Fiddes vs Tinkler, Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra, review by John Hardaker
It’s a hell of a thing, a virtuoso jazz soloist in full flight across the top of a sizzling big band. Dizzy Gillespie playing ‘in the cracks’ of any one of his bebop big bands comes to mind. And much more recently NZ tenor wiz Roger Manins at the 2013 Jazzgroove Festival (remember them?) blowing against (within/around/between) the Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra’s Bob Brookmeyer charts. Breathtaking stuff.
The Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra have now collaborated with another celebrated soloist – Melbourne trumpeter Scott Tinkler – on what JMO Artistic Director David Theak calls “our most ambitious large scale project.” The result is Fiddes vs Tinkler, a stunning recording of a work written by composer Andy Fiddes.
Fiddes vs Tinkler is an extended suite of seven pieces, broken by three interludes.
The pieces are weighty and complete; the interludes are more about texture and pure colour – each a ‘breather’ of its own hue and shape: ‘Conundrum’’s smoky flutes and clarinets, ‘The Sound of Struggling’’s silvery trumpet streaks across the saxes, before a surprise of heavy power-chords; ‘Past Nirvana’’s web of guitar/piano counterpoint under Theak’s soprano.
Despite the mock-combative title of the album (cheekily supporting by the prize-fight graphics of Rattle JAZZ’s UnkleFranc) the main pieces are constructed to support, colour and dance with Tinkler’s probing and revealing trumpet.
In a world of finger-shredders, lip-rippers and über-noodlers, Scott Tinkler is a complete player who reminds us that virtuosity is not about prestidigitation but about potential. His technical facility, while jaw-dropping, is not there to drop jaws but to open doors – the horn is there to serve his imagination, wherever it may go.
His solo on ‘Pilgrimage’ (the standout to me on Fiddes vs Tinkler) goes places many of us have never heard the trumpet go – full of howls, cries, new pain and old shadows. Across Fiddes vs Tinkler, he rarely fails to surprise, drawing new shapes in the air and working through the byzantine windows and corridors of Fiddes’ suite.
Andy Fiddes’ writing shines as bright as Tinkler’s playing. The range of colours, the breadth of ideas ¬– so many audacious chances taken, chances that all work beautifully – the mastery of the idiom: pushing the big idea of The Big Band forward while deeply knowing its traditions (you can hear echoes of the history all across Fiddes vs Tinkler). The rising dawn of ‘Introduction – Awakening’, the Spanish tinged ‘Steps In the Dark’, the almost organically unfurling growth of ‘Gaffer Work’, the blazing energy of ‘Gathering Momentum’ and ‘Where Do We Go From Here?’ (Tinkler’s solo here questioning, answering, questioning).
The JMO ¬– a band bristling with great soloists itself – realises Fiddes’ compositions immaculately, the ensemble playing lending the quiet passages a real translucency, the heavy sections some tough, burnished muscle. There are exceptional supporting solos from tenor players Evan Harris (his chromatic entry into his ‘Steps In The Dark’ tenor solo made me laugh out loud, joyful) and Matt Keegan, and the always-surprising guitarist Carl Morgan.
Fiddes vs Tinkler is set to become a landmark work in Australian jazz. On every level it adds thrills to a genre and a culture that one is surprised can still surprise, to such a level.
Yes, it’s hell of a thing.
The JMO launch Fiddes vs Tinkler at Foundry 616 on 25 July, 2016.
The CD is available from Rattle JAZZ at http://www.rattlerecords.net