Rufus Records RF097
Reviewed by Gavin Franklin, April 1st, 2014
The drummer of this quintet is well known around the Sydney and wider jazz world, but this is his first release as a bandleader. He has assembled a group of very well-credentialed contemporary musicians including Roger Manins (tenor sax), Eamon McNelis (trumpet), Steve Barry (piano) and Alex Boneham (bass). The recording was done, with an audience present, at the Sound Lounge, the venue that is currently the headquarters of the Sydney Improvised Music Association. Every track contains eloquent solos by the various band members. There is nothing laboured about the improvisations and thought has been given to the tasteful arrangement of each tune. Appropriately, there is a strong flavour of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers about the material. The sense that we are listening to a ‘live’ performance is ever-present. A key quality of every selection is the obvious swinging groove that the quintet maintains. They swing with great confidence and trust in one another; it sounds as if everybody is having a wonderful time, attributable in no small measure to Dickeson’s abilities as both percussionist and leader.
The disc’s contents are a discerning selection of classic standards arranged to enable each member of the ensemble to display the best of his considerable instrumental skills. A listener’s attention is engaged from the outset by the excellent quality of the group’s bouncing version of Ill Wind. Every member of the group solos on this tune and the impression is established that this is not an ordinary ensemble.
Strayhorn’s beautiful tune entitled Isfahan is a feature for trumpeter McNelis and the pianist. This is followed by Soy Califa by Dexter Gordon, an extended performance in which Manins, McNelis, Barry and Dickeson display mastery of the Latin idiom in splendid solos. The Van Heusen ballad entitled Darn That Dream is, I think, my favourite track. Roger Manins explores some interesting harmonic possibilities of this gorgeous tune.
Next is the longest selection, the title track Weaver of Dreams. Following an improvised drum introduction there are solos by trumpet and tenor sax. Then comes the piano solo from Barry that is a highlight of the set. It follows Manins’s effort in which he resorts to a fair amount of ‘honking’. The pianist opts sensibly for understatement and pure melody, which he then develops into a most eloquent improvisation.
Big Foot is a duet between the bassist and the drummer. It is followed by Herzog in which individual players show their excellent grasp of techniques for performing in a modal bag. The support and goading that Dickeson affords each soloist is among the best work that I can recall hearing in this idiom.
Relaxin’ at Camarillo is Dickeson’s solo tribute to some of his bop drumming heroes. It is most worthy of praise, showing his ability to convey the sense of a tune on an instrument that does not easily lend itself to melodic ideas. Max Roach would have been satisfied to play as well as this. A triumphal debut as a leader.