Melbourne Jazz Fringe 2009 — Day 6

Frisell — Music inspired or written by Bill Frisell

Phil Bywater made a point after the first set at Uptown Jazz Cafe that the Fringe Festival had come up with the idea of having a Bill Frisell tribute before the Melbourne International Jazz Festival decided to invite him to Melbourne. When the Fringe organisers heard he was coming, the invited him to stay over for the Fringe gig, but he had other commitments. But it didn’t matter, because in the audience we decided Bill was with us in spirit.

Frank Di Sario and Luke Howard

A few years back I used to catch Frank Di Sario in a trio with Peter Knight on trumpet and Lucas Michailidis on guitar, and at one gig they added a cellist, at the Charles Street Bar in Seddon (it’s now a restaurant — popular, but not hosting live music). They were playing some pretty out there totally improvised and unrehearsed stuff that was just intense and wonderful.

Luke Howard

That’s not really relevant, except that Howard and Di Sario did rehearse three times for this set, which consisted of three pieces and was also wonderful. The feel of the set recalled the Andrea Keller/Geoff Hughes gig at Cafe 303 on the Monday (see Fringe, Day 4 in this blog). The instrumentation was different — though the Roland at Uptown Jazz Cafe did lean towards the fuzzy, thick sound of Keller’s Nord — but that didn’t prevent there being a similarity. Like Keller and Hughes, Di Sario and Howard produced music that was totally engrossing — introspective music in which it was easy to become totally absorbed.

Di Sario

They played Frisell’s Small Hands, from the Second Sight album by Bass Desires (a quartet of Frisell, with John Scofield also on guitar, Peter Erskine on drums and bassist Marc Johnson as band leader), and Probability Cloud, from the 2008 History, Mystery album Frisell released with an octet. Small Hands was in good hands with Di Sario and Howard, who created a dreamy surrealism helped by the soft, pink and blue lighting. Probability Cloud called for some faster, more complex bass, and quicker keyboard. Howard achieved some nice puddling in the mud of slightly dissonant chords before that signature of Frisell’s — the slowly repeating and developing motif — carried the piece to its conclusion. It was superb stuff.

Di Sario

Di Sario announced the final piece as a standard not often heard —My Old Flame, which I learned later was composed by Sam Coslow and Arthur Johnston and sung by Mae West in the film Belle of the Nineties. We heard “yeah” a few times as both players were getting into the groove and feeding off their enthusiasm in each other’s efforts. I think we could all have listened to more from these two.

Jacqueline Gawler with Fran Swinn and Tamara Murphy

Jacqueline Gawler

Instead of Fall 10X being on next, we were treated to vocals by composer, lyricist and percussionist Jacqueline Gawler, also appears with vocal quintet Coco’s Lunch, Stoneflower and the Jacqueline Gawler Band, accompanied by bassist Tamara Murphy and guitarist Fran Swinn, who is a member of the JGB.

Murphy and Swinn

I had to leave before the set was over, but heard the first three numbers — Frisell’s Strange Meeting, from the albums Live and This Land, another Frisell tune the name of which I did not catch, and a quirky Gawler original she said had its genesis on a flight to Canada while testing how long she could continue writing under the influence of sleeping pills. Apparently the writing began to tilt up the page until the song emerged: When passengers write poetry and flight attendants sing.

Gawler

I might as well own up to finding it difficult to write about vocals, or at least more difficult than about instrumental music. Gawler used her voice as more than merely a vehicle for words and was able to float her notes to form a rich texture over, within and around the bass and guitar. Under the influence of sleeping pills, she appeared to become sultry and possibly keen to wrap her arms around passing passsengers or singing attendants in full flight.

Murphy and Swinn

The guitar and bass — at times bowed — worked really effectively, creating a wonderful fluidity with the voice.

The spirit of Bill Frisell seemed to be hovering close to the bar as I stole away into the night.

Some more pictures from the gig:

Gawler

Gawler, Murphy, Swinn

Gawler

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