About this Recording
86018-2 - CHRIS CODY COALITION: Oasis
English 

Musicians will always be travellers. They need new audiences as much as audiences need a variety of musicians. This century, as fast as the world has been# shrinking through the inroads of air travel, telecommunications and the internet, musical horizons have been expanding. Absorbing the musical culture of Morocco, Malaysia or Mexico has become as easy as absorbing that of Mozart or Duke Ellington.

Cross pollination has bred fresh musical momentum, especially in jazz. Take Chris Cody. Australian born, he started out as a classical pianist. Having been seduced by jazz, he left sunny Sydney in search of broader musical experience. Eventually he settled in Paris, soaking up the rich diversity of that European cultural mecca with its highly visible * and audible * African population.

So it is inevitable that a variety of influences jostle for prominence in Cody’s music. There is jazz * not just American, but also European and Australian * as well as European classical music and a broad spectrum of African styles. The musicians he uses take it all in# their stride as readily as he does himself. These players come from the cream of a Sydney jazz scene which is as strong as you would expect from such a cosmopolitan, dynamic metropolis.

Both bassist Lloyd Swanton and trombonist and trumpeter James Greening are band-leaders in their own right. They have toured extensively through Europe and North America, as has percussionist Fabian Hevia, who originally hails from Chile. Drummer John Bartram has spent much of his career in Europe, and also happens to be a trained psychologist * a handy extra-curricular skill to bring to a creative hotbed! Finally there is Swaziland-born Jon Pease, who epitomises the modern guitarist: equally at home whether playing jazz, rock or world music, on either the acoustic or electric instrument.

Together, the music they make is masterful. El Bahdja, the more poetical way of referring to Algiers in Arabic, was written by Cody out of concern for the civil war in that country. It begins like a walk down a deserted street which seems to open suddenly on to a teeming Algerian market square, with bustling lines for piano, cries from pocket trumpet and arresting percussive punctuations - these could be heard to contain more sinister implications.

Oasis may keep us in the same part of the world, but now the mood is lighter * exuberant even * as it draws on the African journey-song tradition. James Greening rattles off a tall story on the trombone, before Cody offers a more pensive response, without losing the prevailing lightness.

After the Storm, inspired, Cody says, by the African thumb-piano, is like a sigh of relief after prior tu#rmoil. Impersonating the thumb-piano, the bass sounds like a creature scuttling out of hiding to sniff the post-storm air. Some flourishes lead to the sort of groove which immediately suggests an extended voyage is in store. The trumpet delivers the melody as soothingly as a neck massage, and the ensuing solo finishes the job. Drums and percussion work together beautifully here: Bartram leaves space for Hevia’s rain-stick, bells and chimes to melt across the rhythm. When Cody enters, something darker * harking back to the ‘Storm* of the title * slowly builds. Bartram’s contributions become more dramatic, softened by the plaintive clarity of the piano’s upper register.

Flooze Blooze explodes into raucous, swinging jazz. It is brilliantly underpinned by Swanton, while Bartram cajoles first Cody, then the trombone of Greening into letting their hair do#wn * not that I think they needed much encouraging on such an inherently fun-filled excursion.

Thelonious Monk’s Monk’s Mood, the one piece not penned by Cody, gets the sort of suitably irreverent treatment of which I think the master himself would have approved. To paraphrase Tom Waits, the trombone sounds as though it has been drinking * not James!

The piano then beckons you into the softer, more sensuous world of Green’s Peace, the lyrical melody instantly memorable, yet carrying a mystery to ensure the longevity of its appeal. It was written for a friend of Cody’s, the Sydney-based classical pianist Elizabeth Green.

The mood then swings again to Gare De L’Est, named for one of Paris’s four great stations. This is tumultuous, vibrant music, which carries an upbeat affection for urban life. Greening’s trombone steams over #the rocking pulse, giving way to a churning, angular, good-humoured foray from Cody.

The evocatively titled Shadows Across the Land is an ideal vehicle for Cody to unleash his most impassioned work at the piano, and draws out a darker, forlorn side of Greening’s trombone-playing.

Then, to leave you on a high, Pease’s sweet-sounding guitar leads the full sextet which kicks up its heels on a lively celebration called African Dance. This is such happy music, you can ‘hear* the smiles on the faces of the musicians. And I’ll bet you will find one twitching at the corners of your own mouth, too * while you’re dancing.


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