The band on the night comprised John Mackey (tenor sax), Miroslav Bukovsky (trumpet), Carl Morgan (guitar), Eric Ajaye (bass), Michael Azzopardi (piano) and Chris Thwaite (drums). It’s amongst the crème of the local jazz scene and I’ve written on all these players over the months here at CJ. John is out front, with plenty of original blowing tunes, and hugely passionate and intelligent solos, with a massive 60s-Coltrane-influence. Miroslav provides harmony trumpet lines and great bop solos, and several excellent originals. Carl Morgan is all the rage at the moment, as a young (1st year) guitarist at the Jazz School who’s blowing with great confidence and competence and genuinely interesting, unfaked lines. He’s obviously a talent to watch. Eric Ajaye is, of course, our much-admired bassist with years of experience in the US with the big names. After looking at the liner notes of John’s CD, I realise John has plenty of names to drop to match Eric’s (Nat Adderley, Richie Cole, Dionne Warwick, Roy Hargrove, Toshiko Akiyoski and others vs. Bernie Maupin, Sonny Stitt, Gary Bartz, Victor Feldman, etc) but that’s another story. Michael Azzopardi is the master of frantic, dissonant soloing, and challenging, similarly altered and substituted accompaniment. And Chris Thwaite is the strong drummer in the corner, always with a strong and intimate connection with the others.
The tunes included plenty of John’s originals, largely from the CD (Contemplation, Pressure cooker, See what happens, It’s the only thing to do, etc), a solo sax interpretation of Ellington’s “In a sentimental mood”, one of my favourite latin tunes, “Invitation”, and several of Miroslav’s excellent compositions (Delicatessen, For Woody, and that theme from Radio National’s Country Hour and an ever-popular tune for Wunderlust, the infectious Bronte Café).
John’s bands do not make for a light and easy evening. He always plays with a barrage of notes, and screaming, passionate intensity, and there’s volume to match. But it was a thrill to hear this band, and every player was obviously enjoying the challenge immensely. From what Eric said about the recording session, it was similarly demanding. So take any chance you get to hear John and one of his outfits, and get a copy of his CD. Take it easy; it’s not one for the faint-hearted. But if you can handle the intensity, you’re in for a treat.