Another cold night in Wellington…
Musicians arrive, horns are removed from their cases, sheet music is on the stands ready to go. The floor in front of the stage at the Rogue & Vagabond is empty, ready for the crowd. More than a hundred tickets
have been sold and door sales are still open. I’m chatting with Seth, the star of the night’s show, about his journey to this moment. His family moved from the Philippines to New Zealand when he was ten years old. There were piano lessons, attempts at the guitar, but nothing really stuck. Then, while in high school, providence struck, matching him with a double bass. It was a match made in heaven: love at first touch. This led Seth to Wellington where he studied jazz at the School of Music. And that led to a life of creating beauty for others, doing what he loves most, and getting paid to do it as well: the trifecta.
The cats are ready. The audience, numbering many more than one hundred, are excited. The anticipation is palpable. And then the show begins…
The evening opens with a trio: piano, bass, and drums. The piece is Marjorie, and it is dedicated to Seth’s kiwi-nana who played an important role in his childhood. She left this mortal realm a couple of
years ago, but her spirit lingers. Like Seth’s memories, Marjorie is touching and sensitive, notably—no
surprise here—the bass solo. When all the instruments join in for the last few bars, the audience is overwhelmed with emotion.
After that entrée, the main course: the Wayfinding Suite in five movements. Written while locked down in 2020 for the Big Band series, it explores the sentiments and anxieties of an immigrant to these shores: Where is my place, my home? Does this new home accept me? Do I accept it as my home?
I: The Waltz movement opens the suite with sharp, short notes beset by dissonances that build into an troubled mood of disorientation, loneliness, and tension. Each solo seems lost in the haze of discordant
sound emanating from the surrounding instruments.
II: The Ballad brings a crucial respite, its main motif one of acceptance. Not a passive giving up, but rather a decision to move forward, filled with vigour and newly-acquired power. The lyrical guitar solo and the profoundly touching trumpet solo that follows reaches for something deep and hidden, a bittersweet spot of nostalgia for that which never truly materialized.
III: The Cariñosa transports the audience to a magical Filipino street party. Derived from famous Tagalog dance song, the bastard offspring of Spanish colonisation, it drives the crowd to move with the rhythm of the bolero. Two saxophones wondrously become two flutes, crafting phantasms of lovebirds in intimate communion.
IV: Trio weds Seth, Leo and Hikurangi—the two musicians with whom Seth played most often. There is space for improvisation and showing what a good friendship is: to be able to talk and to be listened to.
V: Lastly, “the amalgamation of the previous parts, with a glance to the future” has it all: struggle, acceptance, love, and friendship swirl and blend to create a powerful elixir to close the evening. The applause is long and honest. The evening has turned into yet another exciting jazz experience for many in the room. Joy is in the air.
The stage and the floor flood with youth. Whoever said that jazz is dead is dead wrong. On May 12th, I was witness to its repudiation. There is most definitely “life in the cracks”.
Trumpets: Jack Harré, Michael Costeloe, Ben Hunt.
Trombones: Martin Greshoff, Isaac Roche.
Saxophones: Nicholas Baucke-Maunsell, Frank Talbot, Lousia Williamson.
Guitar: Callum Allardice.
Piano: Leonardo Coghini.
Drum Set: Hikurangi Schaverien-Kaa.
By Charlie Queen
Photo by Noel Hayvice