Tag Archives: Geoff Hughes


Allan Browne Quintet and Trio, Chapel Off Chapel, May 22, Stonnington Jazz 2011
Allan Browne drums, Eugene Ball trumpet, Phil Noy saxophone, Geoff Hughes guitar, Nick Haywood bass, Marc Hannaford piano

Given Allan Browne’s love of poetry and whimsical sense of humour — often displayed at Bennetts Lane on Monday evenings — I was expecting quite a bit of humour and maybe some of the stream-of-consciousness outpourings of that ilk at this gig. Instead we were treated to a trip down memory lane in quite a serious vein, with a fair amount of emotion amid the recollections, and some concise and deeply expressive verse. As well, the musical responses to Allan’s words were some of the most expressive compositions I’ve heard, though that was no surprise given the calibre and imagination of these musicians. Marc Hannaford, Eugene Ball, Geoff Hughes, Phil Noy and Al Browne were the originators of the music played in two sets that seemed to race past. Luckily, these evolving works will be recorded, and they should rank with suites such as The Drunken Boat, Une Saison En Enfer and Stu Hunter’s works The Gathering and The Muse (both of the latter to be played during this festival on Wednesday and Thursday this week).

Allan Browne

Allan Browne and Marc Hannaford

The pieces were tributes to artists Browne had played with and who had visited Australia. Marc Hannaford’s Suite for Swing Street was for pianist Teddy Wilson, who recalled for Allan the era of 42nd street and Kansas City big bands. His verse included the lines “The sound of art changing the brain, And the quip of course, It’s confectionery”.
I think the suite carried on into For Art Hodes, a late twenties pianist with whom Browne enjoyed “great kinship”. Hughes and Haywood had top solos in this. Eugene Ball’s A Short Verse for A Tall Man was for vibraphonist Milt Jackson, who AB described as “a tremendously swinging person”. After the piece he described Ball’s composition as having “an Ellington sound … lush”. Marc Hannaford’s solo stood out for me in this.

Eugene Ball, Geoff Hughes, Phil Noy

Eugene Ball, Geoff Hughes, Phil Noy

Before the break the ensemble played Firefly, Geoff Hughes’ tribute to Emily Remler, a “truly inspiring young guitarist” with whom AB said he had a similar close relationship apart from the music, but who “didn’t make it back to America”. She died at age 32 while on tour in Australia. One of her sayings was that despite her tiny frame “inside I’m a big black man”. This piece began with Hughes playing behind the words. Then came solos from Hughes, Ball, Haywood and Browne. Moving stuff.

Nick Haywood and Geoff Hughes

Nick Haywood and Geoff Hughes

After the break came Browne’s Wild Bill, for trumpet player Wild Bill Davison. AB recalled playing in the 100 Club in London when Davison came in, and launching into one of his pieces, Hysterics Rag. Davison played at the Limerick Arms in Melbourne with AB’s New Orleans band, but asked to sit in with his quartet, which was a lot different, and was happy because “normally I have to play with tubas and banjos”. Ball and Hannaford had solos in this.

Al Browne attentive to a Marc Hannaford solo

Al Browne attentive to a Marc Hannaford solo

The highlight of the night for me was Hannaford’s The Flooding, for pianist Mal Waldron. AB told of going to Sydney with bassist and close mate Gary Costello, very nervous about playing with Waldron and asking what they would be playing. “When I nod my head, just play”, was Waldron’s response, so they did — for more than an hour and then for another set after the break. “It was all completely different and a great introduction for me to playing free”, AB recalled. Marc Hannaford’s solo in this was a delight, and the following cacophony superb.

Marc Hannaford and Eugene Ball

Marc Hannaford and Eugene Ball

Phil Noy’s piece Johnny Griffin was a tribute to the tenor saxophonist AB described as “an amazing cat” and “totally happening”. He recalled playing Just Friends with Griffin, Paul Grabowsky and Gary Costello and Griffin “starting so far ahead of the beat that we ended up playing the whole thing at double time”. At the end, Griffin must have said, “Phew, that was not the tempo I expected.” AB said Griffin had influenced him tremendously and that being able to play Cherokee for 20 minutes was “handy these days when playing with (saxophonist) George Garzone“.

Allan Browne and Marc Hannaford

Allan Browne and Marc Hannaford

As soon as the applause died away to close the gig I wanted to have the band start all over so that I could hear Al Browne’s verses and again marvel at the strength of these compositions, which are so evocative and full of interest. We do have not only really talented musicians in this country, but composers overflowing with originality.

Geoff Hughes

Geoff Hughes (the red lighting was too much so I turned it off)

So that’s enough waxing lyrical. Another top Stonnington gig. Vastly different to the youthful vigour of Sarah McKenzie‘s opener, but deeply satisfying. It’s just a little sad that not more people get to hear this material, but as Allan Browne would point out, it’s available at gigs in Melbourne most nights and not only during festivals.


Marc Hannaford

Marc Hannaford ... Look Mum, one hand.


Ausjazz blog previews Stonnington Jazz 2011 — May 19 to May 29

The days are suddenly much colder and the nights have that stay-at-home chill. Many of us are suffering from sore throats, persistent coughs and similar energy-sapping afflictions. So what’s the incentive to venture out to hear live music? During the past few nights I’ve had some of the worst coughing bouts in years, so I sympathise with anyone wanting to hunker down at home. But there are some real spirit-lifting performances coming up at Stonnington Jazz (May 19 to 29) and that’s exactly what we need as winter sets in. So, why not decide to catch one or two of these gigs over the 10 days of this festival? Go on, (to use an expression doing the rounds at our house), you know you want to.

The full program is online at the Stonnington Jazz website, so this preview is merely picking out some highlights — essentially what Ausjazz blog fancies as the gigs not to miss.

One thing to keep in mind about Stonnington Jazz. This is all home-grown talent and there is plenty of it. International artists can be a thrill, but this festival’s strength is that these musicians are ours — inventive and able and with the freedom that comes from being so far from the big names in the United States.

 Sarah McKenzie Sextet
Sarah McKenzie at Stonnington Jazz 2010

The artists who are likely to feature in print media publicity for the festival are probably pianist and vocalist Sarah McKenzie, who will open the festival on Thursday and Friday nights (May 19 and 20) with her sextet; vocalist Katie Noonan, who will perform on May 22 with Elixir (Zac Hurren on sax and Stephen Magnusson on guitar); and Vince Jones & Band plus guests (May 21).

McKenzie is an engaging performer who delivers swinging standards and originals in a forthright and spirited manner that recognises the long history of jazz vocalists. She wowed crowds at Chapel Off Chapel during this festival last year and will return — this time at the Malvern Town Hall — with award-winning Eamon McNelis on trumpet (replacing Pat Thiele) and Alex Boneham on bass (replacing Sam Anning). Julien Wilson will be a special guest on sax. This venue will be larger and acoustically tougher, but McKenzie has the power to fill the hall. She will be launching her new album Don’t Tempt Me (ABC Jazz).

Allan Browne

Festival hopping: Allan Browne performs at Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival.

Ausjazz blog’s list of anticipated highlights begins with drummer and Stonnington Jazz Patron Allan Browne, who on May 22 at 2pm presents a program of musical portraits and poems inspired by some of the great jazz artists he has played with, including Johnny Griffin, Milt Jackson, Art Hodes, Wild Bill Davison, Emily Remler, Buddy Tate, Teddy Wilson, Mal Waldron and Jay McShann. Joining Allan will be members of his quintet — trumpeter Eugene Ball, saxophonist Phil Noy, guitarist Geoff Hughes, bassist Nick Haywood — and trio (Haywood and pianist Marc Hannaford). All those names may look like a laundry list, but Al Browne and his crew have been trying out this new material at some Bennetts Lane gigs on Mondays and, though I have not made it to these gigs, I am certain the result will be moving as well as lots of fun. Jazz and poetry may not always work, but the Browne Quintet suites The Drunken Boat and Une Saison En Enfer are evidence enough that these guys know what they’re doing.

Any opportunity to hear Sydney’s Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra is to be valued. You may be surprised at how a big band can do much more than merely blast away. Under the direction of saxophonist David Theak, JMO is a sensitive, expressive beast. And the finals of the National Big Band Composition Competition will add interest to this outing at Chapel Off Chapel at 7.30pm on Monday, May 23.

Anyone who heard Lost and Found at Wangaratta Jazz some years back, when Paul Grabowsky, Jamie Oehlers and Dave Beck played a standout set of unscripted improvisation, will value the chance to hear Grabowsky and Oehlers. Their 2010 album On A Clear Day explored their take on some standards. These two musicians will show the depth of their musical understanding in a Chapel Off Chapel double bill with Nat Bartsch Trio on May 24.

Stu Hunter

Sweet suite: Stu Hunter at Wangaratta

How suite it is that pianist / composer Stu Hunter‘s two magnificent suites — The Muse and The Gathering — will be played at Chapel Off Chapel on succeeding nights (May 25 and 26). The second work won Contemporary Jazz Album of the Year at the Bell Awards and Best Independent Jazz album in the Independent Music Awards in 2010. Both were huge hits at Wangaratta. I marginally prefer The Gathering, with the larger ensemble adding Phil Slater on trumpet and James Greening on trombone and pocket trumpet to quartet members Julien Wilson (on sax rather than Matt Keegan this time), Cameron Undy (instead of Jonathan Swartz on bass) and Simon Barker (drums).

But the deal is so good it’s hard to believe, because each gig has a substantial other half. Along with The Muse, tenor saxophonist Andy Sugg will fuel controversy over whether jazz stays tied to its apron strings or is let off the leash to explore (apologies for the mixed metaphors). Sugg, with help from Shannon Barnett on trombone, Natalia Mann on harp, Steve Magnusson on guitar, Kate Kelsey-Sugg on piano, Ben Robertson on bass and James McLean on drums, will endeavour to link John Coltrane‘s music with British punk, and use some technologically up-to-date devices to give Coltrane’s later music “radically new contexts”. I understand Wynton Marsalis has sent his apologies.

Scott Tinkler on fire at MJFF Big Arse Sunday 2011

Scott Tinkler on fire at MJFF Big Arse Sunday 2011

The other half of the The Gathering gig will feature four names to strike terror into their instruments and evoke frenzied adulation from their fans: Ian Chaplin, Scott Tinkler, Philip Rex and Simon Barker. On sax, trumpet, bass and drums respectively, these “daring and potent improvisers” (as the program notes put it) will be fathering children … no, sorry, creating a storm of fiery improvisation that will delight body and soul. (I know this because I heard Tinkler with bass and drums on the final night of Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival this year — he’s in great form.)

That this list of highlights is growing too long and in danger of leaving out little is testament to the quality of the programming by artistic director (and trophy-winning golfer) Adrian Jackson. So I’ll gloss over some gigs (Tina Harrod; Bloodlines: Dave Macrae, Joy Yates & Jade Macrae; Joe Chindamo Trio and guests) to mention three more.

Bassist Leigh Barker and The New Sheiks, flush with Jazz Bell Awards success (and cash), will keep things swinging at Chapel Off Chapel on Friday, May 27, giving patrons a chance to catch Eamon McNelis on trumpet. And sharing the stage for another set will be the collectively led Bopstretch, with McNelis, Rajiv Jayaweera (is there anywhere he’s not playing?) on drums, Ben Hauptmann on guitar and Mark Elton on bass. This band will play classic 1950s BeBop era material, with tunes from some famous names.

On the festival’s second Saturday, May 28, Chapel Off Chapel patrons will be treated to a top double bill. Paul Williamson (the saxophonist version) will add to his Hammond Combo guests Geoff Achison (blues fans will be there) on guitar and vocals, James Greening on trombone, Gil Askey on trumpet and vocals, and Bob Sedergreen on keyboards. Get ready for jazz with an R&B flavour. At the same gig, trombonist Shannon Barnett will perform with the quartet that released the album Country in 2010 and toured nationally after being awarded a contemporary music touring program grant.

James Greening

James Greening at Wangaratta in 2010

Finally, Ausjazz blog’s highlights list ends with a combination I would not miss for quids. On Sunday, May 29 at 2pm, in a quartet of revered musicians (Sandy Evans saxophones, James Greening trombone & pocket trumpet, Steve Elphick bass), saxophonist Andrew Robson will perform his arrangements of hymns by Thomas Tallis. And Greening, forming The World According to James with Elphick, Robson and Toby Hall on drums, will perform original compositions. What a way to finish a festival.

As these highlights demonstrate, there is a lot of class to this festival. Because the program revisits some bands and works aired previously either at Stonnington or Wangaratta, I was initially inclined to think there was less breaking of new ground than in past years. Perhaps so, but for anyone who has not had an opportunity to hear these musicians before, and for all those who have heard and want to listen again, Stonnington Jazz has a power of Australian music in store.



By A Thread

By A Thread

GIG: Holy Trinity Cathedral, noon, Sat. October 29, 2010

Paul Williamson trumpet, Geoff Hughes guitar, James McLean drums

IN June 2009 at New Box Studios this trio brought out the eponymous album By A Thread on the Downstream label, which aims to get bums on seats at live music performances by extending the reach of the music. The cathedral at Wangaratta was well suited to By A Thread’s ethereal, soulful music. It was moving to hear Paul Williamson’s lyrical trumpet notes (the other PW is a saxophonist) soaring heavenwards into the hallowed heights of this magnificent space.

Paul Williamson

Lyrical beauty: Paul Williamson

I felt that this concert could easily be called worship. Hughes and Williamson created dreamy, introspective music that was both reverent and a reverie. McLean’s drums were muted, his sound somehow flattened out or damped down behind the other instruments. At one stage his playing seemed like pebbles rolling about gently in the tray of a tip truck. Then came rattles and the sound of sticks on metal.

By A Thread took the cathedral audience on a journey that could have taken listeners deep within or off into flights of fancy. I could not stay for the whole set, but the time I spent was deeply valued.

Geoff Hughes and Paul Williamson

Worship: Geoff Hughes and Paul Williamson