Zac Hurren/Julien Wilson Quartet

Foundry 616, January 17

Undy res
Cameron Undy. Photo: Laki Sideris


It could have all been a bit glum, what with the posthumously-released final album by the magnificent saxophonist David Ades being launched at what might be the last ever Jazzgroove Summer Festival, the Jazzgroove Association having lost its funding after two decades of supporting Sydney’s improvisers. Instead it was hard to imagine more joyous music.

A contemporary and colleague of the pivotal Mark Simmonds, Ades was a vital link in the lineage of great Australian jazz saxophonists. Their precursors were the likes of Merv Acheson and Bernie McGann, and they passed the flame to the two tenor saxophonists in this performance: Zac Hurren and Julien Wilson. All these players share having a larger-than-life sound that is utterly distinctive and a profound commitment to truth.

A quartet of Hurren, Wilson, bassist Cameron Undy and drummer Simon Barker was assembled specifically to play Ades’s compositions. They began with La Ripaille from Ades’s second-last album, A Glorious Uncertainty, and immediately many of the defining elements were in play: the immeasurably sinewy rhythm section and the might and contrast of the two saxophonists all converging on compositions that seemed to have inbuilt improvisational potency. Thereafter the quartet concentrated on material from Ades’s final magnum opus, A Life In A Day, and kept scaling new heights of beauty and power, culminating in a scalding version of Removab.

Hurrens’ wonderfully woolly sound and more laconic phrasing were a perfect foil for Wilson’s blistering intensity, with both also finding contexts for a more diaphanous exposition of heart-break amid the tumult. Undy was masterful underpinning this band with his dark sound and offered exquisite solos, while Barker not only supplied the spark, he also poured on the petrol, creating startlingly energised, daring and imaginative drumming. Ades would have treasured hearing his music realised with such verve, love and crunching dynamism.

Preceding this came engaging sets from the Ollie McGill Trio and the David Groves Quintet, the latter including another admirable saxophonist in Scott Kelly. The flame keeps burning.