TIGHT CORNERS : The Phillip Johnston/Jex Saarelaht Quartet plays the music of Lacy, Monk and Nichols
Tight Corners is a Sydney-New York-Melbourne meeting of minds, exploring the work of a linked trio of musical ‘practitioners’: Thelonious Monk, Herbie Nichols and Steve Lacy. While some of Monk’s tunes have become staples of the jazz repertoire, many of them are rarely played due to their difficult structures and unusual harmony. Nichols and Lacy are much lauded, but they each produced a body of work that has only rarely been subsequently performed. This new repertory ensemble goes into tight corners to try and wrestle this roiling repertoire.
Melbourne pianist-composer Jex Saarelaht has performed and recorded with an impressive list of Australian and international musicians, from Dale Barlow and Bernie McGann to Vince Jones and Chris Wilson, from Renee Geyer and Kate Ceberano to Sheila Jordan and Steve Lacy. His most recent release is Fiveways: At Chapel Off Chapel (Jazzhead) by The Jex Saarelaht Quartet.
“…He improvises with the big picture in mind, as well as what we might call the ‘extreme present’. Whatever the case, ravishing lines routinely tumbled from the keyboard” – ‘Sydney Morning Herald’
Sydney/New York saxophonist-composer Phillip Johnston’s recent CD with his long-running New York band The Microscopic Septet, Friday The 13th: The Micros Play Monk brought them to #5 under Jazz Group in the 2011 Downbeat International Critics Poll ; the magazine described their own music as “seminal, brilliant post-modern jazz”.’ Jazz Times’ described his most recent CD, a duo record with Micros pianist Joel Forrester (which also contains four Monk tunes) as “a masterpiece of intimacy, empathy and synergy.”
Their excellent collaborators will be Jonathan Zwartz on bass and Nic Cecire on drums. Both Johnston and Saarelaht promise not to play any of their own tunes on the gig.
“Countless jazz musicians perform Monk’s pieces, but few seem to fully understand the enormity of the gift to improvisers inherent in his melodies, the unique charm of his use of dissonance or the playfulness of his rhythmic displacements. The four members of Tight Corners are well alive to these priceless assets, and performed the works with a lightness and humour that seemed to make the whole room levitate…..Glorious.” – ‘Sydney Morning Herald’
photo : Lars Klove