Oasis of musical calm in the madness

The Wellington City Shake 'Em On Downers.

In an unpredictable world, it’s good to know some things stay the same.

And, as the chaos of Christmas draws ever closer, that’s what the Winston Watusi column is here for – to help keep everything on an even course, an oasis of calm in a sea of madness.

So while the world descends into pre-holiday panic, things in Watusi World tick along unconcerned and, as is often the case, this week I have a gig and an album for you. It’s business as usual here...

First of all that gig - yet another with folky underpinnings - in Te Puna at the Quarry Park Gallery.

I've written a lot about folk music this year, but not from any particular musical bias. The combined efforts of The Katikati Folk Club, The Tauranga Acoustic Music Club, The Aongatete Folk Festival and others point to how popular the style is; or perhaps folkies just send me more emails.

The other stalwart promoter of such music is Rosie Holmes, and I wanted to mention her last bash for the year since it is, unusually, on a Monday.

Mark Laurent and Brenda Liddiard are at the Gallery next week on December 17. This is, for those new to it, an indoor venue at the end of the quarry car park.

And what can I say briefly about this duo that will do them any sort of justice? Both sing and write, and Mark is a very impressive guitar player. Both have been active musically since the 1970s, though were married and have done most of their duo work since 1988.

There are several albums and much music scattered around the internet.

I’d call what they do ‘acoustic music’ rather than ‘folk music’, and a quick Google to check it out might be well worthwhile as these guys are seriously good.

Things kick off at 7pm (doors 6.30pm) and there’s a complimentary hot drink and cake.

Tickets are $20 on the door, or you can book with Rosie via: 075526291 or: waharaurosie@gmail.com

Jazz guerrillas  

Okay, next. I recently got the new album from jazz guerrillas The Wellington City Shake 'Em On Downers, and it instantly became my favourite jazz album of the year.

Then I realised it wasn’t new, I’m just out of touch.

But I figure if I didn't know about it – and, dear readers, I really do try to keep up – then some of y’all might also have missed it, especially given its limited terms of release. Allow me to quote from the band’s Facebook page:

- You can't get it in stores.

- There’s no Spotify or Apple Music.

- We’re not doing any real physical or digital distribution.

- The photos don’t feature our current line-up.

- There will not be any music videos.

- No, there will not be an album release or tour funded by Chamber Music New Zealand and culminating with a hometown collaboration show at the Michael Fowler Centre featuring the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. Or any public shows, really.

On the menu

Nonetheless, I now have a copy of On The Menu, released sometime around the middle of the year, and I can report that it is a work of sheer brilliance.

The seven-piece band have moved to mainly original material – only three old standards amongst the eleven songs – and take on pretty much the whole of New Orleans jazz history with an album of virtuoso playing and arranging that stretches from early Dixie and Latin-inspired sounds to some seriously funky second line grooves, all with boundless imagination and good humour.

It’s hard to single out anyone, though trombonist Kaito Walley is mightily impressive and Oscar Laven provides some inspired clarinet and sax, while Emma Wollum is still unique and the perfect singer for the band.

Most notable is how the album strikes a sweet spot between hard-core jazz and a band just playing songs and having fun.

I can’t recommend this highly enough.

If you’ve ever liked a single jazz tune or song from New Orleans, rush to the Shake 'Em On Downers’ Bandcamp page immediately. You'll have a smile on your face ‘til Christmas.


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