By Maurice Sibelle
BRISBANE — Jeff Usher is widely regarded as this city's best jazz pianist. In jazz circles he's the cat with the cool fingers. Musicians purse their lips, hum and nod with respect.
It isn't hard to see why. His first recording, Jeff Usher's Jazz Unit, introduces you to the musical world of this very sensitive composer, arranger and pianist.
Jeff doesn't sing on his recordings, but he's not short of a word or two. He needs little prompting. In a wide-ranging discussion Jeff talked about his strong Christian beliefs, love, politics and his commitment to the environment. You get more from Jeff's music by understanding the inspiration behind it.
Having contracted glaucoma at birth, Jeff is completely blind. He regards that as an advantage in music. "Most people are taught to read music before they are taught to listen", he says.
He's a musician struggling to get a hearing in an industry not known for its generosity. Hence his first recording without a contract or a distribution deal.
With songs like the haunting "We are in God's Hands" and the laid-back "Blues at the Risk", Jeff can take you on a journey without ever leaving your room. "Song for Mother Earth" is a simple melody, with an African-sounding piano; it captures the vastness of the planet. "Kaye" will drown you in a sea of melancholy. "Watchword" is a racy song that moves.
This recording will introduce you to a pianist without the impediments of technical training. Jeff Usher's Jazz Unit is a must in anyone's record collection. It's available by post from PO Box 1247, Fortitude Valley Qld 4006. Ph (07) 358 4875.
Jeff Usher will be playing at "Green It Up" at the Celtic Club on Thursday, June 6.