So these days when Sydney drummer Harry Day isn’t munching down on eggplant dumplings or sipping on some black liquid gold with Sam, Vak and I (or the many other things he does in Sydney…) he’s spending his time gallivanting round the world accenting those 1 and 3’s as tubs-master of Aus indie rock outfit The Middle Kids. Besides the accolade of being on high rotation in both Coles and Woolies (weird connection formed between ‘Edge of Town’ and my fav post gig snack: vanilla Chiapods :/) the relatively new band are slaying the international scene, having just returned from their second many month long circuit of North America. The trio played a bunch of their own headliners in between supporting the likes of two of my teen soundtracks in Cold War Kids and Ryan Adams. As of next month you can add Paul Kelly to that list too. Crazy shit. So proud. Just waiting for the moment they want to flesh out their arrangements with a horn section aye Harry 😉 …
For those not in the know, Harry and I went through the Con jazz course together, meeting day one of our degree in ensemble class (which also featured a fresh faced Nish Manjunath!) with Mike Rivett, who was also having his first day. [Man, I was I could go back and do that class now I’m a little wiser to it all. Riv is one of those rare master musicians who is also an incredible educator. I’m so glad to hear he’s back teaching at the con. ] Harry and I were quick to forge a strong friendship once we uncovered our mutual love of speciality coffee, craft beer, Christian Scott and not playing jazz.
Through those four years there were a number of times Harry would concede he felt like just playing a rock groove. Aware of that shade, I couldn’t be more stoked he’s doing just that around the world. But I’m one of not so many that are aware of another musical shade of Harry, that due to his head-banging escapades hasn’t come to life since the Con. To my ears it’s actually completely unique and beautiful; that is, his compositional taste and approach to improvised music.
It’s a shame but I don’t believe any digital archives exist of Harry’s compositions, at least within the internet ether. So let me paint a little sonic picture for yah: take the instrumental narrative sensibility and folkloric core of Brian Blade Fellowship Band- minus the blues inflection- and instead add the brooding indie edge of Radiohead with some modern jazz twists sprinkled on top. At least that’s how it lives in my mind. Maybe I’m being a bit nice cos that sounds fucking awesome hey.
Fortunately, this musical sensibility was showcased in his final recital, circa 2015, where he arranged a number of his favourite tunes into a beautiful set of music for an ensemble featuring your traditional two horn quintet in addition to a string quartet (!). Not surprisingly, besides two Christian Scott numbers, the tunes were far outside the jazz catchment, including the theme from the film ‘Moon’, two indie-electronic number and a Thom Yorke composition. The set is stamped both texturally and emotionally with his musical aesthetic. ‘Dem feelings.
It was my pleasure be a part of the ensemble and help realise the set. During rehearsal I remember thinking: man, I have to make sure to record this and post it on my blog, as I knew it was the only way it would reach the digital realm. Skip eighteen months and after some self-confessed nagging, Harry finally got his mitts on the audio/visual, which we didn’t realise were recorded and archived by the Con (to be noted fellow alumni). He passed it onto me and it’s my pleasure to present it to you here, unabated…
Actually nah it’s pretty abated. Not sure where the mic was placed but can definitely hear the size of the room and not the textural nuances of this soft, tender music. In fact, to the band’s credit we make the room sound more manageable than it is. But alas, here it is. Soak it up. And next time you see Harry rockin’ out with Middle Kid, just know there’s a part of him that wants to sit you down, play some chords and make you cry.
EDIT: Since publishing this article Harry has found, through guitarist Alex Hone, a far better zoom recording which I’ve chucked up just below! Yeeeees.
Also, hey Sam, sick solo break.
Untitled Arrangement – Chris Dave (Harry would be curious to know where exactly this has been ripped from)
Isadora- Christian Scott
‘Angola, LA and the 13th Amendment’ – Christian Scott
Warm HEalder- Everything Everything
Two Angles – S. Carey
Deafult – Atoms for Peace
Welcome to Lunar Industries (Theme from ‘Moon’) – Clint Mansell
Harry Day – Drums
Novak Manojlovic – piano, shaker
Sam Gill – sax
Nick Calligeros – trumpet
Alex Hone – electric guitar
Josh Spolc – bass
Meg Cohen – violin
Sonia Wilson – violin
Thea Turnball- viola
Mary Rapp – cello
Speaking of Brian Blade Fellowship, a band I’m currently in a resurgent love with (and awaiting their new release Nov 10!) and the mention of some sexy string arrangements, I bring you the combination of those of things here in this 80 minute concert of Brian Blade Fellowship Band meets Loyola University Orchestra recorded Feb ’17. Beauty. Beauty. Beauty!