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WOMEN COME UP TRUMPS – AGAIN

Laila Biaili

Laila Biali                      Image supplied

PREVIEW

19th Melbourne Women’s International Jazz Festival, December 4-11, 2016, Bennett’s Lane Jazz Club

On the eve of Donald Trump taking the reins in the United States of America, it seems appropriate — and indeed vital — for women and men of Australia (as Gough Whitlam used to say, albeit not in that order) to come out and enjoy music mostly created and played by women.

Artists from Canada, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne will share the products of their lifestyle choices over eight days from Sunday, December 4. And in that bittersweet way of a top festival, there will be clashes — occasions when you will be torn between gigs that you won’t want to miss, but must choose between.

Opening night will feature Jann Rutherford Memorial Award winner, pianist Emma Stephenson — along with Nick Henderson (bass) and Oli Nelson (drums) as Hieronymus Trio — in collaboration with inventive vocalist Gian Slater. Stephenson has composed new material and reworked earlier compositions for this performance. Slater has been a finalist in the Freedman Fellowship in 2004 and 2010, The National Jazz Awards in 2005, and the Bell Awards for Best Jazz Vocal Album in 2010 and 2013. Hieronymus Trio has been mentored by Ari Hoenig, John Riley, Aaron Goldberg, Craig Scott, Simon Barker and Matt McMahon.

On Monday, December 5 the festival student night will celebrate emerging female musicians with a line-up featuring performers from Loreto Toorak, Stonnington Youth Jazz Initiative, Lowther Hall and Ringwood Secondary College.

Tuesday, December 6 brings an opportunity to hear prolific composer and pianist Andrea Keller with Stephen Magnusson guitar and James McLean on drums in Transients V, one of her trios inspired by the philosophy and legacy of esteemed mentor Allan Browne. Based on a collective approach to music making, the trios perform original compositions, improvisations, as well as selections from the American and Australian songbooks.

Canadian multi-award winning pianist and vocalist Laila Biali appears for her first Australia performance with countrymen Adam Thomas (drums) and Joel Fountain (bass) on Wednesday, December 7. Laila has performed at the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands, Tokyo’s Cotton Club and Carnegie Hall. She has toured with Grammy award winners Chris Botti, Paula Cole and Suzanne Vega, recorded with and supported Sting and was “Keyboardist of the Year” at Canada’s National Jazz Awards.

On Thursday, December 8, Emma Gilmartin will join James Sherlock (guitar), Frank Di Sario (double bass) and Danny Fischer (drums) to launch her album The Emma Gilmartin Quartet: Live at Bennetts Lane recorded by Niko Schauble of Pughouse Studios. They will play standards and original compositions.

Two shows on Friday, December 9 highlight the extraordinary abilities of Melbourne’s creative women jazz artists.

In the Jazz Lab, Kennedy Snow featuring Nina Ferro presents originals from the recently released debut album Follow, the result of a longtime collaboration between Nina (recently returned from a decade residency in London) and Kennedy Snow (aka drummer Sonja Horbelt). Follow encompasses such styles as Neo-Soul, R&B, jazz and heart stopping ballads. They will also debut some new tunes, and play Ferro originals and  classic R&B interpretations. The line-up will include long-time collaborators Kellie Santin (saxes) and Kim May (bass) with special guest Steve Sedergreen on piano and keys.

And in a special treat next door certain to set up a most difficult choice for patrons, the festival and Melbourne Jazz Co-operative co-present a solo piano double bill featuring friends and colleagues Nat Bartsch and Andrea Keller. These two extraordinary women pianists, composers and improvisers will share their unique sounds and distinctive work in a concert not be be missed.

And on Saturday, December 10, setting up another festival clash of competing drawcards, acclaimed Brisbane vocalist Kristin Berardi and The Balloons present work from her latest Bell Award winning album Where or When in the Jazz Lab. Appearing with Kristin are formidable Australian musicians on this ABC record release Julien Wilson (sax), James Sherlock (guitar), Steve Newcomb (piano) and Sam Anning (bass).

In the Jazz Room, MJC co-presents the composer Cheryl Durongpisitkul on saxophone, clarinet and flute in her octet with Felix Watson (trumpet), James Macaulay (trombone), Marcos Villalta (guitar), Lincoln Mckenzie (guitar), Harry Cook (piano), Stephen Hornby (double bass) and Leo Kavanagh (drums). Durongpisitkul has spent the past year writing a cohesive, narrative based piece, heavily influenced by Igor Stravinsky’s Petrushka. Cheryl’s approach to music making is described as adventurous, quirky, beautiful and at times chaotic, ranging from contemporary jazz to third stream.

The festival closes on Sunday, December 11 with Spirograph Studies led by bassist Tamara Murphy, winner of the inaugural Young Elder of Jazz Commission for the Melbourne International Jazz Festival. Spirograph Studies takes a detailed, textural approach to improvised music. Inventors of the ‘gromp’, this strong collection of music-makers each bring their unique voice to the stage in a collaborative approach featuring Luke Howard (piano), Fran Swinn (guitar) and James McLean (drums).

For full program details visit the MWIJF website and Bennetts Lane.

The Melbourne Women’s International Jazz festival gratefully acknowledges financial assistance from major sponsors APRA AMCOS, Fraser Place Melbourne, The Canada Council for the Arts, Melbourne Jazz Co-operative and Brolly Design.

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LONG LOOK AT A SHORTER FESTIVAL

PREVIEW

Melbourne International Jazz Festival, June 3 – 12, 2016

Tomasz Stanko

Tomasz Stanko

SOME of the main drawcards at this year’s festival are well-known knowns — Wayne Shorter, Esperanza Spalding, Gary Bartz — but it’s a big program with plenty of other artists to be excited about.

Stats don’t put flesh on the bones, but over 10 days the festival will stage 74 events involving 335 artists (75 international and 260 Australian), 22 free events and heaps of club sessions at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club, Uptown Jazz Cafe and Dizzy’s Jazz Club. The larger venues will include Hamer Hall, Melbourne Recital Centre, Forum, Malthouse and The Channel at Arts Centre Melbourne.

On the final three days Riverside Bar at Southbank will host Hamer Jazz Bar each evening from 6pm as a rendezvous for festival patrons.

As usual, the main program is divided into Modern Masters, Explorations in Jazz and the three sets of Club Sessions, plus five Jazz Out West events, seven Close Encounters and two Artist Workshops at Monash University.

Gary Bartz

Gary Bartz

All good festivals come with a clash or two not emanating from a drum kit and MIJF 2016 opens with a big one. Our own flamboyant pianist and composer Barney McAll has had a hand in bringing jazz great Gary Bartz from the US to play Melbourne Recital Centre on opening night, with Andrea Keller’s Transients I as support.

This clashes head-on with PBS Young Elder of Jazz Commission winner Joe O’Connor on piano in a quartet at Bennetts Lane to perform Confrontations. In six dialogues, O’Connor’s work will balance “tonal and non-tonal harmony, regular and irregular rhythm, delicate lyricism and impressive density”. That sounds pretty damn interesting. These two gigs present a tough choice.

Esperanza Spalding

Esperanza Spalding

There’s no need to say a lot about Esperanza Spalding, who will play the Forum at 9.30pm on opening night, because she will draw crowds. Marcus J. Moore on Pitchfork described her album Emily’s D+Evolution thus: “Using a dissonant guitar riff, thumping drums, and lurching time signature, it almost feels like a dare to stick around. The album has the feel of a nervy gauntlet throw, seething with the sort of ferocity that only comes from time spent alone, far away from the limelight. These are exuberant, confrontational songs, amplified in the same sort of rock/funk hybrid style that brings Prince and Janelle Monae to mind. Gone is the Afro, replaced with long braids, wide-rimmed glasses, and ornate outfits.”

Wayne Shorter

Wayne Shorter

Wayne Shorter also needs no promotion. He plays Hamer Hall on the festival’s closing night with Danilo Perez on piano, John Patitucci on bass and Brian Blade on drums. Enough said, although I’m hoping for some longer bursts of saxophone magic from the great player than we heard at the Palais when he was last here.

Perez, Patitucci and Blade will play two gigs at Bennetts on Friday, June 10 as Children of the Light Trio. Surely this must be one not to miss.

While on the subject of bass players, Hawthorn luthier Benedict Puglisi is making acoustic bass instruments specifically for Spalding and Patitucci to play while they are here. That suggests his work is pretty special.

The international artists include some who were popular on previous visits to the festival. Genre-crossing Robert Glasper Trio (US), who performed in 2012, will return in an acoustic trio format with new album, Covered, on June 4 at MRC with Ross McHenry Trio supporting.

Mulatu Astatke

Mulatu Astatke (Image: Nick Pitsas)

And the “father of Ethio jazz” Mulatu Astatke (Ethiopia), who played the festival in 2010, will join the local band Black Jesus Experience at the Malthouse on Wednesday, June 8 to give the world premiere of The Cradle of Humanity.

Hiromi

Hiromi

Also returning is the pianist from Japan who sold out three shows in 2012, Hiromi. She who joins Simon Phillips on drums and Anthony Jackson on contra bass guitar at Hamer Hall on Thursday, June 9.

Tomasz Stanko

Tomasz Stanko (Image: Caroline Forbes)

And I don’t care what clashes with Polish trumpet maestro Tomasz Stańko‘s band featuring Alexi Tuomarila on piano, Slawomir Kurkiewicz on bass and Olavi Louhivuori on drums. I’ll be at one of their two Malthouse concerts on Thursday, June 9 at 6.30pm and 9pm.

Also at the Malthouse and not to be missed on Saturday, June 11, will be Stańko and Paul Grabowsky leading the Monash Art Ensemble at 6.30pm to explore the music of Krysztof Komeda, who scored Rosemary’s Baby and Knife in the Water. Not to be missed.

Latin jazz titan, pianist Eddie Palmieri (US) will spend five days with Monash University student musicians before their Jazz Futures performance at the MRC Salon on Thursday, June 9 at 6pm. Palmieri’s Latin Jazz Septet will set feet tapping at Hamer Hall on Friday, June 10 at 7.30pm.

Singer José James will pay tribute to the music of Billie Holiday in Yesterday I Had the Blues at Hamer Hall on Saturday, June 11 at 7.30pm.

And to complete the Modern Masters concerts, Vince Jones and Matt McMahon will join the Astral Orchestra to bring us Van Morrison’s Masterpieces at 7.30pm on Friday, June 10 at MRC.

Snarky Puppy

Snarky Puppy (Image: Philippe Levy Stab)

As part of the Explorations in Jazz series, guitarist Lionel Loueke (US) will join Sydney group The Vampires for two Bennetts Lane gigs on Saturday, June 4. And crowd-pleasers Snarky Puppy (US), who wowed crowds here in 2013, will be in the Forum at 9.30pm on Thursday, June 9.

The Coopers Malthouse has great beers on tap (I’m not paid to say that) and it may suit many to spend Friday, June 10 there to hear Stu Hunter‘s suite The Migration (a fantastic line-up) at 6.30pm and then Kristin Berardi Band (also a top line-up) at 9pm. You could not possibly go wrong with these two performances by Australian bands.

The Malthouse also hosts Peter Knight’s Way Out West on Saturday, June 11 at 9pm, featuring koto virtuoso Satsuki Odamura and Ray Pereira on fun and fiery African-influenced percussion. This gig will showcase new material and is sure to be a knockout.

And anyone who can remember the Chris Dave and the Drumhedz festival gig in 2014 should recall multi-reedist Marcus Strickland. Twi-Life is set to deliver soul, jazz-funk and R&B in two shows at Bennetts Lane on Saturday and Sunday, June 11 and 12, at 7.30pm and 10pm (they must be expecting a crowd — that’s four concerts).

If all that music’s not enough, there are club sessions. Can’t mention them all, but here are a few likely highlights.

Guitarist Paolo Angeli (Italy) will join local musicians at Bennetts Lane to bring us jazz influenced by Sardinian folk songs (June 3). He will also play solo guitar at Bluestone Church Arts Space in Hyde Street, Footscray at 4pm on Sunday, June 5. Westies must come out to this and other MIJF gigs at Dancing Dog Cafe (Wallace), Reverence Hotel (30/70 Collective) and Footscray Community Arts Centre (Jazz-a-Bye Baby).

Get close up and personal with Robert Glasper Trio at Bennetts on June 5. Hear a tribute to our maestro of Mondays and much besides, drummer Allan Browne, on June 6. If you fancy trumpah, as Scott Tinkler would put it, don’t miss Keyon Harrold and Twi-Life musicians in two gigs on June 8. And for fans of drummer Ari Hoenig, there are two gigs on June 9 at Bennetts featuring guitarist Quentin Angus and bassist Sam Anning.

Uptown Jazz Cafe has a ripper line-up of gigs during the festival. Don’t miss Mark Fitgzibbon Trio (June 3), Paul Williamson Quartet playing Monk (June 3), Andrea Keller’s Transients IV (June 4), Stephen Magnusson Trio (June 5), Ithaca Bound suite, music of the Allan Browne Quintet (June 6), Jamie Oehlers/Paul Grabowsky Quartet (June 9) and Sam Keevers’ Red Fish Blue (June 12). These and the other Uptown gigs are delivering seriously good jazz.

Dizzy’s Jazz Club in Richmond also has eight festival gigs, so look these up on the festival website.

Time’s almost up if I’m to post this as the embargo expires. Apologies for any errors. Other events of note include the free opening concert at Fed Square on June 4 at 1.30pm featuring Brazilian and Latin ensembles led by Alistair Kerr and Sam Keevers respectively.

Barney McAll is going to play about with the Federation Bells and anything could happen with that. Keep an ear out at noon on June 4 in Birrarung Marr.

And the Queen Vic market will groove to Los Cabrones on June 8 at 6pm to warm up the Winter Night Markets.

And at noon on Sunday, June 12, at The Channel, 100 St Kilda Rd, Southbank you may find out how many festival artistic directors it takes to change … well … a light globe, a set list, a door gig, a minor key … you name it.

ROGER MITCHELL

For further details and full program visit the festival website.

Note: Many images posted above are supplied by MIJF.

 

 

A FUTURE WITHOUT AL BROWNE IS UNTHINKABLE YET

Allan Browne

Allan Browne

AFTER days of sunshine uncharacteristic to British Columbia, Canada, it is a grey day in Prince Rupert. That seems appropriate as I feel a deep sense of loss, sharing at a distance what many are feeling — a sense of disbelief that Allan Browne is no longer with us.

He was supposed to be the host for the final night at Bennetts Lane. He was supposed to carry on the tradition of Monday nights, at Uptown. He was supposed to always be there, to bring us warmth and laughter and the love of music that welled deep within him and emerged so often in that heartfelt endorsement from the drum kit, “yeaaaaahh”.

Others have written tributes to Al in the past few days that have moved us and brought tears and a realisation of what he meant to so many. His presence — and now absence — has been in my mind so much since I heard the news. Not unexpected, it may be, as Adrian Jackson observed, yet hard to accept all the same.

Allan once wrote of his close friend and fellow musician, the late bassist Gary Costello, “I still can’t get used to the past tense, a future without Gaz is unthinkable yet. We both loved e.e.cummings …” Well, I’m certain that many of us will be thinking that a future without Al Browne is unthinkable yet, and that we won’t get used to talking about him in the past tense.

This was supposed to be a review of this year’s Melbourne International Jazz Festival, which would have been hard enough after the wrench from that bustle of gigs and the imminent closure of Bennetts Lane into the mode of international travel. Now it must be about Al Browne, whose quintet brought us a new work, Ithaca Bound, inspired by Homer’s Odyssey. Allan’s odyssey has ended, but his journey will remain with us.

The recent loss of Ornette Coleman is also deeply felt. His great contribution to improvised music will also sustain us long into the future.

It feels as if the jazz scene in Melbourne is in a period of major change. Bennetts Lane is closing, but, as Marc Hannaford points out, there are many outlets for jazz in the city. Also, new venues will arise from the ashes of Bennetts — they will have to develop their own character and characters over time.

Cuts to the ABC meant that Gerry Koster, host of Jazz Up Late, had to move on. Let’s hope he can bring his breadth of knowledge and taste for adventure into something new, because the demise of his program was a significant loss. As was the separation of Adrian Jackson from the programming of Stonnington’s festival of Australian jazz. The new arrangement may have soul, but I am yet to be convinced that it has that rare ability to bring us exciting and unexpected juxtapositions of players in what has been one of my favourite festivals.

Funding shortfalls have also curbed the nurturing and mentoring role of Martin Jackson’s Melbourne Jazz Cooperative. It will have a new home at Sonny’s Uptown Jazz Café, which is great, but it may be necessary to mount a public campaign to gain more financial backing for this vital cog in the Melbourne jazz machine.

But we move on. Jazz is, after all, about improvisation. The musicians make decisions on the run every time they play, and we mostly love the results. What will the rest of this year and the next bring to the Melbourne scene? We await that with interest.

Vale Allan Browne. See ya, mate.

ROGER MITCHELL

In 2010, before his quintet ushers the Stonnington Jazz audience into his quintet’s suite A Season In Hell, Allan Browne tells of his personal journey to the brink: CLICK TO READ THE INTERVIEW

Allan Browne

Allan Browne

Allan Browne

Allan Browne

Allan Browne

Allan Browne

Allan Browne

Allan Browne

Allan Browne

Allan Browne