Hungarian clarinettist Joe Fritz’s tone is the cream on an Irish coffee in winter. He plays melodies which weave in-and-out and break your heart with their unpredictable prettiness. He was at the Brisbane Jazz Club playing the music of Benny Goodman, Woody Herman, and plenty of driving, straight-ahead jazz.
His sidemen were sublime. A tight band of superb musicians. Wonderful improvisers, with so much space, emotion and inventiveness.
There’s plenty of talent in this town.
Travis Jenkins, guitar.
Andrew Shaw, bass
Dan Quigley, trumpet
Gary Eideshaw, drums
Jenkins made magical notes fall from his guitar as if he was idly tapping his fingers on a table top.
Shaw’s fingers flew up and down the neck of that double bass, and it wasn’t long before he and drummer Eideshaw had shed their suit jackets for shirtsleeves.
Quigley’s trumpet held conversations with Fritz’s honeyed clarinet, playing beautiful counter melodies, or sharing the main tune. Sometimes his improvisations were so full of space it seemed as casual as you like. Only impeccable timing and clever exchanges tells you their ears are hearing everything and each other. Casual it is not.
Lots of up tempo songs, Stompin’ At The Savoy, Bye Bye Blackbird, and brilliant bebop songs. The musicians were often blindingly fast, but always melodious.
Great ballads, Body and Soul, The Days of Wine and Roses. They played what Fritz said was one of his favourite ballads, written by Paul Desmond, Wendy.
The solos got longer and longer, up to three rounds I think. Then maddeningly shorter and shorter as they switched phrases with drummer Eideshaw. Their genius was gold.
Needless to say, the audience was in a frenzy. A river ferry churned by behind the band, fully lit and paddle wheel turning. I wondered if the passengers could hear them and think, “Hmm, something good’s going on at BJC.”
There were lots of mutterings of “world class” as people filed out of the club.
Someone said they had never played together before, and had one 45 minute rehearsal.
Now. That’s the mad, mad magic of jazz.