Category Archives: MIJF 2013

SINKING INTO THE SAXOPHONY

David Ades

David Ades

MINI REVIEW

Melbourne International Jazz Festival Club Sessions at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club:
10.30pm Monday 3 June 2013 — David Ades & Friends
8pm Tuesday 4 June 2013 — Open Loose
10.30pm Tuesday 4 June 2013 — Snarky Puppy

On 26 August last year, musicians gathered at Uptown Jazz Cafe in a benefit concert for saxophonist David Ades, who was in Germany receiving treatment for cancer. On 3 November, Ades came on stage at the Wangaratta Performing Arts Centre to drive one of the 2012 Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival‘s highlights. Ades was on fire as he joined Julien Wilson on tenor, Jonathan Zwartz on bass and Danny Fischer on drums to launch his album A Glorious Certainty, which was recorded in Brooklyn in 2011. (See Ausjazz review: Musical conversations say it all.)

The MIJF club session on 3 June gave Ades an opportunity to revisit the album with his friends from Open Loose, with whom he recorded it — Tony Malaby on tenor, Mark Helias on contra bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums. Ades did not waste the opportunity, leading us through the album songs with amazing energy. After a blistering opening (was it La Ripaille?), highlights included mingling alto and tenor in Melissa (dedicated to artist Melissa Thompson, Ades’s wife until her death in 2005), the resplendently spiky Dreaming In Colour and the minimalist textures of This Land, which again featured some beautiful reed work, with alto and tenor independent yet unified, and a great bass solo. The closing Philstream (for Phil Treloar) produced more entanglements of the saxes, some plaintive vibrato, bird-like cries and a deep drone from Helias’s bow.

AUSJAZZ IMAGE GALLERY: DAVID ADES & FRIENDS

Tony Malaby

Tony Malaby

In the smaller room at Bennetts the following night, Open Loose played while David Ades watched. As expected, the music was much different, though not that similar to the Mark Helias material aired at The Forum Upstairs on Sunday 2 June with the Monash Art Ensemble (Ausjazz review: Band on the run). I felt a strong groove from the trio as I burrowed through the throng to catch a glimpse of the players. Just ahead, off-duty drummer Ronny Ferella was moving to the vibe, which was surprisingly gentle, yet totally involving.

Rather than epic complexity and frequent change, this outing was a celebration of texture and timbre, with each instrument given the time and space to drift in and out of our collective consciousness. This was music to luxuriate in, to sink into and move with, to give in to and absorb utterly. Open Loose took us places that were visceral yet not driven into us. By contrast with the Ades gig the previous night, Tony Malaby was much more prominent, exploring the range of the tenor — especially the lower registers. Cleaver also showed a lot more of his capabilities, with some killer solos that were nevertheless far more expressive than mere crash ‘n’ bash. Helias contributed arresting strength and also explored the deepest of depths. I did not want this gig to end.

AUSJAZZ IMAGE GALLERY: OPEN LOOSE

It did, of course, and I had to decide whether to go next door for the second sell-out Snarky Puppy gig of the night or stay for some hard core straight ahead jazz from Sean Wayland on piano, Brett Hirst on bass, Kneebody’s Nate Wood on drums and James Muller unexpectedly on guitar. From comments later, staying put would have been a pretty good choice, but I had to find out what all the fuss was about. What was Snarky Puppy up to that had sold out The Forum downstairs as well as two unscheduled club gigs?

Snarky Puppy

Snarky Puppy

I’m not sure that I have an adequate answer, but it’s fair to say the larger room (Jazz Lab) was full of young people who probably would have been happier jettisoning the chairs so they could move more readily to the raw funk, soul and jazz of Snarky Puppy. There was a rock feel to this gig, and the smiling faces and energy in the band and crowd guaranteed success from the start. The musicians in this collective (not all came on tour from the US) are talented. The band is practised, knows what it’s about and how to woo a crowd. At one point the audience was enthusiastically participating in two-part harmonies and just bursting to get involved. There was a nice, long interchange between the percussionist, Nate Werth, and drummer, Robert “Sput” Searight.

It was like being at a “jazz” party and surely that’s no bad thing.

I left before vocalist Alison Wedding joined the band, but I’m certain she won the hearts of patrons with ease.

AUSJAZZ IMAGE GALLERY: SNARKY PUPPY

It was late, I was tired, and this music lacked the tension, dissonance and unexpectedness that make much improvised music so engrossing. That said, it was great to see this venue packed with young fans of live music.

The Wayland gig was still going, but the doorway seemed too crowded, so I headed for the train.

ROGER MITCHELL

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SIMPLY HEAVENLY

Allan Browne

Allan Browne OAM

MINI REVIEW: Melbourne International Jazz Festival

Lost in the Stars, Allan Browne Trio with Marc Hannaford and Sam Pankhurst, Monday 3 June 2013 at 8pm, Bennetts Lane Jazz Club

International guests are often the major drawcards at MIJF, giving audiences a chance to hear bands and musicians whose work they would otherwise know only from recordings. But special experiences may come from collaborations with Australian artists or, as in this trio, entirely from locals.

Sam Pankhurst

Sam Pankhurst

In a world premiere and album launch, drummer Allan Browne’s trio introduced interpretations of American pianist Mary Lou WilliamsZodiac Suite and German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen‘s Tierkreis (Zodiac)Williams intended these pieces to be dedicated to fellow musicians born under each astrological sign.

After feeding us some of Count Basie‘s Pound Cake and a rendition of Mal Waldron‘s Warm Canto, the trio played a first set of Taurus, Cancer and Leo and a second set of Scorpio, Virgo and Aires — for each sign playing their take on Williams followed by their interpretation of Stockhausen.

The danger of waxing too lyrical too often about live (or recorded) music is that there’s little room left for what newspapers (for the uninitiated, these were once printed on paper) used to call the “world war III” banner headline. But WTH, this trio’s work was heavenly.

Marc Hannaford

Marc Hannaford

Not only was the music special, but the band was obviously having so much fun performing it that I spent most of the gig with a smile on my face. They played with glee. Hannaford often delights in complexity rather than melody, but this outing was different. The pieces showed much variation in feel and style — at times solemn, at others lively and rollicking. This music was in turn  elegant, playful, stylish, dreamy. It danced, bounced, flowed, flourished. It was also delicate, tentative, eerie and minimal. Browne played with finesse, Pankhurst with warmth, Hannaford with clarity. The use of dynamics was exquisite. 

The second set finished with the Lennie Tristano piece Wow. That pretty much summed up my reaction.

ROGER MITCHELL

Lost in the Stars is available on Jazzhead.

AUSJAZZ IMAGE GALLERY

THE END BEGINS, AN ENCORE ENDS

Kneebody

Kneebody at The Forum: Ben Wendel sax, Nate Wood drums, Kaveh Rastegar bass, Shane Endsley trumpet and Adam Benjamin Fender Rhodes.

 

MINI REVIEW

The End / Kneebody (US), The Forum Upstairs on Sunday 2 June 2013 at 7pm, Melbourne International Jazz Festival

The End

The End plus

The crowd was noticeably younger at The Forum Upstairs for this gig, and expectations were high for the genre-bending five-piece US band Kneebody, billed as combining “the depth of jazz, the swagger of hip-hop and the conviction of rock” in a “no holds barred brand of musical expression”. Well, we all know the writers of festival blurbs can get a little carried away, but the second set was likely to be exciting.

But before that we had a concert beginning with The End, playing compositions by guitarist band leader Tim Willis and with Kneebody’s Shane Endsley as a guest on trumpet. One tiny gripe I have was that MIJF artistic director Michael Tortoni — who must be fairly busy — did not introduce The End until the beginning of the second set (that’s the end of those beginning and end references BTW). It seems reasonable for any band worthy of playing at this major festival to be introduced before they play, but I’m probably old fashioned.

The End opened as if The Forum Upstairs was on fire and only the vigour of its musical output could extinguish the flames. But as the set evolved it was clear that the compositions were taking us to more interesting places than loud rock-infused vibes. After the Eugene Ball and Mark Helias compositions played at this venue earlier in the day, I was looking for variation, development and unpredictability to maintain interest as well as inspire admiration in the musicianship. Willis’s quintet plus Endsley delivered that — I found that I enjoyed each piece more as the set progressed.

Endsley’s playing certainly added significantly to the line-up, but the standout players on the night for The End were Willis, Nick Martyn on drums and Gareth Hill on bass.

Kneebody

Kneebody

Kneebody has been together for 12 years and it shows. The band’s musicianship was exemplary — in other words, they could play. Their work was tight and virtuosic. Kaveh Rastegar was engaging as spokesman.

Their compositions, many by keyboard player Adam Benjamin, included rhythmic repetition, layered landscapes of sound, psychedelia, intensely percussive periods, attacks with mounting intensity and the lush, sustained feel that the Fender Rhodes can deliver. High Noon had an energetic, pumped up Bill Frisell feel to it. They played with some clapping, fiddled with pedals on sax and trumpet feeds that enabled recording and playback on the run, and they had dry ice “smoke”.  This was pretty slick for a jazz gig, and lots of fun as well. The audience loved the set and called on an encore.

There is a tiny “but”. In the end, I felt that this talented quintet played material that did not take us on a journey quite as interesting as did the compositions tackled by The End. What was missing? Well, I suspect Kneebody was delivering exactly the music that their fans expected, but I’d like to have seen more interesting exchanges between instruments — jousting, if you like, or challenges issued and answered. It was almost as if the conversation was as expected, rather than there being a surprise or twist popping up to create electricity.

Kaveh Rastegar thanked Graham Wood, co-owner of the Ellington Jazz Club in Perth and a key figure in the recent inaugural Perth International Jazz Festival, for inviting Kneebody to Australia. We all should thank him as well.

GALLERY: Pictures from this gig

ROGER MITCHELL