NEVER A DULL MOMENT

Dave Douglas

Trumpets: Jordan Murray, Niran Dasika, Ben Harrison, Dave Douglas

REVIEW: World premiere of Fabliaux for four ensembles by Dave Douglas, featuring the Monash Art Ensemble, Saturday 15 March, 7.30pm, Music Auditorium, Monash University

The nine movements of the composition visiting trumpet player Dave Douglas wrote for the Monash Art Ensemble seemed to flash past, although the performance must have lasted well over an hour.

Before we get to the music it’s worth mentioning one highlight that came in the form of words, spoken by Douglas after the sixth piece, Unknowing, Forgetting, which was written principally for the brass group. After sitting in with Jordan Murray on trombone and Niran Dasika and Ben Harrison on trumpets, Douglas paid tribute to students Dasika and Harrison.

Dave Douglas

Dave Douglas pays tribute

“I’ve been humbled before them,” he told the audience, before saying it was incumbent upon young Art Ensemble members as the next generation to take the reins, “lead us forward in music and be 10 times as good as we are”.

Douglas’s tribute was surely a moment for Dasika and Harrison to treasure, but also an insight into the value this visiting composer placed on the potential of an exciting ensemble that has been nurtured by Paul Grabowsky. It was another encouraging sign that talent and commitment are not hard to find among our young musicians — though fair remuneration for their efforts may be elusive.

Dave Douglas

Dave Douglas with Geoff Hughes and Craig Beard

The idea of Douglas’s Fabliaux suite, which harks back to the often bawdy and (he said) these days possibly offensive comic tales of medieval literature, was for the players to be grouped into reeds, brass, percussion and strings, with every group taking a primary role in a piece between those involving the whole ensemble. Nothing was locked in, because Douglas worked with the MAE to develop the suite through improvisation.

The changes of emphasis made the whole suite alive and interesting and there was, literally, never a dull moment. The opening piece, Forbidden Flags, soon introduced us to Australian Art Orchestra artistic director Peter Knight‘s carefully crafted electronic “static”, which added textural interest throughout the evening and always complemented rather than sought to dominate. There was a lot happening in this busy, but sombre piece. Douglas’s direction was ever present, but he did take up his instrument before the end.

String and percussion

Strings plus Grabowsky and Rafferty

Frieze featured the reeds, ushering in some shimmer before notes began to bend and develop sinuosity. There was some Knight chatter, horns were crying then chirruping. Strings contributed their own shimmer. This was sonically interesting, high chatter giving way to barracking with an occasional fart. Then we encountered sibilance and some piercing, high dissonance. I could not help smiling.

Legions had propulsion and gentle swing from the start, but its intensity and power grew, fired by the horns and with Lachlan Davidson taking us on soprano sax journey. Rhythm seemed to be the glue in this piece.

Gears featured percussion and the focus was on the changing interactions between Grabowsky on piano, Kieran Rafferty on drums, Knight’s electronics and Craig Beard on vibes. These four built drama and tension. With those elements, what’s not to love?

Before the fifth piece, Once Again The Mind, Douglas spoke about how the spark of invention can happen at the same time across the globe, and about how some may recognise use of isorhythm and the medieval hocket in this composition. Here’s a link on the  topic that may be interesting.

I heard dramatic statements before slower, quieter interludes. This had a souped up medieval feel. Murray contributed some delightful air-filled ‘bone that was effective when offset by electronic chatter and vibes. The piece provided an exchange of ideas between the horns and the strings with percussion. Rob Burke on clarinet and the strings players showed agitation and there were strong statements to end the piece.

Dave Douglas and Rob Burke

Dave Douglas and Rob Burke

As mentioned, Douglas joined the brass section for Unknowing, Forgetting, in which trombone and three trumpets delivered some chatter and tweet before some wonderfully expressive weaving of notes that displayed how different valved horns can sound. The percussion section helped build pace and intensity before horns closed in unison.

Whirlwhind began with electronic splatter and muted horns. Douglas conducted as layers were added. There was some lovely textured clarity from the strings, then spectacular violin work by Liz Sellers, with plenty of note bending, then mild frenzy and echoes from carefully controlled horns. Mirko Guerrini on baritone sax and Paul Cornelius on tenor added a soft, deep interlude.

I found Whirlwind hard to describe. It had drama, but at times the sections seemed to be talking different languages, while at others there was collective shimmer. Perhaps group dynamics sums it up.

Wagon Wheel featured strings, opening with a sweet refrain that seemed tinged with a lament. A string-pluck festa led us, with help from Craig Beard on vibes, to finally focus on Geoff Hughes‘ guitar — it was good that he had this space.

Paul Grabowsky

Paul Grabowsky in full flight

Tower of the Winds was full of vigour, treating us to a duo of Douglas on trumpet with Burke on clarinet, strong intervention by Knight and Kieran Rafferty on drums and then a Grabowsky piano solo that came with built-in contrast between his emphatic chords and his free-ranging right hand, his digging deep for notes and thunderous barrages. The end of the suite seemed to come in no time.

I’m sure good things are happening in music at universities all across Australia, but as an example of students and experienced musicians tackling an inventive suite written for them to test their mettle, this was an engrossing and invigorating performance.

ROGER MITCHELL

Fabliaux was  to be recorded in the Monash venue the next day. Watch for it to pop up somewhere.

Ensemble members for Fabliaux

Trumpet: Dave Douglas, Ben Harrison, Niran Dasika
Trombone: Jordan Murray
Flute, clarinet, soprano sax: Lachlan Davidson
Clarinet, alto sax: Rob Burke
Tenor: Paul Cornelius
Bass clarinet, baritone sax: Mirko Guerrini
Violin: Liz Sellers
Cello: Will Martina
Bass: Marty Holoubek
Guitar: Geoff Hughes
Piano: Paul Grabowsky
Drums: Kieran Rafferty
Tuned percussion: Craig Beard
Electronics: Peter Knight

GOOD VIBE AS FESTIVAL BRANCHES OUT

Lloyd and Farantouri

Charles Lloyd and Maria Farantouri       (Image supplied)

PREVIEW: Melbourne International Jazz Festival, May 30 to June 8, 2014

The best time to judge the worth of any music festival is when it’s all over, but I’ll go out on a limb and say that there is a good vibe about this year’s Melbourne dip of the collective toe into the diverse waters that link to jazz.

In a preview to the 2013 festival, I wrote that, “For a number of years now the MIJF has set out to broaden its appeal. This year’s program is no exception …” That trend continues in the 2014 program, with artistic director Michael Tortoni describing it as “the broadest, most inclusive ever”.

Some have commented favourably on Tortoni’s willingness to venture farther than is usual into the realms of world music this year. I would say that there is an unashamed willingness by the MIJF to provide a broad spectrum and, it is fair to assume, to let some of the popular events in large venues help pay for smaller gigs that may have much more appeal to dedicated followers of the rich jazz tapestry that is always on show in this town.

It’s important that this bid to attract a wider audience does not water down what’s on offer in order to put bums on seats, but it seems there is still plenty for hard core fans, albeit not such rich pickings on the fringe as when Sophie Brous had a role in programming. The 2014 program seems to reflect a festival comfortable with bring popular artists and also musicians who will be sought out and valued by smaller numbers of patrons.

Among the big changes this year are the advent of concerts in the Malthouse — two gigs a night with the second a double bill — and the inclusion of Uptown Jazz Café as a club venue for the first time, hosting some quality trios, quartets and a sextet. It’s great to have Sonny Rehe and the Uptown staff aboard.

The other significant change is that for the first time there will be some musical events in Melbourne’s west, an area with which Tortoni is familiar.

As always, full details of the program are available on the festival website. Ausjazz provides the following pointers to likely highlights.

CROWD PLEASERS

Charles Lloyd

Charles Lloyd

Anyone who heard Charles Lloyd in 2010 will want to tap into his spiritual quality as performer or in conversation. The saxophonist, flautist and taragato player will perform at Melbourne Town Hall in The Greek Project with vocalist Maria Farantouri, presenting works by Lloyd, Theodorakis and the Greek Suite.

Lloyd will also bring his Sky Trio (Reuben Rogers bass, Eric Harland drums) to the Melbourne Recital Centre in an Australian premiere. This concert, opening with local group Omelette, is not to be missed, although I will be torn because it clashes with an exciting world premiere of PBS Young Elder of Jazz Commission winner Tilman Robinson’s The Agony of Knowledge at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club. Lloyd also joins Monash University music students in a gig at the MRC Salon.

Hamer Hall is the venue for the celebrated collaboration of keyboardist Chick Corea and vibraphonist Gary Burton.

It’s hard to know whether the Palais Theatre audience will comprise fans of Hollywood tough guys or Frank Sinatra when they flock to hear Robert Davi provide a portrait of Ol’ Blue Eyes. Davi appeared with Sinatra in the 1977 film Contract on Cherry Street, so he knows how to swagger.

The news is already out there, but if you fancy big bands, nothing comes bigger than Glenn Miller Orchestra, which will fill the Hamer Hall Stage with no fewer than 38 musicians, singers and dancers to perform hits such as Moonlight Serenade, In the Mood and Chattanooga Choo Choo.

Soul will come to the MRC when Mary Stallings — who toured and recorded with Dizzy Gillespie, Cannonball Adderley and Count Basie — returns to the city she visited in 1959. Expect swinging standards and moving ballads.

Flamenco will have plenty of fans when Jorge Pardo on tenor sax and flute performs at MRC in the trio Huellas, after the superb Sylvan Coda by Chris Hale and other Australian artists, including the foot-stamping Johnny Tedesco, who has been a hit with audiences at Bennetts Lane and Stonnington Jazz.

Wistful romanticism will be the feature when jazz vocalist Fem Belling brings to life the late Blossom Dearie in a concert at The Malthouse.

Rolling Stone described Larry Carlton’s work on Steely Dan’s Kid Charlemagne as one of the greatest rock guitar solos of all time. The “Titan of Tone” will perform with a quartet at MRC and hold workshops at VCA, one of which will be open to the public. Five-piece Here and Now will open.

A regular in Australia, saxophonist Joshua Redman will perform his ever-changing repertoire in a quartet at MRC, after the Joe Chindamo Trio.

This is turning into a long post, but now it’s time to move on to some MIJF gigs that are a little less mainstream. Watch this space.

ROGER MITCHELL

FESTIVAL SPRINGS A LEAK

SNEAK PREVIEW: Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2014

Information about a couple of major concerts for this year’s MIJF have been released ahead of time, but the main program launch takes place tonight (Wednesday, March 19).

Ausjazz knows what’s in store, but cannot reveal the goodies until the embargo is lifted. Watch this space.

However, in the spirit of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, Ausjazz loves a good leak and it appears we have spotted one.

Residents of Maribyrnong today received the council’s flash newsletter in the letterbox — it ought to be flash given the steep rates — and that august publication appears to have jumped the gun, releasing official secrets about the 2014 program.

Take a careful look at this snapshot from the Maribyrnong News and you may well be excused for thinking details of musical events that are not due to be on the record until this evening have been revealed.

Maribyrnong News

Maribyrnong News appears to have sprung a leak.

Ausjazz can’t confirm or deny the alleged information that appears to suggest the festival is going to make its presence felt in Melbourne’s west this year. But the Maribyrnong News does appear to mention Peter Knight, the Dancing Dog Cafe, the Reverence Hotel and a Soundwalk to “secret spaces of Footscray”.

Well, well. Time will tell whether the rates paid in Franco Cozzo’s neck of the woods have in fact been used to give us a sneak preview.

Meantime, there is a rumour floating about that Michael Tortoni, the MIJF artistic director, grew up in the western suburbs and was occasionally sighted at the Reverence Hotel.

ROGER MITCHELL

MONASH HOSTS WORLD PREMIERE

PREVIEW: World Premiere of new composition by Dave Douglas, featuring the Monash Art Ensemble, Saturday 15 March, 7.30pm, Music Auditorium, Monash University, Cost: $20 / $15

Dave Douglas

Dave Douglas                           (Image supplied)

There are two reasons to be excited by the collaboration to aired this evening at Monash University. The first is that renowned trumpeter and music educator Dave Douglas, fresh from his performance with John Zorn at the Adelaide Festival, will unveil a new and as yet untitled composition to a Melbourne audience.

The second is that the new work will be played by the exciting, inventive and talented Monash Art Ensemble under the direction of Professor Paul Grabowsky, who is Executive Director, Performing Arts, Academy of Performing Arts. This group, which features the cream of students and staff from the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music and veteran players of the Australian Art Orchestra, has collaborated recently in projects with leading figures in contemporary music including Mark Helias, George Lewis and Mary Finsterer.

Monash Art Ensemble

Monash Art Ensemble at MIJF 2013

At last year’s Melbourne International Jazz Festival, the Monash Art Ensemble’s concert in The Forum upstairs with bassist Mark Helias was a definite highlight, not only because of Helias’s compositions, but also because the ensemble played difficult material with finesse and power. For the Ausjazz review of this concert, see BAND ON THE RUN.

Monash Art Ensemble

Monash Art Ensemble on stage at The Forum upstairs

Douglas says his new composition for the Monash Art Ensemble features 16 musicians in ensembles of wind, brass, percussion and strings. It is inspired by the timbres of the composers of the Ars Nova in 14th century France, but moves into “wholly uncharted territory”.

“Improvisation meets composition as these sounds walk across the centuries for a new chapter in this American composer’s oeuvre, written especially for this engagement”, Douglas said.

Paul Grabowsky described the collaboration with Douglas as “a milestone in the already eventful life of the Monash Art Ensemble”.

“He is without doubt one of the deepest thinkers around contemporary jazz and improvised music today, a composer of great depth who is able to embrace a pluralistic vision of music within a strong stylistic framework. He is also one of the leading trumpeters of his generation, and a major educator, so there is much to be excited about,” Professor Grabowsky said.

Dave Douglas has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Aaron Copland award and two Grammy nominations. Douglas has a new quintet, an electric sextet (Keystone), and Sound Prints Quintet, which is co-led with saxophonist Joe Lovano.

From 2002 to 2012, he served as artistic director of the Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music at The Banff Centre in Canada. He is a co-founder and director of the Festival of New Trumpet Music, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2012. In 2013 Douglas was, for the second year, International Jazz Artist in Residence at the Royal Academy of Music in London and launched his own Jazz Workshop, dedicated to enriching the musical experiences of younger players.

Here’s a clip of the Dave Douglas Quintet at work in July 2013 .

ROGER MITCHELL

ALLAN BROWNE — IN MEMORIAM OF DAVID TOLLEY

Farewell David Tolley

Farewell David Tolley

PREVIEW: Allan Browne — In memoriam of David Tolley, Bennetts Lane, Melbourne, 8.30pm, Monday, 10 March 2014

Tonight drummer Allan Browne will host a very special session at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club to pay respect to David Tolley.

Browne describes his late friend and fellow musician as “a man who made such a significant dent in the Australian Music Scene that one could say the face jazz owes its beauty spot to him”.

Browne will be accompanied in this tribute by Eugene Ball, Geoff Hughes, Dean Addison and Scott McConachie to share a night of reminiscence and music making in honour of Tolley’s tireless contribution.

Allan invited everyone to “share a night of music with a man who sees into the future over the shoulder of the past he hugs with love”.

RIP David Tolley.

ROGER MITCHELL

I greatly regret that I am unable to be there for this tribute.  Here are some memories in pictures:

David Tolley

David Tolley

David Tolley

David Tolley

David Tolley

David Tolley

IF ON A SUMMER EVE AN ENSEMBLE

PREVIEW: Network of Lines album launch, Melbourne Recital Centre’s Salon, 6pm Tuesday 11 February

Tilman Robinson trombone/laptop, Peter Knight trumpet/laptop, Callum G’Froerer trumpet, Erkki Veltheim violin, Judith Hamann cello, Brett Thompson guitar/banjo, Berish Bilander piano, Sam Zerna bass, Hugh Harvey drums. Additional cello Melanie Robinson, additional percussion Joe Talia, Josh Barber and Tilman Robinson

Tilman Robinson

If On a Winter Night a Traveller in December 2012

It’s very late to post about a performance the day before it’s taking place, but tomorrow’s recital in the Salon deserves attention. I’ll be working and can’t be there, but I highly recommend that anyone able to make it to the launch of this album should go.

Network of Lines is Tilman Robinson‘s debut album performed by a nine piece electro-acoustic ensemble of Melbourne musicians. Written in response to the Italo Calvino novel If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller, the piece derives its form from the novel’s distinctive narrative structure.

Tilman Robinson MJFF commission

If On a Winter Night a Traveller May 2012

The work was commissioned by the Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival and demonstrates again how important that festival’s commissions have been in adding substantial compositions to the Melbourne jazz repertoire. 

Tilman Robinson MJFF commission

If On a Winter Night a Traveller May 2012

As these images record, the work has been performed previously twice — first on 13 May 2012 at Northcote Town Hall as part of the MJFF and second on 4 December the same year in Abbotsford.

Tilman Robinson MJFF commission

If On a Winter Night a Traveller May 2012

On both occasions the performances were intricately constructed and exquisitely executed, demonstrating the talents of the ensemble members and the care Tilman Robinson had taken in constructing the piece.

Tilman Robinson MJFF commission

If On a Winter Night a Traveller May 2012

Xani Kolac was on violin during these outings. Erkki Veltheim is featured on that instrument in the recording.

Tilman Robinson MJFF commission

If On a Winter Night a Traveller May 2012

Tilman Robinson MJFF commission

If On a Winter Night a Traveller May 2012

The work is adventurous, exploring a a range of textures, timbres and effects, including laptop work by Peter Knight and Tilman Robinson.

Tilman Robinson

If On a Winter Night a Traveller December 2012

The moods created are diverse. There are slow, dreamy parts, as well as classical and hymn-like interludes, passages of building tension and sudden, dramatic outbursts.

Tilman Robinson

If On a Winter Night a Traveller December 2012

There are sweeping vistas. There is gradual fragmentation.

Tilman Robinson

If On a Winter Night a Traveller December 2012

There are percussive nibblings, pizzicato incursions and wailing sirens from the strings. Horns — trombone, trumpet and flugelhorn — are resplendent, then muted, then soaring. Notes are bent. Drums break in, break out.

The album closes with Robinson’s arrangement of Sean O’Neill’s composition What Story Down There Awaits Its End? It is a fitting end to the journey.

The Salon at MRC is an ideal room for this album launch. I am sorry to be missing it.

ROGER MITCHELL

Tilman Robinson

If On a Winter Night a Traveller December 2012

Network of Lines will be launched at the Melbourne Recital Centre’s Salon at 6pm on Tuesday 11th February ($30/$25). Tickets are now available through the Recital Centre’s website.

Network of Lines is also available through theListen/Hear Collective.

Miriam Zolin of Extemporé/AustralianJazz.net has posted an interview about this work and its inception.

Melbourne musician Don Jordan has written a review.

SPACE INVADERS DROP IN ON MELBS

Marshall Allen

Marshall Allen at Fed Square during the 2011 MIJF

PREVIEW: Sun Ra Arkestra, The Forum, Sunday January 18 at 7pm

The Abbott Government reckons it has stopped the boats, without really meaning to invade Indonesia’s space too much (oops!), but there’s no way Scott Morrison can stop the invasion that will hit the Forum on Sunday, January 18.

Anyone who heard Sun Ra collaborator Marshall Allen leading the 10-piece Sun Ra Arkestra when last they landed in 2011 for the Melbourne International Jazz Festival will want to be there for this one-off visit.

Sources close to MIJF described these guys as “a bunch of old space invaders” keeping alive the spirit of pianist, composer and organist Sun Ra. They are cool as and it is not too over the top to say they are “surreal, astonishing and unmissable”.

Here’s how the festival has billed this concert, which starts when doors open at 6.15pm with DJ Mike Gurrieri. Sun Ra Arkestra will be on at 7pm:

“The Arkestra’s iconic live performances are mind-altering, life-affirming and joyously unforgettable.

“The Melbourne International Jazz Festival’s latest initiative, Summer Sessions, allows the Festival to bring a greater range of international artists to Melbourne throughout the year. A summer teaser before the big winter program on 30 May to 8 June, Summer Sessions is an annual concert celebrating the best in worldwide jazz every summer.

“One of the great cult-icons of jazz, pianist, composer and organist Sun Ra formed the Arkestra in the mid 1950s and led it until his death in 1993. His ensemble has continued performing and creating supernatural sounds ever since, keeping the spirit of their late leader alive and bringing his music to new generations of Sun Ra lovers around the world.

In a performance unlike anything you’ve seen before, this big band of “Tone Scientists” will take you on an innovative, subversive and swinging exploration of cosmic sounds across the musical galaxy and beyond.”

EVENT DETAILS:
Melbourne International Jazz Festival Summer Sessions: Sun Ra Arkestra

Venue: The Forum
Cost: $59/54 conc
Tickets on sale now
Bookings through melbournejazz.com

Here’s a link to a video of Sun Ra Arkestra on stage:
Here is a recent review:
Below are some Ausjazz pics taken when the Arkestra invaded Melbourne’s Kelvin Club, which happened to have a full-size stuffed camel on stage at the time. It was surreal.
For larger images visit Ausjazz on Facebook for a Sun Ra Arkestra gallery.
ROGER MITCHELL
Sun Ra Arkestra

Sun Ra Arkestra at the Kelvin Club, Melbourne, during the 2011 MIJF.

Sun Ra Arkestra

Sun Ra Arkestra at the Kelvin Club, Melbourne, during the 2011 MIJF.

Sun Ra Arkestra

Sun Ra Arkestra at the Kelvin Club, Melbourne, during the 2011 MIJF.

Sun Ra Arkestra

Sun Ra Arkestra at the Kelvin Club, Melbourne, during the 2011 MIJF.

Sun Ra Arkestra

Sun Ra Arkestra at the Kelvin Club, Melbourne, during the 2011 MIJF.

Sun Ra Arkestra

Sun Ra Arkestra at the Kelvin Club, Melbourne, during the 2011 MIJF.

Sun Ra Arkestra

Sun Ra Arkestra at the Kelvin Club, Melbourne, during the 2011 MIJF.