Party Gravy is not, let’s be honest, the most descriptive name in the world. They are, however, a brilliant New Orleans-style brass band comprised of bassist Alec Coulson, trombonists Josh Hart and Patrick Langdon, Andrew Kimber and Tye Langford on saxophone, trumpeters Eddie Bernasconi and Ax Long, and an unconventional pair of drummers – Samuel McNair and Mark Sledgers.
Playing at Hippo Bar one Wednesday night, they brought a good part of the audience to their feet to try their legs at swing dancing. Even those sitting down sung along to a boisterous rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In”. In true New Orleans style, vocals were provided by the entire band, which, perhaps surprisingly, was reasonably in tune. Equally entertaining was a funk remix of the ubiquitous “Thrift Shop” complete with virtuoso trumpet and trombone solos. Their rendition of “Pumped Up Kicks” also had a lot of toes jiggling.
Following up their gig at Hippo, the band played at A Bite To Eat on the following Sunday afternoon, bringing a more relaxed feel to a cafe which is, frankly, almost too hipster to be true. Playing two sets with a mix of originals and covers, they managed, once again, to get people to their feet and dancing on both the floor and the pavement outside. They also demonstrated why they have two drummers in a double percussion solo which, in fact, also demonstrated that it is unwise for a musician to go wandering off, beer in hand, in the midst of a song. In fairness though, they did make the entry together and finished off in fine form.
Party Gravy are a demonstration of something that Canberra needs more of. We need more spaces for good live music and more people to play it, and we need a thriving jazz scene. They are also a credit to the School of Music jazz program and a reminder of just how valuable it is.