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The Thing album wins a Tui jazz award

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

GRG67, a jazz ensemble that emerged out of a Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) research topic, was awarded best jazz album of the year at the Vodaphone Tui Awards, announced in Wellington, 9 June.

GRG67 was born in 2013 after Roger Manins, lecturer at the University of Auckland’s School of Music, had curated a number of compositions for his DMA and needed to find the right musicians to help bring them to life.

It includes himself (saxophone), Michael Howell (guitar) and Tristan Deck (drums), who were recent graduates of the School’s jazz department when the band was formed.

It also includes Mostyn Cole (bass), a long time collaborator with Mr Manins who also features on his album Trio.

The compositions that feature on The Thing were developed with these musicians in mind, he says. "People who shared compositional chemistry with each other. The whole point of this was to develop my research with a group of musicians, so that we got album of the year for it is great."

Rattle, which distributes the album, noted on its website: "we’re very pleased that the judging panel saw fit to award the Tui this year to an album with attitude to burn, an exuberant, take-no-prisoners, high-energy blast that brims with unapologetic musical joy."

The compositions on The Thing demonstrate Circle Cloud Theory, a system Mr Manins devised to help with jazz improvisation and composition. "Which is flexible in nature, and though primarily used to generate harmonic material, can also be adapted to develop existing harmonic material". The theory borrows from the concepts of saxophonist Steve Coleman and theorist Ernst Levy, but takes their ideas in a new direction, he says.

Roger Manins is a renowned saxophonist and composer, who grew up on the Awhitu Peninsula listening to his father’s favourite jazz musicians, such as Dave Brubeck and Oscar Peterson, picking up the saxophone at the age of 12.

He has appeared in over 40 jazz albums as a soloist, released four albums under his own name and in 2012 was awarded the Jazz Journalists Award (JJA) ‘Jazz Hero’ for services to the community.

He is married to Caro (Caroline) Manins, a UK-born singer, composer and performer who also teaches at the School of Music.

Caro Manins’ research explores ways in which medieval music and jazz music can interact, and the songs that have come out of her research a synthesis of medieval song, traditional songs transmitted through oral tradition, Eastern influences from Iberia and contemporary jazz.

Both performed their DMA recitals in the same week, earlier this year.

They are also co-founders of the Creative Jazz Club Aotearoa, an artist-led initiative to support and promote the performance of original, contemporary jazz in New Zealand and which, with Ben McNicoll, they have been running for almost ten years.

GRG67, by the way, is the name Mr Manins gave to a crab caught in his fishing net, which he untangled and let go. "I named the band after the crab as they move symmetrically left or right which has parallels to my music."

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