Category Archives: STONNINGTON JAZZ 2014

Stonnington Jazz is a popular festival featuring Australian jazz and improvising musicians. It is an annual event with a program devised by artistic director Adrian Jackson, who also fulfils that role for the Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival.

FAMILIAR FACES AND SURPRISE GUESTS

Peter Gaudion

Peter Gaudion with The Syncopators

REVIEWS FOR STONNINGTON JAZZ 2014:
The Syncopators: 30th Anniversary Concert, Malvern Town Hall, Saturday 24 May, 8pm
Paul Williamson’s Hammond Jazz Party, Chapel Off Chapel, Saturday 24 May, 10.40pm (second set)

This has to be the first of two “Twitter-style” reviews, or how to sum up two sets in very few words indeed. Truth is, time has marched on and we are now in the opening days of the Melbourne International Jazz Festival. But some Stonnington Jazz gigs deserve a mention — and much more if time permitted.

The Syncopators

The Syncopators

So, for their 30th Anniversary Concert, much-loved traditional jazz band The Syncopators treated us to a first set full of swing, humour, energy and good old-fashioned foot-stomping music played with clarity and finesse. Frontline players Peter Gaudion (trumpet, vocals), Richard Miller (clarinet, saxophone, vocals) and Chris Ludowyk (trombone, vocals) were joined by Steve Grant (piano), Peter Baylor (guitar, banjo), James Clark (bass, tuba) and Rod Gilbert (drums, vocals).

Chris Ludowyk and Peter Baylor

Chris Ludowyk and Peter Baylor

I had to leave before the break, regretting that I would not hear guest Bob Barnard bring out his trumpet. Fem Belling was also to join the band on vocals in the second set. It was great to at last hear The Syncopators live rather than on a recording. But many patrons at tables in the town hall were renewing old acquaintances. Bring on the 40th anniversary concert.

Paul Williamson's Hammond Jazz Party

Renee Geyer joins Paul Williamson’s Hammond Jazz Party

Paul Williamson’s Hammond Jazz Combo, teaming the saxophonist-singer with Tim Neal (Hammond organ) and Mike Jordan (drums, vocals), has become a fixture at Stonnington Jazz. It is always a hoot. Paul loves to surprise with guest players on the night. This time we knew from the program that the combo would be joined by Bob Sedergreen (piano), Ross Irwin (trumpet) and Dave Palmer (trombone), but it was a huge thrill to see Jeff Lang appear for the fourth song and later Renee Geyer entering into the antics.

Jeff Lang and Tim Neal

Jeff Lang and Tim Neal

The taste of Lang’s slide guitar was not enough for me. I could have listened all night to Sedergreen’s swinging notes. And Tim Neal on the Hammond can send out vibrations that are sensational in bodily sense.

There were serious moments — Let The Good Times Roll was played as a tribute to the recently departed Gil Askey — but this gig had its usual party feel, with some delicious brassy farts and lots of horns either going ballistic or delighting in their united power.

If you’ve never been to this jazz party, make sure to come next year.

ROGER MITCHELL

The Syncopators have some gigs coming up:

Thursday 5th June: Rising Sun Hotel, 2 Raglan Street, South Melbourne. 6.30 – 9.30pm

Sunday 22nd June: Rosstown Hotel, cnr. Dandenong & Koornang roads, Carnegie. 1.30 – 4.30pm

The Syncopators

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MUCH-LOVED STANDARDS

Doug and Les

Stonnington stalwarts: Doug and Les finally take a seat in the crowd.

If you recognise these two faces, it’s because Doug and Les have long been making a big contribution to Stonnington Jazz over the years, whether taking tickets on the door at Malvern Town Hall and Chapel Off Chapel or driving artists to and from these venues.

These capable lads know and love the music. They do their work voluntarily.

In the picture above, they are seen at the final festival gig for 2014 at Chapel Off Chapel, taking the weight off after many nights of duty.

It’s always great to see these guys at Stonnington Jazz. They help make patrons feel welcome at this friendly and relaxed festival.

ROGER MITCHELL

ITALIAN TRADITION TURNS ADVENTUROUS

Virna Sanzone and Niko Schauble

Virna Sanzone and Niko Schauble in The Italian Project

REVIEW: Acquacheta / Paul Grabowsky & Virna Sanzone: The Italian Project, Chapel Off Chapel, Friday 23 May, 8pm for Stonnington Jazz

In all my travels abroad, I have not been to Italy. Now I want to go. Yet the musicians who have inspired this wish are close to home.

This concert was billed as “jazz with an alluring Italian accent”. It might also have been promoted as two sets by superb musicians, some with Italian connections. Saxophonist and pianist Mirko Guerrini moved to Melbourne last year to take up a teaching position at Monash University. At Wangaratta last year he teamed with guitarist Stephen Magnusson, bassist Frank Di Sario and drummer Niko Schauble as Acquacheta, but I heard only part of that concert.

It was a treat to hear a whole set from this quartet as they reinterpreted songs by John Lennon and George Harrison, some originals by Magnusson, Di Sario and Guerrini, movie theme Prima della Pioggia (Before the Rain), plus En la Orilla del Mundo (At the Edge of the World, possibly by Arturo Castro).

Mirko Guerrini

Mirko Guerrini

What a rich tapestry this was. I particularly liked the sharp-edged and abrasive Mag-Pie (Magnusson), the piano’s clarity and scant guitar in Before the Rain, the developing intensity of Javier (Di Sario), which included a great guitar solo over drums and bass, and ruminative reeds with rapid vibrato and rasping “parps”. In the closing Here Comes the Sun, Guerrini built his solo so beautifully to a climax of squeaks and squawks that I decided it would be the best sax solo of the night. I spoke too soon.

The second set ditched the guitar and bass (sorry Steve and Frank) and added pianist-composer-arranger Paul Grabowsky and Sydney vocalist Virna Sanzone for a collaboration titled The Italian Project — interpretations of traditional Italian and Sicilian folk songs, and more recent songs from Fellini and other modern Italian composers.

Virna Sanzone

Virna Sanzone

The program notes said Sanzone’s delivery of the lyrics “often provides a dramatic contrast to the imaginative improvisations of her colleagues” and that was indeed the case. As someone who at times needs convincing (or education) on the value of vocals — I often enjoy other instruments more — this set was a revelation, perhaps precisely because I loved the disparity between the expressive vocals and the riveting work of the other musicians.

It probably helped that I could not understand the words being sung, because that left the voice unadorned, except by the emotions conjured by my mind from the description given by Sanzone about the songs.

Two things stood out in this set. First, Virna Sanzone conveyed so much emotion in vocals that were powerful yet often caressing, the degree of care taken giving the impressions that the sounds were being nurtured as they emerged. I especially loved the vocals in Mi Votu E Mi Rivotu and the yearning in Sanzone’s voice in Mi Piace, as well as the way she entered so unobtrusively during the piece.

Paul Grabowsky

Paul Grabowsky

Second, the accompanying musicians were just superb, as well as being sensitive to their vocalist. Highlights included Guerrini’s beautiful solo in La Pampura Di L’Aiva (at times he seemed just to breathe into the sax),  Grabowsky’s powerful swinging solo and Schauble in full flight in Tu Si’ Na Cosa Grande, another fantastic Guerrini solo in Ma L’Amore, No, and his droning buzz in Mi Votu E Mi Rivotu accompanied by deliberate, spaced chords from Grabowsky. Mi Piace brought subtlety on piano and drums, and wondrously variable dynamics along with mewlings from Guerrini before the piece gathered intensity.

I could go on raving, but you get the message. The imaginative work by Guerrini, Grabowsky and Schauble throughout this set would have been a joy to behold, but offset against Sanzone’s vocals it was a perfect fit. Not surprisingly there was an encore.

This was an ideal way to see and hear Italy.

ROGER MITCHELL

There are more images to come, when time permits.

Mirko Guerrini

Paul Grabowsky

Virna Sanzone