It’s Saturday night. And it’s Day 3 of our 2019 Brisbane Vocal Jazz Festival.
You have just parked your car.
And if I may offer a word of advice before you come in……just for tonight….leave all of the following in that car…
Your preconceptions about what Jazz is.
Your yearning for the familiar, in melody and lyric.
Your desire to tap your feet to a defined, confined, comfortable musical form and structure.
The Duke, Count Basie, Miles, Trane, Ella, Sarah, Carmen, Billie, Frank, Chet, Nat, Kurt Elling…
Sammy Cahn, Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen, Hoagy Carmichael, Eden Ahbez…..
You can get all of that tomorrow night. Or next week.
For on this night, what you will need is a willingness to try something new. To let go. To slip into the rare opportunity of experiencing and sharing something that is oh, so very different.
As tonight, the Brisbane Jazz Club presents Laurence Hobgood and Rhiannon, as they present a totally spontaneous and free-form show, that they have never performed before.
And for your reviewer at least, this was indeed, something new and different. I have never experienced its like before.
From Laurence’s first notes and Rhiannon’s introductory ooh-aahs and doo-dahs, I found myself thinking, ‘Er…hmmmmm….er. What is THIS?’ ‘Is this self-indulgence?’ ‘What does the audience get?’ ‘Is this an ‘acquired’ taste? If so, could I ever hope to acquire it? Would I want to?’
And perhaps, apart from those who attended the workshop earlier today, and therefore had some fore-knowledge of what to expect, I felt I was just one among many in the audience, who were wondering much the same thing.
And now, as I wonder about just how to describe the night, I have considered the option of presenting my review in a form much like tonight’s performance; as a stream of consciousness; as a sequence of words and phrases from my ten pages of notes….
Doo. Fah. Moo. Too. And periwinkle blue. Free. River. Sound. I don’t have to hang around.
Shenandoah. Baby eyes. Your hair in the morning. Wishes. Wise.
With a footnote, such as, ‘Imagine this set to an improv piece by a Grammy Award-winning piano player. Then knock yourself out. Make of it, take from it, what you will. Enjoy yourself. Go. Be free. And oh, please…sing along.’
And, if you had been here, that might actually be enough to capture the essence of the night.
But these two outstanding performers and their unique performance, demand much more…
Beyond the unmasked scepticism of my initial reaction, as the performance progressed, I began to sense the subtlety with which Rhiannon and Laurence were challenging us to shed our preconceptions; ‘Let go, and climb on board with us, as we explore who we are. Who I am. Who you are. As an individual, alone. As one among many. As one among the choir.’
And while short on spear-throwing gestures and threatening tongues, their challenge had no less power than an Aboriginal War Dance or a Maori Haka.
And for many of us, it worked. With a steady, grounded, believable, trust-able and skillful collaboration and on-stage presence, they guided us on a wonderfully free-form meander, through a colourful, busy, buzzy and vibrant landscape.
Across fields, they took us. Along rivers. Among the stars. Sharing love. And loss. And danger. And exhilaration. And exploration. And discovery. Challenging us to step beyond the expected; beyond our comfort zone; to experience a new view, a new sense, of the world.
At this time. In this place. In this very moment.
Indeed, the performance was so spontaneous, and so ‘in the moment’, that at one point, I found myself musing about a sudden burst of flooding rain and a rising Brisbane River. And I felt quite certain that, even in such a dramatically changing circumstance, tonight, these two artists would have simply embraced this new element of the moment, and played on.
Later, in a chat with Rhiannon and Laurence, I asked…
In your flawless collaboration, who is following whom?The response included, ‘In a typical two-person conversation, 80% of the focus will be on what YOU want to say. For us, on stage, 80% of our individual focus is on what THE OTHER PERSON is saying/doing, and where they are going.’
Do you have anything resembling a Set List? Broad smiles, and a resounding ‘No’, was the reply.
And when it was all over, a grateful and supercharged audience rose to applaud the power, the wonder and the magic of this performance.
So, thank you Rhiannon and Laurence for your guidance on a wondrous journey, and for taking us, so skillfully and sublimely, from ‘Hmmmm?’……to a standing ovation!!
Brisbane Jazz Club
To learn more about Dakota-born, now Hawaii resident, Rhiannon, visit www.rhiannonmusic.com.
To learn more about North Carolina-born, now New York resident, Laurence, visit www.laurencehobgood.com