Acid Jazz Flashback

Sydney Morning Herald

Friday June 20, 2008

Brett Winterford


Hear Kliketty KlakFEW bands are as steeped in Sydney's music history as Directions In Groove (d.i.g.).

Best remembered for a two-year residency at Taylor Square nightspot Kinselas and a series of classic performances at the Basement, d.i.g. were Sydney's flagbearer during the acid jazz craze that flourished and just as quickly petered out in the '90s.

This month, the band's founding members will re-form for a series of shows that mark 10 years since the band split in 1998.

During their six-year heyday, d.i.g. rode the acid jazz wave with equal measure of experimentation and genuine jazz pedigree. Bunched in a movement with the Brand New Heavies and Incognito, the four-piece enjoyed regular tours of Europe and Britain and were billed on some large summer festivals alongside the Roots, Herbie Hancock and Bootsie Collins.

The band's break-up, recalls drummer Terepai Richmond, came as the acid jazz movement's modern spin on jazz music began to sound dated. By the late '90s, three of d.i.g.'s players - Richmond, keyboardist Scott Saunders and bassist Sam Dixon - broke away and formed a side project, Multiball. The trio tried their hand at everything from hip-hop beats, electro, drum and bass, trip-hop and jungle to stay with the times.

"That was one of the things that mostly pulled [d.i.g.] apart," Richmond says. "In or around 1998 we made a choice to have a break."

By that stage, he says, the band "just about wanted to kill each other. When you've spent that amount of time together and you've developed different ideas on what they wanted to play, it can cause a few issues," Richmond says.

Not that the split hurt them. d.i.g.'s members have all had successful careers on the jazz circuit, Saunders moving into film sound and Richmond among Australia's most sought session drummers.

The band only considered a quick re-formation, Richmond says, after being invited to play the Darling Harbour Festival on a rare occasion that all the band's founding members were available.

On the d.i.g. Remixed Live tour, they will perform their catalogue, remixed on the fly by DJ Peret and with contributions by vocalist Michelle Martinez and hip-hopper MC Wire.

"It's a total experiment," Richmond says. "We're trying to make it a bit more modern, give it a bit more of an edge."

It will be a refreshing change for Richmond, whose usual gigs now are with popular acts Missy Higgins or the Whitlams.

"With d.i.g. there is definitely a lot more room to move musically," he says.

"It's pretty much a blank canvas. There is a lot more communication musically between the players on stage to suit our mood, the mood of the room or the mood of the audience. I think that's why [d.i.g.] had such a happening audience that would come to multiple shows as they knew it would be different every time. With a pop band the audience comes to hear the tunes exactly as they are. With d.i.g. I try my best not to play it like it was recorded."

The band has discussed more recording and touring beyond this current run of shows, Richmond says.

"But the tricky thing is getting everyone together at the same time."


Tonight at 9.30, Basement, 9251 2797, $40.

© 2008 Sydney Morning Herald

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