Tag Archives: Band of Five Names

HOMAGE TO A GREAT COMPOSER

Seventh reason
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7. sculthorpe’s work in safe hands

These highlights chosen by Ausjazz blog — 12 great reasons for not missing the Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival — are not ranked in any order, but this is one concert I really do not want to miss.

In 2009 I had the privilege to interview Peter Sculthorpe and Phil Slater before the performance of The Sculthorpe Songbook at Stonnington Jazz. Slater and Matt McMahon had deconstructed some Sculthorpe pieces, with his blessing, and revisited them. I recall the interview well because the recording device failed during what was, I thought, a special discussion with the distinguised Australian composer and I had to revisit the questions a few days later.

In The Sun Songbook at Wangaratta this year, trumpeter and composer Slater will again feature his adaptations and interpretations of Sculthorpe’s music. For this project, Slater (trumpet, laptop) will be joined by longtime collaborative partners, pianist McMahon and drummer Simon Barker, as well as guitarist Carl Dewhurst, bassist Brett Hirst and violist Erkki Veltheim.

Winner of the National Jazz Awards in 2003, Slater has created outstanding music with Band of Five Names and the Phil Slater Quartet, and has been heard with many other artists, including Baecastuff, Australian Art Orchestra, Gest8, Daorum, Matt McMahon’s Paths & Streams, DIG, Jim Black and Bobby Previte.

The festival website quotes Slater as saying, “The music is derived from many of Sculthorpe’s iconic orchestral and chamber works, including Kakadu, Irkanda 4, Djilile, Earth Cry, and the Sun Music series. The Sun Songbook explores several of Sculthorpe’s musical themes and points of influence, including the music of Japan, Indonesia, early Western liturgical music, and Australian Aboriginal music.”

This is definitely one concert not to miss.

Read Ausjazz blog’s review of the Sculthorpe Songbook, performed at Stonnington Jazz in May 2009.

Read Ausjazz blog’s 2009 interview with Peter Sculthorpe and Phil Slater about  The Sculthorpe Songbook: The composer’s work torn apart.

ROGER MITCHELL

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BAND OF FIVE NAMES

MJFF/MJC Transitions Series, Tuesday, May 3, Bennetts Lane Jazz Club

Simon Barker drums, Carl Dewhurst guitar, Matt McMahon piano, Phil Slater trumpet

Megg Evans welcomes the Five foursome

Megg Evans welcomes the Five foursome to Bennetts Lane

Bringing the Band of Five Names to Melbourne was a coup for the Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival and bound to be a highlight of a program that included the premiere local performance of Andrea Keller‘s Place and a commission work by Fran Swinn featuring aerialist Rockie Stone. But what is the attraction of this band? What is the nature of its appeal?

Carl Dewhurst

Carl Dewhurst

I welcome suggestions, because answers will differ depending on the listener. To me it has to do with an unfolding story, a sense of development, and the exciting prospect of not knowing what will emerge. That could be said of a lot of improvised music, but in the case of this band there is a real feeling of it being evolutionary in a gestational way. It’s not quite the same as listening to The Necks, perhaps because there is an absence of expectation of any climactic outcome. Audiences love that anticipation in a Necks gig that what may start slowly will heat up and provide that carthartic pleasure or relief that comes from tension slowly building and inviting release.

Simon Barker and Phil Slater

Simon Barker and Phil Slater

The Band of Five Names seems to put us right into the moment by taking away the “what if” factor and inviting acceptance of what will be. We care not whether it is planned or unplanned, whether there will be catharsis or not. The band draws us into what is happening, what is emerging, and keeps us there because it is so interesting. And that’s the key second factor in the appeal. Without any apparent stress, the musicians are watchful — not unusual at all, of course, in any improvised music — and responsive, but relaxed about that. Maybe they know where they are going because they’ve been there, or somewhere similar, a hundred times before; maybe they don’t know what is going to happen until a series of notes from one member of the band sets them on a new track. I don’t care. It’s interesting because you can watch that responsiveness at work. If it’s like anything it is maybe akin to hearing Lost and Found, with Paul Grabowsky, Jamie Ohelers and Dave Beck. Or GEST8.

Three of the Band of Five Names

Three of the Band of Five Names

So what sorts of musical moments made up the first set, which was titled Curtain? A fragmentary account would recall Dewhurst nursing or coaxing notes from his guitar, notes that evolve into a high, sustained ringing. Slater breathes through his horn into the mic, removing slides at times to adjust the air flow. McMahon is plucking at the piano strings, sending twangs into the room. Slater lets his note gradually develop intensity, force and penetration, with Barker gentle at the back. There is a trumpet break-out, a flaring up of trumpet. There is a guitar break-out, a fiery surge of strings. McMahon mumbles gently on the keys. The trumpet again exudes breaths. McMahon is so careful with his notes, as if he’s tiptoeing. Momentarily the drums and cymbals swell and die away. There is a period of what feels like reverie.

McMahon and Dewhurst

McMahon and Dewhurst

I was only able to stay for the first set, which I therefore believe was far too short — probably not much more than 30 minutes. That was a great pity, but I was sure the second set would be longer and most likely even more fulfilling that the first.

Carl Dewhurst

Carl Dewhurst

There was a reasonable crowd at Bennetts Lane in the big room, but the Band of Five Names deserves more. Let’s hear them in “Melbs” (scare quotes used courtesy of Tim Stevens) very soon. Well done MJFF, the Melbourne Jazz Cooperative and, to be fair, the band.

Matt McMahon

Matt McMahon

Barker and Slater

Barker and Slater

WANGARATTA JAZZ 09 — BAND OF FIVE NAMES

Phil Slater on trumpet and laptop, Matt McMahon on piano, Nord, Carl Dewhurst on guitar, Simon Barker on drums, percussion, at Alpine MDF Theatre

A festival is about transitions, about moving between the worlds created by the musicians in each space at a particular time. What a contrast to leave Linda Oh’s trio — young players who took no prisoners, reveling in driving rhythms and complex patterns — and enter the light and shade, frenzy and reflection, and at times absolute simplicity of this ensemble’s creations. Band of Five Names was affective, slowly evolving, highly involving. I thought at the time, “How can a Nord sound so gentle?” and “Stillness can take root here”.

Pics to come soon