Tag Archives: Ben Edgar

WINE, WOMEN AND SONG — IT’S A DREAM DROP

Martha Baartz

Martha Baartz with Baartzy’s Brew at Bennetts Lane in 2010.

CD REVIEW / MWIJF PREVIEW

Melbourne Women’s International Jazz Festival: Martha Baartz Quintet Dream Drops CD launch, Wednesday 11 December 2013, Bennetts Lane Jazz Club, 8.30pm

Alto saxophonist Martha Baartz was lost to the Melbourne jazz scene when she returned to northern New South Wales a while ago after 12 years down south, but she has visited for MWIJF gigs in 2010 and 2011.

Dream Drops cover

This year Baartz is launching her new album, Dream Drops, at the festival and drawing on a stellar line-up of Paul Williamson on tenor, Bob Sedergreen on piano, Greg Lyon on electric bass and Sonja Horbelt on drums.

Baartz has featured original compositions on her earlier sextet albums with guitarist Lliam FreemanSoutheast (2003, Move) included five Baartz pieces and 12 Salutations (2005, Newmarket) had six of her originals, including a favourite of mine, Jungle of Flies.

Stephen Grant‘s trumpet is not in the Dream Drops line-up for the recording and Jim Kelly replaces Freeman on guitar. The rest of the band consists of Stephen Russell on piano, David Sanders on drums and Lyon on electric bass.  Jack Thorncraft plays double bass on the final track, Johnny Green’s standard Body and Soul.

The relaxed, even languid feel of northern NSW seems to have permeated this album, which displays the fluidity and ease of Baartz’s sax work these days. She is obviously having fun and that comes through on this CD.

Dream Drops sandwiches four Baartz originals between two standards. A lively, lightly swinging version of Jimmy Forrest’s Night Train opens the album  and a live rendition of Johnny Green’s classic Body and Soul, recorded at the Brisbane Jazz Club, wraps it up. On a relatively short album (in other words, I’d have liked to hear more) this 10-minute standard is a highlight, with Baartz displaying great finesse and subtlety, as does Russell on piano. I found this interpretation a beautiful reminder of why we warm to standards.

Of the originals, Walking in the Moonlight is warmly melodic and the title track exemplifies the gentle interaction of Baartz and Kelly on sax and guitar. The First of July includes a great solo by Russell.

Dream Drops is music to infuse a sunny disposition into your day or night.

ROGER MITCHELL

Now here’s a preview of this year’s Melbourne Women’s International Jazz Festival. I’m going to miss some of these concerts due to night shifts at work, but there are plenty of treats in store for those able to be there.

2013 MWIJF GIGS AT BENNETTS LANE:

Sunday 8 December, 8.30pm — Double bill: Jodie Michael Trio and Audrey Boyle Quartet

Jodie Michael Trio

A graduate of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music in 2012 with a Bachelor of Music, (Performance), Jazz, Michael returned to New York this year for further study. Her trio of Michael on drums, Steve Barry on organ and Carl Morgan on guitar will endeavour to present a music that expresses the drummer’s “love for all styles of music, something that highlights the `broken’ quality of music; an adventure of sorts into music, breaking it up and putting it back together rhythmically and structurally, communicating what I had found in the process of exploration”.

Audrey Boyle

Audrey Boyle                                   (Image supplied)

Audrey Boyle Quartet

A Melbourne trumpet player, composer and improviser, Boyle graduated in 2012 from Monash University with Honours in Music Performance. She was the 2011 recipient of the James Morrison Jazz Prize as part of the Melbourne International Brass Festival. She has performed with Don Burrows, James Morrison, Tony Hicks, Adam Rapa, Kendrick Scott and Terence Blanchard. Her quartet will comprise this year’s National Jazz Awards winner Joseph O’Connor on piano, Marty Holoubek on bass and James McLean on drums.

Tamara Murphy with her ensemble performing Big Creatures Little Creatures

Tamara Murphy

Monday 9 December, 8.30pm — Browne, Keller and Murphy Trio

Allan Browne, Andrea Keller & Tamara Murphy formed their trio in 2003 for the MWIJF and continued intermittent performances on Monday nights. Now they have recorded their “tender tapestries” on an album that “seems to know the B-line to the beating heart of your ear”. Multi-award winning composer/pianist Andrea Keller joins talented and awarded bassist Tamara Murphy to “bring to the fore the feminine and the poetic side” of drummer Allan Browne as they collaborate to feature compositions from the trio’s debut album Carried By The Sun.

Sarah Holmes and Arlene Fletcher

Sarah Holmes and Arlene Fletcher                (Image supplied)

Tuesday 10 December, 8.30pm, Double bill — Arlene Fletcher Quintet and Sarah Holmes’ The Outfit

Arlene Fletcher Quintet: Arlene Fletcher is known as a bassist with The Furbelows, Sidney Creswick, STEM, SMES and Taktok. She will lead a line-up of Harry Cook piano, James Milic drums, Tom Sly trumpet and Tom Noonan saxophone to play originals and some cheeky arrangements influenced by Brad Mehldau, Avishai Cohen.

The Outfit: This Melbourne group plays tunes about coffee, knitting, tumbleweeds and a young man who looks like Jesus. It features compositions by bassist Sarah Holmes, and the talents of Daniel Brates/Adam Coad drums, Diego Villalta guitar, Rob Simone saxophone and Louise Goh vocals, playing swinging tunes and layered soundscapes. It’s music that will make you happy.

Martha Baartz

Martha Baartz

Wednesday 13 December, 8.30pm — Martha Baartz Quintet, CD launch

Alto saxophonist and composer Baartz has travelled and performed extensively including international festivals such as the world famous Glastonbury Festival and The Edinburgh Festival. She will launch her new album Dream Drops with Melbourne musicians , featuring Paul Williamson tenor saxophone, Bob Sedergreen piano, Greg Lyon electric bass and Sonja Horbelt drums. The band will play original tunes that range from delta blues and New Orleans funk to beautiful ballads and smooth swing.

Monique diMattina

Monique diMattina                                        (Image supplied)

Thursday 12 December, 8.30pm — Monique DiMattina and Guests

Singer/songwriter, Fulbright scholar, radio personality, boogie-woogie barrelhouse basher, composer of crystalline piano miniatures, bunjee jumper, marathon runner and mother of two, Monique diMattina is known for her song-in-an-hour antics on Melbourne 3RRR and ABC 774. DiMattina on piano and vocals will be joined by Kellie Santin saxophone, Doug de Vries acoustic guitar, Howard Cairns sousaphone and bass to perform material from her latest release Nola’s Ark recorded in New Orleans.

Lisa Young

Lisa Young                                         (Image supplied)

Friday 13 December, 8.30pm — Lisa Young Quartet

A creative rhythmic vocal stylist and improviser who incorporates Indian and African elements, Young has been a long-time student of maestro Guru Kaaraikkudi Mani in Chennai. Specialising in South Indian vocal percussion, Young has performed with vocal group Coco’s Lunch and her quartet. In a rare Melbourne performance, she will play with her award-winning quartet featuring Ben Robertson bass, Hugh Stuckey guitar and Danny Farrugia drums to performing the song cycle The Eternal Pulse and other favourites.

Saturday 14 December, 8.30pm — Creative Vocal Series

Curated by vocalist/composer Gian Slater this series of concerts celebrates the abundance of distinctive, innovative vocalists in Melbourne’s jazz and contemporary music scene in Melbourne. For the MWIJF the series features vocalists Clio Renner, Helen Catanchin and Hailey Cramer presenting original music with their ensembles.

Clio Renner: A recent VCA graduate, Renner fuses pop song form with improvisational elements to deliver a musical tapestry woven with Folk sensibilities and Art Song poetics. Renner (voice, piano) will be joined by Steve Hornby on bass and James McLean on drums to explore the relationship between piano and voice as lead instrument and accompaniment.

Helen Catanchin: While completing a Master of Arts (Music Performance) at Monash University, Catanchin focused on wordless singing. She created 10 new works created explore the aesthetic, expressive and abstractive potential of a range of wordless vocal sounds, juxtaposed against the limits on lyrics. Catanchin’s MWIJF performance will feature this new music and earlier works. Catanchin will be joined by Ben Edgar guitar, Luke Howard piano, Philip Rex double bass and James McLean drums. This intensely personal music has been described as “melodic and reflective, lush, tender and at times raw”.

Hailey Cramer: Reputed to be one of the most interesting artists in Melbourne’s burgeoning electronic-infused soul scene, Cramer featured on the hit collaboration The Festival Song’ with rapper Pez and has performed with Michael Franti, 360, Mark Levine, Paul Grabowsky and Blue King Brown. She released her debut self-titled EP last year at the Toff. Working alongside producer Dan West, Hailey has sculpted a remarkable sonic landscape that draws on her musical past while revealing her eclectic musical inspirations and aspirations. Cramer’s vocals will be accompanied by Justin Marshall percussion and bits, Dan West beats and bits, with backing vocals by Zoe Kalenderidis and Joanna Lavell.

Gian Slater

Gian Slater

Sunday 15 December 2013, 8.30pm — Festival Sextet
Each year MWIJF seeks to form a sextet of leading female musicians to perform and promote original material and pieces by other female artists. Past members have included Sandy Evans, Nadje Noordhuis, Felicity Provan, Anita Hustas, Shannon Barnett, Tamara Murphy and Fiona Burnett.

This year the sextet comprises Gian Slater voice, Savannah Blount saxophone, Andrea Keller piano, Fran Swinn guitar, Arlene Fletcher bass and Sonja Horbelt drums.

MELBOURNE JAZZ FRINGE FESTIVAL 2010 — DAY 7

MOVEable Feast: Kings Artist Initiative

The brainchild of Zoe Frater, this feast took us to two inner city galleries — Kings Artist Run Initiative in King St and Brood Box in Rankins Lane. The night began and ended with Bach.

John Taylor Electric Guitar Quartet
John Taylor Electric Guitar Quartet

First up we heard the — shock horror — totally scripted and completely unimprovised The Art of Fugue (Die Kunst der Fuge), or fugues 1, 2, 3, 4 and the unfinished 14th, played on soprano, alto, tenor and bass guitars by Fran Swinn, Jon Delaney, Zoe Frater and Ben Edgar. A bit of fun was had the ensemble’s title — John Taylor Electric Guitar Quartet — because British eye surgeon John Taylor operated on Bach in Leipzig in 1750 and this may have contributed to Bach’s death in July that year at the age of 65.

Zoe Frater
Zoe Frater

Fran Swinn
Fran Swinn

The longest piece was the unfinished fugue, Contrapunctus XIV, which breaks off abruptly. I think it was Jon Delaney who said Glenn Gould had likened listening to this fugue as being like “hearing the universe become balanced”. But there was nothing at all boring or hard to take about this sensitive rendition by musicians whose usual fare is improvised. The spare gallery, with delicate shadow patterns on its white walls, was a great setting for this classy ensemble.

Jon Delaney
Jon Delaney

Ben Edgar
Ben Edgar

Zoe Frater
Zoe Frater

Fran Swinn and Jon Delaney
Fran Swinn and Jon Delaney

John Taylor Guitar Quartet
John Taylor Guitar Quartet

OK, it was not improvised, but the freedom of the fringe festival is the ability to break the “rules” and defy expectations.

For the next set we took to Melbourne’s streets, some of us (Bob and Michael from RMIT) deep in conversation about the artistic possibilities of the city’s laneways, soon arriving at Brood Box gallery, resplendent with the colourful works of Ed Bechervaise.

Xani Kolac
Xani Kolac

In her tiny, elevated “secret space”, electric violinist extraordinaire Xani Kolac performed four of her compositions in her debut with a laptop. In Five, using the ping-pong delay effect on the laptop, Kolac sent soaring surges of sound sashaying into the room below.


The “secret space”

Xani Kolac
Xani Kolac

The fluidity and expansiveness of her next piece reminded me of a Curved Air album from the 1970s, Air Conditioning. Some of the “chords” as Kolac bowed across strings had a satisfyingly grunge depth to them.

Xani Kolac
Xani Kolac

Kolac closed with Merry Go Round, which included pizzicato, string strumming and vocals, ending with the words “I’ll play whatever I like because I choose to die happy”. Magnifique.

NMIT Laptop Orchestra
NMIT Laptop Orchestra

Finally, in the room below, Myles Mumford and Adrian Sherriff assembled an extra-curricular ensemble called the NMIT Laptop Orchestra. They played Up Down Up Down Up, a piece by Mumford making use of the laptop system sound, followed by a sine tone dedicated to La Monte Young and inspired by his intonations with two pianos tuned to a Pythagorean scale.

Then came Sherriff’s Study No. 2 (For Jan Stole Who) — the title an anagram of John Oswald, of Plunderphonic fame, and the piece plundering Oswald, and Gobo Sine 47.3 by ensemble member Graeme Croft.

They finished with Four Musical Hobos, dedicated to Harry Partch, who spent 60 years creating musical instruments capable of using 43 notes in every octave and training musicians to use them, and the J.S. Bach chorale Jesu, meine Freude, which was slow, wistful and short.

Max MSP to the max
Max MSP to the max

It was fascinating to hear Adrian Sherriff talk about what the laptop ensemble can explore and how a motion sensor in each laptop enables players to control volume. Interaction between the players was obvious to the audience and the musicians played their laptops as they would other instruments, with great expression and obvious delight — and perhaps occasional apprehension — in what they were doing.

There was some wry humour. Sherriff noted that one of the group’s challenges was dealing with “six nervous computers on stage”. There seemed to be hints of swing or a dance band in Jan Sol Who, followed sampling of Dolly Parton’s The Great Pretender, which was mashed into what sounded like a sea of machine-gun chatter.

Controlling the nervous laptops
Controlling the nervous laptops

This was quintessential Melbourne Fringe Jazz Festival — the laptop as a means of creating instruments, creating an interface and creating new works, rather than merely for playback and recording. And the exploration of pure tones in the Harry Partch tradition was way over my head, but fascinating.

This ensemble will perform at the Quiet Music Festival this weekend. (Why does this excellent festival clash with the Melbourne International Jazz Festival?

The night’s performances were indeed a moveable feast.

THIS IS MAGNOLIA — MAGNOLIA

CD REVIEW

Magnolia

EVEN a teenager hyped from performing in a high school play can be calmed by Magnolia’s debut album on the car stereo, debating whether it is “serene” or “tranquil” music.

An afternoon’s playing by friends has become an album of original compositions, as band members from FGHR (Stationary, Going Home) — Daniel Furrugia on drums/percussion, Leonard Grigoryan on guitars/harmonica and Luke Howard on piano/keyboards — join Ryan Monro on bass, Ross Irwin on flugelhorn and Ben Edgar on guitars/lap steel. Edgar’s lap steel helps build the lush, harmonically rich feel, inviting the listener to sink into long grass and enjoy. This is a warm, recuperative outing.

File between: Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois

Download: New Gold Mountain

ROGER MITCHELL

Review published previously in Sunday Herald Sun, Melbourne