Tag Archives: Fran Swinn


Captain (Ellen) Kirkwood

Captain Ellen Kirkwood (image supplied)

GIG PREVIEWS: Melbourne Women’s International Jazz Festival, Bennetts Lane Jazz Club, December 11 and 16, 9pm

Sydney launched the Australian jazz community’s attack on misogyny after Julia Gillard’s famous speech, but before Melbs took up the baton this year, but the balance is now being redressed in an onslaught helped along by three women trumpet players. I say “Yay!” to that.

Jessica Carlton

Trumpet player Jessica Carlton (image supplied)

The Melbourne Women’s International Jazz Festival — which Jeremy Jankie tells me began on 9 December when Andrea Keller and Genevieve Lacey were featured in Three Lanes, continued on 10 December with Margie Lou Dyer’s tribute to Bessie Smith, Lil Hardin, Jelly Roll Morton and Duke Ellington, featuring bassist Tamara Murphy and a premiere performance by talented young trumpeter Jessica Carlton — continues tonight (December 11) when Captain Kirkwood performs at Bennett’s Lane Jazz Club in Melbourne at 8.30pm. Tonight’s gig is a joint presentation by the festival and the Melbourne Jazz Cooperative.

Captain Kirkwood performs.

Captain Kirkwood performs (image supplied)

The band leader is young trumpet player/composer/band leader Ellen Kirkwood, who is the latest recipient of the Jann Rutherford Memorial Award, which assists in the professional development of outstanding young female Australian jazz musicians.

Her line-up comprises Paul Cutlan (saxophones and clarinets), Glenn Doig (piano), New Zealand bassist Tom Botting and Alon Ilsar (drums).

Kirkwood has written an ‘epic’ 40-minute composition inspired by the classic Greek legend of Theseus and the Minotaur, with narration by Ketan Joshi. Their second set will be full of original pieces by Kirkwood and other band members in an evening of what they describe as “dark, weird and grooving jazz”.

Part 2 of Kirkwood’s “Theseus and the Minotaur” suite was recently recorded at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

A young woman trumpet player is also listed to play in this year’s outing by the Women’s Festival Sextet, also co-sponsored by the MJC at Bennetts Lane on Sunday, December 16.

According to the Bennetts Lane website, emerging new talent and VCA graduate and trumpet player Audrey Boyle (who I am told is in Germany) may join Emma Gilmartin (vocals) and Fran Swinn (guitar) along with the sextet’s core rhythm section members Andrea Keller (piano), Tamara Murphy (bass) and Sonja Horbelt (drums) in a performance of original compositions most band members.

Anyone who missed the Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival this year should make a point of being at this gig, if only because Keller and Murphy — who each aired significant suites on that occasion — may well unveil some more fantastic pieces. Fran Swinn — known for her spectacular APRA-commissioned piece at last year’s Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival — may even bring a circus aerialist, though I doubt there would be room on this occasion.

Patrons will also have a chance to quiz Sonja Horbelt about what may pop up on the program at the 2013 Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival.

And now, given my proven inability to accurately record the gigs forming part of the MWIJF, I’ll return to repairing windows, filling and sanding.

Other MIJF gigs at Bennetts Lane, as far as I can tell, are as follows:

Olivia Chindamo with Joe Chindamo Trio, Wednesday 12 December 2012, 8:30pm

Marialy Pacheco Trio, Thursday 13 December 2012, 8:30pm (CD Launch)

Chantal Mitvalsky Band, Friday 14 December 2012, 8:30pm

Michelle Nicolle and Paul Williamson Quartet, Saturday 15 December at 8.30pm

Xani Kolac and The Twoks, Saturday 15 December at 8.30pm





3 stars (out of 5)

Label: Independent

Known for her singer/songwriter work with Coco’s Lunch, as well as other collaborations in The Jacqueline Gawler Band, Stoneflower and Picturebox Orchestra, Gawler goes it alone here in an album of mostly her own compositions.

Not straying too far from her usual fare of pop infused with jazz and world music influences — in particular from West Africa and Brazil — Gawler nevertheless comes up with some inventive and agile approaches to her songs, as well as captivating lyrics.

The most intriguing composition is the rapid-fire Varkala, sung so quickly it is almost mandatory to have the lyrics handy at first listening. The deft pacing as Gawler takes us through “ocean blue clean sheet sand feet blue sky blue eyes voice floats men gloat fishing boat bloated goat …” is full of playful energy and the expressive words conjure split-second images that stay in the mind.

This song, as well as the rhythmically strong and vocally adventurous Sahara nights, demonstrate Gawler’s talent as a song writer of intelligence, with sense of poetry and a love of language. Another lyrically appealing composition is When passengers write poetry and flight attendants sing, in which the band cranks up a little.

Gawler, who aside from vocals contributes on piano, Nord electro 73, kalimba, music box, Tibetan prayer chimes, shakere, bells and shaker, is joined by Fran Swinn (guitars, loops), Christopher Hale (acoustic bass guitar, electric bass, lap steel guitar, mandolin, pandeiro, surdo and agogo) and Ben Hendry (drums, percussion).

Guests include Eugene Ball on trumpet, Ben Gillespie on trombone and voice, Anthony Schultz on piano accordion, Simone Lang on cajon and Tamara Murphy on bass — it’s a veritable party.

Perhaps some tracks are over orchestrated and a little fussier than they need be (that may be the pop influence), which makes the Chris Cornell composition Black Hole Sun especially appealing because its simplicity stands out.

It would be nice to hear Gawler dig a little deeper vocally at times and let her voice shine through with less accompaniment, but this album has a light but intrepid feel that recalls Megan Washington in her pre-pop incarnation.




Fran Swinn guitar, Tamara Murphy double bass, Ben Hendry drums

Every Dog

3 stars

GUITARIST Fran Swinn knows about agility and fine balance, having composed for circus aerialist Rocky Stone at this year’s APRA Commission Concert for the Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival.

Every Dog is less risky, but delivers indie rock-influenced jazz with poise and skill. Ably backed by Tamara Murphy (double bass) and Ben Hendry (drums), each of whom contributes an original piece, Swinn is deft, subtle and often elegantly simple, not being given to unnecessary flourish.

She tugs at and stretches the familiar melody of Paul Simon’s Cecilia, and in six of her compositions leaves plenty of space for strong, contained playing by Murphy and Hendry.

Yet the listener is always drawn to the guitar notes, whether lurking quietly on the side, picking out a simple melody or indulging in an occasional foray into the gravelly or guttural.

File between: James Muller, Toby Wren

Download: Für Oigen, 800 Shades of Grey


This review also published in the Play liftout of Melbourne’s Sunday Herald Sun on August 21, 2011.