Ten Part Invention

Sound Lounge, March 11


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Bob Bertles (foreground) with Ten Part Invention. Photo: ozjazz.net.

Amid the plague of deaths sweeping the musicians’ community this year comes a tale of survival against the odds. In 1986 drummer John Pochee formed a 10-piece band from the cream of our jazz musicians specifically to perform music composed by its members. On Friday night that band triumphantly celebrated its 30th birthday.

Along the way mortality has struck down Roger Frampton, Bernie McGann and Ken James, but seven original members were present to celebrate Ten Part Invention’s milestone, even if ill health saw Pochee playing master of ceremonies rather than the drums.

The centrepiece was Frampton’s The Jazznost Suite, performed in its entirety for the first time since the pianist’s death in 2000. Frampton’s ingenious composing skills were crucial to the viability of the inception of the band, and he had a keen ear for all things quirky and adventurous. This four-part suite (inspired by a tour of Russia he undertook in 1989 with Pochee and bassist Steve Elphick) is the apex of that legacy, with the fourth movement, Sorry My English, its linchpin. Simultaneously hilariously cheesy and frenetic, it was like meeting a delightfully mad friend again after many years. Paul Cutlan featured on soprano saxophone and the piping Eb clarinet in a radical sonic contrast to Bob Bertles’ subsequent rumbling foray on baritone.

The proof that the band deep remains a living organism rather than a museum of memories came with the premiere of Andrew Robson’s Poets Must Keep an Eye on the Moon, with its lyrical Miroslav Bukovsky trumpet solo and skipping drumming from Dave Goodman.

Hearing Bertles and Elphick back on board for the first time in some years was a joy, the former’s alto sounding voluptuous on Bukovsky’s Song of Laughter, and Elphick’s playing being very close to the soul of the band. James Greening (trombone) tore up Bertles’ Just Visiting, and Warwick Alder (trumpet), Sandy Evans and Robson (saxophones), Paul McNamara (piano) and Goodman all had their moments in the sun for a band that thankfully won’t lie down.