A recent conversation brought up the question why anyone would buy a CD by the Australian trio The Necks. The interlocutor wasn't questioning the quality of the band, merely wondering about listening to them any way other than live. The reason is the same why people read Tennessee Williams playsappreciating genius outside of the visceral experience.
Since their inception, The Neckspianist Chris Abrahams, bassist Lloyd Swanton and drummer Tony Buckhave hewn remarkably close to their original concept, a sort of minimalist swell that develops at the same pace as a stalactite and stalagmite might meet in some subterranean cave. But decades of playing together have given the threesome the ability to adapt their approach to their surroundings. One would hope that all improvisation is site-specific but The Necks make a listener hypersensitive to venue. Last year, at a concert at New York's Le Poisson Rouge, the music shimmered along with the multi-colored lightshow while last month at Brooklyn's Issue Project Room, Swanton's deliberate four-note opening simulated the sparse architecture of the room. The music of the ensuing hour-long first set crawled along the exposed beams and columns, filling the high-ceilinged room like a gaseous cloud.
Silverwater is the group's 15th album since 1989 and one recorded in the studio. Abrahams adds organ and electric keyboards, Swanton switches between upright and electric basses and Buck contributes guitar washes. Thus the single, 67-minute piece is a different beast than the band's work in a live setting. The music still moves microscopically but the effect is less of a single pulsing entity growing before one's eyes than a seamless suite, connected by changes in tempo and density rather than melodic content. The Necks could do this live, just as they have released albums of themselves purely acoustic. The point is the opportunity to revisit their methodology, something even the most attentive listener may be hard-pressed to do in person.
Track Listing: Silverwater.
Personnel: Chris Abrahams: piano; Lloyd Swanton: bass; Tony Buck: drums.
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone. Feet in the dirt, or barefoot on a stage with sequins--it's soul beats in my chest.
I was first exposed to jazz while others listened to surf music in the '50s and '60s, it was Monk, Miles, Satchmo and Ella, Rosemary Clooney and Julie London followed. Margaret Whiting, Les McCann, Willie Bobo, Andy Simpkins, Snooky Young, Bill Basie and Helen Humes. The first time I heard Topsy, Take 2, I about passed out at the age of ten.
I've hung with Les McCann who more than 30 years after our first meeting became my duet partner on my CD, Don't Go To Strangers. Karen Hernandez from the start, Jack Le Compte on drums, Lou Shoch on bass, Steve Rawlins as my arranger and pianist, Grant Geissman - guitar genius, Nolan Shaheed, Richard Simon, and more. The big boys. My Red Hot Papas. The best show I ever attended was...
I met Helen Humes first back in 1981 and helped turn one Playboy Jazz Festival night into her tribute, bring the Basie Band to stage, her joy boys. Before she took the stage for the last time to sing, If I could Be With You One Hour Tonight thousands of copies of the newspaper I wrote for carried her story. It was kismet, her being held by Joe Williams backstage. Soon in my life were the great Linda Hopkins who told me I sang the song she wrote better than her, which floored me of course, the energizing Barbara Morrison and the stellar Marilyn Maye who guided me professionally.
My advice to new listeners... let your backbone slip and feel your body stripping back the barriers that prevent us from being one with the music.
Remember none of us are strangers, we just haven't met yet.