The Shuffle Demons

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19 October, Spiegeltent, HBAF18
By Jess Soutar Barron

This gig’s just the warm up. We’ll spill out of here and go rampaging around Havelock North celebrating the death of consumption and society with a jazz funeral. We’ll kick over bins and use their up-turned carcasses as tom-toms. We’ll stomp and groove our way around the roundabout, hollering hallelujahs and rewilding the Village. The band’s dressed for it in Keith Herring neo-tribal zoot suits, and the music’s made for it. The soundtrack to the revolution will be jazz-infused funk with plenty of sax.

Or we’ll just sit here and clap in time when told to.

Band enters. Traverses the circle and settles into a groove that marries double bass, drums and three saxophones. They are polished and tight but generous and all over this jazz-biz setting Mingus’ “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting” beside originals like “Cheese on Bread”. This is open-access jazz. It hints at the tricky stuff, but it doesn’t make us go there. It’s jazz for newbies who can’t tell an alto sax from a tenor one. Between the band and the jiggling jitterbugs at the back is a thick slick of vanilla trapped in their chairs. Rich in the band tells them “A little dancing in the aisles when you’re ready.” They’re not ready.

There’s real celebration in this music. Originals take serious contemporary concerns and jazz them up, literally. Public transport, mindless mass consumption, the beauty and diversity of our planet, are all swept up in a cacophonous carnival. All three sax players are deft and dynamic, and a joy to watch individually or as a duelling triumvirate.

A highlight of the set is anything shining light on the drummer Stich Wynston. His enormous personality drives the drums forward to centre stage. This builds to the superb “He’s the drummer” featuring a kick-arse duet of scat brilliance with Animal-like babble and clever layering of spoken word. Wynston breaks out from the cage near the end of the set too with some mad-jazz-whitey-bop moves.

It’s then that the audience are nearly ready to haul themselves up, kick away the chairs and charge lampooning into the open air.

But 90 minutes down, gig done, our fingers let-up on the party trigger. You were lucky Havelock, we could’ve been trouble.

 

 

 

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