilst other jazz venues have come and gone, Bennetts Lane jazz club has, since opening its doors in 1992, provided a steady and intimate breeding ground for Melbourne's jazz musicians—both established, like veteran drummer Allan Browne who celebrated thirty years of Monday night sessions at the start of the week, and up-and-coming young talent alike. In addition, it has welcomed an impressive list of top international artists. On Thursday night pianist Joe Chindamo fronted an excellent trio whose classy set held the audience captive throughout.

A virtuoso with a lively, dancing attack, Chindamo also impresses on slower numbers; his interpretations of ""Scarborough Fair" and "America" from America! Joe Chindamo Trio Plays the Paul Simon Songbook (Newmarket Music, 2003) were notable for the pianist's ability to really inhabit the tunes yet remodel them to his liking. Chindamo's approach to these tunes is similar to that of Brad Mehldau—he stamps his personality on them, straying only so far from the melody, which flickers in and out like a candle buffeted by the gusts of his bluesy improvisations. On the former tune, drummer Rajin Jayaweera—who kept impeccable, swinging time throughout—employed mallets, which lent a distinctive earthiness to the rhythm, accompanied by the equally impressive Phillip Rex on upright bass. On the latter, Jayaweera's hands created a nicely muted sound on the skins.

The virtuosity of Chindamo also came to the fore on faster numbers like "Secret Love," where his playing bore favorable comparison to Ahmad Jamal, who recorded the tune himself in 1958. Chindamo works more in the lower and middle range of the piano than Jamal, and largely eschews the dramatic, heavy jangling chords favored by the Pittsburgh legend. Nevertheless, the minimal lyricism and light touch of Jamal was echoed by Chindamo on beautiful renditions of "Norwegian Wood," "Moon River," and Puccini's emotionally charged "Nessun Dorma"—a reminder of the pianist's Italian immigrant roots.

The rhythm section took a breather on "Last Waltz in Paris," a composition specially commissioned by a husband for his wife. It was easy to see why Chindamo has scored so many films in Australia as the nostalgic solo piece had a cinematic quality to it. Rarely, it is worth noting, have I seen an audience as attentive and as respectful of jazz, heads turning, in fact, at the sound of the soda gun behind the bar.

Like all those of good Italian stock, romance is never far from hand, and in Chindamo's playing this was especially evident on his own composition "Something Will Come to Light," whose melody is somehow celebratory yet tinged with pain at the same time; throughout the performance the emotion expressed in Chindamo's playing impressed just as much as his undoubted technical prowess The set closed with a lively version of Cole Porter's "I Get a Kick Out of You," and to the sound of generous and appreciative applause trio and crowd parted, and all shuffled out into the cold Melbourne summer night.

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