Melody Diachun Quartet at Studio 64

Studio 64 (Kimberley) Spring 2022 Jazz and Blues Concert Series – Melody Diachun Quartet. (2022/04/16)

When starting out on a new project it is always a good idea to have a clear goal in mind. It provides stimulus and focus. Last time round (2017) the Nelson musician Melody Daichun zeroed in on the music of Brazil and the Beatles. It informed the program for a brilliant concert held on October 28,2017 at the Studio 64. This time round the goal of choice for Melody and her quartet was the music of Sting. Now, Sting is best known as the front man for the band The Police. This loud, powerhouse trio of Sting (Bass, vocals), Andy Summers (guitar) and Stewart Copeland (percussion) dominated the international pop scene in the years 1977 through 1986. While, I always thought that Sting was a bit of a poser, the band’s mixture of Punk, Reggae and Jazz appealed to me. Once I overlooked the abrasive loudness and hype of the band I realized their music had substance. Maybe it was just the jazz influences that appealed to me.  Post-Police, with his strong song writing skills, Sting emerged as a solo performer with musicality and an uncanny ability to form brilliant collaborations with musicians from across the musical spectrum. At one stage he was fronting “the best jazz band in the world”. An exaggeration perhaps but not by much. That band included saxophonist Branford Marsalis and pianist Kenny Kirkland and they definitely had solid jazz credentials. Their performances provided a whole new sophisticated way of presenting the music of Sting. In light of this new perspective it is no wonder that Melody Diachun (vocals) Doug Stephenson (bass), David Restivo (piano) and Tony Ferraro (drums) chose a program of Sting’s music. Originally, the intent was to go into the studio and record the material for a new CD. Of course, the Covid pandemic put that on pause for over two years. We are slowly emerging from the shadow of the last two years and the recording project is back on track. This concert was a preview of the CD that will be released later this year.

The first tune of the evening was the reggae inspired Walking on the Moon. Originally recorded by The Police in October 1979 the title is a euphemism for walking on air i.e.. “falling in Love”. The second song was The Shape of my Heart, a song that reveals Sting’s nice gift for crafting words.

I know that the spades are the swords of a soldier
I know that the clubs are weapons of war
I know that diamonds mean money for this art
But that’s not the shape of my heart

Fragile is my all time favorite song by Sting and the 5/4 bass intro by Doug Stephenson took the performance to another level. Don’t Stand So Close to Me, also from The Police repertoire, is a rumination on the mixed feelings of lust, fear and guilt. Roxanne is one of those songs that lends itself to a myriad of interpretations. From a soft bossa nova to ear numbing power house rock. The songs and the brilliant interpretations rolled on through the evening with sparkling instrumental solos on bass, piano and drums interspersed among the lyrics. It was nice to hear David Restivo on the Centre’s grand piano and, of course, the Kootenay’s “go to drummer” Tony Ferraro with all his tasty licks, fills, punctuations and sonic shadings.  Other songs included When we Dance, Tea in Sahara, Love is a Seventh Wave (with some great brushwork by Tony Ferraro), Consider Me Gone (based on Shakespeare’s Sonnet #35 and featuring a great bass line explored on the piano), We Worked the Black Seam, I Burn for You and Fields of Barley. The song lyrics for  Russians, written in another time, in another place and in a different set of circumstances are  so appropriate for today that they could have been written any time in the past month.

There is no monopoly on common sense

On either side of the political fence

We share the same biology, regardless of ideology

Believe me when I say to you

I hope the Russians love their children too

The audience participation on the final line “I hope the Russians love their children too” was a nice touch.

The evening had some touches of humor. Melody gave up on her high, high, training heels and opted for gym shoes in the second half and we thought we had lost her for the rest of the evening when she accidently locked her self out of the performance area when the musicians were taking extended solos on a tune.

The audience for the evening was small. That was a shame because it was a stellar performance and if the musicians decide to come back and do a repeat show then it should not be missed. The numbers of patrons  may have been low because of pandemic hesitancy or just the fact that it was Easter Saturday.

Thanks must go to the Kimberley Arts Council and the organizing Committee. In keeping live music, well “Live”, they stepped up to the plate in these difficult times. Thank you, Thank you, Thank You. And thanks Ray for the excellent sound and lights.

I am looking forward to the release of the CD later in the year. In the meantime here are some images from the evening………….

          

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POSTSCRIPT:

Rick Beato’s interview with Sting –

Fragile – The Jazz Baltica 2003 Performance –

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The Name Has Changed ………

I knew it as “The Bower”, short for Fairy Bower, a right hand reef break off the headland just beyond the south end of Manly Beach in Sydney Australia.  In days gone bye, as the story goes, the bush land trails there about was notorious as a meeting places for gays.  But that is another story. The break was not often in good condition but when the swell was up and coming from the right direction it was a magnet for aspiring “hard men”. There were a number of ways to get to the break. You could walk the promenade from Manly beach to the Milk Bar mid-way between Manly and Shelley  Beach and hop the sea wall to a  convenient launching spot for the short paddle across the bay.. Alternatively one could drive to the side road that lead down to the Milk Bar and that adjacent launching spot. Because of the lack of parking that was not usually advised. The final route was to drive to the parking spot on the top of the Fairy Bower headland, unload your surf board  and walk down through the bush or down by Shelley Beach  to find a convenient launching spot at the base of the cliff. The surf was the stuff of legends. The take off spot was as close to the cliff as one dared to go. The idea was to  jockey for the ideal take off spot, paddle in, drop down into a bottom turn, climb up the wave high enough to navigate around Surge Rock then settle in for The Race Track out into the channel. In days before leg leashes it was inevitable that at some time during the day you would take a tumble and have to swim out into the middle of channel to retrieve your surf board. It was always a little unsettling to look down as you swam swim over the reef and watch it drop away below you into the deep dark water of the channel. I often wondered who or what actually lived down there.

A lot depended on the tide and the direction of the swell to create a quality wave but when the quality arrived the  spot had its legends and heroes. In the mid-1960s “Nipper” Williams, Glenn Ritchie and Robbie Lane were the acknowledged masters.  There was one very famous photo of “Nipper” Williams taking off way “inside” and navigating around the top of Surge Rock. One day, in a monumental breach  of surfing etiquette I made the mistake of “dropping in” on “Nipper” Williams as he came roaring out of the inside take off area. At the end of the ride he reminded me of my breach of etiquette. No harsh words,  just a gentlemanly reminder to do the right thing in future.  Those were kinder, gentler days and in modern times it might have lead to a punch up in the water or a later altercation on the beach. Over the years surfers started pushing the boundaries of what was possible by moving into more dangerous take off spots closer and closer to the cliff face.  Warren Smith opened up one such spot that became known as Winky Pop. At the time we thought he was insane.

I did have one monumental day. I think it was an early morning session before heading off to work.The surf was up, way, way up. I drove to the Milk Bar and parked the car. There were lots of available parking spaces. That should have been my first clue. Even though it was very early in the day it was still unusual for so many parking spots to be available. I looked across the bay and it did look big. That should have been my second clue.  I paddled across the bay and further and further out to what I assumed would be the take off spot. I was getting more nervous by the minute. The swell was absolutely massive. Probably fifteen foot plus and thick, thick, thick…….. and the roar of the breaking waves that filled the air was thunderous.  Eventually, I realized I was the only surfer in the water and maybe there was reason for that. That was clue number three. In the past I had ridden beach breaks of over ten feet or so and I thought maybe I could handle this. But on reconsidering the situation I realized that this swell was way out of my league. If I got into trouble it would be big, big trouble and I was out here all alone. In the end I chickened out, counted my blessings and paddled back across the bay to the Milk Bar. I can’t remember if it was the same day, same weekend end or even the same storm swell but around that time there was a photo story in the local surf magazine of a big surf day at the Fairy Bower. It featured a photo of  Billy Hannah racing across the bottom of a massive twenty foot face that hovered over him like the “hammer of doom”. He took a pounding and lost his board. It was last seen being swept out to sea. It was never recovered. For all we knew it could have ended up in New Zealand.

That was then and this is now. We are fifty years further on into April 2022 with big storm swells hitting the East Coast of Australia. There are many YouTube videos of a surf spot called Deadman’s at Manly Beach in Sydney Australia. I had never heard of this spot but after viewing the videos it became evident to my eyes this was the old surf spot I knew as The Fairy Bower. Somewhere along the way the prissy name had be replaced with the more threatening Deadman’s. Considering the size of the waves, “the do or die” take off spot right in front of the cliff it is a very apt name. Over the past fifty years big wave riding has evolved to the point where surfers are attacking giant swells in a manner that in former times would have been considered suicidal. This is a big wave surfing spot almost in the middle of big city suburbia that rivals some of the legendary big wave spots in Hawaii and California. Check out the following video of a big day at Deadman’s ………

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