Tag Archives: Craig Fermanis Trio

WE SHALL NOT BE QUIET

MJC flash mob

Top brass: Premier Baillieu, these horns are not to be trifled with.

FLASH MOB MARKS MOMENTOUS OCCASION: The Melbourne Jazz Co-operative’s 30th anniversary, Fed Square to City Square, Friday 25 January 2013

I was half expecting a loud protest, with discordant horns blaring their displeasure at the sudden cessation of funds to the co-op from Arts Victoria, accompanied perhaps by deep grumbles of drums and strident sounds of reeds run dry.

What eventuated was a demonstration that an improvised gathering of musicians can add to the life of a city, as well as a signal to the holders of purse strings that jazz musicians will not sit quietly in a corner and come out to play only at festival time.

It was great to see so many musicians in procession from Fed Square towards the much diminished City Square space across Collins Street from the town hall. But in my heart of hearts I yearned for the megaphones and banners and chanted slogans of protest, expressing the injustice we all felt that this varied, complex, challenging and endlessly fascinating brand of music should be so blatantly overlooked, except in its festival manifestations. Surely we should be crying to the Premier, Big Ted, that we wanted action and, yes, we wanted it now.

But the MJC is not a protest organisation. It is a group dedicated to bringing music to the people and to supporting the musicians who play that music to ply their trade with some small guarantee of recompense. So its response was not to berate and hector, but to do what it does best — bring music to this city.

It was a fitting response. It remains to be seen whether there will be a need — as this fight for funds continues — to take the music to the hallowed halls of Parliament and fill the public galleries of the Lower House with dissonance.

MJC flash mon

A flash horn: Leigh Barker trades his bass for brass.

There’s not heaps more to tell. With a gentle nudge from the Melbourne Jazz Co-operative that has done so much to bring live music to city venues for three decades, the musos turned up at Fed Square soon after 11.30am.

MJC flash mob

Big brass: The MJC flash mob getting horny.

Before long they were on the move, heading for the almost forgotten City Square at the junction of Swanston and Collins streets, where the opening concert of this weekend celebration would be held.

MJC flash mob

Musicians leave Fed Square to celebrate the MJC 30th anniversary.

Some had small charts attached to instruments. Others went with the flow, playing along with the characteristic inventiveness of jazz musicians.

MJC flash mob

Musicians take direction from a trumpeter … or do they?

Swinging swiftly out on to the fringe of Fed Square, they crossed Flinders Street and occupied the footpath, heading north.

MJC flash mob

Is that lunch in the green bag?

Well known and respected members of Melbourne’s jazz scene were sprinkled throughout the ensemble.

MJC flash mob

A footpath claimed for music.

Niko Schauble had a drum patched with tape. I wondered whether Premier Baillieu had ever experienced the wonder of hearing Niko at the drum kit.

MJC fash mob

Music, not megaphones, conveys the message.

Drummer Allan Browne, as always, was poetry in motion, though he did initially seem to have difficulty hanging on to his instrument.

MJC flash mob

We shall not be quiet.

It was an eclectic lot, with assorted horns mixing it with an array of drums and even some strummers of strings.

Flash mob

Sometimes percussive means persuasive.

I was momentarily distracted by the thought that, if I had been a visiting tourist in Melbourne at that moment, I would return home with a tale of how this southern hemisphere city was alive with the sounds and stimulation of street music, that here it was not necessary to be in concert halls or to pay hefty ticket prices to be entertained and removed from the humdrum.

Flash mob

Horns invade the City Square.

In fact, what this demonstration of support for the MJC did not spell out — and perhaps there ought to have been some leaflets or a short speech to do so — was that in small, inviting bars and clubs hidden in Melbourne’s side streets there is a wealth of live music available at eminently reasonable prices. But the presence of live improvised music does not just happen without effort. The hours of practice and dedication of musicians is a necessity, of course, but the opportunity to play and be paid is in no small part due to the efforts of Martin Jackson and others associated with the MJC.

Flash mob

Action Jacksons: Martin and Andra at work and play.

As the procession turned into the City Square, it was appropriate that Martin came past, playing saxophone one-handed as he filmed the event. Beside him was Andra Jackson, also on sax. In the marquee, guitarist Craig Fermanis joined Danny Fischer on drums and Leigh Barker on bass for the free concert that opened the MJC 30th anniversary celebrations. The Daniel Gassin Sextet followed.

Flash mob

Opening set: Craig Fermanis Trio celebrates the MJC 30th anniversary.

As the city crowds drifted past, the music seeping into their consciousness, it was great to see expatriate keyboardist/composer Barney McAll, who now lives in New York, encouraging passers-by to sign the petition calling for a change of heart on funding for the Melbourne Jazz Co-operative. The flash mob was gently making its mark.

ROGER MITCHELL

Flash mob

Sign please: Barney McAll with the MJC petition in the City Square.

30 YEARS OF JAZZ MUST COUNT FOR SOMETHING

Barney McAll

Expatriate Barney McAll will return from New York to celebrate with MJC.

Will Arts Victoria notice? The co-operative that it recently decided was not worth a penny will turn on a mini festival of four concerts to mark its 30 years of bringing live improvised music to Melbourne audiences:

Melbourne has recently had cause to grieve. Its vibrant jazz scene has been threatened by Arts Victoria‘s mystifying decision not to provide any financial support in 2013 to the Melbourne Jazz Co-operative, an organisation integral to supporting the growth of musical talent and the development of live improvised music in this culturally rich city.

Now Melbourne has cause to celebrate. Over the Australia Day weekend the rich vein of annual festivals that includes the Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival, the Melbourne International Jazz Festival,  Stonnington Jazz and the Melbourne Women’s International Jazz Festival is to be complemented by a mini festival to mark a historic event. But will Arts Victoria notice?

To celebrate 30 years of presenting continuous annual jazz programs in this city the Melbourne Jazz Co-operative will stage four concerts, beginning with a free outdoor lunchtime concert at City Square on Friday, January 25 from noon to 2pm featuring guitarist Craig Fermanis’ Trio followed by pianist Daniel Gassin’s Sextet.

On Saturday, January 26, the Jex Saarelaht Quartet with Sydney bassist Jonathan Zwartz will perform at the Uptown Jazz Café, 177 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, from 8.30pm ($15 & $12 concessions).

The main 30th Anniversary Concert — to be held on Sunday, January 27 at The Edge, Federation Square at 2pm ($30 & $20 concessions; $15 children) — will feature three trios of musicians who have been given a platform by the MJC over the years.

Paul Grabowsky

Paul Grabowsky displays his characteristic energy at Wangaratta Jazz.

New York-based pianist Barney McAll will be back in a gig featuring seven leading figures in the Melbourne contemporary jazz scene.

National Jazz Saxophone Award winner Julien Wilson  will join McAll (with whom he recorded in New York) in a trio with Sydney bassist Jonathan Zwartz.

Julien Wilson

Julien Wilson with Jonathan Zwartz at Wangaratta Jazz Festival 2012.

The MJC milestone will be fittingly marked also by two members of the dual-ARIA winning Browne-Costello-Grabowsky Trio, with which the co-operative staged its first concert exactly 30 years ago, on Sunday afternoon, January 30, 1983 at RMIT’s Glasshouse Theatre. Sadly bassist Gary Costello died in 2006, but pianist/composer Paul Grabowsky (recipient of the Melbourne Music Prize) and drummer Allan Browne will perform.

A recipient of the Don Banks Award and ‘Bell’ Australian Jazz Award Hall of Fame, Browne is also known for his compositions, poetry and delightfully irreverent sense of humour.

Allan Browne

Poetry in motion: Allan Browne plays Uptown Jazz Cafe.

Grabowsky and Browne will combine with the bassist Frank Di Sario to perform original compositions. A highlight will be a Grabowsky composition dedicated to Gary Costello.

Frank Di Sario

Frank Di Sario plays Bennetts Lane.

Browne will feature again during this celebratory concert in a third trio with two of  the many outstanding female instrumentalists on the Melbourne scene: triple ARIA winning pianist/composer Andrea Keller, and bassist/composer Tamara Murphy (leader of Murphy’s Law). They will play works from their album Carried by The Sun (Jazzhead), as well as new compositions.

Andrea Keller

Andrea Keller plays The Salon, MRC with Genevieve Lacey.

Tamara Murphy

Tamara Murphy plays Bennetts Lane Jazz Club.

Both McAll and Keller will also perform some solo piano pieces during this concert.

The MJC celebration will conclude on the evening of Sunday, January 27, with the Rabid Hawk sextet, led by guitarist Nash Lee, performing as part of the MJC’s regular Sunday night ‘A-Live Jazz’ series at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club. This  date also marks the 20th Anniversary of the MJC’s mutually beneficial collaboration with this well-respected venue.

Finally, as part of the co-op’s regular Tuesday night “Transitions” Series at Bennetts Lane, drummer Browne will perform work from Conjuror, his CD and book of poetry.

ROGER MITCHELL