The second album Wellington jazz ensemble The Jac was recorded by Thom O’Connor and Michael Bell at Christchurch’s Orange Studios in April this year. As a follow up to their fantastic 2014 debut ‘Nerve’ it does not disappoint. From the opening track Sons of Thunder (by Callum Allardice) ‘The Green Hour’ takes listeners on a spine tingling, rollicking, journey that expands and surpasses the earlier work.
While compact at only seven tracks, they have allowed themselves to stretch out this time with tracks averaging at over 10 minutes, allowing the band to explore different textures, rhythms, and harmonies as well as giving the soloists room to really take flight. It also helps the listener to discover the individual musical personalities as well as how they work as an ensemble, and it’s great to hear lengthy solos throughout the album from everyone involved. Most of the compositions are by alto saxophonist Jake Baxendale and guitarist Allerdice, but there is one by pianist Daniel Millward titled Anomaly.
I hope we get more compositions from Millward in the future as this is an intriguing counterpoint to the others’ works, while still harmonious to their ideals and the sound that the band has created as a unit. The playing is incredibly tight, effortlessly moving between ensemble and solo elements, horns and rhythm and back again. While the music they create is melodically and harmonically complex, it is also fantastically listenable, with sing-able melodies and great grooves. This is a must-have for any fan of NZ ensemble jazz.