Tag Archives: Daniel Farrugia


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


Tom Lee and Daniel Farrugia with Nat Bartsch Trio

Tom Lee and Daniel Farrugia with Nat Bartsch Trio

GIG REVIEW / PREVIEW: Nat Bartsch Trio, Bennetts Lane Jazz Club, Melbourne, 9pm Thursday 25 April 2013 with guest saxophonist Kieran Hensey; Thursday 2 May and Thursday 9 May with guest vocalist Gian Slater.

What was intended to be a brief review of the Nat Bartsch Trio’s debut in its present line-up (Bennetts Lane, 26 March) has become a short preview for a CD launch and three-week residency.

After Springs, for all the Winters, Bartsch’s album with Josh Holt on double bass and Leigh Fisher on drums, the pianist has had a long break due to illness. Now she is back with a new line-up — Tom Lee on double bass and Daniel Farrugia on drums — and a new album, To Sail, To Sing. If their debut outing was an indication, Bartsch has chosen wisely. Lee and Farrugia have shown in other settings they can deliver energy and intensity that will complement the beauty of Bartsch’s melodies.

Tom Lee and Daniel Farrugia with Nat Bartsch Trio

Tom Lee and Daniel Farrugia with Nat Bartsch Trio

After her studies at VCA with Paul Grabowsky, Andrea Keller and Tony Gould, Bartsch travelled to Europe to study with ECM artists Tord Gustavsen (Norway) and Nik Bärtsch (Switzerland) for two months. She has toured in Japan and Germany. Influences on her work include Scandinavian composers, Debussy and bands such as Elbow, Radiohead and Sigur Ros, along with a wish “to link Australian/European jazz and minimalism to her ‘Triple J upbringing’”.

Nat Bartsch  with her trio

Nat Bartsch with her trio

At its debut gig the new trio played all the pieces on the new album and some from the previous release. A highlight not on the recording was A True Conundrum, which Bartsch wrote when Jill Meagher was missing, but before she was found, as “an ode to all people who have gone missing”. The piece had space and there was some darkness and tension helped by piano and bass exchanges, but Bartsch’s inherent lyricism was evident in beautifully melodic passages.

Tom Lee with Nat Bartsch Trio

Tom Lee with Nat Bartsch Trio

The rhythmically strong Let’s Go Little Dude, inspired by Bartsch’s dog, was upbeat, energetic and brought a big response from the audience.

Pianists are quite different in the way they play and in their compositions, though I often find it hard to understand or express what it is exactly that creates those marked contrasts. Bartsch’s playing and originals bring to my mind Andrea Keller’s work. There is little use of the piano as a percussive instrument and there is always beautiful use of melody. There is also something special in the ability of Bartsch to hold the listener’s attention without a lot of force or dynamic variation.

Tom Lee with Nat Bartsch Trio

Tom Lee with Nat Bartsch Trio

Another Bartsch talent is in new arrangements of pieces by groups such as Radiohead and Gotye. These may not sound a lot like the originals, but that’s because they bring a new perspective.

Daniel Farrugia with Nat Bartsch Trio

Daniel Farrugia with Nat Bartsch Trio

It will be interesting to see how this trio develops over time. It’s an exciting prospect that the energy, intensity and focus of Tom Lee and Daniel Farrugia will take this trio into some new territory.


Nat Bartsch  with her trio

Nat Bartsch with her trio

For a sneak preview visit the trio’s website or soundcloud page.

Album available from Rufus Records or Birdland Records.

Digital downloads available via iTunes or at CD Baby.


Tamara Murphy with her ensemble performing Big Creatures Little Creatures

Tamara Murphy with her ensemble performing Big Creatures & Little Creatures


Murphy’s Law performed Big Creatures & Little Creatures at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club in Melbourne on November 11, 2012

I don’t know much about modular furniture, but I have a hunch it is fairly dull. You have a box-shaped couch seating three, you add a couple of modules and it seats five.

Forget Ikea. Tamara Murphy‘s suite Big Creatures & Little Creatures is not at all dull., but it is “modular” — the order in which its movements are played can be determined, or improvised, on the night.

A bonus of this approach is that the suite will be different each time it is played, though the main movements (big creatures) may be similar. This potential for variation is particularly enticing and encourages listeners to pay attention, especially if they have heard an earlier version. It sets in train a gentle form of suspense — what will this ensemble play next?

Jordan Murray with Murphy's Law.

Jordan Murray with Murphy’s Law.

Big Creatures & Little Creatures, for which Murphy won PBS Young Elder of Jazz Commission, features two drummers  — Danny Farrugia and Joe Talia — in the line-up, along with Murphy on bass, Jordan Murray  on trombone and Nashua Lee on guitar. The work was premiered in June this year at the Melbourne International Jazz Festival and revisited at Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival 2012.

Tamara Murphy with her ensemble performing Big Creatures Little Creatures

Tamara Murphy with her ensemble performing Big Creatures & Little Creatures

I found this performance even more enjoyable and sustaining than the MIJF premiere. Again, the music was immediately compelling, so that any plans I had to pay careful attention and record some thoughts were soon abandoned. I wanted to experience the immediacy, the in-the-moment nature of it, rather than trying to be a detached observer.

Joe Talia and Nashua Lee with Murphy's Law

Joe Talia and Nashua Lee with Murphy’s Law.

Yet I did reflect on the reasons for its appeal. This suite is engrossing due to its explorations of texture, the interplay, the level of detail, the attention of the musicians to their tasks, their focus and their responsiveness. Of course, these are not unusual features of improvised music.

Also, there are the combinations of instruments that come in and out of play as the music develops, swelling in volume and growing in intensity, then backing off. All sorts of sounds are appealing: the droning ‘bone against the patterns created by guitar and drums; the stronger, declarative trombone eventually jettisoned by drums as they exude the patter of tiny feet; the rasp of brass and the insistence of guitar; the hints and suggestions in a spare solo; the muted rustle of drum sticks on knees; the sound of one drummer’s hands clapping; the ‘slapping’ sound of Murray’s mute.

Jordan Murray

Jordan Murray with Murphy’s Law.

In scripted parts the band was tight, scintillating. Breakouts occurred, as if someone had left the gate open, but the escapes were short-lived. As if not sufficiently satisfying, they had to be repeated. But the instances of explosive release were cathartic.

Joe Talia with Murphy's Law

Joe Talia with Murphy’s Law.

There was grace in a solo by Murphy, then solemnity in Lee’s guitar chords and simplicity in the patterns he sustained behind the bowed bass. Guitar and trombone acted as effective anchors as notes of an emerging melody floated free from the bow.

Quite a lot of the suite was slow, but for periods it gradually gathered momentum as the ‘bone and two drummers built intensity over the guitar’s musings.

Tamara Murphy with her ensemble performing Big Creatures Little Creatures

Tamara Murphy with her ensemble performing Big Creatures & Little Creatures.

Being at this live performance prompted me to reflect on the value of jazz as experienced this way rather than on a recording. Musicians are releasing their work via live streaming, digital downloads and on USB flash drives, as well as on vinyl. But can it ever match the immediacy and impact of listening in the moment?

Maybe not, but I have been playing Big Creatures & Little Creatures a lot, before and after this live rendition, and, though it is not quite the same as being there, it  does the trick. And there is always the option of doing the modular thing by selecting the tracks at random.

Certainly there is every reason to drive past Ikea and find your modular suite on CD or at a live music venue.


Tamara Murphy with her ensemble performing Big Creatures Little Creatures

Tamara Murphy with her ensemble performing Big Creatures Little Creatures

Tamara Murphy has a website

And to buy Big Creatures & Little Creatures (both the physical album and digitally) visit Bandcamp.

Jessica Nicholas reviewed this performance at Bennetts Lane for The Age.