Sandy Evans Trio/Tony Gorman & Bobby Singh

Sound Lounge, March 28

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Bobby Singh and Tony Gorman. Photo supplied.

Hearing established performers advancing their art holds a particular joy. We expect it from newcomers, but the rate of improvement usually slows once a certain level of sophistication has been achieved. Saxophonist/ composer Sandy Evans and tabla player Bobby Singh both exemplify this rare phenomenon.

The intimacy of a long, improvised duet with Tony Gorman’s alto clarinet provided a perfect context in which to relish the fresh leap forward that Singh has made in the last year. Often their music was extremely soft, so his fingers were concocting rare subtleties and nuances in the art of minutiae. Indeed sometimes his sounds were so tiny that they barely stained silence, while containing a world of rhythmic and melodic content.

Gorman, too, played with small gestures – miniscule shifts of timbre and the shape of notes – in his snaking ruminations and desolately sad lines, so the pair were like two film actors conversing in extreme close-up. With Gorman’s sonic dreams requiring no impetus or momentum from Singh the tablas rather provided an updraft over which the clarinet gracefully soared, drifted and spiralled.

The contrast with the opening Eagle Landing At Cape Leveque by the Sandy Evans Trio (with Singh guesting) could hardly have been greater. Here Brett Hirst’s bass and Toby Hall’s drums created a stratum of intense agitation over which Evans’s tenor saxophone was massive and even majestic, yet slightly restrained rather than truly torrential.

Evans’s interest in Indian music is unusual in that not only has she studied the Carnatic music of South India to PhD level, but she is also well versed in the North Indian tradition (of which Singh is a part). She continues the hunt for interesting ways to use the conceptual and textural spheres of jazz – and she, Hirst and Hall all extract beautiful sounds from their instruments – within the rhythmic and melodic frameworks of Indian music. One new composition had bluesy and Indian elements seamlessly intermingling in what sounded like a significant breakthrough in her work.