Brighton, like many English cites, has a vibrant jazz scene; and there’s a drummer from Tauranga right in the midst of it.
Mainstay of the scene is a black Berklee-trained American from Philadelphia, Lawrence Jones, a jazz singer, flautist and saxophonist. Since 2000 he has led The Brighton Jazz All-Stars, playing every Sunday at the infamous Lion And Lobster (gotta love those English pub names!).
This year Lawrence released a retrospective album called Anthology, celebrating 20 years of jazz.
On half the tracks the drummer is none other than Kiwi Dominic O’Meeghan - not bad for a kid who started playing drums in a shed on Papamoa Beach Road.
To indicate the level Dom is now at, the two other drummers on Anthology are Englishman Bobby Worth, a former ‘British Telecom Drummer of the Year’, and a friend of Lawrence’s from Philadelphia, the incredible Bobby Durham, who was Oscar Peterson’s and Ella Fitzgerald’s drummer.
That’s pretty impeccable company to be keeping.
It’s Bobby’s drumming you hear on the explosive opening track. Dom joins on the flute-driven Envoy and then provides beautiful, subtle brush-work on All Too Soon. The Good Life, rendered with lovely melancholy is another example of immaculately sparse playing that doesn’t get in the way, while Black And Crazy Blues starts with big press rolls and unfolds as a thumping blues befitting its title.
It’s a great jazz album. There are fine keyboards throughout and Lawrence is one helluva singer and player; the production, musicianship and arrangements are of the highest standard.
Dom O'Meeghan and Lawrence Jones.
As I said, Dom started in Tauranga. The first band he played in professionally, in the mid-90s, was Madhouse, led by Graham Clark (now of Brilleaux fame). Running short of musicians, Graham uncovered three players still at school and their subsequent longevity in the music biz suggests he picked well: guitarist Deanne Hunter now plays with Shaken Not Stirred and the Rodger Fox Band; bassist Troy Kelly runs a recording studio in Wellington; and there’s Dom of course.
“He was always a really good drummer,” says Graham.
“He would play regular stuff but then he’d go ape-shit when the mood took him. But he could always drop straight back without missing a beat.”
After that Dom headed to Wellington to study music and in 2001, in order to get overseas, did his first cruise gig in the United States with Carnival Cruise Lines. With the exchange rate at the time he wiped out his student loan. He continued on and off as a show band drummer with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines from 2002 `til 2007.
Meanwhile Dom has played with some of the UK’s leading jazz musicians. These names may mean little outside jazz circles but there are certainly jazz circles in Tauranga so I’ll list some here: American jazz singer Joe Lee Wilson, guitar player Nigel Price, Mark Bassey, Simon Spillett, Dave Whittford and Terry Seabrook.
He’s also dipped into rock music with a session in Wales at Monnow Valley Studios for rock band The Mighty Roars. The subsequent album, Swine And Cockerel was mixed by world-renowned producer Chris Sheldon (Foo Fighters, The Pixies, et al).
Dom met Lawrence in Brighton early 2003 when he sat in with him at one of the legenday Lion And Lobster nights. Lawrence phoned a few days later and asked if he wanted to join the band.
As Dom describes it: “Jazz in Brighton is good at the moment, they have a new venue called The Paris House which has jazz six nights a week. With all the other jazz nights there is basically something on seven nights a week.”
I asked what he’s been doing lately?
“I’ve been collaborating with some musicians in Berlin, and will be doing some recordings there in the future. I’ve done quite a few gigs in Berlin.
“It’s a good place for jazz: there’s a venue called The Hat Bar which, until the coronavirus, had jazz seven nights a week non-stop!”
Currently, Lawrence Jones’ Antholgy is not on a label, or online as far as I can tell, but if anyone wants to track it down, email: firstname.lastname@example.org