Tag Archives: Carlo Barbaro

WELL MAY CHARLES MINGUS SAY AMEN TO THAT

 Mingus Amongst Us

Trumpeter Ray Cassar mimes flute behind the flute-players Steve Fitzmaurice, Tim Wilson and Carlo Barbaro in Mingus Amongst Us

REVIEW: Mingus Amongst Us, Chapel Off Chapel, Monday 19 May, 8pm for Stonnington Jazz

Possibly it’s a little flippant to ask this, but how many flautists does it take to unhinge a trumpet player? The answer, it seems, is three. So, in the second — and spectacular — set invoking the spirit of Charles Mingus, three of the nonet’s reeds players put down their saxes and picked up flutes. And in a clear case of flute envy, horn player Ray Cassar turned his instrument horizontal and began miming a flautist behind the other three.

This amusing moment reflected how much fun the nine band members were having as they played Steve Fitzmaurice‘s arrangements of music by great bass player and composer Charles Mingus, which has been described as “earthy, passionate and sophisticated, blues and gospel-inspired jazz”.

Mingus Amongst Us

Mingus Amongst Us

The line-up of this ensemble, which performs regularly in Sydney, varies a little according to who’s available in the city where they are playing, but at Chapel Off Chapel we heard Fitzmaurice (baritone sax) with Cassar (trumpet), Jordan Murray (trombone), Nick Mulder (trombone), Carlo Barbaro (tenor sax), Tim Wilson (alto sax), Joe Chindamo (piano), Tom Lee (bass) and Hugh Harvey (drums).

Steve Fitzmaurice

Steve Fitzmaurice solos in Mingus Amongst Us

I freely admit to loving this group’s work and these Mingus arrangements so much that it’s been hard to remain dispassionate (if that’s called for) or to think too deeply about what I like about the Mingus Amongst Us gigs I’ve heard at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club. I find myself just getting into the music and soaking it up as it pours forth from these superb musicians.

Reviewers are supposed to have their critical antennae up, I think, so can I find a quibble? If I have to, it would be that Cassar on trumpet — as opposed to on flugelhorn — was at times so intensely piercing that some notes seemed to upset the balance slightly. But I loved his swinging horn in Fables of Faubus and his flugelhorn work amid the sweeping vistas of Alice’s Wonderland (originally Diane), which was an absolutely splendid piece. My only other regret was that Tom Lee’s solos on bass were too brief.

Joe Chindamo

Joe Chindamo solos in Mingus Amongst Us

So what was so appealing and so clearly had the audience — not quite as many as I’d hoped, but it was a Monday night — enthralled? Mingus Amongst Us serves up a rich feast of sound that is full of momentum. From the start of the first set, when Harvey was able to “stick it to us” with a long solo, we heard a band that was tight and punchy, with full-on pieces as well as ballads. We heard sharp splinters of sound and fiery bursts in Jump Monk, tension and crescendoes in Gunslinging Bird (originally If Charlie Parker Were a Gunslinger There’d Be a Whole Lot of Copycats), shimmering horn volleys in Fight Song and enough forward momentum in Tijuana Gift Shop to justify Julia Gillard‘s phrase “going forward” (and don’t we miss Julia).

Carlo Barbaro

Carlo Barbaro solos in Mingus Amongst Us

We heard ripper solos from Barbaro in Gunslinging Bird and Goodbye Pork Pie Hat (how deep can a tenor sax go?), from Wilson in Fight Song and the closing Better Get Hit in Your Soul, from Fitzmaurice in Alice’s Wonderland and amid the wonderful chaos of Moanin’, from Mulder in Fight Song, from Chindamo in Tijuana Gift Shop and, along with Murray, in Us is Two, plus many more.

Tim Wilson Solos in Mingus Amongst Us

Tim Wilson Solos in Mingus Amongst Us

There is so much energy in Mingus. So much of it is released by this ensemble. And there is wonder and beauty there in ballads such as Self Portrait in Three Colors.

So, great arrangements, great musicians and a great vibe. Ages ago I wrote that after a Mingus Amongst Us concert that I almost expected to hear Charles Mingus say “Amen” at gig’s end. That’s not far off, I reckon.

ROGER MITCHELL

IMAGE GALLERY

Mingus Amongst Us

Stonnington Jazz 

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SARAH McKENZIE SEXTET

Stonnington Jazz opening night at Malvern Town Hall, Thursday, May 19, 2011
Sarah McKenzie piano and vocals, Eamon McNelis trumpet, Carlo Barbaro saxophone, Hugh Stuckey guitar, Alex Boneham bass, Craig Simon drums
Guests: Julien Wilson saxophone, Phil Bernotto percussion

Sarah McKenzie

Sarah McKenzie

She’s vivacious, she’s engaging, she’s spirited and she can woo an audience as if she’s been doing it for years, but Sarah McKenzie is only 22. She was an ideal choice by artistic director Adrian Jackson to open Stonnington Jazz 2011 with two concerts at Malvern Town Hall, and I’m willing to bet guests at tables and in the balcony seats  loved this lively performance by McKenzie, her sextet and guests. It was also perfect timing for McKenzie, whose newly released album Don’t Tempt Me was selling steadily to queues of patrons during the break and after the concert.

Sarah McKenzie

Sarah McKenzie

McKenzie’s appeal is not hard to understand. As an advertisement for jazz, she is just what the doctor ordered. So what’s her appeal? Obviously she looks just a tad better than most jazz musicians who have been around the block a few times, so photographers are keen to snap images that could be used to boost the ratings of jazz. But this young artist’s attraction derives primarily, I believe, from the fact that she is — despite her youth — a born entertainer.

Sarah McKenzie

Sarah McKenzie

Her animated facial expressions and gestures, which are so ideal for the cameras, also appeal to the audience because they communicate McKenzie’s enthusiasm and sheer love for what she’s doing. It’s contagious. When she talks about how she discovered jazz or tells us that, at 16 when she wrote Love Me or Leave Me, she didn’t know it was a standard, we are caught up in her passion for the music. There is a frankness, an openness and honesty to McKenzie’s approach as a performer that is refreshing and appealing. But she also has a natural talent for working an audience that belies her years.

Sarah McKenzie

Sarah McKenzie

Sarah McKenzie

Sarah McKenzie

In this respect McKenzie is similar to her mentor, James Morrison, who has that ability to captivate an audience and impart his enthusiasm for whatever he’s playing and whoever he’s playing with. So, this opening night concert raises a broader issue: Is jazz or improvised music these days often less about entertainment and more about musicians pursuing their particular paths? Are audience numbers down because there is less of the “entertainment” aspect to performances? Well, to play devil’s advocate, I believe many hold the view that jazz would have more bums on seats with more artists like James Morrison, while that view would be anathema to musicians who believe in moving into exciting new territory regardless of audience appeal. It’s an interesting question.

Sarah McKenzie

Sarah McKenzie

Sarah McKenzie

Sarah McKenzie

So, now for a review of the concert. I loved the engagement with the audience and McKenzie’s infectious passion. She was clearly enjoying herself and that helped the audience to enjoy her performance. As well, she sang mostly standards or audience favourites, such as You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To, The Way You Look Tonight, Cry Me A River, I’ve Got the Blues Tonight, Summertime, Bye Bye Black Bird and, for an encore, (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66. For good measure, she added interpretations of Love Me Tender (which succeeded) and St James Infirmary (which was a too jaunty for this bleak song in my view). So she was not pushing any boundaries.

Sarah McKenzie

Sarah McKenzie

I wished a few things to be different. I would have liked to hear more original songs, such as McKenzie’s version of Love Me Or Leave Me. I would have liked her to try some much more adventurous material, some songs with the potential to go into more edgy territory.

Julien Wilson

Julien Wilson

Eamon McNelis and Carlo Barbaro

Eamon McNelis and Carlo Barbaro

Hugh Stuckey

Hugh Stuckey

And I would have loved to have heard members of the sextet, and the guests, being given more room to move and time to take some serious solos. McKenzie had a talented band — which she clearly recognised —  but we heard solos from Eamon McNelis, Hugh Stuckey, Carlo Barbaro and Julien Wilson that were so brief as to be frustrating. They whet our appetites and then stopped after a tiny entree.

Alex Boneham

Alex Boneham and (bottom left) Craig Simon

Finally, and this is a longer term wish for this young artist, I’d like to feel moved by her singing rather than enticed by her youthful exuberance. That is possibly unfair and a bit like asking her to suddenly become many years older and tap into the deeper feelings and angst that can come with life’s tough times. But it is also a fervent wish that Sarah McKenzie digs deep and stretches herself so that there are risks in her material and in the way she performs. In short, I would like to see McKenzie vying for a commission concert at Melbourne’s Jazz Fringe Festival in years to come.

For now, this young artist left plenty of happy punters filing out of Malvern Town Hall.

Sarah McKenzie

Hugh Stuckey and Sarah McKenzie

Sarah McKenzie

Sarah McKenzie

Eamon McNelis with improvised mute

Eamon McNelis with improvised mute

ROGER MITCHELL

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