Tag Archives: Denis Ball


Denis Ball, Eugene Ball and Howard Cairns

Denis Ball, Eugene Ball and Howard Cairns at Chapel Off Chapel

REVIEW: The Sugarfoot Ramblers / Denis Ball-Eugene Ball Sextet, Chapel Off Chapel, Sunday 18 May, 2pm for Stonnington Jazz

The Sugarfoot Ramblers played at Wangaratta last year in a festival that offered quite a lot of so-called classic jazz. I missed that gig, by graduates or current students of the jazz course at Monash University who shared a fondness for New Orleans Jazz led by Jason Downes — described by artistic director Adrian Jackson as “an elder statesman”. 

The Sugarfoot Ramblers

The Sugarfoot Ramblers

The Ramblers set, with Downes (clarinet), Travis Woods (trumpet), James Macaulay (trombone), Brett Thompson (banjo), Marty Holoubek (bass) and Daniel Berry (drums), was quite different from what followed.

These young musicians served up foot-stomping New Orleans jazz that was fast and fun. The opening Panama set the tone with trombone, clarinet and banjo solos in a piece that grew faster as it progressed.

Brett Thompson and Jason Downes

Brett Thompson and Jason Downes

In The Sugarfoot Stomp Downes delivered a bright, exuberant solo that was a taste of many to come in the set, while Woods’ horn was plaintive despite the upbeat tempo. The band members had fun with James Macaulay’s vocals in Linger Awhile, and I loved Downes’ solo in this as well as the way Macaulay’s ‘bone — as is often the case with this instrument — seemed to make suggestions or hints at notes.

Daniel Berry

Daniel Berry

Berry treated us to some washboard in Just A Little While, with the ‘bone and clarinet conversing. Weary Blues, which was a highlight for the wistful, floating horn notes and a swinging, fast clarinet solo, was introduced as being from “the best album of all time” — festival patron Allan Browne‘s album Out of Nowhere.

Jason Downes

Jason Downes in The Sugarfoot Ramblers

Downes excelled again in Egyptian Fantasy, as did Macaulay, and in Fidgety Feet there was a whole lot happening, but gently, before breakouts by banjo and clarinet and a frenetic finish. Jelly Roll Morton’s Georgia Swing rounded off a thoroughly engaging set full of youthful energy. Toes were tapping throughout.

Ball, Ball and Cairns

Ball, Ball and Cairns

The second set brought a time shift forward to the forties or later and mainstream jazz.  A focus was on this opportunity to hear respected traditional jazz exponent Denis Ball (clarinet) play with son Eugene Ball (trumpet) and learn where some of the younger Ball’s fluidity may have had its roots. They were  joined  by John Scurry (guitar), Howard Cairns (bass), Allan Browne (drums) and — with impeccable timing — Steve Grant (piano).

Howard Cairns

Howard Cairns

This set has a much gentler feel throughout, a change of mood and pace that seemed to give out a vibe to the audience of sit back, relax and be nurtured by this music. There were soft edges, a sense of lightness and subtle nuances to be valued.

There were lovely moments, such as when Denis Ball suggested John Scurry “I’ll listen to your first couple of notes” to decide on the key he was using. It was a testament to the flexibility of jazz musicians.

Ball, Ball and Scurry

Ball, Ball and Scurry

Billie Holiday’s Willow Weep for Me  was my highlight in the set, with solos from Cairns and Scurry, plus the clarinet and horn together absolutely luminous.

Reflecting on these classic jazz sets, I thought how good it was to see how at home Eugene Ball and the Sugarfoot crew with traditional jazz. The love of this music, and the skills needed to play it, are not being lost.

It was also great to see Al Browne had escaped from his recent time with Alfred.



The Sugarfoot Ramblers

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