Bugle Records BUG009, CD, digital
Reviewed by Tony Mitchell, March 2nd, 2014
The catholics (with a small c) are one of numerous other bands Lloyd Swanton plays in, here as bandleader, and couldn’t be more different from the sustained minimalist austerity of the Necks (see Open review). Formed in 1991, two years after the Necks released Sex, their lineup has been fairly steady since then, with Sandy Evans on soprano and tenor sax, Gary Daley on piano accordion, James Greening on trombone and pocket trumpet, Hamish Stuart on drums, Jon Pease on electric and acoustic guitar, and Fabian Hevia on percussion and tres, a six-string Cuban guitar. Quite a stellar combination, in fact, consisting of some of the luminaries of the Sydney jazz scene. The catholics specialise in music of African, Caribbean, Latin and Eastern (both Middle Eastern and Eastern European) persuasions, but with strong jazz tendencies. This album suggests far more zydeco-oriented beats. Previously the group included the distinctive contribution of Perth blues guitarist Dave Brewer, who has just released his second solo album, Night Walkin’.
Yonder is the catholics’ ninth album, and consists of mostly danceable, up-tempo tracks, all originals, except for a very up-tempo version of I Cover the Waterfront, most famously performed by Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald and John Lee Hooker, and Mr. Crocodile, a composition by Phillip Johnston, a New York composer and saxophonist and sometime associate of John Zorn who moved to Sydney in 2005. Here, among other things, he has played music he composed and the 1926 Japanese silent film Page of Madness, along with members of the Sydney jazz community, and played with Sandy Evans in the saxophone quartet SNAP.
Mr Crocodile features a deep, funky bassline from Swanton, a combined horn section, and a rhythmic piano accordion, as well as a slinky guitar solo, and seems to suggest the sinister activities of the animal in question translated into a danceable zydeco-styled rhythm. The title track, one of four compositions by Swanton, is a foot-tapper featuring Greening’s trombone over a repeated bassline, before Daley’s accordion comes in providing a Cajun flavour. Floating on an Emerald Green Sea was written by Sandy Evans, and is a slightly slower number, although ‘floating’ may be a slight exaggeration, with guitar and accordion prominent, and a final flourishing solo on soprano sax. Indigo is a short piece by Hevia, also slower, featuring tres, trombone and accordion. Permeate is a Swanton piece, featuring an Oriental-sounding tenor sax by Evans, and a guitar solo from Pease, while Sleepout begins with a flourish from all instruments, then settles into a more Cajun-blues styled rhythm, featuring some virtuoso trombone from Greening, then a bluesy guitar solo from Pease, with Daley’s accordion underscoring both, then a final flourish. Doin’ the Darwin Walk – a tropical variation on The Lambeth Walk? – also by Swanton, starts with the horns in tandem, then all instruments enter in a fast rhythm with accordion taking the lead, which suggests something rather fast for the heavy heat and humidity of the top end. Swanton then treats himself to a bass solo, before the other band members make their contributions to a brassy, almost norteño sounding conclusion. Serious fun.