Having already released two studio albums, the Mace Francis Orchestra from faraway Perth, Australia, goes live this time with a sturdy concert session taped in November, 2006 at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club in Melbourne during a tour of the country‘s eastern provinces. Even though less than three years old, the MFO shows considerable promise, as Francis has drawn to his side a number of West Australia’s most accomplished musicians.
Francis wrote four of the nine tunes and saxophonist Dan Thorne two, reinforcing originals by Thad Jones (“Just Blues”), Ed Partyka (“A Long Winter”) and Charles Mingus (“Moanin‘”). There’s one encore from the orchestra’s second album, 2006’s Introducing the Mace Francis Orchestra, the leader’s clever salute to Horace Silver’s “The Preacher,” which he calls “The Preacher Is Broken.”
Guitarist Johanne Druitt is showcased on the first of Thorne’s compositions, “What About Jed?,” baritone Mark Sprogowski on the second, “That Darn Dream.” Trombonists are also in the forefront, with Tilman Robinson featured on “A Long Winter,” Catherine Noblet on Francis’s “Lemon Water” and “Mache Mambo.” The leader’s other composition, “Where’s His Sepcin?,” closely resembles Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes.” Alto saxophonist Thorne is another respectable soloist, as are trumpeter Ricki Malet, tenor Alistair McEvoy, soprano Ben Collins and drummer Greg Brenton.
Francis himself describes the aftermath as “a raw recording that really grabs the energy and intensity of the band in full flight.” Raw it is, and spirited too. If you admire the latter trait then you may derive considerable pleasure from MFO LIVE.
Jack Bowers – www.allaboutjazz.com