Wanderlust meets Simon Milman!
In the same way that necessity is the mother of invention, form is often the trigger for creative genius. So it is that one significant branch of jazz history has involved collaborations between great improvisers and great songwriters. The latter provide the framework; the former explore its restrictions, its possibilities, its outer limits – and what lies beyond.
A classic example is John Coltrane’s 1961 recording of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ‘My Favorite Things’. Coltrane took the populist Sound of Music tune and transformed it into what narrator Ed Wheeler (The World According to John Coltrane) describes as ‘a hypnotic eastern dervish dance’. In a milestone marking Coltrane’s shift from bebop to modalism, both he and pianist McCoy Tyner soloed, not over the original chord changes, but over E minor-E major vamps. In the process, they unwittingly came up with a hit single.
On Reina De La Pileta, the members of Wanderlust bring their creative powers to a collection of songs written by composer/double bassist Simon Milman. It’s the first recording to have emerged from this exciting new collaboration. Milman’s musical adventures have take him all over the world – from Caribbean nightclubs to South American salsa parties to African tribal drumming sessions. On Reina De La Pileta, he brings these eclectic influences home, to meet early 21st century Australian jazz – or one incarnation of it, at least – head on.
The result? A colourful, rhythmic extravaganza that varies from syncopated dance tracks to laidback reggae tunes to ballads of cinematic proportions. Accessible forms meet complex improvisation; melodic hooks are extended and compressed, accelerated and decelerated. It’s curious; it’s infectious; it’s fun.
One of the standout tunes is ‘Horror Movie Marathon’, which, as its name suggests, could easily have provided a soundtrack to Wolf Creek 2 (more Australian jazz in our homegrown films, please!). An eerie piano motif (Alister Spence) builds with achingly gradual momentum, assisted by shimmering cymbals (Fabian Hevia), creepy brass lines (James Greening and Miroslav Bukovsky) and, eventually, what sounds like ghostly whispers, creaking doors and rattling chains.
Another highlight is the uber-relaxed ‘Put Leg for Hume’, a melodic, jazz-reggae track of the kind that fans of The Vampires would want on high rotation. And then there’s closing tune ‘Tarifa’, in which ultra-infectious rhythms – delivered via a mix of clapping and percussion – underpin snappy, playful interaction from the brass section. At 2:36, it’s over too soon – hmmm, a good excuse to play Reina De La Pileta all over again.