Rufus Records, RF091
Reviewed by Tim Rollinson, August 1st, 2014
Bass player Craig Scott has recorded and performed with all of the best known Australian jazz musicians including Don Burrows, George Golla, James Morrison and Judy Bailey. In the late seventies, his first band of note was the Keith Stirling Quintet. Stirling’s modernist tendencies earned him the nickname ‘Cosmic Keith’ and his quintet was in a “sixties Miles bag”. Swinging modal, post bebop jazz, using established song and blues forms but pushing towards the avant-garde.
Thirty years later, Scott’s jazz apples haven’t fallen far from this tree in Timeline, his first album of original tunes as leader and composer. Scott’s band on this live recording is a mix of contemporaries: Warwick Alder (trumpet) and Paul Cutlan (saxophone), and younger players: Tim Fisher (piano) and Tim Firth (drums) who Scott would have been made aware of in his role as chair of jazz studies unit at the Sydney Conservatorium.
Timeline was recorded in concert; it has the energy and tension of a live performance but without the distraction of background noise, the audience having followed the band’s request to reserve applause until the breaks between pieces. All the players contribute their improvisational and arranging talents, but compositionally this is the leader’s album. The music ranges from late bebop, through modal composition and beyond using mainly swing feels, occasional latin and hard-bop grooves. It’s in that strand of classic modern jazz which includes Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson, Woody Shaw, the Marsalis family, amongst many others.
The compositions are largely vehicles for expressive soloing. Scott’s bass is lithe, rhythmic and busy. Paul Cutlan is melodic with a gentle touch yet still driving forward, always tasteful. Warwick Alder is one of the standout Australian jazz soloists of this or any other era. There is a complexity in Alder’s work, a player who can afford to be laconic because he can rely on a magnificent ear to save him whenever needed. This sometimes lends his trumpet tone a fragility which can suddenly bounce back with a metallic lustre that could be expected of Alder’s steel city roots. Tim Fisher and Firth are fine players but it is harder to discern their musical personalities from what’s on offer in this particular recording. Tim Firth is becoming a drummer of choice for many contemporary Sydney jazz bands and artists.
Timeline could well be a description of both the album and Craig Scott’s motivation behind it. The music represents a summation of his career and his place in this country’s jazz lineage. It remains to be seen if this is a passing of the baton to a younger generation or the late beginnings of a body of original recorded work. A studio album without the inconsistencies of a live recording would be welcomed.