The Air Force Jazz Ensemble                                                                                      VOLATILE: Can He Fly                                                                                                                RAAF Central Band 2006

Paul Williamson – tpt; Ralph Whiteoak – as/sop; Jeff Vague – ts; Greg Gear – pno, keys; Steve Temple – bs; Ben van der Akker – dms; w. Liz Hennessy – fl; Angela Richmond – bs clt; John Warren – tu. Recorded Melbourne, VIC, 3-7 October, 2006.

Get ‘Em Up/Time Has Taken It/Space Chimps/Trust/Volatile/Green/East Meets West/There’s a Time and Place/The Tale of the Sorrowful Clown/Ballad of the Lonely Chimp/These Four Walls/Where’s Your Ladder/The Defiant Stick. TT: 6:06.

This one arrived at in my mailbox at radio station 2MBS last year when I was still “on mic” there with a jazz show (“Pent Up House”) on a bi-weekly basis. I naturally didn’t have high expectations… I mean, what could one expect from an air force band, for god’s sake… so it got filed away in the “I’ll get to that one day” pile. Now I’m playing catch-up and I wish I’d gotten to this CD sooner for, surprisingly, it’s a real winner, worthy of air-time, at least!

The band is a occasionally augmented sextet playing a fourteen-selection collection of well thought-out original material by the main players, save Temple: all are members of the Royal Australian Air Force’s musical community specifically recruited for the group and are based in Melbourne. “Through performances at cultural events and public festivals, this unique ensemble fosters a valuable bond between the RAAF and the wider community” it says on the notes! Well, this isn’t a make-weight souvenir sort of affair by any stretch of the imagination, but is a quality album; to use the local lingo, they’re bloody good! In fact, this is one of the best albums I’ve heard in ages!! What an unlikely source.

The variety of approaches to jazz that are heard on this album is amazing – everything from klezmer/Dixieland through to “out there”, all encased in appropriate arrangements. The band sounds bigger than it actually is, not through studio trickery, but through imaginative playing, both as a group and in solos as well. I made a copy of this for an artist friend as a “mystery disc” – he was buffaloed, then seriously surprised when I filled him in on its source! This is one fine group on all levels: it’s surprising and pleasing when quality music unexpectedly rears up to bite one on the behind (pun intended)! “One never know, do one!” as Mr. T.A. Waller once said. I cannot recommend this CD more highly than to say that it’ll be listened to a LOT, by choice, now. Jazz is alive and well… and not always where one would expect it to be situated, either!


p.s. – I wanted to include ordering information with this review, but have had no luck finding same. The RAAF seems to be jiggering their web stuff and I cannot get through on anything I try! Doesn’t that give one a warm, fuzzy feeling that a branch of the military in the country where I now live is not contactable?! Hmmm, as Marge Simpson would say.

Later on: possibly : BenVandenakker@defense.gov.au will do the trick, or head you in the right direction.

published: IAJRC JOURNAL

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