Rainy autumn nights tend to herd people into warm places with delectable food and – as a bonus – soulful music. No surprise then that there were simply not enough tables to fit everyone who wanted one at Nite Bites in Whirinaki Whare Taonga. Chairs placed out in the foyer held the overflow crowd.

The night’s entertainment arrived via the Uprights Trio: Dayle Jellyman at the ivories, Dan Yeabsley propping up a double bass, and Mike Jensen on the skins.

The upright piano was nowhere to be seen, but a gorgeous grand piano, courtesy of the Upper Hutt community, stood in for it. The band is call the Uprights Trio from their early years when they would load an upright piano into a car boot and play gigs all over town.

Nostalgia is a popular pastime, but would anyone really feel nostalgic for hauling an upright piano around weekly? That piano found a permanent home at Hashigo Zake and has enjoyed a restful life since.

On the Thursday in question, the band played a single long set of lesser-known pieces – the kind you don’t often get to hear live.

A new discovery for me was Abdullah Ibrahim, a South African pianist and composer. His music borders on classical jazz and breathtaking movie soundtracks sprinkled with ethnic harmonies and melodies. Check out this Tiny Desk Concert showcasing his remarkable talent.

It was also nice to listen to an interpretation of Ahmed Jamal’s Poinciana. The musicians played with remarkable fluency, their improvisations seizing the audience’s attention. Their performance was both smooth and utterly engaging.

Watching Dayle in his jazz mien is fascinating. His talents are such that you might find him in such diverse roles as lighting up the psychedelic stage at Lōemis or playing ska with Battleska Galactica as the audience skanks the night away.

His undeniable joy of playing jazz on a grand piano in an acoustically wonderful hall was evident – a feeling clearly shared by Dan and Mike and channeled into some funneled très cool improvisations.

There are still a couple of nights to go in this Whirinaki Jazz Nights season. Hope to see you there. But be sure sure to book a table: the place is really starting to hop.

By Charlie Queen