For the impromptu jazz evening at Lovebite on the 7th of April, 2022, we have COVID to thank. The chaos of the surge in COVID cases, particularly in Auckland, meant that some Auckland bands scheduled to play in Wellington couldn’t make it. Thence Mark Lockett rounded up some friends and stepped in to entertain us as we nursed our disappointment. And although it is not the same when people play together for a single evening as opposed to many years of playing together night after night, it does provide for some unexpected pleasures, and this evening was a pleasure indeed. Mark took the drums, of course. Jake Baxendale handled sax duties, as is his wont. Ben Stewart provided piano accompaniment while Scott Maynard kept it all thumping with his bass.
It was cold outside, with portents of winter as the southerlies bared their icy fangs, but inside it was warm and wonderful, with good food, great cocktails, and jazz. The programme was a mix of proven standards by Thelonious Monk and the setaceous Ornette Coleman interspersed with original pieces composed by the members of the band. Everyone had at least one piece to contribute.
Mark began with Good Day for a Dog, which he wrote after encountering a self-serve hot dog stand somewhere in America. No, really. So well did he capture that moment that I found myself desperately wishing for a hot dog, despite not normally being a big hot dog fan. Scott’s contribution was In Total Sync, a story of late-night rides and railway crossings, searching for and ultimately smoking out synchronicity. Jake’s “Dr. Seuss Blues” and “Remember me” added to the evening their own colours.
The thing I love most about our jazz community is how multi-talented everyone is. And the more ingredients one has to play with, the more interesting and distinct the dishes one can make. If, for example, you’ve never heard a drummer create a melody, then you should seek out Mark Lockett at the very next opportunity. With a flex of an elbow or two and some sly prestidigitation, he coaxes a perfectly pitched melody from the unlikeliest of hiding places.
Although the audience was less than large and not nearly noisy, everyone clearly enjoyed the show. Despite the red light and the high level of uncertainty, Wellington’s jazz community proved that mix-and-match, extemporaneous lineups are more than enough to keep Wellingtonian jazz fans entertained in the interim. And who knows? Perhaps a new, more permanent alliance will come forth. ‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.
By Charlie Queen