FINDING CONSOLATION IN SADNESS

Still Night: Music in Poetry

Still Night: Music in Poetry                                      Image: Natasha Blankfield

REVIEW

Still Night: Music in Poetry, Salon, Melbourne Recital Centre, Friday 25 November 2016, 7pm

There is a gradually growing section in our hallway book shelves that contains poetry, yet it is all too rarely visited. In that respect it is like death, which we too often avoid confronting until it is thrust upon us.

So much can be conveyed in poetry if we give it the time to reflect upon it that it deserves. So much can be conveyed in music if we give it the attention it deserves, by listening.

In Still Night composer and pianist Andrea Keller gave us the opportunity to hear the music in poetry as well as the time to reflect on the many strands of thought expressed in 10 carefully chosen and very different poems that deal with death, grief and loss.

Keller (piano) joined Julien Wilson (tenor saxophone, bass clarinet), Stephen Magnusson (guitars) and vocalists Gian Slater and Vince Jones in an hour-long set in the acoustically rich Salon space that was totally absorbing.

Keller’s program notes explain that this project arose out of a realisation that her isolated experiences of death, grief and loss, as well as the inadequacy of Anglo-Australian culture to deal with the emotions of such realities, differed sharply from the life evident in a Copenhagen cemetery she visited in 2007, where people enjoyed picnics, admired the beauty of the gardens and paid respect to loved ones.

Still Night: Music in Poetry

Still Night: Music in Poetry                             Image: Natasha Blankfield

This concert worked on many levels, but I found myself slipping easily between momentary explorations of the ideas conveyed by the words and the pure joy of experiencing voice and other instruments.

From the opening poem, Listen, Listen by Izumi Shikibu, it was clear we would be given time to reflect on the words and to feel their meanings conveyed on surges of sound, as if ocean waves washed them to us.

In E.E. Cummings’ Finis, the power of piano contrasted with the fragility and purity of the voices, which were undulating, rocking, ebbing and flowing, Slater’s notes bending with great agility.

One of the most effective of the night’s poems was Proust’s bleak So Tired of Having Suffered, Slater’s voice beginning as a whisper and gaining strength, drama coming from Keller and Wilson, and Jones adding a kind of mantra with a jazz feel.

The chemistry between Wilson and Slater in Yeats’ Where My Books Go was given additional synergy by Magnusson and Keller.

Anyone familiar with Jeannie Lewis’s rendition of Thomas’ Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night will understand that I have long associated those lyrics with power, but Jones’s gentle vocals made this more of an appeal than an exhortation. Magnusson’s guitar journey in this was superb.

The words of Richard James Allen’s poem Hamlet’s Reply convey loss and emptiness in a powerful way, especially the last lines: “Alone, with nothing but the night. Alone. And soon, just the night.” I thought that Jones’s voice was vying with the sax in this, so those lyrics were a little lost at a crucial point.

Slater’s voice — ethereal and boundless — was eminently suited to Whitman’s Darest Thou O Soul, floating over the strong piano patterns created by Keller. And Magnusson’s spindly, fine tendrils of sound were ideal for Teasdale’s optimistic If Death is Kind, in which the vocalists blended and crossed beautifully.

Julien Wilson’s work on tenor sax and bass clarinet was an absolute delight during this concert.

In considering how Still Night: Music in Poetry might contribute to our responses to death, Andrea Keller quotes Robert White that “meditating on a beautiful expression of sadness can help to provide a thoroughly uplifting sense of consolation”.

Each member of the sold-out Salon audience will know whether this work succeeded, but I can say that to me it was a journey to places that I needed to explore.

ROGER MITCHELL

PS: Ode to a Nightingale is my favourite Keats poem, and I love these lines:

Darkling I listen; and for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call’d him soft names in many a musèd rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!
Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—
To thy high requiem become a sod.

Andrea Keller

Andrea Keller performs at Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues 2016

WOMEN COME UP TRUMPS – AGAIN

Laila Biaili

Laila Biali                      Image supplied

PREVIEW

19th Melbourne Women’s International Jazz Festival, December 4-11, 2016, Bennett’s Lane Jazz Club

On the eve of Donald Trump taking the reins in the United States of America, it seems appropriate — and indeed vital — for women and men of Australia (as Gough Whitlam used to say, albeit not in that order) to come out and enjoy music mostly created and played by women.

Artists from Canada, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne will share the products of their lifestyle choices over eight days from Sunday, December 4. And in that bittersweet way of a top festival, there will be clashes — occasions when you will be torn between gigs that you won’t want to miss, but must choose between.

Opening night will feature Jann Rutherford Memorial Award winner, pianist Emma Stephenson — along with Nick Henderson (bass) and Oli Nelson (drums) as Hieronymus Trio — in collaboration with inventive vocalist Gian Slater. Stephenson has composed new material and reworked earlier compositions for this performance. Slater has been a finalist in the Freedman Fellowship in 2004 and 2010, The National Jazz Awards in 2005, and the Bell Awards for Best Jazz Vocal Album in 2010 and 2013. Hieronymus Trio has been mentored by Ari Hoenig, John Riley, Aaron Goldberg, Craig Scott, Simon Barker and Matt McMahon.

On Monday, December 5 the festival student night will celebrate emerging female musicians with a line-up featuring performers from Loreto Toorak, Stonnington Youth Jazz Initiative, Lowther Hall and Ringwood Secondary College.

Tuesday, December 6 brings an opportunity to hear prolific composer and pianist Andrea Keller with Stephen Magnusson guitar and James McLean on drums in Transients V, one of her trios inspired by the philosophy and legacy of esteemed mentor Allan Browne. Based on a collective approach to music making, the trios perform original compositions, improvisations, as well as selections from the American and Australian songbooks.

Canadian multi-award winning pianist and vocalist Laila Biali appears for her first Australia performance with countrymen Adam Thomas (drums) and Joel Fountain (bass) on Wednesday, December 7. Laila has performed at the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands, Tokyo’s Cotton Club and Carnegie Hall. She has toured with Grammy award winners Chris Botti, Paula Cole and Suzanne Vega, recorded with and supported Sting and was “Keyboardist of the Year” at Canada’s National Jazz Awards.

On Thursday, December 8, Emma Gilmartin will join James Sherlock (guitar), Frank Di Sario (double bass) and Danny Fischer (drums) to launch her album The Emma Gilmartin Quartet: Live at Bennetts Lane recorded by Niko Schauble of Pughouse Studios. They will play standards and original compositions.

Two shows on Friday, December 9 highlight the extraordinary abilities of Melbourne’s creative women jazz artists.

In the Jazz Lab, Kennedy Snow featuring Nina Ferro presents originals from the recently released debut album Follow, the result of a longtime collaboration between Nina (recently returned from a decade residency in London) and Kennedy Snow (aka drummer Sonja Horbelt). Follow encompasses such styles as Neo-Soul, R&B, jazz and heart stopping ballads. They will also debut some new tunes, and play Ferro originals and  classic R&B interpretations. The line-up will include long-time collaborators Kellie Santin (saxes) and Kim May (bass) with special guest Steve Sedergreen on piano and keys.

And in a special treat next door certain to set up a most difficult choice for patrons, the festival and Melbourne Jazz Co-operative co-present a solo piano double bill featuring friends and colleagues Nat Bartsch and Andrea Keller. These two extraordinary women pianists, composers and improvisers will share their unique sounds and distinctive work in a concert not be be missed.

And on Saturday, December 10, setting up another festival clash of competing drawcards, acclaimed Brisbane vocalist Kristin Berardi and The Balloons present work from her latest Bell Award winning album Where or When in the Jazz Lab. Appearing with Kristin are formidable Australian musicians on this ABC record release Julien Wilson (sax), James Sherlock (guitar), Steve Newcomb (piano) and Sam Anning (bass).

In the Jazz Room, MJC co-presents the composer Cheryl Durongpisitkul on saxophone, clarinet and flute in her octet with Felix Watson (trumpet), James Macaulay (trombone), Marcos Villalta (guitar), Lincoln Mckenzie (guitar), Harry Cook (piano), Stephen Hornby (double bass) and Leo Kavanagh (drums). Durongpisitkul has spent the past year writing a cohesive, narrative based piece, heavily influenced by Igor Stravinsky’s Petrushka. Cheryl’s approach to music making is described as adventurous, quirky, beautiful and at times chaotic, ranging from contemporary jazz to third stream.

The festival closes on Sunday, December 11 with Spirograph Studies led by bassist Tamara Murphy, winner of the inaugural Young Elder of Jazz Commission for the Melbourne International Jazz Festival. Spirograph Studies takes a detailed, textural approach to improvised music. Inventors of the ‘gromp’, this strong collection of music-makers each bring their unique voice to the stage in a collaborative approach featuring Luke Howard (piano), Fran Swinn (guitar) and James McLean (drums).

For full program details visit the MWIJF website and Bennetts Lane.

The Melbourne Women’s International Jazz festival gratefully acknowledges financial assistance from major sponsors APRA AMCOS, Fraser Place Melbourne, The Canada Council for the Arts, Melbourne Jazz Co-operative and Brolly Design.

SWINGIN’ WITH BRANFORD

Tom Vincent

Tom Vincent                                      Image supplied

POZIBLE CAMPAIGN

Tom Vincent is a jazz pianist, arranger and composer from Hobart, Tasmania, who performs worldwide and over the years has been based in Sydney, London, New York, Melbourne and Amsterdam. He continues to travel frequently to record and to perform in concert at jazz festivals and special events.

As well as touring internationally and nationally, Tom has produced seven CDs as bandleader.

Right now he has project live on Pozible to raise $2600 for his American Album, recorded in October last year — 2015 — in North Carolina with Branford Marsalis, and in New York City with Alf Jackson and Matt Clohesy. Tom says this is going to be “a swingin’ album”.

If you would like to pledge $25 for a CD, check out this link. And here’s an extract of Tom Vincent’s explanatory notes for the campaign:

“In 2010 I met Branford Marsalis when his Quartet was touring Australia. Our Trio was the support act. We got to hang and play. On the last gig of the tour at the Sydney Opera House Branford got us back on stage to play an encore with him. We were very fortunate. I have been listening to Branford since my teens. He is a master musician, gentleman, and very cool.

“My Dad said that if I ever get the opportunity to record with Branford I should do it. Years later I lined it up and in October 2015 we went over and spent a day in a recording studio in Durham, North Carolina, Branford and Joey Calderazzo’s home town. While we were in Durham Joey took me to his place and we spent a day at the piano. It was probably the best piano lesson I’ve ever had.

“Robert Hunter was the sound engineer for the session in Durham. He has been Branford’s sound engineer since Branford’s days of working with Sting, which is about twenty years. He is incredible. Sound engineering is a mysterious art. I don’t know how they do it. There are a handful of exceptional sound engineers out there who can record, mix and master with such brilliance.

“After Durham we went to New York City. Alf Jackson, my drummer from Hobart and I, spent a day in the recording studio with double bassist Matt Clohesy. Matt is on my first two CDs and was on the first Tom Vincent Trio Australian Tour in 2000. Matt has carved himself out a very successful career in New York and internationally over the last 15 years. A couple of tracks from this session in Brooklyn will be on the CD.

“This is going to be a swingin’ album! My best yet. Help us make the CD and be the first to hear it and own it. Can’t wait! Thanks in reverse. Also … we will throw a party for the person who pledges the most 😀
Pledge now!

How the funds will be used:

Mixing and Mastering of the tracks for the album: $1,250
Original hand printed artwork: $800
Design and pre-press production for CD: $620
Mechanical Royalties (the album is mostly jazz standards.
royalties go to people who own the copyrights): $595
Glass master: $60
Manufacturing of CDs: $2,050+
Shipping and postage costs: aprox $520+
Miscellaneous including Pozible, credit card, Paypal etc: aprox $305+

Roger Mitchell