Robyne Dunn – Live at the Basement

Robyne Dunn
Live at the Basement

In the frenetic paced world of CD reviewing (you there – stop snickering!), some CDs are declared amazing after one listen, only to be pawned off at the local Mr Moneybags after a few weeks when the riffs have grown unbelievably stale. Other CDs can be safely declared crap after half a rotation through the player, and they too will join the former. A small portion of CDs can and do remain favourites, never dull, every listen a new puzzle opened. And other CDs like this, the first from Australian vocalist Robyne Dunn in four years, can be played and played, then left alone, then returned to, and yet they never quite provide the answer you look for. However in what they show, you can see the power, the smoky beauty of a jazz club at 3 a.m., and maybe answers aren’t that important anyway.
Remember though folks, this is jazz pop, so don’t be surprised when that sweet saxophone splits “Sleeping Dogs” in half but do not expect any atonal trawls through an Ornette Coleman number. It’s not all sax and roses, and “Valley of Tears” is where Dunn’s voice joins Matt McMahon’s piano, forlornly telling the tale of an artist who has woken “up one morning and found his creativity had died.” Australian listeners will be most familiar with “History,” Dunn’s lyricist talents offering irony as she chimes, “another generation fighting through the white wash … in the future, these will be the good old days.”
The other side of all this is that in focusing on ballads and melody, some of the intensity and variety of improvisation can be lost, and it can be difficult at times to tell the difference between songs. But then again (and this is the reasons I’m swinging here, between calling the songs on Live at the Basement gorgeously and magnificently tragic or just very pretty) when Dunn’s voice dives through a line like “Pleasure is a privilege, enjoy it while you can” it’s a momentary point of bliss that few singer-songwriters have a chance to deliver. Complex, confusing, and it’s 69 minutes of songs until the bar closes. You decide.