Category Archives: MWIJF 2015

Articles and images related to Melbourne Women’s International Jazz Festival 2015.

COOL SAX AND SAM’S KITCHEN

Angela Davis

Angela Davis during her quartet’s MWIJF performance at Bennetts Lane

REVIEW

Angela Davis Quartet, Melbourne Women’s International Jazz festival, Wednesday 9 December, 8.30pm at Bennetts Lane

Line-up: Angela Davis alto sax, Tony Gould piano, Sam Anning bass, Sam Bates drums

I’m showing my age, but the name Angela Davis brings to my mind the 1960s political activist in the US rather than a young saxophonist. But it’s time for me to move on.

In music, as in food, I am a lover of contrasts. I like black pepper on vanilla ice cream, fresh fig with a dash of Three Crabs fish sauce (the brand is important). And I can be moved by the beauty of a simple phrase or melody and yet also totally captivated by the most fiery, out there antics in the music you’d often hear at Melbourne’s Make It Up Club.

It’s the zone in between that at times does not grab me, I think because of my desire for tension, complexity, abrasion or propulsion in music on one hand, or exquisite simplicity and beauty on the other.

Some will share or understand this view, others won’t. It is only relevant because it influences my reaction — much as I may wish otherwise.

How is this palaver relevant to this outing by saxophonist Angela Davis, who has recently returned to Australia after having lived in New York City for the past eight years?

Well, John McBeath in one of the Murdoch newspapers I refuse to buy said Davis “has a beautifully elegant, honeyed alto tone, reminiscent of Paul Desmond” and Step Tempest has referred to her “sweet tone” and said “for Ms Davis, the ‘art’ is found in the ‘melody’”.

I’d agree. In this outing with Sam Anning (also recently returned from years in New York), maestro Tony Gould and Sam Bates on drums, Davis seemed to offer the epitomy of cool saxophone, with a pure, clean tone. The gravelly abrasiveness and guttural antics of some saxophonists was not there.

Her purity of tone was ideally suited to the pieces chosen, including Fujiyama and the sprightly Toki’s Theme from Dave Brubeck’s Jazz Impressions of Japan, gentle Joanna’s Waltz (Frank Wunsch), a warm rendition of Annie Laurie, the moving original Hymn For the Lonely and Johnny Mandel’s Emily.

Two duets with Gould — Martha (Tom Waits) and variations on Abide With Me — were especially beautiful.

I particularly warmed to the quartet’s energy and swing on Davis’s engaging compositions 41 St Nick and A Thousand Feet from Bergen Street. I also loved the look on Sam Anning’s face when Angela Davis told him she had been able to look into his kitchen from her apartment across from his in Harlem.

During her time in the US, Angela received a Masters of Music from the University of the Arts and studied with many saxophone greats including Dick Oatts, Lee Konitz and Steve Wilson.

Davis has two albums — The Art of Melody (2013) and Lady Luck (2015). If she is back in Melbourne for a while, jazz fans can look forward to some new compositions, and perhaps even new insights into what went on in Anning’s kitchen.

ROGER MITCHELL

Here’s a few images:

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HOW SUITE, HOW SEAMLESS

Arlene Fletcher at the launch of Timing.

Arlene Fletcher at the launch of Timing.

REVIEW

CD launch of Timing by Arlene Fletcher Trio as part of the Melbourne Women’s International Jazz festival, Tuesday 8 December, 8.30pm at Bennetts Lane

Line-up: Arlene Fletcher double bass, Harry Cook piano, James Milic drums

This trio has been out and about for some time with the material from the new album, Timing, a live album that was recorded at Bennetts Lane in February, 2015, so the musicians know it — and themselves — well. The result — billed as “a turning point of pulling away from forms and improvising as a trio” — is seamless and organic, the intensity swelling and receding within the pieces composed by Fletcher and Cook.

I heard them at Long Play in Fitzroy North in mid November, Cook playing Nord, and it was evident then that the trio can build momentum and usher in changes that sustain interest, so that each piece is a journey.

In the first set they played mostly compositions from the album, plus an improvised solo from Fletcher. The title track and Fletcher’s Dandelion (“a happy tune with lots of minor chords”) were engrossing, Cook’s Break included some deft brush work from Milic and the closing Valley opened vistas as it waxed and waned.

Apparently this gig came with free icy poles, but for me the highlight came after the break when the trio played parts I, II and IV of Twenty Months — a suite Fletcher composed for a quintet and linked to her poetry, which was handed out to patrons.

Energetic renditions of Whiz Kid and Anti-Freeze followed, but I wanted to hear more of the suite, which really worked with the trio.

No doubt this trio will take us on new adventures — perhaps even recording Twenty Months.

ROGER MITCHELL

Here’s a few pictures:

 

 

SOLACE IN AN EMPTY GARDEN

Andrea Keller at the launch of Travellers.

Andrea Keller at the launch of Travellers.

REVIEW:

CD launch of Travellers by Keller/Murphy/Browne as part of the Melbourne Women’s International Jazz festival, Monday 7 December, 8.30pm at Bennetts Lane.

Monday at Bennetts Lane was always Allan Browne‘s night — a chance to muse on life and enjoy the gentle humour and poetic insights of this inspiring occupant of the drum kit.

Pianist Andrea Keller and bassist Tamara Murphy began playing in a trio with Allan on Monday nights in 2003, so it was entirely apposite for their last album together to be set afloat on this night of the week and in this festival that they shared so often.

But that did not help ease a lingering sense of sadness at Allan’s absence as Keller and Murphy, with resplendent help from Eugene Ball on trumpet, opened with Days of Wine and Roses (a track from the trio’s 2006 Carried by the Sun album) and via Keller’s distinctive Queen For Tea into Browne’s Broncoscopy.

The latter was tightly delivered and lots of fun, with shimmering horn, heaps of energy and a robust bass solo, yet I could not shrug off the feeling that the humour and philosophy was missing, the poetry silenced.

Yet Allan was always in the minds of these three close friends and colleagues, Keller recalling that the ballad of great beauty she wrote from a fragment of melody by Czech guitarist / composer David Doruzka — eventually named A Glimpse of the Past — was most likely to have been played in the trio’s first gig with the drummer.

My first highlight of the night came next in Murphy’s ballad A Call, A Whisper, which was entrancing. Not for the first time, after that, I wondered how musicians can switch mood, or change track, so suddenly when they closed the set only moments later with Monk’s Hackensack. I was still deeply immersed in the whisper.

Poetry did return in the second set, but before that came my second highlight with Keller’s All the Colours Grey, which was sublime and gripping, and close behind it the new album’s title track — Murphy’s Travellers.

Then Miriam Zolin, close to Browne and to improvised music, who penned some wondrous words to accompany the album, stood in for the absent Al in reading a Beverley George poem, Empty Garden, while the trio played. It was moving and effective, helping to ease the loss and fill the gap. For a few moments it was as if Al Browne was there again.

Browne’s Cyclosporin followed, before Keller spoke of celebrating “what Al gave us and what he shared with us”. The set closed with a composition of Murphy’s that was played at every one of the trio’s gigs. Announcing Lullaby, Keller said simply, “This is for Allan.”

Vale Allan Browne.

ROGER MITCHELL