Tag Archives: Dale Barlow



Vince Jones
Heartfelt: Vince Jones

Yes Stonnington Jazz is off and running. Vince Jones sang his heart out in the opening concert, adding lyrics to original compositions by Australian musicians. The emotion was written all over Vince’s face and he sang with conviction, even tackling political issues to a degree that had Stonnington’s young mayor, Tim Smith, convinced the songs came from Mao’s Little Red Book.

Artistic director of the festival, Adrian Jackson, reminded us it was Stonnington Jazz’s fifth year before Jones came on stage with Aaron Flower on guitar, Simon Barker on drums, Ben Waples on bass and musical director for the evening Matt McMahon on piano. As usual in one of Jackson’s festivals, it was an interesting concept, with Jones adding lyrics to “absolutely beautiful songs” by Australian musicians.

So how did it work? Well, I may as well be up front about my general preference for music without words, though that’s an individual thing. I just find most often that I love the music between the vocals more than the words, which bring an obligation to worry about the meaning. But that’s irrelevant to how Jones and guests performed at Malvern Town Hall.

Vince Jones
Vince Jones

Some longstanding fans of Vince Jones — and there are plenty — told me he did more singing at this concert than at earlier gigs. It was, after all, his opportunity to create a songbook. I’m not sure Jones’s voice is all that strong, particularly in the higher registers, so I found him most impressive in his conviction and presence. It’s a hackneyed phrase to say someone wears their heart on their sleeve, but Jones can definitely move an audience. And I am always impressed by a singer who makes no apology for taking on controversial issues in their lyrics — it’s honest and it’s unashamedly a bid to challenge the audience with the power of the ideas.

Julien Wilson
Julien Wilson

Jones opened with The Three Sisters (Jones/Barney McAll), which was about three women he met during a uranium mining protest in Arnhem Land. It worked well enough, but This Is The Woman (Jones/McMahon), written about his mother, seemed to have some twee lines in the lyrics. The Doug De Vries classic The Nature of Power, with Julien Wilson joining in on saxophone, seemed once again to suit Jones, and his question about the absence of a modern Tolstoy, Martin Luther King or Gandhi was poignant. A stab at George W. Bush came in Luncheon with The President, and again this worked well. Jones has a naivety and sincerity that allows him to sing “hate is the absence of love” and “lies are the absence of truth” in a way that resists cynicism.

Mike Nock
Mike Nock, Dale Barlow and Vince Jones

Mike Nock on piano and Dale Barlow on flute joined in for The Rainbow Cake (Grabowsky/Jones). Then came a first-set highlight — Nock’s composition from the album Dark and Curious, Embracing You, with Nock on piano. This was a moving piece and suited Jones’s empathetic vocals, as did the final song before the break, Blue — which followed Coloured Strands featuring a solo by Flower. There is something frank and earnest (and this is not a reference to the radio show) about Vince Jones and it comes across best in a ballad.

Vince Jones on flugelhorn
Vince Jones on flugelhorn

I’ve rabbited on too long, but the second set began with the global environment song Jettison, with the message that we are the captains of this green pearl we call Earth and we can stave off the inevitable. I liked the emotion, but thought Jones’s voice was not quite strong enough to carry the message. Reconciled, including a great piano solo from Matt McMahon, was a ballad ideal for Jones’s vocals.

Ben Waples
Ben Waples

We Let Them Do It (McMahon/Jones) was inspired by Nigerian poet and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, who with nine others was hanged by Nigerian dictator General Abacha in 1995 for fighting against oil companies Mobil, Chevron, Texaco and Shell. The rhythmic strength of McMahon, Waples and Barker was ideally suited to the message, and Flower contributed a strong solo over Barker’s drums.

Dale Barlow
Dale Barlow and, behind, Aaron Flower

Dale Barlow soloed on his composition The Glass House, and then Julien Wilson returned for a solo in his piece The Rebellious Bird, with Jones’s lyrics effective: “… deride me, displace me, still I will rise”.

Swingin': Mike Nock
Swingin’: Mike Nock

Mike Nock led a lesson in swing, helped by Dale Barlow on sax, in Can’t Afford to Lose (Jones/B. McAll), leaving few across the crowded town hall who were not moving some part of their anatomy to the beat.

Nock, Jones
Jones on Nock watch

Then Jones, after listing a host of musicians he has valued greatly, including bassist the late Gary Costello, sang My Baby Comes To Me, inspired by musician Russell Smith, who I think suffered the loss of a daughter in an accident. To me this was the most beautiful song of the night, with Waples’ bass giving strength while McMahon’s piano allowed for sadness.

It was a great close to the Australian Songbook.

The audience seemed a little reluctant to call the musicians back, but Jones and McMahon responded with the simply powerful Call Me (Jones/Mcmahon) as an encore.

Stonnington Jazz started well. Ausjazz blog will cover many of the gigs at this festival, which runs until May 30. For details of concerts, visit the festival website.

Jones et al
Jones et al

Stonnington Jazz — Opening Night

Vince Jones and friends

Vince Jones

Vince Jones wears his heart on his sleeve, and on Thursday night, May 14, at the opening concert of Stonnington Jazz for 2009, his heart was at bursting point. Every song demonstrated his love of the music and gratitude for the myriad musicians with whom he had performed over the years. Before the encore — and no doubt he needed a Little Glass of Wine — Vince said he had been a nervous wreck all day, but it had been “a great evening”. It had.

Festival artistic director Adrian Jackson introduced the concert to “celebrate the contribution Vince Jones has made over the past 30 years” before handing the night over to Jones, his voice and occasional horn, and 15 musicians from his past in a series of revolving line-ups. The first of those had Matt McMahon on piano, Ben Waples on bass, Simon Barker on drums, Tim Rollinson on guitar and Dale Barlow on tenor sax.

Rollinson, Waples

They began with Waltz for Debbie, with Vince (Jones sounds too formal) noting that Bill Evans’s jazz waltz called to mind thoughts of a father watching as his daughter grew from “an interest in teddy bears to Teddy Boys”. Barlow and McMahon were featured. The ballad Tenderly included a flute solo by Barlow and Vince summed it up: “Beautiful song, beautiful playing.”

The standard Let’s Get Lost moved Vince to recall the day in New York when, suffering flu and after drinking too much, he was urged by Art Blakey of the Jazz Messengers to, “Man, make a record.” And that’s how his album One Day Spent came about, featuring, among others, Dale Barlow.

Vince Jones gig

Barlow left the stage, leaving the quartet remaining to perform one of the night’s most moving numbers, We Let Them Do It, written by McMahon and Jones and inspired by peace activists around the world. Vince mentioned a few names, such as Aung San Suu Kyi, John Lennon and Nelson Mandela — “so many, yet so few”. Referring to the money spent on war rather than on education, hospitals … and jazz, Vince said the song title was accurate a lot of the time: “In the end that’s pretty much what happens.” The quartet was very strong and so were the vocals. Vince was warming to his task.

De Vries and Wilde

The next set of Vince’s comrades to join him on stage were Jex Saarelaht on piano, Doug De Vries on guitar, Allan Browne on drums, Wilbur Wilde on tenor sax and Steve Hadley on double bass. This group — some from Vince’s Tankerville Arms days, I believe — really heated things up, working together tightly on Stop This World (And Let Me Off), Can’t Afford to Live, Can’t Afford to Die (with a great Saarelaht solo) and Send Us Down More Love, on which De Vries treated us to some great playing. Wilde was restrained and not at all wild.

After the break, the line-up returned Barlow on sax and had Paul Grabowsky on piano, with Tony Floyd on drums. Again the change of personnel brought a new sound and vibe. They played The Rainbow Cake, written by Grabowsky with Jones, Don’t Jettison Everything (inspired, said Vince, by captain of the world Rupert Murdoch), with a Grabowsky solo and Floyd making his presence felt, and Let Me Please Come In, which Vince explained was a ballad about a woman who had an affair, but was trying to get back with her fellow. As Grabowsky left the stage he did not need to make up with Vince — they embraced.

Vince ran his swine flu gag past us (I rang the hot line and all I got was crackling) while Sam Keevers came to the piano, Simon Barker to the drum kit and Ben Waples to the bass. They played Doug De Vries’s moving The Nature of Power, with Vince memorably singing “it’s the power of nature, not the nature of power”. De Vries, who had been a joy to hear, left before the ensemble played Love, Love, Love, featuring Keevers, then the standard Secret Love, before which Vince confessed to having been infatuated with Doris Day’s red lips and black hair after seeing her on the screen. He was about eight. Keevers did some strumming of the piano strings before the tempo quickened, the piano teamed with drums and bass to bring rhythm to the fore and Barker entertained with a solo. Keevers departed as Wilde and Rollinson returned and Vince waxed lyrical about “wonderful creators of music”. He was right.

It was almost over, but we had a chance to sing along on What The World Needs Now, with Vince characteristically working up to the song, reminding us love was “the most important thing on this planet” and that “we’re all the result of making love”. The Malvern Town Hall was packed, but we did not sound like Welsh coal miners, as Vince promised. It was fitting to finish with Little Glass of Wine.

A toast to Vince Jones, to his assorted and many musicians, and to Stonnington Jazz.

(Pictures of the performance to follow soon)

Exordium — Zac Hurren Trio

Zac Hurren Exordium


THIS trio debut lives up to its big-name endorsements. In the Sonny Rollins tradition, teaming saxophone with double bass and drums, Exordium (opening of a discourse) lives up to plaudits from Bernie McGann, Dale Barlow and Scott Tinkler. It’s no surprise that Paul Grabowsky — also an exponent of restless, convention-breaking jazz that can be tough and so gentle — adds his praise.

Brisbane bassist Eugene Romaniuk and Felix Bloxom on drums let Hurren, on tenor and soprano sax, hog the limelight on most of his original compositions. Gutsy and laid-back tracks are all engaging.

The short Dector Harvotza is alive and taut, Propa Monkey vivacious and energetic. Bass and drums play off Hurren’s sax in the at-times frantic Birthday Suit, but the mood is intricate, melodic and wistful in Katie’s Song. The final track, After winds into a twisting big sound that is a fitting wrap to this opening discourse.

In short: Trio fires up for an opening salvo that hits the target.


Review originally published in Sunday Herald Sun