Tag Archives: Charles Mingus


 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.



Mingus Amongst Us

Stonnington Jazz 


Mingus Amongst Us

Mingus Amongst Us at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club in July 2013

PREVIEW: Stonnington Jazz, 15-25 May 2014

Joe Hockey says the age of entitlement is over, but he is wrong. Over the next few weeks there will be no deficit of live improvised music in Melbourne and that is only fitting. As promises are broken and voters wake up to exactly what terrible things they initiated by voting to stop the boats, we are entitled to seek comfort in music.

The winter season of jazz festivals is almost upon us and, in the absence of a jazz fringe festival this year, Stonnington Jazz — which last year was judged Best Cultural, Arts or Music Event in Victoria at the Australian Event Awards — is first up.

If you’ve never been before, this showcase of 100 per cent Australian jazz (often including expat artists now living abroad) has two main venues, Malvern Town Hall and Chapel Off Chapel, plus a bunch of other bars and restaurants in the city. At the opening night, the town hall is tastefully decked out and guests can watch it all unfold while seated at tables and enjoying drinks and snacks from the bar at the rear.

This year opening night on Thursday, May 15 will feature New York-based expatriate vocalist Chris McNulty — winner of the Bell Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album of 2013 — and singer, songwriter and pianist Sarah McKenzie, also now living in New York, who won the 2012 ARIA Award for her album Close Your Eyes.

Stonnington Jazz this year will feature two concerts celebrating family connections in music. Popular multi-instrumentalist James Morrison will perform with his sons William and Harry in the James Morrison Inheritance on May 22 at Malvern Town Hall. And clarinet player Denis Ball will perform with his son, trumpeter Eugene, in a sextet at Chapel off Chapel at 2pm on May 18.

Other drawcards will be much-loved vocalist Vince Jones performing with Monash University Jazz, an ensemble comprising students that features Rob Burke on sax and Paul Grabowsky on piano.

Dance lovers will be energised by The Melbourne Rhythm Project, which brings together The New Sheiks and dancers led by Ramona Staffield.

And for something completely different, pianist-singer-composer Martin Martini will presents his suite ‘Vienna 1913’ which draws inspiration from the art and lives of the major modernists of the time, such as Schiele, Klimpt, Koskoschka and Hoffmann.

Lovers of traditional jazz will be given an opportunity to celebrate the 30th anniversary of The Syncopators in a special concert at Malvern Town Hall.

That’s pretty much where the press release information finishes, although it does also mention that festival patron Allan Browne will be plying his drums with Sydney saxophonist Phil Noy and bassist Tamara Murphy at COC on May 22. It’s one of my predicted highlights, which this year are almost entirely chosen from the line-ups at Chapel Off Chapel — a real favourite place of mine to hear live music because it’s possible to get up close and personal with the music.

So here are my recommendations, for what they’re worth:

Saturday 17 May, COC, 8pm, Sexteto Zona Sul/Panorama Do Brazil
Doug de Vries, on guitar, will feature in both sets of this night of Brazilian-influenced jazz.

Sunday 18 May, COC, 2pm Sugarfoot Ramblers/Denis Ball & Eugene Ball
Tap your foot to 20 musicians in the first set, then enjoy the chance to hear father and son in a superb sextet.

Monday 19 May, COC, 8pm Mingus Amongst Us
This celebration of the blues and gospel-influenced compositions of Charles Mingus will enthral and excite. Don’t miss it.

David Rex

David Rex

Tuesday 20 May, COC, 8pm David Rex Quartet/Cannonball
Check out the power of the Rex brothers then enjoy a sack o’ woe from Cannonball Adderley, as interpreted by Tim Wilson and friends.

Joe O'Connor

Joe O’Connor at the National Jazz Awards, Wangaratta

Thursday 22 May, COC, 8pm Joseph O’Connor Trio/Browne Noy Murphy
Check out the compositions of young National Jazz Awards winner O’Connor on piano, then be prepared for whimsical humour and great expression from Al Browne, Phil Noy on reeds and Tamara Murphy on double bass.

Mirko Guerrini

Mirko Guerrini performs in Acquacheta at Wangaratta Jazz Festival

Friday 23 May, COC, 8pm Acquacheta/Grabowsky Sanzone: The Italian Project
Saxophonist Mirko Guerrini’s project with guitarist Stephen Magnusson was a hit at Wangaratta last year, and whatever Grabowsky and Sydney vocalist Virna Sanzone create will be worth hearing.

Saturday 24 May, COC, 8pm Chantal Mitvalsky/Paul Williamson Hammond Jazz Party
Always a hoot to enjoy the warm, wonderful vibe of this party sporting a Hammond B3.

Saturday 24 May, MTH, 8pm The Syncopators 30th Anniversary
Expect this to be packed.

Sunday 25 May, COC, 8pm Marinucci Grant Quintet/Alan Lee Quartet Reunion
Great line-up for the first set with Gianni Marinucci (trumpet, flugelhorn) and Steve Grant (cornet), Tony Gould (piano), Frank Di Sario (bass) and Danny Farrugia (drums). And then Alan Lee will reunite with old friends Gould, Derek Capewell (bass) and Ted Vining (drums).

There are many more concerts to enjoy, including Bob Sedergreen and friends in a set after the Stonnington Youth Jazz Initiative on May 21.

Think about it. Promises are being broken. Taxes are being raised. Retirements are being delayed. Renewable energy is being wound down. Global warming is being ignored. The ABC is being cut. The workforce is being casualised.

My suggestion is to get out now and enjoy live music before the end of the world as we know it eventuates.


TO BOOK TICKETS: Phone 82907000 or go to www.chapeloffchapel.com.au

For full program information go to: www.stonningtonjazz.com.au



MB4 Matt Boden

CD launch: March 1, Bennetts Lane, Melbourne, 9pm

THIS debut as leader by Tasmanian-born pianist Matt Boden, now living in Paris, closes with an endearingly slow-swinging version of Mingus’s tune Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love.

With mates Leigh Barker on acoustic bass, Alastair McGrath-Kerr on drums and Gideon Brazil on tenor sax, Boden retains that mood in his Berlin-inspired Revaler Strasse.

McGrath-Kerr’s 5am, Hendrix on TV is unexpectedly, but irresistibly restrained.

But Boden’s Courtesy Forbids ups the energy level in a delightful romp reminiscent of Barker’s quintet, in which Boden has featured on two albums.

The joy evident in the playing of this unpretentious album passes easily to the listener. And it’s great that the Mingus piece rivals the appeal of the original.

File between: Hank Jones, Andreas Schmidt

Download: Revaler Strasse, Courtesy Forbids

CD launch: March 1, Bennetts Lane, 9pm

This review also published in the Play liftout of the Sunday Herald Sun, Melbourne on Sunday, 27 February, 2011