Tag Archives: 2014

THE ONE THAT DIDN’T GET AWAY — ENRICO RAVA

Enrico Rava

Enrico Rava

BREAKING NEWS:

Wangaratta Jazz & Blues Festival line-up announced for its 25th year, Friday 31 October to Monday 3 November.

The embargo has just been lifted and Adrian Jackson‘s line-up for the four days and nights of the pre-Melbourne Cup Day long weekend of jazz and blues can be revealed, featuring more than 300 musicians in more than 80 concerts on the main program, and more than 30 concerts on the Main Street free stages.

There are also artist talks and master classes in town and at nearby wineries.

Heading the line-up of international artists will be a giant of European jazz, trumpet and flugelhorn maestro Enrico Rava (Italy), who was booked to come in 1996 but had to cancel because of archaic visa requirements. Artistic Director Adrian Jackson says Rava is “just about the only one who got away” in all his years at the helm, and that it is nice to be able to rectify that this year.

Other international jazz artists include Grammy Award winning drummer Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts (USA) with his band, which includes New York-based Australian saxophonist Troy Roberts; composer/trumpeter Laura Watts (USA) and New York-based saxophonist Lisa Parrot (Aus/USA) returning to the festival two decades after being runner-up in the National Jazz Awards (Saxophone) in 1994.

Another from the US will be Spoke (USA) and, from New Zealand these days, Roger Manins, winner of the 2002 National Jazz Awards (Saxophone), with his band Hip Flask.

Among the Australian musicians on the program will be the Australian Art Orchestra performing Struttin’ With Some Barbecue, a re-imagining of the legacy of Louis Armstrong. Paul Grabowsky and Steve Grant will each perform solo piano concerts in the Holy Trinity Cathedral; guitarists James Muller and Stephen Magnusson will make a rare collaboration in a quartet format.

Jazz vocalists will include Emma Pask, Fem Belling (leading her quintet and contributing to the African jazz sounds of Royal Swazi Spa, led by her father Howard Belling) and Hetty Kate performing songs from her recent CD, Dim All The Lights. Now based in New York, Sarah McKenzie will return to Wangaratta as part of a tour to promote her forthcoming third CD and Julie O’Hara will perform with the gypsy swing-inspired combo Ultrafox.

Headlining the blues program will guitarist-singer and Blues Hall of Fame member Joe Louis Walker (USA), singer/songwriter Harper on harmonica and didgeridoo, who moved to the US a decade ago. Harper will bring his Detroit-based band.

Australian blues acts including Sydney’s Bondi Cigars, Blue Eyes Cry, guitar aces Ray Beadle and Darren Jack leading their bands and then teaming up as All The Kings Men — a celebration of the 4 Kings – B.B. King, Freddie King, Earl King and Albert King. Other blues artists include Fiona Boyes, Nick Charles and Doc Span.

The National Jazz Awards feature guitarists this year and an increased prize pool. As always, the top 10 finalists will compete at the festival, with the finals starting at 5pm on Sunday 2 November (broadcast live to air on ABC Classic FM). Mike Nock will again act as Chairman of the judging panel, joined by guitarists James Muller and Stephen Magnusson, co-winners of the Awards in 2000. The winner will receive a $12,000 grand prize, the chance to record for ABC Classic FM’s Jazztrack with Mal Stanley and an invitation to perform at the 2015 Stonnington Jazz Festival. The runner-up will receive $6,000 and a recording session at Pughouse studios and the third placegetter will receive $3,000.

There’s much more to say, but this is a quick preview to whet the appetite.

ROGER MITCHELL

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TURNING UNKNOWNS INTO KNOWNS

Django Bates and Peter Eldh celebrate Charlie Parker at The Malthouse

Django Bates and Peter Eldh celebrate Charlie Parker at The Malthouse

REFLECTION:

Three concerts at The Malthouse on Friday 6 June 2014 for Melbourne International Jazz Festival

7pm: Django Bates Beloved with Monash Art Ensemble celebrate Charlie Parker

It was going to be an evening of new experiences — I was familiar with only two of the four ensembles and had heard only one musical performance in the Merlyn Theatre at The Malthouse. It is a similar format to Chapel Off Chapel, but much wider, so that it is a much longer walk to move from one side of the elevated seating to the other to gain a different perspective for photographs. The sound seemed excellent, but the lighting lacked direction, so that by the final concert it was almost lights out as far as the action on stage was concerned.

I don’t believe that the music of Charlie Parker can be easy to play, and the opening concert confirmed this. Django Bates, at the piano and keyboard, was joined by Peter Eldh on double bass and Peter Bruun on drum kit, with Bates taking a conducting role either from the piano with gestures or by walking over to the Monash Art Ensemble, which included students and seasoned players.

If anything this outing was a demonstration to me that, first, I did not know Parker’s music well enough to make any assessment of how Bates had departed from the original Parker arrangements, and, second, it was complex music that called for skill and attention to detail by the musicians.

I particularly enjoyed Bates’ We Are Not Lost We Are Simply Finding Our Way (that’s how I felt), which featured Scott Tinkler on trumpet. I loved the interplay between bass and piano, as well as some deep, growling notes and mingling of sounds from the ensemble in Star Eyes. The orchestra seemed to have excellent control of dynamics in Confirmation, flaring up suddenly in what became a hard-driving piece. The Study of Touch was full of interest, with ensemble solos from Tony Hicks on flute, Rob Burke on soprano sax and a young sax player who may have struggled a little at higher registers. My Little Suede Shoes showcased some deft work by the trio before Bates conducted the ensemble in.

Audience reaction is often a useful guide, not necessarily to the musicianship, but to how well the music succeeds in being engaging. In this concert I felt as if the appreciation was muted, with the ABC’s Gerry Koster having to suggest that with extra clapping “we may get an encore”.

But I was inspired to seek out more of Bates’ work and to get to know Parker much better.

Peter Eldh and members of Monash Art Ensemble

Peter Eldh and members of Monash Art Ensemble.

Peter Eldh and members of Monash Art Ensemble

Django Bates, Peter Brunn and Peter Eldh with members of Monash Art Ensemble.

9pm: Alister Spence Trio

This was the trio with which I was acquainted, but the outing was another clear demonstration that hearing a group live will always have far more impact than hearing them on an album.

As soon as the early distraction of taking some photographs in the allocated time and the parsimonious and nasty red light was over, I was immediately engrossed in this set, which was music I felt could be touched or felt as a physical sensation. Propulsion is often a key factor for me, and Spence‘s trio — Lloyd Swanton on bass and Toby Hall on drums and percussion — had it in spades. Brave Ghost featured some lovely, deep, resonant bass and delivered intensity plus. With excellent dynamics from Hall and some hot piano by Spence, this was going places. The piece was a ripper.

We heard Seventh Song, Threading the Maze and “a quick version” of Sleeping Under Water, each demonstrating this group’s ability to gain and hold our attention, building and releasing tension as changes occurred. This was a riveting set by a focused, energetic and engrossing trio. And I believe they enjoyed it as much as we did.

Alister Spence

Alister Spence

Lloyd Swanton

Lloyd Swanton

Toby Hall

Toby Hall

Alister Spence

Alister Spence

Lloyd Swanton

Lloyd Swanton

Toby Hall

Toby Hall

11.30pm: Dawn of Midi

Sometimes we need spoiler alerts. I often think that if I read a film review before seeing it, it is impossible to wipe out the memory of a single remark that may skew how I will view the movie. In the case of this outing by Dawn of Midi, I happened to read a brief comment by someone who had been at the previous night’s performance. In summary, this person thought Dawn of Midi’s set was similar to a performance by The Necks, but less interesting.

I could not erase that idea as I listened to Amino Belyamani on piano, Askaash Israni on double bass and Qasim Naqri on percussion. The set seemed very controlled and to be all about incremental change. A lot of alterations were made to the rhythmic patterns, but the changes were gradual and required concentration to pick up.

In a strange twist, a conversation after the performance altered my view. Curious about what those familiar with Dawn of Midi had thought, I asked some fans of the group. The explained that this was not improvised at all, as is The Necks’ music, but totally scripted — and in detail, down to the last note, so to speak. They assured me that the set as played live was very close to the album Dysnomia and that I should get it and listen before passing judgement.

So I dutifully obtained the album and have played it a few times while writing these “review-style” pieces. I find that my view has changed. Whereas on the night I did not think there was enough to keep me interested and hanging out for more, I can appreciate now that there is a compelling element to this incrementally changing landscape.

So tonight I learned about little-known unknowns (Parker) and even lesser-known unknowns (Dawn of Midi), but learnt more about unknowns I would like to become better-knowns.

ROGER MITCHELL

Askaash Israni

Askaash Israni

Amino Belyamani

Amino Belyamani

Amino Belyamani

Amino Belyamani

Qasim Naqri

Qasim Naqri

Qasim Naqri

Qasim Naqri

Askaash Israni

Askaash Israni

Qasim Naqri

Qasim Naqri

Askaash Israni

Askaash Israni

GOOD VIBE AS FESTIVAL BRANCHES OUT

Lloyd and Farantouri

Charles Lloyd and Maria Farantouri       (Image supplied)

PREVIEW: Melbourne International Jazz Festival, May 30 to June 8, 2014

The best time to judge the worth of any music festival is when it’s all over, but I’ll go out on a limb and say that there is a good vibe about this year’s Melbourne dip of the collective toe into the diverse waters that link to jazz.

In a preview to the 2013 festival, I wrote that, “For a number of years now the MIJF has set out to broaden its appeal. This year’s program is no exception …” That trend continues in the 2014 program, with artistic director Michael Tortoni describing it as “the broadest, most inclusive ever”.

Some have commented favourably on Tortoni’s willingness to venture farther than is usual into the realms of world music this year. I would say that there is an unashamed willingness by the MIJF to provide a broad spectrum and, it is fair to assume, to let some of the popular events in large venues help pay for smaller gigs that may have much more appeal to dedicated followers of the rich jazz tapestry that is always on show in this town.

It’s important that this bid to attract a wider audience does not water down what’s on offer in order to put bums on seats, but it seems there is still plenty for hard core fans, albeit not such rich pickings on the fringe as when Sophie Brous had a role in programming. The 2014 program seems to reflect a festival comfortable with bring popular artists and also musicians who will be sought out and valued by smaller numbers of patrons.

Among the big changes this year are the advent of concerts in the Malthouse — two gigs a night with the second a double bill — and the inclusion of Uptown Jazz Café as a club venue for the first time, hosting some quality trios, quartets and a sextet. It’s great to have Sonny Rehe and the Uptown staff aboard.

The other significant change is that for the first time there will be some musical events in Melbourne’s west, an area with which Tortoni is familiar.

As always, full details of the program are available on the festival website. Ausjazz provides the following pointers to likely highlights.

CROWD PLEASERS

Charles Lloyd

Charles Lloyd

Anyone who heard Charles Lloyd in 2010 will want to tap into his spiritual quality as performer or in conversation. The saxophonist, flautist and taragato player will perform at Melbourne Town Hall in The Greek Project with vocalist Maria Farantouri, presenting works by Lloyd, Theodorakis and the Greek Suite.

Lloyd will also bring his Sky Trio (Reuben Rogers bass, Eric Harland drums) to the Melbourne Recital Centre in an Australian premiere. This concert, opening with local group Omelette, is not to be missed, although I will be torn because it clashes with an exciting world premiere of PBS Young Elder of Jazz Commission winner Tilman Robinson’s The Agony of Knowledge at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club. Lloyd also joins Monash University music students in a gig at the MRC Salon.

Hamer Hall is the venue for the celebrated collaboration of keyboardist Chick Corea and vibraphonist Gary Burton.

It’s hard to know whether the Palais Theatre audience will comprise fans of Hollywood tough guys or Frank Sinatra when they flock to hear Robert Davi provide a portrait of Ol’ Blue Eyes. Davi appeared with Sinatra in the 1977 film Contract on Cherry Street, so he knows how to swagger.

The news is already out there, but if you fancy big bands, nothing comes bigger than Glenn Miller Orchestra, which will fill the Hamer Hall Stage with no fewer than 38 musicians, singers and dancers to perform hits such as Moonlight Serenade, In the Mood and Chattanooga Choo Choo.

Soul will come to the MRC when Mary Stallings — who toured and recorded with Dizzy Gillespie, Cannonball Adderley and Count Basie — returns to the city she visited in 1959. Expect swinging standards and moving ballads.

Flamenco will have plenty of fans when Jorge Pardo on tenor sax and flute performs at MRC in the trio Huellas, after the superb Sylvan Coda by Chris Hale and other Australian artists, including the foot-stamping Johnny Tedesco, who has been a hit with audiences at Bennetts Lane and Stonnington Jazz.

Wistful romanticism will be the feature when jazz vocalist Fem Belling brings to life the late Blossom Dearie in a concert at The Malthouse.

Rolling Stone described Larry Carlton’s work on Steely Dan’s Kid Charlemagne as one of the greatest rock guitar solos of all time. The “Titan of Tone” will perform with a quartet at MRC and hold workshops at VCA, one of which will be open to the public. Five-piece Here and Now will open.

A regular in Australia, saxophonist Joshua Redman will perform his ever-changing repertoire in a quartet at MRC, after the Joe Chindamo Trio.

This is turning into a long post, but now it’s time to move on to some MIJF gigs that are a little less mainstream. Watch this space.

ROGER MITCHELL