review1 JAZZ
The Subterraneans
Jazzgroove Records

JAZZ-ROCK fusion first appeared in the late 1960s when contemporary jazz forms — bebop, hard bop, modal and free jazz — seemed played out and rock was the ascendant idiom. Several jazz groups, especially Miles Davis’s on his 1969 recording Bitches Brew, combined rock rhythms and bass riffs with electric instruments. Saxophonist and composer James Ryan’s Sydney quartet, the Subterraneans, explores the jazz-rock genre and brings it off brilliantly, mostly because of the ability and understanding of the players, plus the strength of these originals. Guitarist James Muller has an outstanding international reputation, while electric bassist and composer Steve Hunter has had more than 100 of his compositions recorded. Drummer James Hauptmann brought a powerful rhythmic basis to Ryan’s previous two albums. Opening track The Rush begins with a familiar riff from Jimmy Hendrix’s Foxy Lady, quickly building an overriding Thelonious Monk-style theme for Ryan’s tenor to rocket off with, followed by Muller’s astounding wailing guitar. Effects from Bob Marley, Led Zeppelin and others are utilised inventively but the album is no mere exercise in sampling: it’s a highly original collection amalgamating rock influences into contemporary jazz expression.

John McBeath