Love and all that jazz - gigs on Valentine's Day
For those looking for something different on Valentine's Day, try these gigs, writes Robin Lynam
Attempts have been made over the years to link jazz with Valentine's Day, often in the form of Chet Baker compilations. The trumpeter and singer is particularly associated with show tune My Funny Valentine - from the Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart musical Babes in Arms - although I rather prefer Miles Davis' take on it.
One of Davis' interpretations of that tune is the lead track of his 2003 Plays for Lovers, one of several similarly titled compilations featuring some of the more sentimental tracks by jazz artists such as Dave Brubeck, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Stan Getz and Wes Montgomery.
These offer smooching music of a superior order but present a rather unrepresentative picture of each musician's work.
There's no shortage of jazz albums offering romantic background music for February 14, but a jazz gig as a Valentine's Day date is a riskier proposition - particularly if only one half of a couple likes the music. For those willing to take the chance, however, here are some options.
The trombone is not normally considered a romantic instrument - "You can't go around … with one of these without making enemies," a trombonist once told me - and lacks even the most tenuous connection to the troubadour tradition. It can be surprisingly lyrical, however, and on Friday, Backstage Live in Wellington Street is presenting Australian trombonist Jeremy Greig as its Valentine attraction.
Greig went to the US in 1997 to study for a master's degree in music at the University of Miami. He has won Downbeat magazine awards and worked with big names such as composers Maria Schneider and Jimmy Heath, and trumpeter-composer Wynton Marsalis.
Now based again in Australia, Greig is a lecturer in jazz and contemporary music at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts in Perth, as well as playing concert and club dates.
Lupa by Mario Batali on Queen's Road Central has chosen Valentine's night for the latest in its occasional "jazz dinners", this one featuring an all-star band comprising some of Sweden's top jazz musicians.
Magnus Lindgren on saxophone and flute - fresh from a tour with singer Gregory Porter, who will perform at the Hong Kong Arts Festival this month - is leading a band comprising guitarist Andy Pfeiler, bassist Rickard Malmsten, pianist Jim Schneider, drummer Jack Greminger and singer Rigmor Gustafsson.
Except for Greminger and Schneider who are Hong Kong-based Americans, all are names associated with Scandinavian jazz - including Malmsten, who also lived for several years in Hong Kong before repatriating himself in 2013.
He was responsible during that time for bringing several of the leading lights of Nordic jazz over to perform in Hong Kong and the mainland, including one of the best-known internationally, trombonist Nils Landgren, who brought Gustafsson with him on one visit.
Pfeiler, who has also worked with Landgren, has an album out titled We Call Them Vikings - Soundscapes from the Exhibition consisting of music he describes as "right in between jazz and electronica". The music was composed as background for a touring exhibition of objects from the Viking era.
Gustafsson and Porter are guest vocalists on Lindgren's current album, Souls, and the band will be playing selections from it at their other concerts, at Peel Fresco on February 16 and February 20.
"It's a big honour to bring over three such big stars as Andy Pfeiler, Rigmor Gustafsson and Magnus Lindgren," says Malmsten.
Three albums featuring members of the visiting Swedish jazz band.
The Game (2003, Caprice Records): Lindgren leads his quartet of the period through a set comprising mostly his own compositions, but also two by his sidemen and the standards Caravan and Softly as in a Morning Sunrise. The album demonstrates his versatility as a reedman.
Music and Movement (2010, Skip Records): released under the name Andy P and Jideblaskos, this is the second album featuring Landgren's Funk Unit guitarist Pfeiler as a leader. Accompanied by a gigging band comprising seasoned session players, Pfeiler offers a strong set of similarly funk-influenced original compositions.
Signature Edition Volume 6 (2011, ACT): invited to compile the sixth collection in ACT's Signature Edition series from her recordings between 1996 and 2010, Gustafsson came up with a well-balanced selection of standards and pop covers. Landgren's trombone also features prominently.