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The Critic's Chair series ended in March 2015.

The Critic's Chair for 11 May 2014

Nick Tipping sits in the Critic's Chair this week, with a New Zealand Music Month special. He casts the spotlight on five recent jazz releases on the local Rattle label, featuring the Phil Broadhurst Quartet, The Jac, and Samsom Nacey Haines. Dog features four Auckland-based musicians, and Jonathan Crayford's brand new album is reviewed.

Flaubert s Dance RattleFlaubert’s Dance
Phil Broadhurst Quartet: Phil Broadhurst (piano), Roger Manins (tenor sax), Olivier Holland (bass) Cameron Sangster (drums)
(Rattle RAT-J-1015)

These musicians have thought hard about their approach to each tune, and the result is an album that is precise and concise, but also hugely expressive, with real emotional depth. Things don’t ever get really cranking, but that’s not the point; there’s an intensity here which doesn’t depend on overt energy levels.

Cross now rattleCross Now
Samsom Nacey Haines: Ron Samsom (drums), Dixon Nacey (guitar), Kevin Haines (bass)
(Rattle RAT-J-1016)

A lot of the tunes have two distinct contrasting sections in the head, which opens up the directions that the solos can take. I’d love to hear some of the tracks in live performance – I’ve got a feeling they could be completely different to the recorded versions. I’ve listened to it from beginning to end several times, it’s just a really satisfying listen.

Dog RattleDog
Kevin Field (piano), Roger Manins (sax), Olivier Holland (bass), Ron Samsom (drums)
(Rattle RAT-J-1019)

These four have played together a lot in the Auckland scene, but this is their first recording. It’s another varied album – it has the feel of a band reaching out in all sorts of directions to see what works. And there’s very little that doesn’t! Each successive tune opens a new door – and what’s behind it is both tightly crafted and full of possibility.

The Jac RattleNerve
The Jac: Jake Baxendale (alto sax), Alexis French (trumpet), Richard Thai (tenor sax), Matthew Allison (trombone), Callum Allardice (guitar), Daniel Millward (piano), Nick Tipping (bass), Shaun Anderson (drums)
(Rattle RAT-J-1018)

The Jac is an octet, four horns and four rhythm section players, from around the Wellington scene. This album has only five tracks, but they’re intensely composed and arranged. If there’s a common thread running through, it’s a sense of exploration.

Dark light biggerDark Light
Jonathan Crayford (piano), Ben Street (bass), Dan Weiss (drums)
(Rattle RAT-J-1020)

This brand new album features NZ pianist Jonathan Crayford, and two of New York’s most exciting musicians. It’s a gorgeous album. The title, Dark Light, immediately conjures up a kind of brooding mystique, and it carries on for the entire album. It’s reminiscent of the best of the ECM label – that mixture of a pristine, beautiful sound, and an almost chamber-music type vibe. To me, this is a world class CD.