This started diffidently enough with a quiet double bass solo from bandleader Greg Cordez introducing a slow burn rendition of 1000 Paper Cranes. Drummer Matt Brown let his sticks clatter and scurry around the kit, while Pete Judge’s trumpet and Jake McMurchie’s tenor sax added rich brass harmonies. Then Jake’s elaborations began to intensify, moving from a clinical deconstruction to an impassioned assault on the tune, a crescendo matched by the drumming and Steve Banks’ emergent guitar. Finally, somehow, Greg’s quiet bass drew things back to a calm resolution.
It was a kind of metaphor for the evening as a whole, with Greg’s initial awkward reluctance to speak to the capacity Fringe audience gradually thawing into a garrulous intimacy by the time he came to wind things down. In the course of a couple of hours we learnt about his feelings on subatomic particles (generally not interested), his personal life (a relationship recently ended) and the making of his recent Last Things Last album in New York (exhilarating and terrifying). We also heard some very fine music, some of it drawn from that new album, in which Greg’s compositions provided an excellent context for each band member to shine within the whole group. Only Greg, diffidently, seemed to hold back as if listening to his music unfolding in those capable hands.
It was a gig of two halves, in fact, with the bandleader playing double bass on older numbers and cover versions before switching to bass guitar for the new material. There was a definite change of gear in the sound, therefore: in the first set a chamber jazz number like Reid Anderson’s Prehensile Dream had an almost classical acoustic quality and musical formality, while brushed cymbals and restrained trumpet emphasised the melodic gentleness of Greg’s Camilla Rose.
After the break things had a rockier edge, with the hard-nosed riffing of numbers like Cherry v Des Moines hinting at Get The Blessing territory and Greg’s muttered warning that ‘things could get a little loud’ well justified for Figlock’s escalating crescendo. In an excellent band Jake’s playing was incandescent throughout, while Steve Banks nicely straddled the jazz/rock divide, sometimes ruminating in the Bill Frisell style, otherwise chopping and driving the grooves.
The new material generally played to a rock feel, in fact, often feeling like songs without their vocal parts. Greg’s compositional structures were impressively clear, perhaps reflecting the newness and lack of familiarity for these players (who hadn’t recorded the album with him), and this gave a newly-minted feel to the music that time will probably roughen up. That’s not to diminish what was a captivating set of contemporary jazz but more to anticipate even better to come, and in presenting this new music to such an enthusiastic audience Greg Cordez certainly had no need for that diffidence.
Check The Fringe’s upcoming weekly jazz programme here.