Category Archives: WANGARATTA JAZZ 2009

Australia’s major festival of improvised music


John McAll on piano, Jordan Murray on trombone, Tim Wilson on flute and alto sax (David Rex broke his arm), Adam Simmons on reeds, Philip Rex on acoustic bass, David Jones on drums at Jazz on Ovens

I loved Black Money, John McAll’s first album as bandleader and composer, so I relaxed and enjoyed as the septet played tracks including Atlantis, I Should Care, Behind the Bushes (think sinister, think silly swaggering cowboy elements in America), Melbournology, the superb Glitter and Dust (“melancholy meets brilliant thoughts”) and Chick Corea’s Humpty Dumpty.

The audience loved it and queued to buy the album later. Shades of the wonderful Way Out West gig at Ovens the previous year.

I’m hoping there’ll be another album from the “lesser known McAll” soon, with this line-up or similar.

Pics to come


Saturday performance in Alpine MDF Theatre, from Berlin: Carsten Daerr on piano, Oliver Potratz on bass, Eric Schaeffer on drums

I’m not sure how Daerr introduced the opening piece, Dumpelh, but later his explanation of the title seemed close to “becalmed”. He seemed to mean it when he said we were “a really nice audience” and “I’m proud and glad to be here now”. Daerr’s engaging personality shone through the set of originals — it was easy to warm to this trio. Their energy impressed in Manila, which was followed by Phantomsz, then the classically influenced Intuition (“inspired by a little child playing on my piano at home, only using the white keys, experimenting with the 12-tone scale”). The trio’s obsession with photography was given expression in the developing rhythms of Full Aperture.

Baby Levi, dedicated to Daerr’s baby nephew, opened beautifully, with the piano again contributing a classical feel, Potratz’s bowed bass providing rhythmic underpinning and Schaeffer’s drums giving strength. Daerr briefly played a melodica a la Erik Griswold, which added dimension. Next came Potratz’s composition Templo, inspired by a visit the previous year to Mexico City, where Christians built a church on the site of an Aztec temple in a bid to capture the energy of the place. The set closed with Innen (Inside), Daerr bending in to tap the piano strings and using a small cymbal or bell, Schaeffer applying the end of a drumstick to a cymbal and Potratz using his bow. It was a gradual build-up before they really got into it.

I left wondering what had contributed to my enjoyment of the set. This was a polished, energetic group with a friendly approach. They did not take themselves too seriously. They enjoyed playing and let it show. And Daerr in particular had loads of style, yet avoided in any way appearing to be full of his abilities. I’m a sucker for style in politics, so was I impressed for that reason? Or was it because I’d arrived on a high from hearing Nock & Schauble? Well, these factors probably had an effect (these days many would say “impacted”), but there was more to it. These guys could play, they were inventive, light and amusing without being frivolous or insubstantial. Endearing sums it up.

Pics to come


Mike Nock on piano and Niko Schauble on drums at Memorial Hall

What you lose on the swings you gain on the roundabouts, so if I found Sylent Running a tad soporific, I was engrossed from the moment of arrival at this gig. Simplicity in the line-up was reflected in the music they created with such apparent (and probably real) ease. Schauble is my favourite drummer, so I was anticipating a treat. Couldn’t help contrasting his playing style with that of Ari Hoenig — the latter being much more the showman and Schauble most of the time seeming to be utterly lost in the music, unaware of anything or anyone else. But of course he was well aware of Nock — the communication was tangible, though it was achieved through no visible means.

This was music to fill the soul and totally occupy the attention, so that you wanted to be nowhere else but there, in the moment. I found myself smiling, though there was no patter and no gimmickry. Variations evolved without hurry, with textures and timbres valued by each player. I heard Art Blakey’s words (as recalled by Charles Tolliver) in my head: This was music to wash away the dust from our everyday lives. As the set evolved, there were periods of swing, of substantial force, of great involvement (of audience and the players). And at times Schauble was so delicate it would break your heart. Is that what makes drummers great … the ability to release sudden force, yet at times to be so restrained?

I have not said much about Mike Nock’s playing, but it was superb. Leaving this gig felt like returning to Earth after a trip to some space beyond. A space of immense satisfaction.