NAT BARTSCH BOWS OUT … FOR A WHILE

Nat Bartsch Trio

Farewell, for a while: Nat Bartsch Trio plays to a crowded house

REFLECTIONS on Melbourne Women’s International Jazz Festival 2014

1. Tuesday, December 9: Nat Bartsch Trio, Kellie Santin CD launch, Bennetts Lane

I’ve been to four evening concerts of this festival at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club this week, each completely different. Each has been a delight.

On Tuesday the two rooms hosted markedly different bands and audiences. In the gig billed as Nat Bartsch Trio‘s final one for a while, pianist Bartsch joked that the way to pack a room was to hold a farewell concert and reckoned she knew almost everyone there, many of them who’d been at her 30th birthday celebration.

Daniel Farrugia

Daniel Farrugia

As anticipated, the atmosphere was warm and relaxed, the audience appreciative as Bartsch, Tom Lee on bass and Daniel Farrugia on drums treated us to originals and rearrangements, many from the eponymous 2008 album, Springs, for all the Winters (2010) and the most recent To Sail, To Sing, which was released in 2013. It can sound cliched to say that members of a jazz band show and share empathy and understanding, I suppose because that is a prerequisite to improvisation. But, along with the pleasure of hearing this often gentle and yet totally absorbing music — and a tinge of sadness that they are taking what may be a longish break from work as a trio — there was undeniably a comfortable feel between the three players. They showed perfect complementarity, I thought.

Tom Lee

Tom Lee

In A True Conundrum, Lee’s responses to Bartsch seemed to epitomise an aspect of jazz that I love — the ability to give hints or suggestions rather than spell something out, so that the listener can fill in the details.

Nat Bartsch

Nat Bartsch

Before the trio played the last three pieces, including their version of Radiohead’s Motion Picture Soundtrack as an encore we were told about ahead of time, Nat Bartsch showed considerable courage in talking about her struggle with depression and anxiety over more than four years, during which the trio toured overseas and in Australia. She spoke perceptively about the dichotomy performing artists face in their private and public worlds, adding that the stress of touring and playing contributed to ill health that was manifest at home rather than on stage.

Bartsch had to be convinced by the sustained applause that she should take up Martin Jackson’s offer of a Melbourne Jazz Co-operative gig to celebrate the trio’s return. As she said in closing, “we’ll be back in 2016, or 2060, or in a couple of months”. Let’s hope it is sooner rather than later.

Kellie Santin

Kellie Santin launches her CD with guest vocalist Carmen Hendricks

Next door, in the larger Bennetts Lane Lab, a much younger crowd was helping saxophonist Kellie Santin launch her CD Quintessence. When I slipped in for a five-minute listen, guest vocalist Carmen Hendricks was wowing the audience and there was no doubt about the vigour of this outing. These days I can’t help lamenting the demise next year of Bennetts Lane because there are so many talented young players needing venues in which to perform.

ROGER MITCHELL

MELBOURNE CELEBRATES WOMEN IN JAZZ

Emma Pask

Emma Pask at Wangaratta Festival of Jazz this year.

PREVIEW: 17th Melbourne Women’s International Jazz Festival, Bennetts Lane Jazz Club and The VCA Grant Street Theatre, December 7 to 14, 2014

This festival is always one to look forward to as the year’s end approaches and this year Sonja Horbelt has put together a comprehensive program. Budgets are often a constraint, but this year the MWIF has a little more funding and it shows in the line-up, which comprises artists from Canada, Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.

I had to miss the festival launch on Saturday 29 November on the Victorian Arts Centre forecourt when, in a free concert, many had the opportunity to hear the world music grooves of Andrea Khoza and the Secrets, the South of the River Gospel Choir, and the Julia O’Hara Heptet.

The festival proper runs for a week from Sunday 7 December 7, when at 2pm at the VCA Grant Street Theatre patrons will hear the rich sounds of “Things She Said”, with music by Nilusha Dassenaike and lyrics and visuals by celebrated Australian artist and author Barbara Hanrahan. The line-up for this free event includes Nilusha Dassenaike, Chantal Mitvalsky, Gian Slater, Miroslav Bukovsky, Frank Di Sario and Alex Pertout and the Wintersweet Vocal ensemble.

That evening at 8pm at Bennetts Lane Jazz Lab, celebrated Sydney vocalist Emma Pask kicks off proceedings with “her secret Sydney band”. Anyone who heard Emma at the Cup Eve Concert on Wangaratta Jazz weekend this year will know she is a superb entertainer and not to be missed.

Also that night in the Bennetts Jazz Club is Melbourne group Lazercatz 2000 led by Lena Douglas piano  with Felix Watson trumpet, Jimmy Bowman trombone, Maria Moles drums and Darvid Thor guitar. Their music, which mixes contemporary jazz and pop elements, is influenced by the likes of Kenny Wheeler and Andrea Keller. Lazercatz 2000 released their debut album in May 2014 to a sell-out room at Bennetts Lane.

Tamara Murphy

Tamara Murphy

On Monday 8 December in the BL Club , there will be a genuinely collaborative enterprise with Andrea Keller at the piano, Tamara Murphy on bass, Allan Browne on drums.  They will play compositions by all three and each piece “unfolds like a three-way conversation, the focus shifting subtly from player to player”. Also that night in the Jazz Lab, young students from Melbourne will deliver patrons insight to the jazz stars of the future at the Bennetts Lane student night.

On Tuesday 9 Dec 9 in the BL Jazz Lab, Melbourne saxophonist Kellie Santin will launch her debut recording Quintessence , which features a rhythm section led by drummer Gerry Pantazis and bassist Simon Fisenden plus Phil Turcio on keys, Simon Hosford on guitar, Phil Binotto on percussion, with special guest, 2014 UK soul vocalist Carmen Hendricks.

Nat Bartsch Trio

Nat Bartsch Trio                                  (Image supplied)

Also that night in the Club at Bennetts there will be a very special concert when  Nat Bartsch Trio plays its last gig for the foreseeable future. As Nat puts it, “It’s a complicated story, involving some exciting life changes, and ongoing health problems that have made running a band very difficult. It’s time to put the trio on hold; at least for now.” That’s sad news, but this is sure to be a great gig, with Bartsch on piano, Tom Lee on acoustic bass and Daniel Farrugia on drums. This trio’s album To Sail, To Sing was a winner.

Emie R. Roussel

Emie R. Roussel                                            (Image supplied)

On Wednesday 10 December in the BL Lab, Canada will come to town with Quebec’s contemporary jazz band the Emie R. Roussel Trio playing music that’s “resolutely young, rhythm-based, and infused with straightforward rock and pop harmonies”. Roussel plays piano, Nicolas Bédard  bass and Dominic Cloutier drums.

On Thursday 11 December in the BL Lab, Andrea Keller and Miroslav Bukovsky will  present The Komeda Project. Canberra trumpet player/composer/improviser Miroslav Bukovsky will join Melbourne’s pianist/composer/improvisor Andrea Keller to co-lead an ensemble of eight Australian contemporary musicians in a response to, and reinterpretation of, some of the music of Polish film music composer and jazz pianist Krzysztof Komeda.

The list goes on in this substantial festival. On Friday 12 December in the BL Jazz Lab, Michelle Nicolle will perform with her “fretet”, featuring four of Melbourne’s finest jazz guitarists Geoff Hughes, Stephen Magnusson, Sam Lemann and Craig Fermanis.

Kristin Berardi

Kristin Berardi

And on Saturday 13 December in the BL Jazz Lab my absolute favourite vocalist Kristin Berardi returns to the MWIJF with her newest ensemble, featuring some of Sydney and Melbourne’s finest musicians: Greg Coffin (piano), Carl Morgan (guitar – recent winner of the Wangaratta National Jazz Award), Brett Hirst (bass) and Danny Fischer (drums). This will be superb.

The Festival closes on Sunday Dec 14th with its own traditional Fox Force 6, the MWIJF Women’s Festival Sextet which this year includes vocalist Kristin Berardi, trumpeter Audrey Powne and pianist Andrea Keller.

This festival is a great celebration of women in jazz as well as being a feast of music before Christmas and holidays slow things down.

For full program details visit the festival website at www.mwijf.org

ROGER MITCHELL

The Melbourne Women’s International Jazz festival gratefully acknowledges financial assistance from major sponsor City of Melbourne, and supporting sponsors Révélation Radio Canada, Canada Council for the Arts, APRA, Fraser Place Melbourne, VCA/University of Melbourne and the Victorian Arts Centre.

JAZZ STRIPPED NAKED — WELL, ALMOST

Stripper

Was Wangaratta the Naked City? The scene early Monday at a jam session of interest. (Face of performance artist pixelated)

REVIEW: Wangaratta Jazz 2014

Ausjazz samples 25 concerts in the 25th year of the Wangaratta Jazz & Blues Festival and finds many expectations fulfilled and many unexpected moments of magic

The 1948 film entitled The Naked City closed with the line, “There are eight million stories in the Naked City and this has been one of them.” Well, one story to come out of the Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival in its 25th year was about a young man, possibly a guitarist, who it is alleged was close to naked on stage at the Sunday night jam session in a local pub of some interest to jazz fans.

That’s one story, and there will be a lot more — if not quite eight million, at least as many as there were patrons at this long weekend feast of great music. Artistic director Adrian Jackson is not revealing that number yet, but the queues seemed long and most venues were well filled.

This review has to be just one of those stories — it is a personal account, after all — but each festival seems to offer up its own take on the concerts, hinting at a theme, riff or melody that can be picked up and taken somewhere in the way that improvising musicians are doing all the time.

My story this year is about expectations. It can be good to have them — they ensure interest and build excitement. If they are met, it makes us happy. If not, of course, we may be disappointed. We can be locked in by expectations and be less likely to adapt and go with the flow. Best of all, perhaps, is when we are unexpectedly pleased — that’s when serendipity strikes.

So, being a glass half full kind of guy (that’s not really true, but let’s run with it), let me start with the gigs that fulfilled, or surpassed, expectations. There were plenty.

Roger Manins

Roger Manins tackles plastic recorder … what key is it in?

On Friday night, New Zealander Roger Manins’ band Hip Flask (Manins on tenor, Stu Hunter organ, Adam Ponting piano, Brendan Clarke bass and Toby Hall drums) was a ripping set by top musicians who also had a lot of fun. From 9.42 Mayday (Mannins) through Revolution (Hunter), Droop Blues (Ponting) and beyond, they held the packed WPAC Hall audience in thrall, adding some fun to the mix when Manins took a brand new plastic recorder from its packaging on stage and began to play — with some success. I found it hard to leave as the band played a ballad, Manins’ tenor being so captivating.

On Saturday, a necessarily brief visit to hear trumpet maestro Scott Tinkler’s Drub, with Carl Dewhurst guitar and Simon Barker drums, was fierce balm for the soul and I revelled in it — as did the players. They blew away cobwebs and filled me with warmth.

Later, drummer Danny Fischer’s band from his New York days, Spoke, with his talented friends Andy Hunter on trombone, Justin Wood on saxophone/flute and Dan Loomis on bass, provided collegiate inventiveness, seamless transitions and a feast of timbres as well as humour and pieces that were carefully nurtured to the last note. This band was up against tough competition, so I caught two half gigs rather than one complete concert. Both outings, on the Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, confirmed their worth. Let’s hope Spoke returns soon.

James Greening

James Greening wrapped up in his music.

On Sunday afternoon, Greening from Ear to Ear, featuring luminaries gathered by the inimitable James Greening, this time adding sousaphone to his trombone and pocket trumpet, had to be a festival highlight and it was.  What a wonderful choice of musicians and instruments. With baritone sax, bass clarinet and accordion in the mix and texturally rich layers wafting gently over each other or gathering momentum and swing, this was thoughtful, intelligent jazz spiced with humour and a dash or two of serious reflection.

Pianist Sam Keevers paid tribute to the late Bernie McGann in a quintet that lived up to all expectations. They played Sweet Lucy, Mail and Second Wind before I had to leave, reluctantly, but Bernie would have surely been happy with the result.

Who says jazz can’t rock? My high hopes of Steve Magnusson’s new band Kinfolk were based on the line-up and instrumentation. These guys did not disappoint, their foray into rock-infused material featuring a Hammond organ and the compositions having a bit of an edge.

And in Holy Trinity Cathedral immediately after that, master of many instruments Adam Simmons joined esteemed pianist Tony Gould on an adventure that prompted a fan beside me to ask, “Is this a highlight of the festival? It’s perfect. Top.” Whether whisper-quiet on shakuhachi or going wild on tenor sax, Simmons seemed to have music dancing within him, welling up and spilling out. Gould seemed like an anchor, a haven of peace and reassurance.

Enrico Rava

Enrico Rava with Papa Carlo

Finally, in outings that fulfilled or exceeded expectations, visiting Italian trumpet maestro Enrico Rava reunited with drummer Niko Schauble’s band Papa Carlo in a breathtaking rendition — and exploration beyond — Sleep My Child, a track from their album Night Music of 1994. It called to my mind Keats’s immortal line on the nightingale’s song, “Now more than ever seems it rich to die, to cease upon the midnight with no pain…” It’s not that I particularly wanted to go just yet, but in the serene phosphorescence or staccato rumblings or guttural grumblings or occasionally soaring horn notes of this superbly layered and at times eerie improvisation, it seemed the world was transcended.

Rava, with three concerts, was the international headline artist. I thought that in his enjoyable Friday evening gig the standout performers were the Monash University contingent. I liked the way the format allowed them to shine in small groups, with Rava as a gracious host who listened attentively and did not try to grab the limelight. Monash is known for joining students with their teachers in ensembles and it works. But credits for some excellent solos extended beyond mentors Paul Grabowsky, Rob Burke, Jordan Murray, Stephen Magnusson and Mirko Guerrini, with entrancing work at the piano by Joel Trigg and on tenor sax by Paul Cornelius.

On Saturday Rava could not have asked for a better band than Grabowsky, Guerrini, Schauble and bassist Frank Di Sario. It was a little disappointing that Rava chose a set of standards, but we began to see his facility with the instrument, especially the sudden variations in volume, his love of brief, explosive interventions and at times a Tomasz Stanko-like air cushion. There were sparks and spears from the horn, but not sustained tension. As was evident in Rava’s talk with Miriam Zolin during the National Jazz Awards judging, he is a warm and engaging fellow, and that fits with his music.

Jeff "Tain" Watts

Jeff “Tain” Watts plays WPAC Theatre on Sunday night.

But what of the other major international drawcard, judged by some to be the “world’s best drummer” Jeff “Tain” Watts? Surely he and his high-powered quartet, featuring expatriate Australian Troy Roberts on tenor saxophone, Osmany Paredes on piano and Chris Smith on bass, exceeded expectations. Well, yes and no. Watts seemed a different player in the festival’s closing concert on Sunday night than on the previous night, when he seemed distant and uninvolved, leaving the amazingly talented Roberts and virtuosic Paredes to take the honours.

Troy Roberts

Troy Roberts

In closing the festival, Watts certainly lived up to his reputation as an extraordinary practitioner of the complex mathematics involved in virtuosic, rapid-fire drumming that can set hearts pumping and bring patrons to their feet. As expected, the packed WPAC Theatre crowd loved it and most fans’ expectations would have been well met. But Watts’ drumming is more about speed, flourish and dexterity, and the quartet — with the exception of the undeniably beautiful ballad Reverie in both sets — runs mostly at full throttle. In Watts’ drumming there is often little or no space and not a lot of apparent variation, at least to the uninitiated in the finer points of the art.

The other Watts contribution to this festival came on Saturday afternoon when Tain’s wife Laura brought her pocket trumpet to a quartet with her husband, Smith, Roberts and guests Zac Hurren on tenor and her old friend James Sherlock on guitar. They played pieces from Laura’s suite Elicit Inquest, inspired by Ellington’s book Music Is My Mistress. This was a cool rather than an overly engaging set, with any real fire coming from Roberts and Hurren.

Ngaire

Ngaire

Among home-grown gigs that did not quite live up to expectations, the Australian Art Orchestra’s second airing of Struttin’ With Some Barbecue suffered somewhat from its billing as a contemporary response to the music and life of Louis Armstrong, using his letters as a way into the story of his life. The suite composed and arranged by Eugene Ball did not quite succeed in providing that, in part because the words delivered so spectacularly by pop vocalist Ngaire were not entirely clear and the visual component was highly abstract.

Without that expectation I would have been much happier, because this was inventive in its instrumentation and took us on an at times fascinating journey with many spectacular sights and sounds. In the end I freely admit I did not fully grasp all there was to see and hear, and found the work sporadically engaging rather than cohesive.

Mike Nock

The dude abides: Mike Nock

Mike Nock always comes with incredibly high expectations and his Trio Plus definitely ended on a high with the lively, energetic composition The Dude Abides. But earlier the band seemed to favour the solo-follows-solo model rather than ensemble work with more interaction. Nock, as always, was compelling on piano and Brett Hirst was strong on bass, but there seemed to be a little too much sameness in some solos and not quite enough to hold our interest. Guest musicians Karl Laskowsky on tenor and National Jazz Awards winner this year Carl Morgan on guitar certainly did not lack skill or technique, but perhaps inventiveness. That said, Nock could well be dubbed The Dude, and he abides.

Without mentioning all of the 25 concerts I attended, there are some for which I had no expectations in particular, but which delivered serendipitous moments in spades.

Lisa Parrott

Lisa Parrott

These included expatriate Australian Lisa Parrott’s reunion on Saturday with mates Carl Dewhurst on guitar, Cameron Undy on bass and Simon Barker on drums. There are already way too many words in this review, but this band’s rendition of Ornette Coleman’s Lonely Woman was spectacular, brim full of interest, texture and timbre. The rapport among these players was evident throughout this standout set.

Ben Gillespie

Ben Gillespie in Holy Trinity Cathedral

On a whim I ducked into Holy Trinity Cathedral on Saturday to catch the unusual match of Tony Gould with Hoodangers trombonist Ben Gillespie. If only I had gone there earlier. While Gould played a Benjamin Britten arrangement of the folk song Down by the Salley Gardens, Gillespie sang the lyrics in falsetto. This was absolute magic. Then his trombone produced notes of burnished gold so soft and light that they floated off to melt away in the lofty cathedral vaults. Gould was glowing as he played and delighted in Gillespie’s vocal rendition of My Journey to the Sky, “dedicated to anyone who has lost someone recently”.

Earlier that day at the cathedral, Steve Grant treated us to early stride and ragtime pieces, among them that Scott Joplin classic Solace, which he played sublimely.

And on Sunday morning, Gillespie was joined by the Hoodangers crew in a set that included Eugene Ball’s composition Trumpet, which had a minor feel and featured a major solo (in its impact) by Phil Noy on alto sax. It was another set full of serendipitous delights and a great way to start the day.

And that’s a great point at which to halt this review of Wangaratta Jazz 2014. It’s just one story. Please send me yours.

ROGER MITCHELL

 

 

 

AN ITALIAN COLLABORATION

Enrico Rava

Enrico Rava                       (Image supplied)

ALBUM LAUNCH:

The Monash Sessions: Enrico Rava, Thursday 30 October at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club in Melbourne

It has become a tradition for Monash University to arrange for its students of improvised music to learn from some of the world’s great jazz musicians, either by having them visit or by taking the students overseass. The results of these working sessions have resulted in significant recordings in The Monash Sessions project — a recording initiative by Associate Professor and Head of School, Robert Burke, and Jazzhead.

Now, before Italy’s trumpet maestro Enrico Rava makes his headline appearance at the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues, Jazzhead is thrilled to announce the release of the 11-track album The Monash Sessions: Enrico Rava. The album will effectively be launched twice, on Thursday 30 October at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club in Melbourne and on the following evening at Wangaratta. Rava, in Australia for the first time, will be joined by staff and students.

In December last year, 35 jazz students from the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music travelled to the Monash University Prato Centre in Italy to undertake an intensive three-week performance unit. As part of their study, students were given the opportunity to perform and record with Rava, one of the seminal figures of the European jazz scene.

Rava, an ECM artist, has released over 50 albums during his career, performing alongside greats such as Gil Evans, Cecil Taylor, Joe Henderson, John Abercrombie, Pat Metheny, and Dave Douglas.

The Monash Sessions: Enrico Rava was mixed and mastered at the Sonoria Recording Plant in Prato, Italy, by Andrea Benassai, and produced by Robert Burke and Mirko Guerrini.

It features music faculty members Paul Grabowsky (piano), Rob Burke and Mirko Guerrini (saxophones), Stephen Magnusson (guitar) as well as students Josh Kelly (alto), Paul Cornelius (tenor), Stephen Byth (tenor), pianists Daniel Mougerman and Joel Trigg, bassists Josh Manusama and Hiroki Hoshino, and drummers Rob Mercer, Cameron Sexton and Zeke Ruckman.

Jazzhead describes this album, recorded over two days, as having “a distinct Italian approach”, and being “relaxed but distinctly intense”. “Noted are the beautiful trumpet sound and passionate lyrical lines produced by Rava, conveying potent meaning and harmonic perfection.”

MONASH SESSIONS: ENRICO RAVA – TOUR DATES

Oct 30 Bennetts Lane, Melbourne
Oct 31 WPAC Theatre, Wangaratta Jazz Festival

BEING IN THE RIGHT PLACE — WANGARATTA

James Greening

The inimitable James Greening, leader of Greening From Ear to Ear

A FESTIVAL GUIDE:

Wangaratta Jazz & Blues Festival, Friday 31 October to Monday 3 November.

It’s that time of year when excitement and an air of expectation begin to override all the mundane matters of life, necessary as they are, and the longing rises to be on the road again to Wangaratta.

Once the bags are packed and the journey has begun, there is that delicious interlude when speculation can occur on what unexpected delights may arise — what special moments in a concert will take you out of the straight-line world and into total absorption.

There will always be the appeal of the international artists, who bring a different perspective and virtuosic skills. But the special moments — or whole sets — may come when they, along with Australian jazz players, join old friends or musicians new to them and go in an unexpected direction. These are the serendipitous moments that will be remembered.

The challenge for patrons, then, is to be in the right place at the right time.

As posted back in July, Artistic Director Adrian Jackson‘s line-up for the long weekend of jazz and blues features more than 300 musicians in more than 80 concerts on the main program, and more than 30 concerts on the Main Street free stages. So there is plenty of potential for magic moments.

Jeff 'Tain" Watts

Jeff ‘Tain” Watts        (Image supplied)

International artists include European jazz, trumpet and flugelhorn maestro Enrico Rava (Italy); Grammy Award winning drummer Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts (USA) with his band, which includes New York-based expatriate Australian saxophonist out of Perth, Troy Roberts; and composer/trumpeter Laura Watts (USA), who spent time in Brisbane years ago.

Lisa Parrot

Lisa Parrot                              (Image supplied)

Also, New York-based saxophonist, formerly of Sydney, Lisa Parrot, returns to the festival two decades after being runner-up in the National Jazz Awards (Saxophone) in 1994.

Anyone looking for a serendipitous moment should be in WPAC Theatre at 8.30pm Sunday 2 November when Rava will reunite with drum maestro Niko Schauble‘s Papa Carlo in the line-up that recorded their album Night Music in 1995.

Another reunion to watch will come in two gigs by  Spoke (USA), in which drummer Danny Fischer will get together with the band, including Andy Hunter on trombone, formed when Fischer was living in New York in 2006.

And keep an ear out for  Roger Manins, who will slip over from New Zealand to re-form his band Hip Flask, featuring Stu Hunter on organ.

Australian musicians are certain to contribute distinctive and inventive highlights on the program, among them being the Australian Art Orchestra’s Louis Armstrong-inspired work Struttin’ With Some Barbecue, conceived and composed/arranged by Eugene Ball and AAO Artistic Director Peter Knight, which uses Armstrong’s letters to reframe the smiling entertainer’s facade and reveal his pain. Guest performers for this Friday evening gig will be drummer Allan Browne, Sydney turntablist Martin Ng and PNG-born pop artist Ngaire. Expect the unexpected in this work, premiered at MONA in Tasmania and described thus: “If Louis Armstrong went to the moon instead of Neil Armstrong it would have sounded like this.”

Issho

Jessica Carlton’s band Issho   (Image supplied)

Good things come out of Perth, I always say of jazz talent, but they also come out of Monash University, which is a kernel of creativity. Young trumpeter-composer Jessica Carlton won the Monash Jazz Prize with a piece played by Issho, the band she formed in 2012. The sextet includes Tim Willis, leader of The End. Expect to be delighted.

And, though I’ve never heard them play, I’m already grinning from ear to ear at the prospect of enjoying Greening From Ear to Ear, a septet formed by the inimitable James Greening (adding tuba and sousaphone to his trombone and to-die-for pocket trumpet) including Andrew Robson on alto and baritone sax. If this is not a festival highlight then I’m a fan of Scott Morrison.

In the National Jazz Awards year of guitar, judges James Muller and Stephen Magnusson will make a rare collaboration in a quartet format with Danny Fischer and Frank Di Sario on bass. Expect them to explore the works of John Scofield and Pat Metheny.

Already I can feel the pressure of festival clashes building, but for lovers of the elegant and uplifting venue Holy Trinity Cathedral, pianist and composer Tony Gould will perform in duo concerts with multi-instrumentalist Adam Simmons and, a little surprisingly, with Hoodangers trombonist Ben Gillespie. Hard to resist these if you’re looking for memorable gigs.

And in that listening space, Paul Grabowsky AO and Steve Grant will each perform solo piano concerts on Saturday.

Also on Saturday, this year’s Don Banks Award winner Mike Nock, who has provided many memorable moments at Wangaratta, nationally and internationally, will play in a Trio Plus Two at WPAC Theatre.

Put Tim Neal on the WPAC Theatre stage with his Hammond B3, add Dave Beck on drums and I’m already in the front row. But Stephen Magnusson’s Kinfolk also has Frank Di Sario, so expect seats to be hard to find for this Sunday arvo outing.

A quintet led by pianist Sam Keevers will play compositions by the late great Bernie McGann, ensuring his inspirational work stays with us.

And The Hoodangers may shock visiting New Zealanders, given that the Gulf News reportedly described their performance in that country in this way: “The egotistical performers …their names are not worth mentioning…..should not be invited to spread their ‘smut’ on our beautiful island and attract such ‘slutty’ behaviour from our young!!”

Many more bands deserve mention, but for serendipitous moments and memorable gigs those mentioned are likely candidates. But who knows what will be the highlights for the many patrons now looking forward to Friday.  Being in the right place is the key, and Wangaratta is the right place this Cup weekend.

ROGER MITCHELL

The National Jazz Awards feature guitarists this year and top 10 finalists will compete for the increased prize pool of $12,000. The 10 finalists are:

  • Michael Anderson, 32, from Sydney
  • Quentin Angus, 27, from New York (originally from Adelaide)
  • David Gooey, 30, from Melbourne
  • Ryan Griffith, 34, from Melbourne
  • Peter Koopman, 25, from Sydney
  • Paul Mason, 23, from Sydney
  • Carl Morgan, 26, from Sydney (originally from Canberra)
  • Hugh Stuckey, 29, from Melbourne (originally from Adelaide)
  • Jeremy Thomson, 22, from Perth
  • Oliver Thorpe, 22, from Sydney

For the usual excellent profiles of the finalists, visit Miriam Zolin’s jazz publishing website.

PARIS ON A GUITAR STRING

Alex Stuart

Alex Stuart performs at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club in 2012

AUSTRALIAN TOUR: Alex Stuart Quintet

The title of this post will mean little to many, but it alludes to the first Lonely Planet guide that I ever used, South-East Asia on a Shoestring, which accompanied me on the trek up through the wilds of Java and Sumatra and beyond many, many years ago.

But I digress. We have come to expect — and look forward to — visits home by expatriate musician Alex Stuart from his adopted home in France.

The guitarist (www.alexstuartmusic.com/) is back from Paris this month and joins some of Australia’s top jazz musicians to launch his new album Place to Be. Stuart moved to France in 2005 after graduating from the ANU School of Music in Canberra.

His Australian tour follows the album’s launch in May at Paris’s Sunset Jazz Club. The album, released by the French label Gaya / Abeille Musique, has received many enthusiastic critical responses there, including Nouvelle-Vague magazine’s “balanced to perfection … one of the best jazz albums of the year – 5 stars” and national radio station France Musique’s “an absolutely superb album … music that shimmers”.

In Australia, ABC Jazz made it a “feature album”, while The Australian’s John McBeath praised it and gave it 4 out 5 stars.

Stuart has been immersed in the rich and varied musical cultures of the Paris jazz scene and, through a residency in Kolkata, in the Hindustani classical tradition. He is well recognised in Europe, known for his 2010 album, Around, and winning the prestigious 2011 Révelation prize at the Jazz à Juan jazz festival. In 2012 he played at the Wangaratta Festival and in 2013 he was nominated for the Freedman Jazz Scholarship.

Stuart says he welcomes opportunities to return to Australia, the country that has influenced his music in many ways and “has also directly inspired several of my compositions, most recently the Place to Be track Cuttagee, Wapengo, which comes from fond memories of the NSW Far South Coast”.

Describing Place to Be as an “ode to cultural openness”, Stuart says he finds inspiration in many places, “including the jazz tradition, contemporary jazz, African and South American grooves, rock and post-rock, Indian and Balkan music, Australia, life in Paris’s 19th arrondissement and the sea and surfing”.

For his quintet on tour, Stuart Alex has three-time Bell Jazz Awards winner Julien Wilson on saxophone, ARIA award winner and founder of the band Wanderlust, Miroslav Bukovsky on trumpet, winner of several Bell and other jazz awards Jonathan Zwartz  on double bass, and on drums Tim Firth, who won the 2011 National Jazz Award at the Wangaratta Jazz Festival.

Alex Stuart

Alex Stuart at Bennetts in 2012

Alex Stuart’s tour dates:

  • Tuesday 21 October: MJC / Bennetts Lane Jazz Club, 25 Bennetts Lane, Melbourne
  • Wednesday 22 October: Venue 505, 280 Cleveland St Surry Hills, Sydney
  • Saturday 25 October: Wollongong Conservatorium of Music, Wollongong
  • Sunday 26 October: Zephyrs Jazz, Four Winds Windsong Pavilion, Barragga Bay, (near Bermagui) NSW
  • Monday 27 October: The Street Theatre, Canberra

 Alex will also play as a quartet at MONA and other venues in Tasmania between 30 October and 1 November.

ROGER MITCHELL

 

FROM NOW OM, LET US CHILL

Leo Dale

Leo Dale                                              (Image: James Boddington)

CD LAUNCH: Leo Dale’s From Now Om, Saturday 25 October 8pm Northcote Uniting Church, 251 High St, Northcote $20 / $10 conc (admission includes a CD)

Of all people, I would probably benefit most from this example by Leo Dale‘s diverse and continuing creativity. After a year in which I have spent most of my waking hours in front of a computer screen, working to deadlines or moving gradually forward on a long-term project that is now close to completion, I would benefit from being able to chill and to lose stress.

From now on, that’s a key aim for me, but at this stage I’m just trying to be aware of the stress and not to judge. That said, I am unfit, overweight and sedentary. And I need music.

Track one of From Now Om is almost five minutes long and I’d love to have a whole album of its fusion of saxophone and cello with chanted Om.

The remaining track consists of 40 minutes of  meditative chanting, with six voices singing Om together in a harmonic series that Leo describes as a “human tamboura that invokes deep peace”. Leo sings each Om as six notes of the harmonic series. He says each one of these voices is vibrating in sympathy with the lowest as well as with each other.

In the live performance of this work, Leo will sit on a large rug with a laptop and looping software. A cello loop will play and then one by one he will layers six voices on top of each other, singing Om. For the technically minded, he describes it as “the intervals are the same as the harmonic series, the fundamental note One octave above one octave and a fifth two octaves Two octaves and a third Two octave and a fifth”. That was confusing to me, but I am sure it is not necessary to understand that to appreciate the result.

Leo visits India every year and he had the idea for this album in 2011 while singing overtone harmonies to the sound of priests chanting in the temple in Ganeshpuri. As he explains it, “Every note, every string, every horn, every voice is made from sound vibrations. Each sound is made from one main pitch (the fundamental) and mixed in, some other notes at lower volumes (harmonics). If you think of a skipping rope in the schoolyard, the rope is like a big vibrating string. That big loop is the fundamental, the main note you can hear in a guitar string. If you then put some extra energy into the skipping rope, you can get two loops going. Each loop is half the length of the rope and in a vibrating guitar string this harmonic is up one octave. Similarly that string is also vibrating with three loops, four loops etc. These notes exist in lower volumes in all music, speech and sounds in general. This is the harmonic series.”

CDs available here – http://tinyurl.com/o2z7x9u
Buy the album on iTunes – http://tinyurl.com/nzc49nj
Read more about the music here: http://fromnowom.com/

And Leo posts:

The album sounds like this