Hip Flask is Roger Manins funking it out on tenor sax, bass clarinet and bamboo flute, with a fine Aussie rhythm section of Stu Hunter on Hammond organ, piano; Adam Ponting on Fender Rhodes, piano; Brendan Clarke‘s acoustic and electric basses and Toby Hall on drums, doing largely the blues/groove thing with a few more reflective moods thrown in.
There is an enjoyable looseness to this music – not taking itself too seriously. All the tunes were written by Manins except four from other members of the group. ‘Hip Flask 1’ was recorded in 2001 and ‘Hip Flask 2’ was recorded in 2013, both in Sydney. The first sounds a bit more blues-based while this is a more adventurous musically. There is some hip shit going on rhythmically, the rhythm section has obviously played together a lot. I like the way they switch between funk/Latin and bebop grooves on the title track, managing to play tight and feel loose at the same time. I particularly enjoy the free approach in Adam Ponting’s piano playing, he’s a very spontaneous player so you don’t know what’s coming next.
There’s a lot going on in this music, but also a lot of listening, which enables the busy-ness of the music to work. Big Sis #2 kind of sounds like its title and is guaranteed to get your feet tapping. That piano player Ponting is taking it out! Then Manins wades in and stretches, and stretches, and stretches, as he does on pretty much everything. There’s plenty of interest for the groove-digger as well as for the more hard nosed jazz listener. There is a hint of similarity in some of the material, but the quality of the musicians more than makes up for that. Plenty of groove, plenty of blues feeling, plenty of music.