Old 505 Theatre, November 9


We adjust to the new normality, then learn that this was Sandy Evans’s first gig in nine months, and are rocked back on our heels afresh. When I first heard the saxophonist nearly four decades ago she was, as now, in a band with bassist Steve Elphick. Their rapport was already obvious, as was Evans’s aptitude for crafting compositional and social environments in which others could maximise their creativity.

Sandy Evans, Steve Elphick and Satsuki Odamura. Photos: Shane Rozario.

This year’s Sydney International Women’s Jazz Festival could be neither “international” nor even national, yet between Zela Margossian a week ago and this trio’s performance, it was hardly as if the quality dropped away. World class is world class, pandemic or no pandemic. Completing the band was koto virtuoso Satsuki Odamura, who, like Elphick, has played with Evans extensively, and while both were in the thrilling GEST8 octet, they had never previously performed in this exact guise. Don’t stop now.

Two weeks ago Evans lost her mother, to whom she dedicated the opening Remembrance, and, ever gracious, also used the piece to pay tribute to Australian jazz’s recently lost titan, Mark Simmonds. It began with all three musicians playing Tibetan singing bowls, a sound that did not just fill the air, but seemed to make each molecule glisten.

Hearing Evans’s unamplified saxophones in 505’s glorious acoustics was a joy of its own. Her tenor blazed over an ostinato shared between bass and bass koto on Lake Urunga, and then on a duet with koto on Rock Water Temple (both from her Rockpoolmirror album), her soprano sounded like some giant bird whose natural habitat was the koto, with Odamura plucking beautiful sonorities to end. The koto contributed psychedelic swirls to the aptly named A Shower of Sunbeams, while Wheel of Sounds had the bass and koto plaited together, Odamura’s myriad techniques including the two-handed pianism that also underpinned the ensuing Lake Urunga Colours. Elphick soloed tenderly over these delicate sonic threads, before Evans compounded the autumnal mood with her soprano’s singular wistfulness. We just could have had more of it.