The annual Christchurch Jazz Festival rolled into town the other week (April 5 – 11 2010) and brought with it an eclectic collection of jazz acts, from world to funk to groove, it was all there for the taking. Now while I’m not the world’s biggest jazz fan, I don’t believe it’s a genre that is only for maths teachers and the mentally ill. Actually when I’m in the mood, jazz is the music du jour and a brilliant way to complement a mellow Sunday morning.
We’ve always enjoyed the high standard of acts that feature in the Christchurch Jazz Festival, with a great Billie Holiday tribute last year in the Great Hall, which included the soulful Sacha Vee (who teamed up with the Oval Office for this year’s festival) and the ubiquitous Naomi Ferguson. So when we heard that one of our favourite jazz bands was finally making it to the mainland, we realised it would be an easy gig choice this year.
We first heard the Grand Central Band (Alan Brown (keyboards), Josh Sorenson (drums), Karika Turua (bass) and Chris Melville (vocals)) play on the back of truck in Tauranga as part of their jazz festival two years ago. Hearing Nirvana jazz covers made them pretty memorable and we caught up with them the following year at the Tauranga festival in 2009, buying both their albums and joining their Facebook group. I guess that made us fans.
We were also keen to know of any developments with a third album since it had been about six years since their last release. Towards the end of the gig Chris gave us a taste of what was to come by playing a single from the album. It’s included in my compilation below. The actual album could be a few months away since it hasn’t gone into production yet, but it sounds like it will definitely be worth waiting for.
The gig was held at the Bedford (the old Legends bar) and it’s a great venue, with plenty of room for a sedate jazz concert or a rowdy rockabilly. The GCB gig was somewhere in between with Alan Brown getting pretty wild on the keys, doing some extended solos and at one point almost losing a keyboard but for Chris holding it down while AB went for it. He might look like your 5th form maths teacher but he is a wild man of music who definitely has the spirit of jazz pursing through his veins! Chris told me after the show that when AB goes a little crazy it’s a good sign they were enjoying the gig, so that was good to know, particularly since I wasn’t sure how it would go down this being their first time at the Christchurch Jazz Festival.
I was expecting a bigger turnout but I guess they are still relatively unknown beyond the Bombay Hills, but I’m sure their popularity will be growing as the crowd that showed were treated to classics from the likes of the Beatles, Rolling Stones and the Police, turned around, jazzed up and shot out at 100 miles an hour. A tight, funkified version of Eleanor Rigby was one of the night’s highlights along with solos from all the guys and some skatting from Chris himself. It might have been a little too alternative for some jazz purists but I’m sure the majority there loved the rhythmic renditions of some great songs, all played with a twist of GCB.
Not only are these guys incredibly talented but they’re also a really nice bunch of chaps who were happy to chat before and after the show. Chris didn’t seem nervous at all before the gig, telling me about his travels and the demands of life as a musician, a commercial photographer and working in a local brain trauma unit. It seemed like he was more interested in chatting than sorting out a playlist!
These are guys who have been playing together for many years now and they mesh together like fine fabric. Chris tells me that some gigs fall a little short and they just don’t hit that sweet spot but this night it felt like they did. Looking forward to the next one!