Mary’s Underground, June 19


The more ambitious the project, the more Chris Cody rises in stature. Following hard on the heels of his Astrolabe suite (a musical account of the navigator La Perouse), Cody has now viewed the last 18 months through a prism of how we respond to adversity, and the pandemic’s effects of isolation and alienation. The pianist/composer then tangles that up with Albert Camus’ L’Etranger and his own experiences living in Paris, and out pops a suite of eight compositions, collectively called The Outsider.

Chris Cody and band. Photos: Shane Rozario.

To perform this he has formed a singular octet in terms of both musical personalities and instrumentation: one able to range through fields of jazz, North African/Middle Eastern deserts, free improvisation and material that might be considered more filmic or programmatic.

The rhythmically shape-shifting Procession was underpinned by a lesson in creative accompaniment from bassist Lloyd Swanton, before strong statements from trumpeter Nadje Nordhuis and tenor saxophonist Michael Avgenicos heralded a solo by trombonist James Greening, a man who not only knows how to make an entrance, but how then to hold the room in the palm of his sliding hand. Cody’s piano solo exemplified his capacity to combine impressionism and expressionism in equal measure, before the piece’s 18 minutes were capped by thrilling percussion from Adem Yilmaz.

Anticipation had Adnan Baraki’s oud deepening the composition’s shadows and Cody generating jazz ripples by dropping little pearls of classicism into the musical pond, before, in a brief stasis, drummer James Waples brought his trademark pithiness and beauty of sound to bear. The film-noirish The Outsider evoked hostile streets and disappointment dressed up in fedoras and overcoats, and Greening again shone on Catching the Bug, playing with time as though it were a rubber band. Avgenicos testified exuberantly on the gospel-steeped The Truth, and offered contrasting improvising of fluttering figures on Waiting for You, while Cody crowned Alone with a solo of impeccable architecture.

Cody’s set was preceded by the relative naivety of the Amanda Suwondo Trio, featuring the Gary Peacock-influenced bassist Muhamed Mehmedbasic.