TWO QUARTETS FOR THE PRICE OF ONE

GIG: Andrea Keller Quartet with strings, Bennetts Lane, Melbourne on Sunday 4 December 2011 at 8.30pm

Andrea Keller

Andrea Keller performs with her quartet at the Salon, Melbourne Recital Centre in April.

It’s been a busy time for award-winning pianist/composer Andrea Keller lately. On Sunday and Monday last week the Bennetts Lane Big Band performed one of her compositions (along with one by quartet member Eugene Ball, a horn player also well known as a composer). Then, on Tuesday, Keller played with the Women’s Festival Sextet at Bennetts Lane.

Flinders Quartet

Flinders Quartet, apparently enjoying a brief respite from busking at Southbank.

But Keller has other strings to her bow, terrible pun intended. She will be back at the Lane on Sunday night with her quartet, and this time also with members of Flinders String Quartet: Erica Kennedy and Matthew Tomkins on violin, Helen Ireland on viola and Zoë Knighton on cello.

Keller and longtime collaborators Ball, Ian Whitehurst (tenor saxophone) and Joe Talia (drums) were nominated for Jazz Ensemble of the Year at the 2011 Bell Awards.

This concert, supported by the Melbourne Jazz Co-operative, will feature music from Keller’s 60-minute work Place, which draws inspiration from the area surrounding Bermagui, NSW, and explores notions of identity and belonging. The quartets will also perform new arrangements of other works for strings.

Keller’s commissioned work, Place, came into being after Genevieve Lacey, director of the Four Winds Festival held at Bermagui in NSW, asked the pianist/composer to write a larger work inspired by the concept of place. Some time after Keller had agreed, she was invited to spend a few days Bermagui in the hope that this would create a link to the work. Keller was offered the chance to utilise a string quartet.

When Place was performed (with a different string ensemble and with Niko Schauble sitting in for Joe Talia) at the Melbourne Recital Centre in April to open the Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival,  I was so enthralled and captivated I decided not to attempt describing the piece. It was just wonderful to sit and experience what the two quartet provided.

I wrote only this: “To put Place in a context, it brought to mind the Allan Browne Quintet‘s The Drunken Boat and the works of Maria Schneider. There was an unfolding or evolving and many changes of mood signalled by the shifts in texture, timbre and pace. There were restive periods of spiky percussiveness, wonderfully breathy contributions from Ball (on pocket trumpet and silver-foil-wrapped trumpet) and Whitehurst and lots of space for expectation to build. The resonance of the cello was beautifully used. Schauble was, as always, able to intervene with finesse and never to intrude.”

Where else could you find two quartets performing original works for only $15?

ROGER MITCHELL

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