On the final evening of June, all those who braved the freezing weather to journey to the Lovebite lounge were blessed with an extraordinary musical experience. Jeff Henderson handled the saxes, Anthony Donaldson banged away on drums and other percussion, and Tom Callwood thumped the bass. This trio has been playing together now for roughly twenty years. After Jeff moved to Auckland, the band has been getting together less frequently, but time and distance have not prevented these lads from continuing to create magic together.
The Melancholy Babes are very well known in improvisational music circles. But if you’ve never had a taste of real improvisation, then be ready to dive in deep and, perhaps, come out breathless. There are no music sheets. There are no pre-arranged themes; no rehearsed patterns. The musicians speak to each other about anything and everything with their instruments. All an improvised music performer need do is to listen and be open, but one needs to do it really well. “It is challenging and rewarding at the same time”, says Jeff.
It is naked art in its purest form. The diligent musician can experience complete sonic freedom when not limited by instrument timber and seven notes. Instead, why not embrace the enormous palette of sounds created by tiny percussions, by playing the bass with a drumstick, by pulling the bow against a metal dish, or by blowing air into the mouthpiece in every conceivable way? Sounds that are industrial, natural, supernatural…
Imagine a painting on an infinite canvas covered in ever-changing and imaginative strokes of colour scrolling out before you and disappearing into the distance mere moments later. This is what it feels like to experience The Melancholy Babes. Each performance is “exactly the same, yet completely different”. So make sure you don’t miss the next one.

By Charlie Queen