Review by John Fenton

Canadian Jazz guitarist Keith Price is a welcome addition to the Auckland scene. He brings with him fresh ideas and a musical connection to his hometown. Manitoba is associated with Lenny Breau and Neil Young who both grew up there. Perhaps it’s the proximity to the open spaces which echo in the music, that wide-open sound (and in Young’s case an overlay of dissonant melancholia)? Whatever it is, it certainly produces distinctive musicians. Lenny Breau is an important Jazz guitarist and one who is sadly overlooked, Hearing Price’s respectful acoustic homage on Wednesday, cast my ears in that direction again.  

Before moving to New Zealand, Price recorded a collaborative album in his home state of Winnipeg and that material formed the basis of what we heard last Wednesday. While the album features Canadian musicians, it was released on our premier Kiwi label Rattle. ‘Upside Downwards’ is a terrific album and from the first track, you become aware of how spaciousness informs the compositions, a note placement and phrasing which allows the music to breathe deeply. This feeling of expansiveness is also underscored by a certain delicacy. In the first track especially, you marvel at the touch; the skilfully deployed dynamics grabbing your attention, but it is the artful articulation of Price’s playing that is especially evident. Listening through, it impossible not to feel the presence of the open plains and of Lenny Breau. Audio Player00:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.

The co-leaders are perfectly attuned to each other throughout; playing as if one entity. There are no ego-driven flights here and in that sense, it reminded me of an ECM album. I had not come across either the pianist or the drummer before but they impressed deeply. From Jeff Presslaff, that delicate touch on the piano and the ability to use a minimalist approach to say a lot. The drummer Graydon Cramer a colourist and musical in the way Paul Motian was.  

Wednesday’s gig was in part an album release, but Price also traversed earlier albums and played a short acoustic set. The album was a trio, but this time he brought four of Auckland’s best to the bandstand. The quintet format worked beautifully and his bandmates were clearly enjoying themselves. These guys always sound good, but it felt like they there were especially onboard for this. In the acoustic set, Price played what looked like a Martin (a Breau and a Young tribute). The other standard was a killing arrangement of Wayne Shorter’s Ju Ju. Why do we not hear that more often?

When setting up my video camera I made the mistake of locating myself near the bar and because of that, there is bleed-through from the air conditioners (the curse of all live recordings). The sightlines are also poor from that end. Never-the-less, I have put up a clip from the first set titled ‘Solstice/Zoom Zoom’. It was worth posting in spite of the defects. I have also posted a sound clip from the album titled ‘6 chords commentary’.  

Album: Keith Price (guitar), Jeff Presslaff (Piano), Gradon Cramer (drums)

Auckland Quintet: Keith Price (guitars), Kevin Field (piano), Roger Manins (tenor saxophone), Olivier Holland (upright bass), Ron Samsom (drums). Anthology, CJC Creative Jazz Club, K’Road, 09 October 2019. Recoding available at Rattle Bandcamp.

Review by Graham Reid

Interesting band name and title on this album by a jazz trio out of Canada.

Interesting because the guitarist/composer in this bass-less line-up – guitar, piano and drums – is Keith Price, now a lecturer in the School of Music at the University of Auckland . . . which is sort of the antipodes of Winnipeg, and certainly upside downwards on the globe from there.

This album – released in Canada in March – has been picked up for distribution in New Zealand by Auckland’s Rattle label which is a show of interest by them in Price who will be recording new material for the label in the future.

And doubtless he will record with some from the uni jazz school who have already made award-winning albums for Rattle.

There is a subtle balance of space and energy on these seven originals by the band members (three written by Price) which will be appealing for those who have ECM in their DNA, especially albums from the warmer end of their sometimes frosty catalogue.

The absence of bass gives an unanchored freedom to this music which explores serious free interplay on the almost quizzical Halfway Three. It builds from stabbing piano and eddies of drums to a three-way tussle when Price enters with flickering figures before things quietly resolve into melodic minimalism with Price’s impressively measured, glistening sound teased out into essences. It’s an an approach echoed by pianist Jeff Presslaff, originally from Manhattan where he worked with the likes of Ed Blackwell, Roswell Rudd, Stanley Jordan and other name players as well as holding a lengthy catalogue of his own album.

On Presslaff’s Tearsilver however you can hear an arrangement and melody which could effortlessly be orchestrated from its seemingly simple chords into something more expansive as the drums of Graydon Cramer — an educator and band leader – gently swells behind the piano and Price plays with that kind of spare elegance you could hear from someone like Mick Goodrick or a young post-fusion Larry Coryell.

The title of the lengthy and leisurely Urgency Not Immediacy here is perhaps slightly misleading, because this is an album where haste is largely absent (even on When the Wild Man Makes an Appearance with Price in Bill Frisell territory, or the slightly quirky Max Headroom). This suits quiet time spent.

A very interesting calling card announcing Keith Price.