Tim Hopkins (saxophone, shaker)
As part of the new vanguard of creative-jazz musicians, Tim Hopkins is as likely to be seen (and heard) jammin’ with a DJ or at work in his home studio as he is presenting a night of contemporary original music in classic jazz combo mode. His eclectic tastes and innate musicality have brought him to the attention of jazz gurus, pop icons, rappers, indy legends and funksters near and far.
A native New Zealander, Tim spent most of his professional career in Sydney, but after a 6 month stint in New York, he returned to his homeland in 1999 to concentrate on developing the ideas and concepts that have shaped his musical output over the last dozen or so years. Seven is Tim’s most mature and compelling release to date, and a major step forward in his conceptual development. The album is comprised of seven compositions that encapsulate Tim’s musical philosophy and creative direction with great rigour and sense of purpose.
If, as some commentators claim, a renaissance is taking place in New Zealand jazz, Tim is surely one of its leading lights, and Seven one of its seminal achievements. The pieces were all written and conceived for a bass-less trio of saxophone, guitar and drums, and both Dixon Nacey (guitar) and John Rae (drums) shine in this setting, and the inclusion of Richard Nunns (taonga puoro) on Road From Perdition and The Sleeping Giant is inspired.
This is Tim’s first release for Rattle, but we are adamant that it will not be his last.
“Tim Hopkins’ new CD SEVEN, is a stunning statement from an extraordinary musician at the peak of his powers. Energy, drama, virtuosity and creativity, this music has it all. A landmark recording!” Mike Nock
The following critique by Graham Reid is an expanded vesion of the liner notes on Seven.
“Jazz and freedom go hand in hand”
The late American jazz critic Leonard Feather once described the art form he devoted his life to as “the classic music of the 20th century” because it reflected the concerns of its time. And there was a great measure of truth in that.
The early music out of New Orleans captured the spirit of freedom and cauldron of cultures in that great city; big bands provided that necessary release when times were tough; bebop caught the anxieties of the post-war era; free jazz could only have emerged parallel to the civil rights struggle; emotionally austere European jazz spoke to the spirit of a post-grad intellectualism for a generation which had known prosperity, education and freedom from the shackles of poisonous ideologies . . .
But in the final quarter of last century this great art form became uncoupled from its audience and its popularity waned. The Wynton Marsalis-lead neo-conservative movement of the Eighties – a back-to-the-future ethic which went home but got stuck there – might have put jazz on the fashion pages and pulled well-dressed audiences into concert halls, but it has left few lasting signposts (the great neo-con albums anyone?) while marginalising exceptional players who didn't conform to the imposed style. This once-inclusive art went into the business of excluding.
So, to outsiders, jazz entered the 21st century as fragmented, leaderless, a solitary child, and addressing its concerns to a small audience. But, ironically, this was actually a good thing. Today the freedom of expression and myriad idioms for musicians to explore has lead to a jazz culture which is exciting, diverse, knows the vast history which it can draw from, and yet is free of doctrinaire constraint.
Witness this album under the name of saxophonist Tim Hopkins, recently heard on Rattle's release by Dave Lisik, Donated by Cantor Fitzgerald. The music here roams with confidence through post-bop (the economic opener One Set to Rest and the solo, snakes'n'ladders miniature Brown Frog), midnight blue moods (the astutely-named All Blacks and Blues) and references to melancholy and melodic Ornette Coleman of the 60s (Road From Perdition). There are echoes and evocations of an ancient New Zealand with taonga puoro (traditional Maori instruments) played by Richard Nunns in the timeless The Sleeping Giants, later the musicians drop us into that urgent world of New York (Biting the Big Apple which is like Piet Mondrian's painting Broadway Boogie Woogie set to music) and looks to the far distance for their angular and bouncy 23rd Century Love Song (if love still exists then, this piece will be a fine backdrop for romance).
Although this appears under Hopkins' name, Seven -- as with the best jazz -- is a democratic affair. The finely focused but also expansive guitar playing of Dixon Nacey (heard on the earlier Rattle Jazz album Oxide) can hardly go un-noted, and everywhere drummer John Rae brings clever and memorably melodic and rhythmic punctuations. To hear this core trio at its most telepathically intuitive, consider the shifting sands and seamless exchanges of emotion and emphasis on Road From Perdition. Or – with Nunns – on that dark and light centrepiece.
To me, any album such as this – which speaks across time and place, styles and cultures – is that kind of jazz Leonard Feather had in mind, a music not mired in dogma but drawing from the world around it and the players' inner sensibilities . . . and here recast for this more diverse, disparate and exciting new millennium.
RAT-J-1007 (September, 2011)
This recording was made possible with support from the New Zealand School of Music
Written, arranged and produced by Tim Hopkins
One Set to Rest (3:39)
© Tim Hopkins 2011, APRA
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