Tag Archives: Arts Victoria


MJC flash mob

Top brass: Premier Baillieu, these horns are not to be trifled with.

FLASH MOB MARKS MOMENTOUS OCCASION: The Melbourne Jazz Co-operative’s 30th anniversary, Fed Square to City Square, Friday 25 January 2013

I was half expecting a loud protest, with discordant horns blaring their displeasure at the sudden cessation of funds to the co-op from Arts Victoria, accompanied perhaps by deep grumbles of drums and strident sounds of reeds run dry.

What eventuated was a demonstration that an improvised gathering of musicians can add to the life of a city, as well as a signal to the holders of purse strings that jazz musicians will not sit quietly in a corner and come out to play only at festival time.

It was great to see so many musicians in procession from Fed Square towards the much diminished City Square space across Collins Street from the town hall. But in my heart of hearts I yearned for the megaphones and banners and chanted slogans of protest, expressing the injustice we all felt that this varied, complex, challenging and endlessly fascinating brand of music should be so blatantly overlooked, except in its festival manifestations. Surely we should be crying to the Premier, Big Ted, that we wanted action and, yes, we wanted it now.

But the MJC is not a protest organisation. It is a group dedicated to bringing music to the people and to supporting the musicians who play that music to ply their trade with some small guarantee of recompense. So its response was not to berate and hector, but to do what it does best — bring music to this city.

It was a fitting response. It remains to be seen whether there will be a need — as this fight for funds continues — to take the music to the hallowed halls of Parliament and fill the public galleries of the Lower House with dissonance.

MJC flash mon

A flash horn: Leigh Barker trades his bass for brass.

There’s not heaps more to tell. With a gentle nudge from the Melbourne Jazz Co-operative that has done so much to bring live music to city venues for three decades, the musos turned up at Fed Square soon after 11.30am.

MJC flash mob

Big brass: The MJC flash mob getting horny.

Before long they were on the move, heading for the almost forgotten City Square at the junction of Swanston and Collins streets, where the opening concert of this weekend celebration would be held.

MJC flash mob

Musicians leave Fed Square to celebrate the MJC 30th anniversary.

Some had small charts attached to instruments. Others went with the flow, playing along with the characteristic inventiveness of jazz musicians.

MJC flash mob

Musicians take direction from a trumpeter … or do they?

Swinging swiftly out on to the fringe of Fed Square, they crossed Flinders Street and occupied the footpath, heading north.

MJC flash mob

Is that lunch in the green bag?

Well known and respected members of Melbourne’s jazz scene were sprinkled throughout the ensemble.

MJC flash mob

A footpath claimed for music.

Niko Schauble had a drum patched with tape. I wondered whether Premier Baillieu had ever experienced the wonder of hearing Niko at the drum kit.

MJC fash mob

Music, not megaphones, conveys the message.

Drummer Allan Browne, as always, was poetry in motion, though he did initially seem to have difficulty hanging on to his instrument.

MJC flash mob

We shall not be quiet.

It was an eclectic lot, with assorted horns mixing it with an array of drums and even some strummers of strings.

Flash mob

Sometimes percussive means persuasive.

I was momentarily distracted by the thought that, if I had been a visiting tourist in Melbourne at that moment, I would return home with a tale of how this southern hemisphere city was alive with the sounds and stimulation of street music, that here it was not necessary to be in concert halls or to pay hefty ticket prices to be entertained and removed from the humdrum.

Flash mob

Horns invade the City Square.

In fact, what this demonstration of support for the MJC did not spell out — and perhaps there ought to have been some leaflets or a short speech to do so — was that in small, inviting bars and clubs hidden in Melbourne’s side streets there is a wealth of live music available at eminently reasonable prices. But the presence of live improvised music does not just happen without effort. The hours of practice and dedication of musicians is a necessity, of course, but the opportunity to play and be paid is in no small part due to the efforts of Martin Jackson and others associated with the MJC.

Flash mob

Action Jacksons: Martin and Andra at work and play.

As the procession turned into the City Square, it was appropriate that Martin came past, playing saxophone one-handed as he filmed the event. Beside him was Andra Jackson, also on sax. In the marquee, guitarist Craig Fermanis joined Danny Fischer on drums and Leigh Barker on bass for the free concert that opened the MJC 30th anniversary celebrations. The Daniel Gassin Sextet followed.

Flash mob

Opening set: Craig Fermanis Trio celebrates the MJC 30th anniversary.

As the city crowds drifted past, the music seeping into their consciousness, it was great to see expatriate keyboardist/composer Barney McAll, who now lives in New York, encouraging passers-by to sign the petition calling for a change of heart on funding for the Melbourne Jazz Co-operative. The flash mob was gently making its mark.


Flash mob

Sign please: Barney McAll with the MJC petition in the City Square.


Barney McAll

Expatriate Barney McAll will return from New York to celebrate with MJC.

Will Arts Victoria notice? The co-operative that it recently decided was not worth a penny will turn on a mini festival of four concerts to mark its 30 years of bringing live improvised music to Melbourne audiences:

Melbourne has recently had cause to grieve. Its vibrant jazz scene has been threatened by Arts Victoria‘s mystifying decision not to provide any financial support in 2013 to the Melbourne Jazz Co-operative, an organisation integral to supporting the growth of musical talent and the development of live improvised music in this culturally rich city.

Now Melbourne has cause to celebrate. Over the Australia Day weekend the rich vein of annual festivals that includes the Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival, the Melbourne International Jazz Festival,  Stonnington Jazz and the Melbourne Women’s International Jazz Festival is to be complemented by a mini festival to mark a historic event. But will Arts Victoria notice?

To celebrate 30 years of presenting continuous annual jazz programs in this city the Melbourne Jazz Co-operative will stage four concerts, beginning with a free outdoor lunchtime concert at City Square on Friday, January 25 from noon to 2pm featuring guitarist Craig Fermanis’ Trio followed by pianist Daniel Gassin’s Sextet.

On Saturday, January 26, the Jex Saarelaht Quartet with Sydney bassist Jonathan Zwartz will perform at the Uptown Jazz Café, 177 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, from 8.30pm ($15 & $12 concessions).

The main 30th Anniversary Concert — to be held on Sunday, January 27 at The Edge, Federation Square at 2pm ($30 & $20 concessions; $15 children) — will feature three trios of musicians who have been given a platform by the MJC over the years.

Paul Grabowsky

Paul Grabowsky displays his characteristic energy at Wangaratta Jazz.

New York-based pianist Barney McAll will be back in a gig featuring seven leading figures in the Melbourne contemporary jazz scene.

National Jazz Saxophone Award winner Julien Wilson  will join McAll (with whom he recorded in New York) in a trio with Sydney bassist Jonathan Zwartz.

Julien Wilson

Julien Wilson with Jonathan Zwartz at Wangaratta Jazz Festival 2012.

The MJC milestone will be fittingly marked also by two members of the dual-ARIA winning Browne-Costello-Grabowsky Trio, with which the co-operative staged its first concert exactly 30 years ago, on Sunday afternoon, January 30, 1983 at RMIT’s Glasshouse Theatre. Sadly bassist Gary Costello died in 2006, but pianist/composer Paul Grabowsky (recipient of the Melbourne Music Prize) and drummer Allan Browne will perform.

A recipient of the Don Banks Award and ‘Bell’ Australian Jazz Award Hall of Fame, Browne is also known for his compositions, poetry and delightfully irreverent sense of humour.

Allan Browne

Poetry in motion: Allan Browne plays Uptown Jazz Cafe.

Grabowsky and Browne will combine with the bassist Frank Di Sario to perform original compositions. A highlight will be a Grabowsky composition dedicated to Gary Costello.

Frank Di Sario

Frank Di Sario plays Bennetts Lane.

Browne will feature again during this celebratory concert in a third trio with two of  the many outstanding female instrumentalists on the Melbourne scene: triple ARIA winning pianist/composer Andrea Keller, and bassist/composer Tamara Murphy (leader of Murphy’s Law). They will play works from their album Carried by The Sun (Jazzhead), as well as new compositions.

Andrea Keller

Andrea Keller plays The Salon, MRC with Genevieve Lacey.

Tamara Murphy

Tamara Murphy plays Bennetts Lane Jazz Club.

Both McAll and Keller will also perform some solo piano pieces during this concert.

The MJC celebration will conclude on the evening of Sunday, January 27, with the Rabid Hawk sextet, led by guitarist Nash Lee, performing as part of the MJC’s regular Sunday night ‘A-Live Jazz’ series at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club. This  date also marks the 20th Anniversary of the MJC’s mutually beneficial collaboration with this well-respected venue.

Finally, as part of the co-op’s regular Tuesday night “Transitions” Series at Bennetts Lane, drummer Browne will perform work from Conjuror, his CD and book of poetry.



Martin Jackson

Glass half empty? Martin Jackson faces a lean year in the Melbourne Jazz Co-operative’s mission to support musicians and live music in Melbourne.

There will be no Arts Victoria money for the Melbourne Jazz Co-operative next year, unless pressure can be applied to have this decision reversed. Now the co-operative is putting its case:

The MJC has issued the following statement:

The State’s Arts Victoria has again set itself on a collision course with the local jazz community over its latest rejection of two funding applications from the Melbourne Jazz Co-operative. Its refusal to support the MJC comes as the co-operative gets ready to celebrate a milestone achievement for any arts organization – its 30th anniversary in January with events at Federation Square and the City Square.

Its impressive record of achievements include providing over 100 performances annually (featuring over 100 different ensembles) since 1998 via its twice weekly series at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club, enabling young and established creative and improvising jazz musician to be heard. It has been at the start of most jazz careers for local musicians. In 1997 it also founded, developed and has continued to support, the Women’s International Jazz Festival. It has done all this while struggling to secure adequate funds from arts funding bodies from year to year to support local musicians.

Triple-ARIA winning pianist/composer Andrea Keller commented today that, “I really truly value all the opportunities you’ve given me since 1997 – I’m quite certain I wouldn’t be the musician I am without the MJC”.

Yet while the Music Board of the Australia Council has consistently seen fit to fund the co-operative for 31 consecutive years, the Baillieu State Government has declined to put in any corresponding funds for 2013. In contrast, the NSW State Government has again kicked in $130,000 to support its two local jazz advocacy groups in 2013.

The Government spokesperson’s defence of these results has been that, “The Victorian Government has been a very generous supporter of the Melbourne International Jazz Festival, which received over $500K in support this year. Similarly, a number of jazz artists have benefited through the contemporary music grants in recent years”.

MJC Artistic Director Martin Jackson responded that, “If our state arts funding body cannot grasp the fundamental distinction between a 10-day festival and support of the Melbourne’s on-going jazz community, then this should be a major concern. Contemporary jazz is different to classical music because it is created by individuals collaborating together in ensembles within a jazz community”.

If the response to this news on Facebook is any indication, Melbourne’s Jazz musicians – not normally inclined to get involved in politics — are not going to take this lying down.

Adrian Jackson, artistic director of the Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival and Stonnington Jazz, has sent a protest letter to the Arts Minister and Liberal Premier Ted Baillieu.

Among those joining in what is becoming a storm of protest after it was posted on Facebook is performer Tracy Bartram. The MJC has set up a Facebook causes page and is collecting signatures on a petition to be sent to the State Government challenging its decision to disenfranchise the state’s jazz community in its funding allocations for 2013.

Prominent jazz identities Mike Nock, Tony Gould, Rob Burke and Barney McAll have weighed in with their support for MJC in its battle to regain some funding. MJC has released their statements:

Robert Burke, saxophonist and head of the School of Music and Co-ordinator of Jazz and Popular Music at Monash University:

The Melbourne Jazz Co-op has been the catalyst for development of jazz and music in the state of Victoria and nationally. On minimal funding the Co-op has nurtured artists and presented ‘cutting edge’ music that is internationally significant.

Professor Tony Gould, improvising pianist and Australia’s first Professor of Jazz. Monash University, School of Music:

For many years the Melbourne Jazz Co-op has been a major factor in promoting the great art of improvisation. It should be supported wholeheartedly by musicians and listeners who value music in Melbourne. Indeed the co-op has made an invaluable contribution to creative music-making.

Mike Nock, pianist, composer, bandleader, Lecturer in piano (Jazz) at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Sydney University and holder of the ONZM, the New Zealand Order of Merit:

The Melbourne Jazz Co-op’s on going commitment to supporting and presenting the very best modern jazz available should be a model for similar societies around Australia. The consistent and knowledgeable depth of programming has seen many deserving groups gain exposure to their music, in the process, making the MJC a trusted go-to source for fans and an invaluable resource that continues to contribute hugely to the vibrancy of the local scene.

Barney McAll, Melbourne-born internationally performing pianist and composer, now based in New York:

The MJC has been a life buoy in a sea of funding cuts, musician misrepresentation and of venues/club owners with agendas. Even amidst its own poor funding, the MJC has managed to foster so much of the best creative music Australia has to offer. Co-op gigs give musicians a platform to prepare and compose for that is pure and open. This is vital. If music fights evil, than so does the MJC! In a culture which is increasingly all about profit, personal gain and self service, Martin Jackson (MJC artistic director) is a man who is all about music.

Saxophonist Jamie Oehlers, winner of the 2003 White Foundation World Saxophone Competition and coordinator of Jazz Studies at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts:

The Melbourne Jazz Co-op has been an incredible support to me and many of the projects I have been involved in over the past 15 years. The MJC has given opportunities to so many rising artists as well as established performers, helping to further enhance and develop this music both artistically and publicly. A landmark on the Australian jazz scene for both national artists and local artists. I know we are all extremely thankful for its existence and the hard work contributed by Martin and his team.

Ausjazz blog will do all it can to help fight this Arts Victoria decision. More news as it comes to hand.