20th Century Dog

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20th Century Dog’s new album Bone presents a set of musical ideas that have been gnawed on for over a decade. Ideas that were buried in the yard, dug up, buried in the yard, dug up again. Like any good bone, these have stood the test of time. 

Bassist, composer and producer Cameron Undy has been lying somewhat dormant for the past 10 years, putting his energy into building the world-renowned ‘Venue 505’ in Surry Hills, Sydney, and working as a sideman with a diverse range of artists including jazz legend Pharaoh Sanders, Bugz in the Attic and number-one selling singer-songwriter Passenger. 

Meanwhile, Undy has been steadily developing material for this new album, a collection of uplifting jazz, funk, afro beat and broken beat material, delivered by his stellar band, 20th Century Dog, whose 2004 release Mad Stream was described as “something approaching improvised perfection” (John Shand, SMH). 

With this new release the grooves are layered by Undy’s bass, Ben Hauptmann’s guitar, Greg Coffin’s keys, Simon Barker and Jamie Cameron’s drums, and Ben Kidson’s percussion, allowing the African hocket-style rhythms to deliver odd-meters that appeal equally to the body and the mind. Jeremy Rose’s tenor saxophone and bass clarinet melodies capture a folk-like, sing-able essence, and at times, opening into areas of improvisation. 

Recorded live at Venue 505 over two days and one evening concert, Bone captures the band’s energy in front of a live audience, coupled with a studio like performance quality. 

Jeremy Rose - tenor sax & bass clarinet
Greg Coffin - piano & keys
Ben Hauptmann - guitar
Cameron Undy - bass
Simon Barker - drums & Log
Jamie Cameron - drums
Ben Kidson - percussion

Recorded September 29 & 30, 2016  
Composed, Arranged and Produced by Cameron Undy  
Recorded, Mixed and Mastered by Richard Belkner  
Design by Alasdair Nicol
Available on Earshift Music / MGM

Released December 16th 2016


The Australian
4 Stars
Reviewed by John McBeath

This Sydney septet, formed in 1995, is produced and arranged by composer and bassist Cameron Undy, and its new, live album is the group’s first in nine years. With two drummers and a percussionist, a big rhythmic presence is guaranteed on all 10 tracks; throw in leader Undy on bass and add Jeremy Rose’s bass clarinet, for example on the title track, and the result is a triumph of inventive rhythmic exploration. 

Undy’s electric bass is an important component, featuring prominently in the opener Sun Rock under Greg Coffin’s bluesy piano and Rose’s sax. Several tracks contain a blues/folk element, albeit delivered in a variety of rhythms with expert collaboration between drums, percussion, bass and Ben Hauptmann’s guitar. 

The bass is in front for the opening of Dog Day, under some exploratory guitar, before the guitar’s enervated solo, lapsing into dragged-out chords underpinned by an energetic rhythm and a nimbly supportive piano. 
The longest track, Bust Down/Parallelism, features lively guitar against different African-style rhythms from a slow steady beat, up to a faster hocket style, showcasing Jamie Cameron’s drums and Ben Kidson’s percussion. 

A variety of odd rhythms opens Broken Creak, using the two drummers, Simon Barker and Jamie Cameron building the tension as an intro for the sax and electric bass solo. The album is a combination of various groove-based rhythms and driving solos, at times reaching powerful levels. 
Reviewed by John Hardaker

Cameron Undy’s new Twentieth Century Dog album, Bone, has left this reviewer speechless. Which is quite a feat in itself. 

The only honest review I could give is “Go listen.” But my pen, once unsheathed, needs to talk, so talk it shall. 

Listening to the remarkable improvisations that make up the ten tracks on Bone, I see not a group of separate musicians but a single organism – a big body with waving arms and heads – a Dog of Seven Heads. Surely this music cannot come from separate consciousnesses, even of those consciousnesses are as hyper-conscious as Simon Barker and Jamie Cameron and Ben Kidson on drums and percussion, Jeremy Rose on reeds, Greg Coffin on keys, Ben Hauptmann on guitar, and leader, composer, producer Cameron Undy on barking, growling bass. 

The presser says these pieces are made up out of long buried ideas “dug up, buried in the yard, dug up again” over the ten years that Undy focused his energies on his iconic jazz room, Surry Hills’ Venue 505. These ideas shape the grooves and basic motifs of the improvisations, and also form ensemble sections that rise out of the music and then are gone as soon as they came. 

The Dog is big on rhythm too – with two drummers and a percussionist, as well as having a bass-player as leader, it is inevitable that there will be grooves of all flavours, and rhythm games running through the music like pulsing veins. Funk, Afro-beat, jazz: all booty-shaking but mind-bending at the same time. 

‘Tail of the Dragon’s’ melodic pass-the-parcel leads to some big-fun messing with time, its play extending into the band comping behind Coffin’s solo, then behind, in and around Rose’s solo. ‘Dog Day’ is taut funk which Ben Hauptmann nips and tugs at until it is reshaped in his image. ‘Bone’ conjure’s the same skull-grinning space-griots as Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi band. bone1

‘Broken Creak’ applies Broken-beat to some serious funk: the drummers slip in and out of sync with each other, like a musical moiré-pattern moving in and out of focus. Undy’s bass solo here is muscular and propulsive while Coffin’s soul-gospel piano passage moves against the lagging drums like a sermon that will not be denied. 

Bone was recorded live at Venue 505 over two days in late 2016. The live recording brings so much out in the band (have I said before there is a strong argument at all jazz should be recorded live?), giving the album an in-the-moment electricity that charges the air. 

It is not all funk and zap though; the three short interlude pieces – ‘Anagram’, ‘Sunrise’ and ‘Constellation’ – are welcome breathers from the tropical storm of Bone. Rose’s bass clarinet on the latter is particularly affecting, singing a folk-like song of universal longing. 

Final track, the long workout ‘Bust Down_Parallelism’, captures everything that is good and real about Bone and Twentieth Century Dog. An almost endlessly inventive Hauptmann solo rises to a boil that bursts like a summer storm, washing away to a half-dark duskscape, only to rise through a percussion conversation into Jeremy Rose’s strutting tenor solo. Composition/improvisation. Magic While U Wait. It’s what the Dog does so well. 

Ok, I will shut up now. Go listen to Bone.