We must count ourselves fortunate that ex-patriot artistes make a beeline for the BJC whenever they return to Australia. Straight from the ‘Big Apple’ of New York City we were treated tonight to what has become of Adrian Cunningham from his time living in the USA.
It is very easy for someone who has established themselves in one of the holy grails of jazz such as New York, to become a bit high and mighty – not so Adrian. Here we have a consummate musician with no airs and graces and a personable style both on and off stage. His total ease and composure on stage is born of the confidence in having complete mastery of his instruments – namely, clarinet, sax and flute – not necessarily in that order. His performing skills are also equalled by his ability to write some very listenable originals and his skill and accomplishment in getting some unexpected, unfamiliar, but highly impressive sounds from the flute, especially in his version of Caravan, brought huge appreciation from the crowd.
On his last visit to the BJC he brought a string quartet to accompany him. This time round special mention needs to be made of the members Adrian’s hand-picked band who – just like Adrian – were really ‘on fire’ – especially Steve Russell who excelled on piano, Owen Newcombe was outstanding on bass and also showed his prowess with a bass ukelele (you would never believe such a big and deep sound coming from such a small instrument), while Joe Marchisella thrilled everyone with a couple of highly sensitive and interesting drum solos.
The program featured a good sprinkling of well-known numbers which could have produced some very samey and ordinary renditions from many bands, however the style and musicianship we enjoyed tonight was almost like hearing some of these for the first time. While Adrian has a great pride in Australia and a special place in his heart for the BJC, we can be equally proud of him as a fine sample of Australian-grown jazz and look forward to his next visit. We’re already taking bets on what sort of line- up he will bring – watch this space!