Stonnington — Day 10

Frock — Father, Son and Holy Ghost

I was looking forward to hearing Frock live, though this would be different — the energetic and original ensemble of Craig Beard on vibes, Anthony Schulz on piano and piano accordion, Simon Starr on acoustic bass, Adam Starr on guitar and Daniel Farrugia on drums was airing some covers of songs by Don Walker, Nick Cave and Neil Finn, which they are about to release on a new Frock album. Dan Farrugia was filling in for Dave Beck and will play on the coming album.

Frock
Members of Frock at Chapel Off Chapel

They began the set with some fun, the band waiting on Farrugia, who appeared late, and started things off by stamping a beat and jangling keys as he assumed the drumming position for Neil Finn’s One Step Ahead. Schulz moved to the piano for Nick Cave’s Red Right Hand, allegedly “butchered” or arranged by Simon Starr. Beard said it was unusual for the band to play covers rather than original tracks, but the advantage was that they were “already hits”.

Beard and Adam Starr
Beard and Adam Starr

With Schulz back on accordion, Don Baker’s Breakfast at Sweethearts was proof of how well the vibes and piano accordion work together. Schulz played piano on Walker’s Saturday Night, followed by the well known (“Don Walker has a lot to answer for,” Beard said.) Khe Sanh, which had a rock feel.

Schulz and Beard
Schulz and Beard

Frequent allusions were made to Nick Cave as the Prince of Darkness (“If he was anywhere about here he would kill us”) before Beard’s arraangement of Cave’s Into My Arms. Neil Finn’s Message to My Girl followed, with Schulz on piano, then a long interaction between accordion and guitar for Schulz’s arrangement of the Tim and Neil Finn song Four Seasons in One Day. Then things turned serious. “We know where you live, Nick,” Frock announced before Mercy Seat — the opening was most effective, with drums, guitar and piano creating a sense of drama.

Daniel Farrugia
Daniel Farrugia

Daniel Farrugia
Daniel Farrugia

Frock closed with Simon Starr’s arrangement of Neil Finn’s History Never Repeats, which Beard suggested “suits this foggy New York evening”. The band’s move into covers was full of interest, though I would prefer its longer originals. The set showed me that Beard on vibes can make his presence felt in almost any musical situation, and that a few, sparing notes from guitar and piano work a treat. That said, I’d have liked to hear more from Adam Starr on guitar, but Frock departed on a high in a gentle frenzy of piano, drums and bass.

Craig Beard
Craig Beard in a reflective moment

Frock
Frock

Nichaud Fitzgibbon — Mood Swing

At times during Stonnington Jazz gigs at Chapel Off Chapel it has seemed hard for the audience to overcome a feeling of restraint when responding to the music, as if the venue is too formal. Perhaps it is because most members of the audience are seated as if for a play or concert, rather than a jazz gig. At other times the crowd has “woken up” and responded with vigour. From the moment Nichaud Fitzgibbon appeared onstage — with Phillip Rex on bass, James Sherlock on guitar, Dan Farrugia (again) on drums and Jex Saarelaht on piano — the mood was upbeat. Fitzgibbon was the consummate entertainer, projecting enough personality thorough her vocals to gee up the most sombre crowd.

Fitzgibbon and Sherlock
Nichaud Fitzgibbon and James Sherlock

As Fitzgibbon breezed through Don Walker’s How Many Times and the Tex Perkins and Spencer P. Jones number The World’s Got Everything, it was as if we were being caressed by her vocals, as well as by Sherlock’s guitar. Frequently paying tribute to her musicians, Fitzgibbon dubbed Rex “the king of bass” before launching into the Kylie Minogue song Two Hearts, and then Tom Springfield’s Seekers hit The Olive Tree, which featured Saarelaht’s exemplary skills.

Fitzgibbon
Nichaud Fitzgibbon

Fitzgibbon was a sassy, saucy woman with vocals to match in the Paul Kelly song Be Careful What You Pray For, which she dedicated to “lots of greedy people”. Then we luxuriated in Saarelaht’s deep piano notes leading into Kelly/Ceberano’s tango Untouchable and Ross Wilson’s Mood Swing, the title track of the new CD.

Saarelaht, Rex and Dan Farrugia
Saarelaht, Rex and Dan Farrugia

The link to Australian songwriters lapsed for Billie Holiday’s I Want More, “dedicated to all the ladies in the audience”, then Fitzgibbon harked back to her earlier album for Dave Fishbery’s I Don’t Believe You. Her voice was engaging and seductive, but the feeling conveyed was that of a woman who could immediately make you feel comfortable and who probably would give you credit for having more get up and go than was necessarily the case. This may seem an odd way to put it, but Fitzgibbon’s personality flowed out as if she was emanating a relaxed sense of confidence that would easily rub off on her audience. I could not help contrast her performance with younger vocalists Megan Washington and Gian Slater.

Nichaud Fitzgibbon
Nichaud Fitzgibbon

Nick Cave’s Bless was followed by Anthony Newly’s Feeling Good before the sustained applause brought Fitzgibbon back to stand beside the piano for an encore.

Nichaud Fitzgibbon
Nichaud Fitzgibbon

Then the sensuality and cheeky charm was turned full-on in the vivaciously sung You Turn Me On, Baby (Cy Coleman). We were left to reflect on the value of experience in a singer and on the consummate ease with which she could captivate an audience and enliven a venue.

Perhaps the main event for the last night of Stonnington Jazz had been over at the Malvern Town Hall for the second Sculthorpe Songbook concert, but at Chapel Off Chapel it had been an evening of fine music to end another fine festival.

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