THE HORN’S DECADENT BLAST OFF

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The Horn celebrates 10 years over four days.

PREVIEW

The Horn African Cafe and Restaurant celebrates its 10th birthday, June 1 – 4, 20 Johnston Street, Collingwood

Excitement is building as the opening night of the Melbourne International Jazz Festival approaches on Friday, but The Horn Cafe in Collingwood is about to launch its own mini festival to celebrate 10 years of providing food and live music.

All guests who drop in over the four days of celebration, starting today, will be given a free glass of bubbles to accompany lots of music, special guests, food and drink specials.

The African cafe and music lounge was opened in June, 2007, by Peter Harper and his wife, Enushu. Over that time it has given patrons the opportunity to experience authentic and modern Ethiopian cuisine, including homemade injera, in a comfortable and relaxed environment. Guests also relax in the courtyard and enjoy the large range of African beers.

Live music performances take place on Thursdays and Sundays with special performances by jazz bands in residence, Ted Vining and Bob Sedergreen, on Thursdays. On Sundays, the usual fare is Ethiopian jazz, funk, hip-hop when the Black Jesus Experience performs between 6.30pm and 10pm.

The Horn Cafe serves organic and single blend Sidamo Ethiopian Coffee and traditional Ethiopian Coffee ceremonies are available upon request.

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Blow members relax at The Horn. Picture courtesy Gerry Koster

First up at The Horn in the live music line-up for the 10th birthday will be exceptional improvisers Blow, comprising Ted Vining on drums, Bob Sedergreen on keys, Peter Harper on alto saxophone, Ian Dixon on trumpet and flugelhorn and Gareth Hill on double bass. Blow will perform on June 1.

On Friday, June 2 the line-up will be Elmoth Reggae, Funk, Soul Legends. On Saturday, June 3 Alariiya Afrobeat Sounds will feature GP Saxy.

BJX

The Black Jesus Experience.        Picture: Bram Lammers

On Sunday, June 4, The Black Jesus Experience will perform with special guests. BJX is an eight-piece band playing a danceable blend of traditional Ethiopian songs and 21st Century groove. With backgrounds as diverse as the five continents the members of ‘BJX’ hail from, their music reflects the multicultural vibrancy of the band’s hometown, Melbourne.

The Horn Cafe opens at 7pm Wednesday to Friday and 6.30pm on Saturday, 3pm on Sunday. Call (03) 9417 4670 for details of performance times during the 10th birthday celebrations.

ROGER MITCHELL

ENLIGHTENED BY PURE AWARENESS

Invenio

Vocal ensemble Invenio performs at White Night Melbourne in 2016 in St Paul’s Cathedral.

REVIEW

Invenio Singers — Luminesce, Thursday May 18, 7pm, Salon, Melbourne Recital Centre

Not so long ago it was common to hear the word “narrative” in complaints about our political parties, but not because of its presence. The term was overused and became irritating, in the vein of “going forward”, but initially it was apt for two reasons: our political leaders had given up trying to carry us with them in pursuit of one vision or another (although the Institute of Public Affairs’ free market agenda seemed omnipresent at times) and we generally like it when there is a story to follow.

As a journalist I’m always looking for the story, whether in an interview with a musician or in a live concert that I’m reviewing. But, like melody in a musical work, it can be a tempting morsel that is not always needed and can be refreshingly challenging to do without.

Invenio in St Paul's Cathedral 2016

Invenio in St Paul’s Cathedral 2016

During Melbourne’s White Night in 2016 I made a point of heading from the station to St Paul’s Cathedral to see and hear Gian Slater‘s inventive vocalists Invenio, who were giving the four-hour performance Sun in a collaboration with video artist Robert Jarvis. This must have been most challenging. Between the singers — variously lit or in darkness and at times flooded with colour at the far end of this enormous, vaulted space — and the crowded entrance doors was an ever-moving bustle of people either looking for seats, filing in or out, or arising from their seats to move out into the streets. How the ensemble members concentrated amid this unrest, I’m not sure, but it was not ideal for audience members content to spend more time and take it all in.

What a contrast, then, to hear and see the new work Luminesce in the superb, small space of the MRC Salon. I have never been to a concert “in this space” (to use another overused phrase) that I did not love.

But before the concert I was, of course, unsettled about what was to come. I wanted to gain some idea of what to expect. I wanted a narrative.

I read that Luminesce would explore light and darkness, sound and silence; that it would vary visual patterns along with sound, geometry with pitch and colour with dynamics. I read that singing is an energy, an act, an initiation of beauty.

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Invenio in St Paul’s Cathedral 2016

But questions were bustling through my mind just as White Night patrons moved in and out of St Paul’s Cathedral. In this performance, will silence be valued? Will darkness be used, as it is so often, to convey or create uncertainty, fear or horror? Will the experience of Luminesce be enhanced by knowing how it is meant to work, knowing what happens when a singer sings high or low, loud or soft? Or will it be more like a meditation, to be received and accepted, but not puzzled over?

The way it happened in the end was that Luminesce began for me well before the performance, as I became more aware of lights and darkness around me  — in gardens, in traffic, in signs, on buildings and the floodlit Arts Centre fountain, moving but not changing.

Then, in the Salon, Luminesce heightened my awareness while gradually wrestling into submission my dogged determination to analyse. I tried to record my impressions, taking fragmented notes, then gave in to the patterns, the sounds, the rhythms and the shapes.

Changes were a constant, some evolutionary, some sudden. Notes were sustained and sibilant. Voices were invoking, commanding, appealing — mostly without words, but at times to great effect with them. Sequences of notes matched sequences of projected colours. Voices and light had synchronicity, sequentiality and yet differentiation.

The lighting effects were truly amazing, but for me the vocals held sway. These were voices carefully crafted, with such definition and precision, such power and also fragility, engaging in interjections and conversations, sometimes percussive, sometimes burbling, always so superbly controlled and ultimately beautiful to behold.

At the close I felt as if all analysis had been swept away in a tide of pure awareness. This was an experience best left hanging, not described, simply felt.

I turned to a couple of women in the front row who told me they did not know of Invenio or Robert Jarvis or Gian Slater, but came along because it sounded like something different. They were blown away.

ROGER MITCHELL

For those interested, here is an extract from Invenio’s website about Luminesce. It may help explain the mechanics and intent:

“Invenio’s latest work is a new collaboration with video artist Robert Jarvis that uses voices as triggers for lighting events.

“Composed by Gian Slater, Luminesce explores a pattern orientated musical landscape derived from a visual perspective through Jarvis’ software program, Voxstripe. Within the parameters of symmetry, form and velocity, the music ranges from intensely rhythmic to lush harmonic clusters, creating a different vocal ensemble landscape and performative environment.

“Out of the darkness, sheets of colour and geometric shapes are projected on to each of the seven performers, activated and deactivated through every sound and every silence. Groupings of the performers emerge together as waves of light mirror the musical form, whilst always returning to the solo or unison voice, the spotlight or the blanket of illumination.”

BLUES IN AMERICA, TOM VINCENT

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CD REVIEW 

3.5 stars *

Blues in America: Tom Vincent piano, Branford Marsalis soprano and tenor sax, Leigh Barker & Matt Clohesy double bass, Alf Jackson drums

I have not reviewed albums for a long time, for a few reasons, but that may change. Let’s see how this turns out.

If I were a musician it’s fair bet that I’d be anxious about not being inventive enough and being caught out repeating phrases that I’d used in previous solos — worried that I may not be keeping the improvisations fresh and always different. That kind of concern is in the back of my mind whenever I write reviews of albums or live performances — my version of the goalkeeper’s fear of the penalty kick is the fear that I’ll keep repeating words and phrases, thereby revealing an inability to do more than trot out a standard set of reactions to the music. With that goes a worry about my lack of musical training or knowledge, and my limited knowledge of the American songbook and the deeply embedded lore of jazz.

When I read, for instance, Paul Grabowsky‘s words about music and musicians, I’m inclined to think that if the people who play so well and compose music so well can write about it so eloquently, why not leave it to them.

Another reason for avoiding CD reviews is that I slipped so far behind in delivering them that it became an obligation not met and therefore the joy of listening slipped away a little. Why was it hard to just pop out a review? Well, partly for the reasons expressed above, but also because music is, I believe, not easy to write about. I have long yearned for a feed from the brain to the screen (or paper) so that my experience can be delivered directly to the reader, without interference. In that way, when I’m in the moment listening at a live gig or to an album via headphones, the intensity of that experience could be delivered undiluted. It would still, of course, be one person’s experience, as is any reviewer’s.

So, with that palaver out of the way, what can I say about Tom Vincent‘s Blues in America? First, the mechanics. Blues in America was recorded in October 2015 at Sound Pure studio in Durham, North Carolina and at Big Orange Sheep in Brooklyn, New York City.  Vincent is joined on the Durham tracks — one, three and five — by Branford Marsalis on soprano and tenor saxophones and by Leigh Barker on double bass, and on the Brooklyn tracks —two and four — by Matt Clohesy, who has lived in New York for many years, on double bass. Hobart drummer Alf Jackson plays on all tracks.

The title track is a Tom Vincent original. The others are composer Donald Kahn’s classic A Beautiful Friendship, the Bernie, Pinkard & Casey standard Sweet Georgia Brown, Russian-born composer/songwriter Vernon Duke’s Autumn in New York and Jimmy Hanley’s hit (Back Home Again in) Indiana.

When Vincent launched his Pozible campaign to fund Blues in America, he said, “This is going to be a swingin’ album”. He’s not wrong. Swing and propulsion are evident throughout, and that’s not so common in a lot of improvised music these days. Much of the drive comes from Barker and Clohesy, of course, but the rhythmic thrust shown in Sweet Georgia Brown, along with varied dynamics and nice chordal contrasts, provides a great paradigm of a rhythm section in top form. This Georgia is one toe-tappin’ gal.

The opening A Beautiful Friendship — featuring wandering, exploratory and at times embroidered piano soloing followed by tenor musings and some interplay from Marsalis — is well laid back, yet ends with a heightened sense of swing.

Vincent’s original Blues in America is pretty jaunty for a blues and much faster, with lots of rapid and intricate repartee between piano and soprano sax, Marsalis being more agile than the nation Malcolm Turnbull once dreamed about. The exchanges make this a favourite for me.

Much slower is the Autumn in New York ballad and the mood change conjures images of leaves drifting down from the trees in Central Park, with maybe a sprinkling or two of drops after a shower. Put your feet up for this and let the thoughts drift past.

Indiana is bright and jaunty, Barker taking us on a fast walk as Vincent treats us to expansive vistas with gentle swing and Marsalis floats out easy tenor notes over the brush work of Jackson. The ending is tight and punchy, with a final “parp” from Marsalis.

Tom Vincent’s Blues in America is further confirmation — as if we needed it — that Australian jazz musicians can seamlessly team with those in the New York scene and produce a fine result. It also provides an excellent opportunity to demonstrate just how good Vincent is at the keyboard, delivering fluidity and swing in a way that draws on what I think of as older traditions or roots of jazz.

ROGER MITCHELL

* Stars? I’m not so keen on the star ratings, mainly because they can be used so differently by reviewers. In the tradition I was taught by Kenny Weir at the Sunday Herald Sun, where 4.5 or 5 stars were reserved for albums that had survived the test of time and had probably been re-released, I’d say this is a 3.5 plus, which is a definite recommendation to buy. If you want to, go to Tom Vincent’s website.