After a three month hiatus, Wellington jazz lovers once again took the A-train to the Rogue & Vagabond for a jazzy Sunday afternoon.

Oscar Lavën—soprano and tenor sax—rounded up an impressive mob: guitarist Alex Honey Boulton, pianist Duncan Haynes, Scott Maynard on the bass, and Rick Cranson on drums. The occasion? A tribute to the inimitable John Coltrane.
The day crept in softly on the tender strains of Mr. Syms, a stately piece from 1962’s Coltrane Plays the Blues. From there the jazzmen took a small step back four years to ‘58 and the hard bop of Syeeda’s Song Flute, then another still smaller step forward to 1959 with, ironically, Giant Steps. Truly, the giant step was Coltrane’s, who began the paradigm shift from ensemble playing to alternating solos with this piece.
That was followed by the hauntingly beautiful Naima, inspired by Coltrane’s equally beautiful wife. This also from the Giant Steps LP, but strikingly different from the rest of the album. The languid pacing and the tranquil piano conjure up images of a mesmerising underwater world, a stark contrast to the drama of the what came before.
Then in rushed Chris Bucket, saxophone in hand, to ride the Blue Train into the station. Coltrane’s 1958 masterpiece chugged along with its repeating, moody blues theme, and Bucket & Co. did it justice, the
drums providing the locomotive with its power and setting the rhythm and mood for the remainder of the set.
Slipping back into the Giant Steps LP once again, the band segued into Spiral, then back to the Blue Train album and Moment’s Notice, before leaping all the way forward to 1964 and the Crescent album for Lonnie’s Lament and Bessie’s Blues.
Astonishing to think that all this amazing jazz was composed in a mere six years of incredible creativity.
And how lovely it was to have a ballad just before the last piece: the chance to release all that energy positively may even have saved lives.

Fingers flew fast and furious on keys, strings, and pads, and nary a Toretto in sight. Challenges were issued, accepted, and overcome, solos passing from one player to another, like stories. Each listening to the others before introducing his own story. What a sign of professionalism! These sessions are often organised at the last moment with no time to rehearse and often with surprises. For example, on this Sunday afternoon Rick and Duncan shared the stage after twenty years for a “good ol’ times” reunion. Smiles and riffs were exchanged equally, the musicians’ enjoyment apparent.
More than pizza was on fire that Sunday at the Rogue: the jazz was smokin’ hot. People were simply
flying in, caught in the gravitational pull of the classic jazz waves. Or maybe they just smelled that smoke. They say that gravity curves space and time. Well, space and time were most certainly bent as were a thousand brilliant notes. The surprise of the audience extempore was palpable. You could see the wonder on their faces and feel their excitement.
Those hip to the local jazz scene no doubt spotted many famous faces in the audience: Mark Lockett, Anita Schwabe, and Umar Hansa to mention but three. As an open event, jazz Sundays are a great opportunity to swing by and dive into some great jazz. But be careful: the pull is strong and you might
never resurface.
Chris Buckland promised more local awesomeness soon. And if it’s going to be as hot as Oscar and the boys, well, the Wellington winter won’t feel cold at all and I might not even need my possum socks.

By Charlie Queen