Visionary. Distinguished. Awe-inspiring… said quickly and concisely, this album is great. So great, that if you’re reading this review, you should go buy ‘Dog’ by Dog. Once home, you should listen to it over and over again.
You should notice the virtuosity and musicality of the musicians; the tunefulness and balance in each composition and the organic feel to the recordings. You should even feel a bit bad for not being that good a musician yourself. Then you should get on with life.
Fast forward 30 years. You’re clearing out your CDs and come across this release from Rattle. It says ‘Dog’ on the cover, along with a scrawled rendering of the title animal below. You open the case and look at the liner notes. You see it was recorded by Simon Gooding, at York Street (remember that place?). You put it in the CD player if you still have one. Immediately, you’re taken back by the opening bars of Push Biker. You’re laughing at the microphone picking up Oliver Holland doing his best Keith Jarrett impersonation whilst soloing tremendously over the second half of Didledididledie. You’re nodding to the offbeat groove in Kevin Field’s Icebreaker. You’re tearing up over the intro to Continuance. Ron Sampson’s Sounds Like Orange draws you in and holds you there for its duration. And then there’s Roger Mannins’ saxophone playing. It seems to speak to you on a personal level, like it knows every one of those 30 years since you first listened, and grown with you to reflect every emotion you’ve felt in that time.
If that all seems an abstract description, that’s because this album deals in very abstract and complex moods. It’s not an album of standards. Harmony and rhythm can be tense and resolution can often come in the most unexpected places. Just like it would over the course of a life. This is music that speaks to you on a raw, human level, music that embraces and reflects a combination of dense, complex emotions. As a result it’s also music that will age a lot better than you will. Each listen reveals something new, and provokes a new mood. It’s rare to find an album that’s physically and emotionally exciting, let alone one that retains this on so many repeated listenings. But the self-titled debut from this Auckland jazz outfit is exactly that. And it’s exactly that again, and again, and again.