Hip Flask


Roger Manins (sax)
Stu Hunter (organ)
Adam Ponting (piano)
Brendan Clarke (bass)
Toby Hall (drums)

Hip Flask is an Australasian ensemble formed in the early 2000s by Kiwi saxophonist, Roger Manins. Their first album was recorded in 2001, but not released in New Zealand until 2005 (by Ode Records on their Manu Jazz label). The new recording, 2 (a title conceived with tongue firmly in cheek), features the same line-up of Australian jazz heavy-weights, with whom Roger obviously shares an enthusiastic love for blues-based jazz. Driven by killer grooves and an unapologetic love melody, 2 is an album that will appeal to a wide range of jazz aficionados.

"I have always been aware that a lot of jazz music doesn’t go down too well with the next-door neighbour. With Hip Flask (One) I wrote some real simple tunes, but got some real complicated musicians to play them. The focus of the music is the groove, and the blues, and I have endeavoured with this recording to create music that both the jazz lover and the next-door neighbour will enjoy." – Roger Manins

Manins has an incredible palette to draw from. Drenched in classic Coltrane/Coleman prose, he launches like a futuristic Sonny Rollins into the saxophone effortlessly juxtaposing twisted abstract lines with dark soulful blues.” – Nigel Patterson

Firmly rooted in the jazz tradition, yet with an openness to exploring fresh sounds, saxophonist Roger Manins is increasingly recognised as an outstandingly gifted musician. His warmly passionate sound, remarkable instrumental ability and total musical integrity, guarantee a memorable listening experience.” – Mike Nock


RAT-J-1023 (September, 2014)
This album was made possible thanks to an FDRF research grant from the University of Auckland, New Zealand

Produced by Hip Flask 
Recorded by David Nicholas (Rhinoceros Music & Publishing), 301 Studios, Sydney
Mixed by Stu Hunter, The Habitat Studios 
Mastered by William Bowden, King Willy Sound 
Photography by John Fenton
Design by UnkleFranc

  Hip Flask 2 
  Hip Flask

    Droop Blues (8:01)
    Shallow Steve (7:30)
    Revolution (4:39)
    Huffle Shuffle (7:52)
    The Beauty in Their Eyes (5:49)
    Circles and Clouds (5:51)
    Lancelot Link, Missing Chip (4:57)
    Sninam (10:07)
    Shuffle the Deck (6:07)
    Bennett’s Radio Blues (5:17)

All compositions © Roger Manins 2013, except Droop Blues © Adam Ponting 2013, Revolution and Shuffle the Deck © Stu Hunter 2013, and Sninam © Brendan Clarke 2013

Firstly, I would like to thank the musicians: Stu, Brenny, Toby, and Adam. We go a long way back and I love you all ­– and I love your work. What happens in this band is really special. Thanks to Stu in particular for your guidance and support from day one. You really made a difference.

Special thanks to Henry Gentles and Justin Hewitson for the videography – you guys are brilliant, funny, great to work with, and really really good! I cannot thank you enough for the time and effort you put into this.

Thanks to David Nicholas – you made the recording process very easy, to Steve Garden and Rattle records for giving us the opportunity to 'get it out there', and to John Fenton for your continued and enthusiastic support of Jazz music – you make a difference, John.

Lastly, and most importantly, I want to thank my wife Caro and daughter Milli for your love, support, and for the joy you bring me. I’m a very lucky bloke.
 – Roger Manins, August 2014


Review by Graham Reid, Elsewhere

I suppose it was always thus: Every generation of jazz players would complain about the music of their successors, whether it be big band swing, bebop, Third Stream, free jazz, fusion . . .

I've certainly heard my share of gripes from jazz musicians who felt they weren't get enough attention when their juniors were being acclaimed. That acclaim probably happened to them too and their predeccesors bemoaned it. Sometimes it was a fair call -- there was some risible nonsense masquerading as free jazz here in the Eighties and I had considerable sympathy with older musicians who pointed out just how much Arts Council money these uninspiring amateurs were getting while real players couldn't get a grant because they weren't considered hip enough anymore.

And in one of his final interviews, I remember the late Murray McNabb jibing about jazz musicians who just end up teaching before they'd actually done any playing. Which was perhaps easy for him to say given he always had a good career in studio work on jingles and soundtracks. I've never bought that old, "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach" cliche because it's glib and avoids thinking. And when you heard some so-called free jazz players you could just as easily invert it.

No jazz player of any previous generation could make such asides about the players on this double album set because not only do some of them teach, but they also do. And they play with such grounded sense of history and swing that their predecessors should be applauding . . . because they are also bringing a new audience to jazz.

The Rattle Jazz imprint has been achieving an extremely high strike rate with recent releases, but this one is courageous in a very interesting way. In 2001 saxophonist Roger Manins then living in Australia recorded the Hip Flask album in the ABC Studios in Sydney which was released four years later on the New Zealand label Ode's Manu Jazz offshoot. More recently Manins reconvened the same players again and recorded another basketful of new tunes in Sydney's 301 Studios.

And so we now have both albums beautifully packaged as Hip Flask 2 with liner notes in which Manins recalls those original recordings as him having written some "real simple tunes but got some real complicated musicians to play them". That's rather diminishing some of the material, although in the comparison with the more recent music you can hear a marked difference.

That said, Hip Flask 1 offers considerable pleasures, among them the straight-ahead big chested post-bop swing of Victoria with its nods towards mid-period Coltrane, and the jazz-funk of Bang underpinned by Stu Hunter on Hammond organ. Impulse arrives with film-noir credentials and Manins digging into a tough tenor sound that is both urban and edgy, the impressionistic Jacqueline Grace comes to life slowly over a spacey intro and Mannins gently, almost woody sound. Hip Flask 1 is a fine album in its own right, but of course attention alights on the second disc where the band reconvene after more than a decade of bandstand work. And you can't help but be impressed by the group's confidence on the swirling Circles and Cliuds where Mannins' tenor moves from a sensitive blues swoon, the stentorian piano chords of Adam Ponting bring inclement weather and, over quietly turbulent drums (Toby Hall) and Hammond organ (Hunter), a real sense of impending doom is conjured up as the tenor returns in the manner of a declamatory Sonny Rollins.

As a centrepiece on the album it is quite an extraordinary work and you could be daring and suggest it might only have been possible from players who grew up as part of the rock generation. It has a menacing muscularity and when Hunter starts getting more and more prominent it threatens to tear itself apart . . . or at least your frontal lobe off. And they follow it up with a juanty Latin-esque piece of whimsy entitled Lancelot Link, Missing Chimp which is just plain mischievious.

On this session there is bold swinging bop (Sninam written by bassist Brendan Clarke, Ponting getting ample space over Clarke's buoyant playing), finger-snap Hammond work (Shuffle the Deck by Hunter) and midnight balladry (The Beauty in Her Eyes). It's mundane to state the obvious here, but Hip Flask 2 is the work of now seasoned players and has a depth and emotional intensity that HF 1 could only suggest. But each has its own merits, and taken together this makes for yet another impressive Rattle Jazz package.