Tag Archives: CD review

The Burden of Memory: Oehlers, Grabowsky, Rogers, Harland

The Burden of Memory


The Burden of Memory: Jamie Oehlers, Paul Grabowsky, Reuben Rogers, Eric Harland

How much do we need to analyse music and how much to just listen? To what extent can we escape our expectations of music from musicians who we’ve heard many times and yet not nearly enough?

To the first question, the answer is probably that to listen is sufficient, and that by listening more we gain more — appreciation, understanding and enjoyment. To the second, the answer is that we can easily be surprised. That is one of the joys of jazz or improvised music.

With this line-up of WA saxophonist Oehlers, Melbourne pianist Grabowsky and, from the US, bassist Rogers and drummer Harland, an album of strong, driving jazz was on the cards. But the original Oehlers compositions recorded in March this year (2015) in Brooklyn are full of subtleties and gentle expression. In a reworking of the standard Polkadots and Moonbeams, Oehlers pays tribute to his first saxophone teacher, Roger Garrood, “for instilling in me the importance of expression through music” and the whole mood of the album echoes and amplifies that commitment.

Evident in these pieces — and well complemented by Oehlers’ liner notes — is a thoughtfulness and introspection, a willingness to reflect on our changes (Revolutions), our world (Armistice), our minds (the title track), our fears (The Deep Freeze), our empathetic relationships (Helix) and our losses (Goodbye).

There’s plenty of grit here, even in And Moonbeams and especially in The Deep Freeze, but the lightness and floating beauty is frequently there so these compositions are anything but the burden that the title suggests. We are invited to luxuriate in and be captivated by the understated finesse of these players who can and do, in other contexts, produce so much power and driving force.

Three brief “duet moments” capture fleeting improvisations. The final Goodbye is also brief, a beautiful lament at the passing of saxophonists David Ades, Bernie McGann and Mike Stewart.

The Burden of Memory is an album to let wash over us, so that we may feel our minds have been gently cleansed and refreshed — but only after some pensiveness and soul-searching.

For star lovers: 4 out of 5


The Burden of Memory is available via Bandcamp

CD launch details


CD review

Life's Undertow

4 stars

Rufus Records

Stevens did not prepare or plan his second solo piano album, but used one session in a Sydney studio for “spontaneous improvisation”, trusting the creative process. The risk pays off, in spades.

Life’s Undertow is a compelling, declarative and inspired example of music shaped on the run. Apart from nimbly complex The Line’s Tension, these 10 pieces lean more to classical invention than to jazz, but all display a pervasive freshness that demands attention and obviates any call for swing.

In Campervan of Dreams a single note repeated sustains focus amid spare embellishments. Solemnity marks This Never Happens; Synapse is a hymn.

The successor to Stevens’ solo Freehand is testament to his ability to find, in freedom, sublime form.

Download: The Line’s Tension, Synapse

File between: Marc Hannaford, Mike Nock


For an interview with Tim Stevens about his album read The Unsentimental Bloke.

This review also published in the Play liftout of the Sunday Herald Sun on July 1, 2012.


CD review

Three Lanes

4 stars

Self-released (AK001)
Genevieve Lacey (recorders), Joe Talia (Revox B77, electronics & percussion) and Andrea Keller (piano)

A sizeable dollop of gratitude is due to the two-year Australia Council Fellowship program that has allowed composer Keller to create what she describes as “new music” with two “broad-minded” musical colleagues. It’s not surprising that this foray out of Keller’s comfort zone works so well — after all, her work is always lit brightly by the spark of originality, and that must be said also of Lacey and Talia.

All 14 pieces show cohesion and a sense of progression that reflect the musicians’ awareness of each other’s voices as well as a commitment to the journey and destination. Acoustic, electronic, prepared, improvised and composed elements are interwoven with subtlety, so that there is no feel of artificiality or domination by devices.

In the most compelling compositions — Far Away Here, Between Six & Six, Interlude, Collage IV and Stay — piano remains a powerful presence. Talia’s work on Revox B77 and electronics is discreet and evocative throughout. Lacey — in Nine Variations, Stay and Diddy Ditty for example — shows the versatility of her instrument in mood and affect.

This is experimental music, but the experiment works so well that any tentative hypotheses are subsumed by the successful outcome.

A standalone work, Boy, is available exclusively by digital download.

File between: Gest8, Origami

Favourites: Stay, Far Away Here