Author: John Shand
Foundry 616, October 10
Back in the halcyon 1970s and ’80s, before Donald Trump had been invented and when all was more or less well with the world, Sydney hosted one of the planet’s most thriving live music scenes; one that fostered a phenomenally successful music export industry. Exceptional bands as diverse as Midnight Oil and the Bernie McGann Trio thrived in an environment in which the populace made live music preeminent in their leisure time. Key to the success were residencies in which of these and countless other bands could hone their artistry and cultivate an audience simultaneously.
Then that all but died, thanks to a rare cocktail of poker machines, red tape and the cultural change wrought by the internet.
So just possibly the residency may once again play a key role resuscitating a scene that has never been more replete with exceptional players, but that has to work hard draw people back out of their bolt-holes and away from their small-screen obsession.
The James Muller-Dave Theak Organ Transplant is perfect for the purpose. If the residency idea is something of a throwback, so is this music. Usually I would say that pejoratively, but not this time. What could be a better way to spend a Monday evening than listening to largely blues-based jazz, inhabiting that red-light zone where swing grooves and shuffles exchange bodily fluids?
Add the twin facts that Muller remains one of the world’s most exciting guitarists, able to unleash steams of incendiary tracer fire, and that there has never been a better context in which to enjoy Theak’s brawny, testifying tenor saxophone, and you have the sort of night in which audiences are inclined to whoop and holler in response to genuinely hair-raising solos. Thickening the appeal is the presence of Steve Barry’s rich, supple, snaking organ, and that of drummer Alex Hirlian, who keeps cluster-bombing the music until it blows clean into the stratosphere.