It was a full house at the Brisbane Jazz Club (21 February) and everybody loved the Duck.
Galapagos Duck showed a packed house why they are the enduring name in Australian jazz. They opened with a big, bright sound. The melody of ‘Sharkey On The Prowl’ moved between alto and tenor with the familiarity of a longstanding affair.
All the musos took little solos early: Rodney Ford’s drums punctuated the air; Willy Qua gave us a touch of frenzy with high, bending alto notes; Wil Sargisson made oddly winding, pretty runs on the piano keys. They’re jokers alright. Ford slowed the song right down... then stopped. We all clapped. Then they continued for one more round before ending properly.Image courtesy of Brisbane Jazz Club
In ‘Cuban No.1’, the saxes took the melody over Sargisson’s solid and unerring Cuban-style piano changes. They chopped it up in the middle eight. Booth picked up a flute and flew it up and down like a little bird. Piano and drums exchanged phrases and there were some big piano octave runs, with a 1950s flourish. This was Cuba after all. Daiquiris for everyone!
“This is a Fats Waller song, and it features… everyone in the band!” In classic Duck style, Qua left the alto and went to drums. Ford left the drums and took the mic. With a warm, smiling voice, he sang ‘I Can’t Give You Anything But Love’. John Conley played a fat, walking bass, Booth took a long solo on a small, curved soprano saxophone, and there was some good, old stride piano reminiscent of the era.
For ‘Like Trinidad’, Booth told us about his steel drum, which he said was originally the base of an oil drum, reshaped, pounded out, delineated and played with aluminium sticks with rubber bands on the ends. He said he picked it up in Trinidad and Tobago, where he learned to play percussion. Booth played with harmonic dissonance, which somehow sounded so sweet coming from that instrument. Amazing.Image courtesy of Brisbane Jazz Club
Bassist Conley said: “Our next song is ‘When I Grow Too Old To Dream’, which is just about now.” This bouncy tune was a hit. Conley’s tongue-in-cheek bassline, a big, bold tenor solo, and happiness bursting through their seams. The audience loved it, and there was a big applause to see it out.
“We never knock back a request, and we must have played this one about 400 times.” The band launched into Grover Washington’s ‘Winelight’. This time, Booth left his saxes for electric bass. Conley left his double bass for electric guitar and did a bit of the Lee Ritenour thing. Qua used an effects pedal and sounded like he was playing alto and tenor.
“We’re hedging our bets just in case we really are going somewhere else after this. This song is called 'Revelation'.” It was a full, joyous gospel song, and the audience started clapping at once. For about six minutes Booth’s tenor sax took us into the heavens, Sargisson’s synth choir voices scatted singularly and in harmonies.
Both saxes had the melody to finish up, but they took their time, wandering around the musical universe to play a little ’Jesu Joy Of Man’s Desiring’ and other musical motifs before finally coming to the end of the first set.
With faces beaming in the audience, we’d been through a baptism by Duck, and amen to that!