Tag Archives: Footscray Comminity Arts Centre

BREAKING NEW GROUND OUT WEST

Satsuki Odamura

Satsuki Odamura plays koto with Way Out West

PICTORIAL UPDATE:

Way Out West plays Footscray Community Arts Centre, 7.30pm Tuesday 3 June for the Melbourne International Jazz Festival

It was a significant milestone last night when Peter Knight‘s ensemble Way Out West played in Footscray at the venue in which the band — with a slightly different line-up — played its first gig 14 years ago. It was also significant in that the MIJF was venturing out west for the first time this year.

Yay! A crowded house for jazz out west.

Yay! A crowded house for jazz out west.

It was a relief to see that the seats in the FCAC Performance Space were filling quickly. Westies are waking up to the delights of live music.

Band shows its colours: instruments await Way Out West players.

Band shows its colours: instruments await Way Out West players.

I rarely post images in colour (more of that in a moment), but in this case the lighting complemented the array of instruments assembled on stage for Way Out West musicians, who must need a large truck to carry their gear. There are two versions of the Japanese koto for Satsuki Odamura and a bewildering array of drums and percussion devices played by Ray Pereira — he seems to add an instrument every year.

In the black: Raj Jayaweera on drums and Paul Williamson on tenor sax.

In the red: what unkind lighting can do to Raj Jayaweera on drums and Paul Williamson on tenor sax.

Waiting in the dark on the side with the young photographers clad in light blue MIJF T-shirts before the performance, I wondered what the lighting would be like. Let’s face it, lighting is only of concern to photographers and not punters, but that does not mean it is unimportant. In most venues it is passable at best. Often one or two members of a band are in bright light, the others all in darkness. The wonderful red spots are the bane of music photographers’ lives.

When the lights came up, and we had two songs in which to take our shots (a rule seemingly ignored by the T-shirted snappers), I groaned inwardly. Again, I understand that audiences do not care about lighting provided the music is good, but we take photographs to help promote the bands and the music, and to attract more people to live music. Let’s just say that the image above shows what happens in red light. The image below shows why many photographers turn shots into black and white in a bid to resurrect what they can.

In the black: Raj Jayaweera on drums and Paul Williamson on tenor sax.

In the black: Raj Jayaweera on drums and Paul Williamson on tenor sax.

While on about photography at gigs and festivals, controls are vital to protect the listening experience of patrons and in order not to drive musicians mad. But the rule of first two songs only has its problems, because in jazz that could be very short or very long. And the imposed limit means that the clicking is going to go on regardless of whether the first two songs are quiet or not, because that’s the only window of opportunity. Really it would be better if photographers respected the music and did not shoot at all in quiet passages. Unless, of course, they can afford completely silent cameras. I’m still searching for an affordable camera that is completely silent and yet copes with low light.

Satsuki Odamura

Satsuki Odamura

Way Out West played four new compositions — Latest and Breaking, The Birds, Nine Years Later (dedicated to Peter Knight’s son Quinn, 9) and Anthony Blaise. The oldies were Music For April and the closing Is the Moon Really This Far Away? This post is a rave with pics rather than a review, but I loved the new material, especially The Birds and Nine Years Later.

Satsuki Odamura

Satsuki Odamura

The main changes in line-up to Way Out West have been the addition of Odamura on kotos and Lucas Michailidis on guitar. With a new album coming out soon (more details later), the band has moved on and is entering a new era with a different feel. It works. The new pieces utilise the koto well, as well as Pereira’s diverse talents.

Lucas Michailidis and Howard Cairns

Lucas Michailidis and Howard Cairns

Michailides is another significant addition and he brings exceptional musicianship along with an ability to sync with other players.

Peter Knight on fire

Peter Knight on fire

Peter Knight on trumpet and flugel was in fine and fiery form on the horns, but for me his work on laptop in Nine Years Later was the highlight.

Paul Williamson

Paul Williamson pumps it out.

Paul Williamson is a seasoned and spectacular performer. In this outing I felt that he and Howard Cairns, along with the New York resident Raj Jayaweera did not have enough time in the spotlight. But the nature of this ensemble is that it works as a group, so it is not about solos.

That said, it would not be Way Out West without Ray Pereira in a drumming duel with someone. In this case it was guest Sri Lankan drummer Kanchana Karunaratna, who wowed the crowd with their rapid-fire technique and virtuosity.

Everyone loves a good drum stoush, but I loved this band’s layered subtlety best of all.

ROGER MITCHELL

Kanchana Karunaratna and Lucas Michailidis

Kanchana Karunaratna and Lucas Michailidis

THE FINE ART OF PRESTIDIGITATION

Griswold and Simmons

Finger tip touch: Erik Griswold and Adam Simmons

Erik Griswold & Adam Simmons performed Prestidigitation at Footscray Community Arts Centre on Saturday, March 11, 2012 as part of the centre’s Portraits Series

It was hard to know what to expect. I’d heard Erik Griswold perform some pretty way out stuff. And Adam Simmons has been known to deliver some fiery blasts from from the saxophone, in particular during a ‘sax armageddon’ with Peter Brotzman and Kris Wanders at the Melbourne Town Hall in 2010 for the Melbourne International Jazz Festival’s Overground.

But after being treated to the musical intricacies, subtleties and delights of Prestidigitation at this excellent venue beside the Maribyrnong River in Footscray, I regretted only that I had not applied some gentle pressure to encourage friends to take a little risk, come along and enjoy. What the tiny audience saw and heard was highly inventive, but by no stretch of the imagination hard to take. Instead of any bid to blast us out of the auditorium or mystify with odd sounds, Griswold and Simmons displayed great sensitivity in their explorations of the timbres and textures of their many instruments.

Prestidigitation is defined as “magic tricks performed as entertainment”. After experiencing the performance, I felt that the German expression “fingerspitzengefühl” would also be an appropriate description. Griswold and Simmons seemed to have that “finger tip touch” — intuitive flair or instinct, a great situational awareness and the ability to respond most appropriately and tactfully.

This outing had elements of Simmons’ instructive and entertaining previous solo performances on his array of breath-driven devices, and a little of his work with the Toy Band. But it was not just a case of two musicians throwing together some toys and seeing what eventuated. Yes, it was often fun, and often joyful and exuberant. But it was also moving and a delightful audio treat. One musician in the audience had the right idea, I thought, closing his eyes as he settled comfortably into one of the bean bags in the front row and letting the sounds wash over him.

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So what was it that made Prestidigitation work? The musicians may have the best insights into that (for their thoughts about improvisation the current tour see Jazz Planet’s Q&A), but I think it reflected their abilities to take instruments they know well — some of them usually seen as toys — and extend the ways in which these could be utilised in unexpected ways. The genius (if that seems too strong, then creative power) of Griswold and Simmons was that the combinations of instruments they chose and the ways in which they used those instruments worked so well, so often. That’s where I thought their sensitivity was evident.

Of course there were times when the array of colourful spinning tops or little squeezeboxes seemed to be more for novelty value than great music, but they were a lot of fun.

Adam Simmons told Jazz Planet that “if there is a strength and artistic commitment in a piece of art … it will communicate at a fundamental level with anyone”. I think that will hold true of this performance as it tours parts of Australia. The audiences may not know what to expect, but if they take a little risk and try the show, I’d bet Griswold and Simmons will communicate — in spades.

ROGER MITCHELL

March 12, 7:30pm — La Mama Theatre, Carlton
March 13, 7:30pm — Buninyong Brewery, Buninyong
March 15, 7:30pm — University of Wollongong (1/4 Inch Series)
March 17, 8pm — Campbelltown Arts Centre (see the event on Facebook)
March 18, 4pm — Cockatoo Calling, Cockatoo Island, Sydney with Vanessa Tomlinson
March 19, 8pm — Pearl Beach Community Hall, Pearl Beach
March 24, 6pm — Ian Hangar Recital Hall, Queensland Conservatorium, Brisbane
March 25, 3pm — Cooroora Institute, Sunshine Coast