Review / Cool, clear and clean music

Music / The Vampires, The Street Theatre, Friday, June 2. Reviewed by ROB KENNEDY

The Vampires.

IN the dark space of Theatre Two in The Street Theatre, The Vampires played two sets of their impressive and clean, clear music to a capacity audience.

The sound of the bass clarinet is not one heard every day and that’s a pity. Jeremy Rose produces an excellent jazzy feel on this instrument and it gives the band a distinctive sound, on top of its professional and tight combination

Playing with The Vampires was Ben Hauptmann on guitar,  one of Australia’s premiere guitarists and a winner of the Freedman Jazz Fellowship. His ability was, to say the least, extraordinary. Some of the music he created on the night had other members of the band and the audience impressed.

Drummer Alex Masso, who at times uses his hands, seems to have an instinctive ability to create the perfect rhythm for every song. Bell Award winner Jonathan Zwartz, on bass, is another player who performs dazzling licks on his instrument.

Trumpeter Nick Garbett performs duets with Rose on sax and clarinet through several pieces; they help make the core sound of The Vampires. Clearly, their years of collaboration produce a unique and special sound; and they have all created a group that is world class.

In “Freedom Song”, written by Rose, it’s such a reggae inspired piece, I could almost hear Bob Marley singing along. Its clean, fresh style carries the listener to Jamaica. Jazz, good jazz like The Vampires produce, is the most refreshing sound. It’s a joy to hear and watch them play. All night Rose was saying they were having too much fun up on stage; so was the audience.

“Green, Green, Green”, written by Garbett, was a tribute to Al Green. It began with Hauptmann on classical guitar and not his electrifying Ibanez, then the brushed percussion came in, followed by the other members. This piece was filled with the smoothest of laid-back sounds. It went through several changes in feel and dynamic.

The sax and guitar duo of the next song highlighted the talents of both players, through an upbeat progressive combination. The drummer came in on cymbals, increasing the feeling of speed. The other band members followed and the song built before it exploded into a full-on, edgy and funky collaboration.

The second half of the show opened with an atmospheric work that breathed the sound of a dark city night. Out of that darkness the sad sound of the trumpet emerged, followed by the bass clarinet. The electric guitar was run through a sound module that gave the effect of strings or a smooth synth sound. Soft mallets on percussion helped to set the mood, and the cool bass, leading us through.

After a few more works the band were encouraged to perform an encore, even though they had to drive back to Sydney that night. They hit us with a work titled “Suck a Seed”; how typically cool and jazzy.

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