Tag Archives: Bill Frisell

THE END BEGINS, AN ENCORE ENDS

Kneebody

Kneebody at The Forum: Ben Wendel sax, Nate Wood drums, Kaveh Rastegar bass, Shane Endsley trumpet and Adam Benjamin Fender Rhodes.

 

MINI REVIEW

The End / Kneebody (US), The Forum Upstairs on Sunday 2 June 2013 at 7pm, Melbourne International Jazz Festival

The End

The End plus

The crowd was noticeably younger at The Forum Upstairs for this gig, and expectations were high for the genre-bending five-piece US band Kneebody, billed as combining “the depth of jazz, the swagger of hip-hop and the conviction of rock” in a “no holds barred brand of musical expression”. Well, we all know the writers of festival blurbs can get a little carried away, but the second set was likely to be exciting.

But before that we had a concert beginning with The End, playing compositions by guitarist band leader Tim Willis and with Kneebody’s Shane Endsley as a guest on trumpet. One tiny gripe I have was that MIJF artistic director Michael Tortoni — who must be fairly busy — did not introduce The End until the beginning of the second set (that’s the end of those beginning and end references BTW). It seems reasonable for any band worthy of playing at this major festival to be introduced before they play, but I’m probably old fashioned.

The End opened as if The Forum Upstairs was on fire and only the vigour of its musical output could extinguish the flames. But as the set evolved it was clear that the compositions were taking us to more interesting places than loud rock-infused vibes. After the Eugene Ball and Mark Helias compositions played at this venue earlier in the day, I was looking for variation, development and unpredictability to maintain interest as well as inspire admiration in the musicianship. Willis’s quintet plus Endsley delivered that — I found that I enjoyed each piece more as the set progressed.

Endsley’s playing certainly added significantly to the line-up, but the standout players on the night for The End were Willis, Nick Martyn on drums and Gareth Hill on bass.

Kneebody

Kneebody

Kneebody has been together for 12 years and it shows. The band’s musicianship was exemplary — in other words, they could play. Their work was tight and virtuosic. Kaveh Rastegar was engaging as spokesman.

Their compositions, many by keyboard player Adam Benjamin, included rhythmic repetition, layered landscapes of sound, psychedelia, intensely percussive periods, attacks with mounting intensity and the lush, sustained feel that the Fender Rhodes can deliver. High Noon had an energetic, pumped up Bill Frisell feel to it. They played with some clapping, fiddled with pedals on sax and trumpet feeds that enabled recording and playback on the run, and they had dry ice “smoke”.  This was pretty slick for a jazz gig, and lots of fun as well. The audience loved the set and called on an encore.

There is a tiny “but”. In the end, I felt that this talented quintet played material that did not take us on a journey quite as interesting as did the compositions tackled by The End. What was missing? Well, I suspect Kneebody was delivering exactly the music that their fans expected, but I’d like to have seen more interesting exchanges between instruments — jousting, if you like, or challenges issued and answered. It was almost as if the conversation was as expected, rather than there being a surprise or twist popping up to create electricity.

Kaveh Rastegar thanked Graham Wood, co-owner of the Ellington Jazz Club in Perth and a key figure in the recent inaugural Perth International Jazz Festival, for inviting Kneebody to Australia. We all should thank him as well.

GALLERY: Pictures from this gig

ROGER MITCHELL

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THE OUTER LIMITS

Preview: Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival, April 29 to May 8, 2011

Mastaneh Nazarian

Mastaneh Nazarian barely contains her love for her Parker guitar

Yes, the image above is unashamedly a bid to attract attention to this preview of this year’s MJFF, but in my defence it is the picture guitarist Mastaneh Nazarian chose to be used on the Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival website, which is where all the details of this festival can be found. Nazarian, who migrated from Teheran, Iran to the US and suffered “mild malnutrition” in Boston in the mid ’90s, will feature in a double bill with Jonathan Dimond‘s Loops and her group Kafka Pony, which she named after reading lots of Kafka, dreaming of a pink penguin and waking with the word “pony” on her lips.

Anyway, speaking of matters barely contained, my excitement is mounting about what’s on offer this year. Details are on the website, but here’s a quick glimpse of some highlights. First, because it is first, is the opening concert on Friday, April 29 at the Melbourne Recital Centre’s Salon, which will give us a chance to hear a work so far aired at only in parts, at least in Melbourne and at Wangaratta. Andrea Keller Quartet, with two violins, viola and a cello, will perform Place, a 60-minute commissioned work in seven parts that draws inspiration from the area surrounding Bermagui NSW, and explores notions of belonging and identity. The quartet employs electronics, improvisation, preparations and acoustic instruments in the piece.

We’ve had two tantalising tastes of this work — at Uptown Jazz Cafe in August last year, when the quartet played Guluga and Belonging, and in the WPAC Theatre at Wangaratta Jazz 2010, when Belonging closed the set. I loved these tidbits and look forward to hearing the whole piece. The icing on the cake will be special guests Stephen Magnusson and Raj Jayaweera performing as a duo.

I have to keep this short and avoid mentioning every gig, tempting as that is. So, on Saturday, there’s a wild night in a warehouse opening with Ronny Ferella and Sam Price, who make up Peon, no doubt playing some similar material to what’s on their album Real Time, and ending in an iPhone mash-up — an app-created orgy of sounds under the watchful ear of Myles Mumford. You have to be there.

After Loops and Kafka Pony on Sunday, and Sam Bates Trio on Monday, a real highlight for me will be Band of Five Names on Tuesday, May 3, at Bennetts Lane. When this group (Phil Slater on trumpet and laptop, Matt McMahon on piano and Nord, Carl Dewhurst on guitar, Simon Barker on drums and percussion) performed at at Alpine MDF Theatre, Wangaratta in 2009, I thought of it as entering a musical space of light and shade, frenzy and reflection, and at times absolute simplicity. The ensemble was affective, slowly evolving and highly involving. I thought then, “How can a Nord sound so gentle?” and “Stillness can take root here”.

Zoe Scoglio‘s audio visual evening on Wednesday will be a treat for the ears, because Stephen Magnusson (guitar), Stephen Grant (cornet) and James McLean (drums) will accompany what Zoe has in store.

And in an unprecedented move, MJFF this year has some gigs out west, which is fantastic for those of us who believe more music should happen where so many of those who create it reside. The first performance at the Dancing Dog Cafe/Bar, on Thursday, May 5, features award-winning Peter Knight (trumpet and laptop electronics) and the irrepressible Motion. The second, on Saturday, May 7, features Nat Grant (solo percussion and electronics) and Kewti with “wild black metal experimental microtonal tropical jazz”. How can you resist that?

“What about the famous MJFF commission concert?”, you ask. Well, yes, it’s on at BMW Edge on Friday, May 6 and it must not be missed. That rascal Allan Browne will open with his “three turks and a wasp”. The drummer has a new piano-less quartet with Phillip Noy (alto sax), Sam Pankhurst (bass) and Stephen Grant (cornet) in dialogue, using new material written for the Fringe plus “compositions from the Duke and Jelly Roll”.

And for the main act, Fran Swinn, winner of this year’s APRA Composer Commission, has written Inform for jazz quartet and corde lisse (aerial circus act involving acrobatics on a vertically hanging rope). Circus Oz virtuoso acrobat/aerialist Rockie Stone (pictured below courtesy of Seth Gulob) will perform with the Fran Swinn Quartet (Swinn on guitar, Tamara Murphy on double bass, Ben Hendry on drums), and guest soloist Eugene Ball on trumpet.

Rockie

Rockie Stone at Circus Oz (Picture by Seth Gulob)

Swinn’s work promises to “integrate the forms and structures inherent in Jazz and improvised music with the forms and structures integral to a circus act” and acknowledges influences from dance, theatre and clowning as well as the music of Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman and Bill Frisell.

What could top that? Well, after such high-flying aerial pursuits it has to be time to sit. So Big Arse Sunday is exactly what’s needed. This year it’s at Cafe 303, 303 High Street, Northcote, from 2pm until about 9pm and the line-up includes Collider, Make Up Sex, Tinkler/Pankhurst/McLean, and 12 Tone Diamonds. And if you need a break from the music, the musicians you’ve heard or will hear later will probably be selling some nibbles or sitting on the door, so there’s a chance to chat.

With all these highlights, you may as well give in and decide you’ll never make it home before midnight during the Melboune Jazz Fringe Festival. This is a real grass roots festival run by musicians who volunteer lots of time to make it happen. If you’ve never dipped your toe in, try it. You won’t regret it.

ROGER MITCHELL

YOU TUNES — TIM ROLLINSON TRIO

CD REVIEW

Rollinson — You Tunes

3 stars

THERE are no rough edges to Rollinson‘s second outing as leader after 1997’s Cause + Effect in a different trio plus guests. The founder of popular ’90s acid jazz band DIG (Directions In Groove) is joined by bassist Jonathan Zwartz and drummer Hamish Stuart, fresh from their work on dual Bell Award-winning album The Sea.

On seven originals, three by the trio and one standard, guitarist Rollinson uses distortion and other pedals to float smooth, fluid layers into an often busy mix including soft lyricism with a reflective feel, some bright, stabbing rock-infused riffs and harder, more emphatic musings. The opening Before is too brief, but closer After is a rich, thick gravy with some deliciously deep rumblings.

File between: Bill Frisell, Stephen Magnusson
Download: White Lion Brow, After

ROGER MITCHELL

This review was published in the Sunday Herald Sun liftout Play on July 18, 2010