Antipodes/Guy Strazz Quartet

Foundry 616, September 22

Antipodes. Photo supplied.

Had Australia employed offshore processing on New Zealanders the local jazz scene would be a shadow of itself. For over half a century migration across the Tasman has bolstered the number and quality of creative musicians in Sydney, long a logical next step for Kiwis seeking a wider audience and further opportunities.

So Antipodes, a project combining players from both sides of the ditch, is part of a rich heritage, and the band’s music reflects this in some intriguing compositional ideas coming from Australian Luke Sweeting (piano) and New Zealanders Jake Baxendale (alto saxophone) and Callum Allardice (guitar). Often the moods were brooding, using rock elements and space for an in-built drama that was especially emphasised by Sweeting and drummer Harry Day in a band completed by trumpeter Simon Ferenci and bassist Max Alduca.

Yet, as good as it was, the project could be even stronger with less inhibited improvising and if some compositions broke out of the head-solos-head format into more extended structures.

Sharing the night was the Eastern Blues project of guitarist Guy Strazz, blending aspects of jazz, Indian, blues and Latin music. In fact the word “aspects” is probably redundant, so completely are the component parts integrated, providing the players with unique rhythmic and melodic fields upon which to unleash their improvising skills.

The essence of the band is the twin-guitar attack of Strazz and Aaron Flower, the pair executing perfect unison phrasing with wildly contrasting sounds and finding very different implications to the compositions in their soloing. After Strazz had been jazzy on Spaced Out, for instance, Flower would ride off into country territory, and Strazz’s slippery lines on Antique Land were followed by Flower being more measured and lyrical. But the best work came when they were swapping phrases: a spiralling game of answering and entwining.

Bassist Ashley Turner and drummer Toby Hall variously kept the music airy and drove home the grooves, while catching all the rhythmic tricks with which Strazz punctuates his compositions.