Tag Archives: Ben Gillespie

AMBROSIA — JACQUELINE GAWLER

CD REVIEW

Ambrosia

3 stars (out of 5)

Label: Independent

Known for her singer/songwriter work with Coco’s Lunch, as well as other collaborations in The Jacqueline Gawler Band, Stoneflower and Picturebox Orchestra, Gawler goes it alone here in an album of mostly her own compositions.

Not straying too far from her usual fare of pop infused with jazz and world music influences — in particular from West Africa and Brazil — Gawler nevertheless comes up with some inventive and agile approaches to her songs, as well as captivating lyrics.

The most intriguing composition is the rapid-fire Varkala, sung so quickly it is almost mandatory to have the lyrics handy at first listening. The deft pacing as Gawler takes us through “ocean blue clean sheet sand feet blue sky blue eyes voice floats men gloat fishing boat bloated goat …” is full of playful energy and the expressive words conjure split-second images that stay in the mind.

This song, as well as the rhythmically strong and vocally adventurous Sahara nights, demonstrate Gawler’s talent as a song writer of intelligence, with sense of poetry and a love of language. Another lyrically appealing composition is When passengers write poetry and flight attendants sing, in which the band cranks up a little.

Gawler, who aside from vocals contributes on piano, Nord electro 73, kalimba, music box, Tibetan prayer chimes, shakere, bells and shaker, is joined by Fran Swinn (guitars, loops), Christopher Hale (acoustic bass guitar, electric bass, lap steel guitar, mandolin, pandeiro, surdo and agogo) and Ben Hendry (drums, percussion).

Guests include Eugene Ball on trumpet, Ben Gillespie on trombone and voice, Anthony Schultz on piano accordion, Simone Lang on cajon and Tamara Murphy on bass — it’s a veritable party.

Perhaps some tracks are over orchestrated and a little fussier than they need be (that may be the pop influence), which makes the Chris Cornell composition Black Hole Sun especially appealing because its simplicity stands out.

It would be nice to hear Gawler dig a little deeper vocally at times and let her voice shine through with less accompaniment, but this album has a light but intrepid feel that recalls Megan Washington in her pre-pop incarnation.

ROGER MITCHELL

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STONNINGTON JAZZ 2010 — DAY 10

SARAH McKENZIE SEXTET at Chapel Off Chapel

 Sarah McKenzie Sextet
Sarah McKenzie

The first set was my last for this year’s Stonnington Jazz. A family commitment meant I had to leave before Paul Williamson and Friends, and could not make it to the Sunday gig with David Jones and Friends. I was not all that happy with my photographic efforts for this “last” gig. I was probably already switching out of festival mode and into family mode for my dad’s 90th birthday bash next day.

 Sarah McKenzie Sextet
Sarah McKenzie Sextet

The sextet line-up was Sarah McKenzie on piano and vocals, Pat Thiele on trumpet, Carlo Barbaro on tenor sax, Hugh Stuckey on guitar, Sam Anning on bass and Craig Simon on drums.

 Sarah McKenzie Sextet
Hugh Stuckey and Sam Anning

 Sarah McKenzie Sextet
Pat Thiele

 Sarah McKenzie Sextet
Hugh Stuckey and Carlo Barbaro

They played McKenzie originals Blues for Monty, Don’t tempt me and I got the blues tonight, as well as Cole Porter’s You’d be so nice to come home to, Sammy Fain’s That old feeling, and Duke Ellington’s Solitude.

 Sarah McKenzie Sextet
Sarah McKenzie

McKenzie graduated from WAAPA with a Bachelor of Jazz (Composition) and has won a string of awards — the Jack Bendat Scholarship, the Hawaiian Award for “Most Outstanding Jazz Graduate”, the Perth Jazz Societies Award for the “Most Outstanding Group of the Year for 2008” and the 2009 James Morrison Scholarship for vocals (after being a finalist in the scholarship for six years).

 Sarah McKenzie Sextet
Pat Thiele and Sarah McKenzie

As I’ve said previously, vocals are not my first preference when it comes to improvised music, but I regard each vocalist I hear as an opportunity to be educated. So what can I say about McKenzie’s performance? I think it is a big plus that her renditions of her original pieces had the same feel as the Cole Porter and Ellington classics, because the heritage of Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday do seem important to this 22-year-old singer. Close your eyes and listen to McKenzie and it could be a much older woman singing, there is such power, depth and maturity in the voice. There is also warmth and conviction — when McKenzie sings “You’d be so nice to come home to”, she sings as if she has someone in mind. You know it’s not you, but you wish, in that moment, that it could be. That is a sign of how well the singer is projecting the feeling. And clearly McKenzie, as was evident when she sang In My Solitude, is not scared of emotion. She seems to be quite an open person, at least in her stage persona, and that is engaging.

 Sarah McKenzie Sextet
Sarah McKenzie

McKenzie’s style of piano is expressive but forceful and that goes well with the hard-driving energy of the sextet. This is robust jazz and it will appeal to audiences who like strong grooves and a swingin’ vibe. McKenzie has the appeal — often people make a point of saying that she has the talent to match her looks — to be an ambassador for jazz. But should that burden be placed on a young musician who simply loves to perform?

 Sarah McKenzie Sextet
New York Bound: Sam Anning

McKenzie announced after her first song that Sam Anning — who was not playing at quite all the Stonnington Jazz concerts — has won a full scholarship to the Manhattan School of Music in New York, NY. Congratulations to Sam. His departure will leave a huge gap in Melbourne and many bands will miss him. The Sarah McKenzie Sextet will be one of those.

 Sarah McKenzie Sextet
Sarah McKenzie