Jackie Orszaczky - Ready To Listen
Jackie Orszaczky - Piccolo Bass / Vocals
Hamish Stuart - Drums
Dave Symes - Bass
Jackie Orszaczky's final statement of his art before his passing nearly a year ago is almost brutally stripped down. Gone are the cunning arrangements for horns and chord instruments, displaced by just Orszaczky's voice, Dave Symes' bass and Hamish Stuart's drums delivering the songs' bare bones, sparely fleshed out with the leader's quirky piccolo bass.
This instrument was Orszaczky's signature sound over his last 15 years much more than a conventional bass. His own creation, it was a bass guitar with lighter-gauge strings, and tuned up as
much as an octave higher than normal. Treated with various electronic effects it sometimes sounded rather like an organ, and at other times more like a guitar.
This album's sparseness provides a singular opportunity to appreciate the constant fluidity of function in Orszaczky's playing of it, from providing popping counterpoints to Symes' funky lines, to doubling the vocal melody; from sketching chords, to soloing (including very lyrically on "The Nearness of You").
The sparseness also places particular focus on Orszaczky's singing. That striking, gravelly surface is like a husk wrapped around the innate warmth (and sly humour) within, and this multi- faceted layering helps him convey every lyric as if a very personal letter to the listener.
Even more telling is the phrasing, which always lay at the heart of Orszaczky's art, whether singing, playing, arranging or composing. So intensely rhythmical is this phrasing that if one pulled the backing tracks out and just listened to his voice, the funkiness you hear in the totality would already be there, and in spades.
The material includes new and revisited originals, plus a typically idiosyncratic array of covers. One might not, for instance, expect to find James Taylor's 'Fire and Rain" sitting near to Jimi Hendrix's "Manic Depression" (with suitably wild piccolo bass), nor Hoagy Carmichael's "The Nearness of You" nestled beside Dr John's "Me Minus You Equals Loneliness". But then under the Orszaczky treatment material of all stipes fuses in the consciousness.
One of the strongest originals is the revisited "Lights Off" (from the classic "Family Lore" CD), which is so much more poignantly sad than it is sexy as he tells of a girl who "made love in the dark/so she could be with whom she wanted".
Then there's the opening "Ready to Listen", which has one of those Hamish Stuart beats that could have once made Sly Stone (and therefore Miles Davis) get up and boogie. Against this Symes'
supple bass and the piccolo bass create an intricate network of intersections and parallel lines, while the singing is as percussive as the drum part is singable.
Orszaczky's partner, Tina Harrod swells three tracks with her backing vocals, including the super funky "Look Up" and the simmering reinvention of "I Heard it Through the Grapevine".
Otherwise we have Essence of Orszaczky, and what could be a more fitting epitaph for a wonderful artist?
John Shand SMH