Wednesday, June 14, 2006

World: Louis Tillett: he’s back - more Brian than Elvis

Louis Tillett is back, in spades.

Not that he’s been absent for years - he always seems to pop up sporadically - it’s his renewed musical vigour and command that is noteworthy.

He’s been in the Sydney music scene for over 25 years, in various states and with various bands. I first saw him at the Sando in Paris Green nearly 20 years ago, and he’s there again, with a Sunday night residency. He has a superb band (double bass, drums and saxophone accompanying his keyboards and singing). He was playing the keyboards as an instrument of rhythm and of melody, sometimes both at the same time.

He was in fine form: older, yes, but obviously healthier than he’s been for a long time. He must be on the wagon, and it really shows up in the music, which was tight, complex, and strong. The crowd was small but vociferous; the songs surged, died, and were reborn, to loud acclaim.

The first piece I heard took a while to sink in, then resolved to Sailors Dream, and what more could I want? A magnificent journey, turbulent and peripatetic, fading out and in. It was followed by another of his Wet Taxis tunes, Clock On The Wall. The two together seemed to last over 20 minutes – and if that sounds like jazz, well it isn’t and it is. Jazz fusion has a bad name, and it wasn’t that. Although he veers through blues (and Paris Green had jazz tinges), I listen to him for his rock; Wet Taxis was certainly rock, and that’s what this was - albeit with hint of the sensibilities and musicianship of jazz.

Wherever you read about Louis, he’s trying to conquer his demons, drink and depression. But he has clearly risen above, in the last few years in particular. The tortured artist may be a quaint picture, but give me the artist in proper form, as Louis Tillett was and is now: a consummate musician and songwriter, pulling together an impressive band.

He’s got a great-looking web site, and you can download some music from it. He has a bio there, and a site called Divine Rites has a discography.

Well worth another visit to Newtown, another Sunday evening.

One note: The Sando – Newtown’s Sandringham Hotel – once an institution, is now a foreign country to me, despite its re-emergence as a venue. It’s been totally gutted and is unrecognisable from the venue and local that I knew and loved in the late 1980s. I’ll blog something on it soon.

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