Category Archives: WANGARATTA JAZZ 2010

WANGARATTA JAZZ 2010 — STU HUNTER ENSEMBLE: THE GATHERING

Stu Hunter

Sweet suite: Stu Hunter

GIG: WPAC theatre, 1pm, Sat, October 30

Stu Hunter piano, Matt Keegan tenor sax, Jonathan Zwartz acoustic bass, Simon Barker drums, Julien Wilson tenor sax, James Greening trombone and pocket trumpet

THIS suite won Contemporary Jazz Album of the Year at the Bell Awards and Best Independent Jazz album in the Independent Music Awards. I loved the album (see Ausjazz review), but had not heard the music live.

Live it was … is. Alive. Inventive. In the moment. After Hunter and Keegan solos, Greening exudes rich blurts of sound. A heart-stopping solo from Wilson and you can feel the intensity of feeling in the room. Barker slowly covers his drum kit with an orange cloth, then plays over the covering.

Simon Barker

Under cover: Simon Barker

Wilson’s tenor shimmies higher, Keegan’s goes lower. There is no piano, no bass, no ‘bone. The saxes have the floor, their notes slowly swelling and left hanging.

Barker removes the cloth from his drums. Keegan plays with expression. The jocularity displayed earlier has gone. This is serious music. Hunter’s notes are gently answered by the horns. From Zwartz comes a tiny infusion of lament, delivered with the bow. Reverting to plucked strings, he grimaces as the notes are squeezed from the bass.

Jonathan Swartz

Squeezed notes: Jonathan Zwartz

There is a horn outburst. Greening’s pocket trumpet sounds brighter and sharper. The piano chatters. Drums and bass are in devilish dialogue. That tiny trumpet squeals before being discarded in favour of the trombone. There is a piano soliloquy — deep, solemn, hymn-like chords reverberate before saxes and bowed bass join in.

James Greening

Primal: James Greening on 'bone.

Then there is a change. Barker inserts a definite beat and the saxes glide in over the piano’s reverence. Barker has a chain draped over the kit. He is lost in the rattling percussion he creates. Zwartz adds depth. The saxes bid us ta ta while the trombone adds some wah-wah. This is physical sound, visceral, alive, animal. The beat is building momentum. Greening gives us guttural gravel sounds, his ‘bone crying out, wailing and shaking as if driven from within. Suddenly his playing is soft for a moment, then it blares forth. It is primal, earthy, from the beginnings of life. This is what brass is all about — twisted, bent, tortured and throat-clearing.

The saxes join in. Meanwhile bass, piano and drums have kept up a relentless background pattern. Tension is building. Barker goes beserk. He is having an episode, a plosive fit, a sudden and unpredictable outburst that scatters all before it.

Simon Barker

Beserk: Simon Barker on drums.

What will come next? Piano is delivered in staccato bursts, in little forays out of the trenches. Then Hunter, by contrast, is left alone to skit across the keyboard, his left hand delivering a dramatic rhythm. He builds and holds the tension. He skips across the keys. Then the others jump in. Wilson growls his way in, followed by Keegan, then the solo trombone — each is playing over a structure underpinned by piano, bass and drums. Keegan embarks on an escapade. Gradually volume and expectation are heightened. It is like a volcano about to erupt.  Then one tiny note ends it.

This was a gathering not to have missed. Surely no one left without being entranced and engrossed.

Stu Hunter ensemble

The Gathering ensemble: Hunter, Wilson, Keegan, Zwartz, Barker and Greening.

WANGARATTA JAZZ 2010— PAUL WILLIAMSON’S BY A THREAD

By A Thread

By A Thread

GIG: Holy Trinity Cathedral, noon, Sat. October 29, 2010

Paul Williamson trumpet, Geoff Hughes guitar, James McLean drums

IN June 2009 at New Box Studios this trio brought out the eponymous album By A Thread on the Downstream label, which aims to get bums on seats at live music performances by extending the reach of the music. The cathedral at Wangaratta was well suited to By A Thread’s ethereal, soulful music. It was moving to hear Paul Williamson’s lyrical trumpet notes (the other PW is a saxophonist) soaring heavenwards into the hallowed heights of this magnificent space.

Paul Williamson

Lyrical beauty: Paul Williamson

I felt that this concert could easily be called worship. Hughes and Williamson created dreamy, introspective music that was both reverent and a reverie. McLean’s drums were muted, his sound somehow flattened out or damped down behind the other instruments. At one stage his playing seemed like pebbles rolling about gently in the tray of a tip truck. Then came rattles and the sound of sticks on metal.

By A Thread took the cathedral audience on a journey that could have taken listeners deep within or off into flights of fancy. I could not stay for the whole set, but the time I spent was deeply valued.

Geoff Hughes and Paul Williamson

Worship: Geoff Hughes and Paul Williamson

WANGARATTA JAZZ 2010 — JOE CHINDAMO TRIO

Joe Chindamo

Dynamics: Joe Chindamo

GIG: WPAC theatre, 11am, Saturday, October 30, 2010

Joe Chindamo piano, Phillip Rex acoustic bass, Raj Jayaweera drums

ONE of the must-have albums of the year, at least for fans of the Coen brothers, is Joe Chindamo’s Another Time Some Other Place, on which he re-interprets songs from these films. Chindamo has the ability to distill the essence of a song and deliver a new version that rivals the original. With the trio at Wangaratta he did not play any pieces from that album, but his treatment of Simon and Garfunkel’s America was exemplary.

The trio opened with Have You Met Miss Jones. Deep rumbles gave way to bouncy piano, with little skating runs dipping in and out of harmonies, then light swing when Rex and Jayaweera joined in to build the intensity. As always, Chindamo was right into interaction with the other two, attentive and responsive as he leaned over the keyboard with concentration, making delicate contributions into and over the rhythm. Rex’s robust bass was impressive.

America opened percussively, Chindamo plucking the piano strings as Rex knocked on the wood of the bass. Controlled variations in dynamics were a feature of the whole set and in this piece the trio moved effortlessly into a driving chordal rhythm which was deep, then light. The familiar melody emerged, was taken up strongly and then allowed to slip back into a fragile hint that was allowed to get lost and then be recovered. There is always interest and development in Chindamo’s arrangements. He is an artist at the keyboard.

Phillip Rex

Robust: Phillip Rex

Next we were taken smartly into a foot-tapping version of Gershwin’s It Aint Necessarily So. Chindamo knows swing intimately and can add a single note at times loaded with verve. His hand occasionally hovers over the keyboard, waiting for the moment. He is polished, but is right into the music and does not seem to be showing off. I loved the variations in dynamics and the interplay in the trio evident in this piece.

The trio took a gentle approach to Dolly Parton’s Jolene, then moved into an original Chindamo composition, Something Will Come to Light, for which he won the 2009 APRA Music Award for Jazz Composition of the year. In this and the engrossing piece that followed, the pianist timed his interventions to perfection, choosing the right moments to make his input and how strongly to contribute.

The trio closed with Moon River. The introduction was regal and the phrasing beautiful as the melody flowed in, the intensity swelling for a brief period. After a quiet digression the melody crept back in to feed our nostalgia, Rex and Jayaweera contributing minimally. This piece and the set closed with Chindamo puddling in the highest notes, seemingly lost in the music.

Raj Jayaweera

Attentive: Raj Jayaweera

Some may prefer a less lyrical, romantic approach in a trio, but Chindamo’s skill is a little akin to that of author Peter Carey — the ability to take a story (or a tune) and make it his own. If you doubt this, listen to his versions of the themes from Fargo or Miller’s Crossing.

Rex and Jayaweera were content not to push themselves forward, but were integral to this performance.