Blue Turtles
Sydney, AUEntertainment Centre

Jazz men rock for Sting...

The main difference between British and American pop is that the former tends to draw upon outside sources for inspiration, while the latter continually recycles itself. Sting's current band may be American, but its conception is strictly English - virtuoso jazz musicianship reworked into the pop format.

The LP 'The Dream Of The Blue Turtles' was too self-consciously clever to really convince, but this band of young turks has clearly become a more comfortable working unit following several months of touring.

Predictably, the abysmal acoustics of the ''Entertainment'' Centre made the music sound like a neighbour's radio blaring from the potting shed. Nevertheless, somewhere amid the squall was a group capable of reinterpreting old Police songs and breathing life into the newer material.

Man of the match was Branford Marsalis, a saxophonist who no longer musically resembles Weather Report's Wayne Shorter so much as a younger Junior Walker or King Curtis. His sublimely crabbed riffing was ecstatic.

But they sly hipness ends here. The difference between this and Joni Mitchell's mid-70s collaborations with jazz arranger Tom Scott is that Sting has bent the musicians in his direction without bending sufficiently himself.

What nags is the way he uses the players as a surrogate rock band and hires female singers of the quality of Dollette McDonald and Janice Pendarvis without letting them be heard properly. A wicked waste.

Crowd-pleasers came in the extended encores, including stripped down versions of 'Message In A Bottle' and 'Roxanne'. Whether the screamers were adoring these or Sting's torso is a matter for conjecture.

(c) The Sydney Morning Herald by Lynden Barber