Such was a celebration of various cultures through regional music, a reflection of the endless pursuit of diversity for Kim Sanders. Whilst performances sharing the theme of diversity have not gone un-acknowledged over the past decade, it felt to me like the shackles of the Howard monoculture had finally been broken during this performance which represented more than just creative music but friendship, inclusiveness, respect and genuine inter-cultural collaboration. Sanders might look like a gypsy with his long greying locks, his Bohemian garb and his goat skin bags but his manner and his dialogue is as Aussie as the next bloke and this fact almost defies the reality of his ability to converse in several languages across the Asian, European and African continents, let alone his ability to foster musical conversations in as many languages using over 14 wind instruments.
Along with Kim Sanders, the core quartet of the ‘Friends’ include Sandy Evans tenor and soprano saxophones, Bobby Singh tabla and Steve Elphick double bass. They opened with Heyamoli a Northern Turkish lament which saw Kim playing Turkish gaida (bagpipe) and Sandy in unison on tenor.
Next they performed the suite A Journey in Saba Makam. The ney is a sufi flute made of bamboo which Sanders freely improvised the first movement Bas Taksim over a singular Elphick drone followed by the additive of Evans and Singh. Such was Evans sensitivity on tenor during the second movement Saba Nefes I that her shadowing was simply an additional tonal flavour of the smokey fluted melody. The final movement showcased the awe-inspiring talent of Singh on tabla.
Sanders who is also a keen surfer, at one time took up the boogie board instead and soon found that serious surfers refer to them as a Speedbump but what commenced as a gypsy jam ended up a Congolese groove thanks mainly to the synchronicity of both Singh and Elphick.
Yet another continent was thrown into the mix with the addition of Chilean Carlos Villanueva and his Andean charango playing the flamenco tinged The Bad Bodgie Bulerias. With an almost clenched fist, Villanueva’s finger nails rapidly raked the repeated four chords of this piece on this instrument of only ukelele dimensions. By now parts of the capacity crowd were shrieking.
Kay Yagar which is interpreted as ‘snow is falling’ was a further showcase of Sanders skills; this time on the double reeded flute, the mey. His circular breathing and tonguing of this instrument created a spellbinding vibrato which preceded his swap to the bagpipes. Another dimension of this piece was the addition of Llew Kiek from the renowned band Mara! on the baglama or Turkish lute.
Istanbul Blues allowed Sandy Evans on tenor a precursor of what was to come on Oi Havar where she simply soared, taking the audience with her on a carpet ride of freedom and joyous expression.
When George Doukas arrived on stage the battle of the bouzouki’s began with Kiek choosing his own richly decorated axe. While Doukas proved a virtuoso, nothing was going to prepare us for the arrival of the final friend Bobby Dimitrievski on clarinet who displayed an agility on the instrument which is rarely witnessed. Following a standing ovation the group finally returned to the stage for a fitting finale. But what was probably the most musically intuitive passage of the performance came after Evans (during her solo) cried to Dimitrievski to ‘join in Bobby’. The result was a lesson to us all in genuine conversation where listening is just as important as speech when the magic of their respective instruments interwove a singular dialect of perfect harmony.
This was nothing less than a triumphant performance by Kim Sanders and Friends
– Peter Wockner, Jazz and Beyond, May 08 (www.jazzandbeyond.com.au)