Tag Archives: Ian Whitehurst

FOUR PLUS FOUR ON THE FLOOR

Fourth reason

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4. WHEN DO TWO QUARTETS MAKE AN OCTET?

The mystery of whether two quartets on stage together constitute two quartets or an octet will be solved in the two performances which Ausjazz blog has chosen as its fourth highlight of the Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival in 2012.

The No tango Quartet from Germany is led by saxophone player Christina Fuchs with Florian Stadler on accordion, Ulla Oster on bass and Christoph Hillmann on drums.

The Andrea Keller Quartet from Australia is led by pianist composer Keller, with Eugene Ball on trumpet, Ian Whitehurst  on tenor sax and Joe Talia on drums and percussion.

Apparently Fuchs is often asked whether the quartet plays tango or jazz. Well, I’m told she replies “not strictly either, and a little bit of both, but more jazz than tango”.

Fuchs has been in touch with Melbourne pianist and composer Andrea Keller and they’ve developed a collaborative association. For two concerts their quartets will be together premiering material Fuchs and Keller have written for double quartet or octet. Perhaps they will explain the difference on stage.

The double quartet liaison has been supported by Artpipes e.V., which is a not-for-profit organisation promoting international cultural exchange and relations through arts projects that foster awareness of intercultural issues, while striving to facilitate global communication through the arts. The Fuchs/Keller collaboration is its first cultural exchange.

Fuchs told Artpipes she was excited at the prospect of finding new friends in a new continent and experiencing Australian people, food, culture and its amazing landscapes.

“The most thrilling for me is the collaboration with the Andrea Keller Quartet. I am very curious to see how the two units will go together and what new ideas will come out of the creative process. Andrea and I will write fresh compositions for the octet and it will be interesting to see how the two writing styles fit together,” Fuchs told Artpipes.

“We will perform as quartets also and so for us it will also be about the pure joy of playing our music on the stage of a great festival!”

The two quartets will play together on Saturday, November 3 at 4pm in St Patrick’s Hall, and on Sunday, November 4 at 11am in the WPAC Theatre.

No Tango Quartet will perform on Saturday, November 3 at 10pm in St Patrick’s Hall

Andrea Keller Quartet will perform on Saturday, November 3 at 10pm in WPAC Memorial Hall and on Sunday, November 4 at 10pm at the same venue.

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TWO QUARTETS FOR THE PRICE OF ONE

GIG: Andrea Keller Quartet with strings, Bennetts Lane, Melbourne on Sunday 4 December 2011 at 8.30pm

Andrea Keller

Andrea Keller performs with her quartet at the Salon, Melbourne Recital Centre in April.

It’s been a busy time for award-winning pianist/composer Andrea Keller lately. On Sunday and Monday last week the Bennetts Lane Big Band performed one of her compositions (along with one by quartet member Eugene Ball, a horn player also well known as a composer). Then, on Tuesday, Keller played with the Women’s Festival Sextet at Bennetts Lane.

Flinders Quartet

Flinders Quartet, apparently enjoying a brief respite from busking at Southbank.

But Keller has other strings to her bow, terrible pun intended. She will be back at the Lane on Sunday night with her quartet, and this time also with members of Flinders String Quartet: Erica Kennedy and Matthew Tomkins on violin, Helen Ireland on viola and Zoë Knighton on cello.

Keller and longtime collaborators Ball, Ian Whitehurst (tenor saxophone) and Joe Talia (drums) were nominated for Jazz Ensemble of the Year at the 2011 Bell Awards.

This concert, supported by the Melbourne Jazz Co-operative, will feature music from Keller’s 60-minute work Place, which draws inspiration from the area surrounding Bermagui, NSW, and explores notions of identity and belonging. The quartets will also perform new arrangements of other works for strings.

Keller’s commissioned work, Place, came into being after Genevieve Lacey, director of the Four Winds Festival held at Bermagui in NSW, asked the pianist/composer to write a larger work inspired by the concept of place. Some time after Keller had agreed, she was invited to spend a few days Bermagui in the hope that this would create a link to the work. Keller was offered the chance to utilise a string quartet.

When Place was performed (with a different string ensemble and with Niko Schauble sitting in for Joe Talia) at the Melbourne Recital Centre in April to open the Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival,  I was so enthralled and captivated I decided not to attempt describing the piece. It was just wonderful to sit and experience what the two quartet provided.

I wrote only this: “To put Place in a context, it brought to mind the Allan Browne Quintet‘s The Drunken Boat and the works of Maria Schneider. There was an unfolding or evolving and many changes of mood signalled by the shifts in texture, timbre and pace. There were restive periods of spiky percussiveness, wonderfully breathy contributions from Ball (on pocket trumpet and silver-foil-wrapped trumpet) and Whitehurst and lots of space for expectation to build. The resonance of the cello was beautifully used. Schauble was, as always, able to intervene with finesse and never to intrude.”

Where else could you find two quartets performing original works for only $15?

ROGER MITCHELL

THE OUTER LIMITS

Preview: Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival, April 29 to May 8, 2011

Mastaneh Nazarian

Mastaneh Nazarian barely contains her love for her Parker guitar

Yes, the image above is unashamedly a bid to attract attention to this preview of this year’s MJFF, but in my defence it is the picture guitarist Mastaneh Nazarian chose to be used on the Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival website, which is where all the details of this festival can be found. Nazarian, who migrated from Teheran, Iran to the US and suffered “mild malnutrition” in Boston in the mid ’90s, will feature in a double bill with Jonathan Dimond‘s Loops and her group Kafka Pony, which she named after reading lots of Kafka, dreaming of a pink penguin and waking with the word “pony” on her lips.

Anyway, speaking of matters barely contained, my excitement is mounting about what’s on offer this year. Details are on the website, but here’s a quick glimpse of some highlights. First, because it is first, is the opening concert on Friday, April 29 at the Melbourne Recital Centre’s Salon, which will give us a chance to hear a work so far aired at only in parts, at least in Melbourne and at Wangaratta. Andrea Keller Quartet, with two violins, viola and a cello, will perform Place, a 60-minute commissioned work in seven parts that draws inspiration from the area surrounding Bermagui NSW, and explores notions of belonging and identity. The quartet employs electronics, improvisation, preparations and acoustic instruments in the piece.

We’ve had two tantalising tastes of this work — at Uptown Jazz Cafe in August last year, when the quartet played Guluga and Belonging, and in the WPAC Theatre at Wangaratta Jazz 2010, when Belonging closed the set. I loved these tidbits and look forward to hearing the whole piece. The icing on the cake will be special guests Stephen Magnusson and Raj Jayaweera performing as a duo.

I have to keep this short and avoid mentioning every gig, tempting as that is. So, on Saturday, there’s a wild night in a warehouse opening with Ronny Ferella and Sam Price, who make up Peon, no doubt playing some similar material to what’s on their album Real Time, and ending in an iPhone mash-up — an app-created orgy of sounds under the watchful ear of Myles Mumford. You have to be there.

After Loops and Kafka Pony on Sunday, and Sam Bates Trio on Monday, a real highlight for me will be Band of Five Names on Tuesday, May 3, at Bennetts Lane. When this group (Phil Slater on trumpet and laptop, Matt McMahon on piano and Nord, Carl Dewhurst on guitar, Simon Barker on drums and percussion) performed at at Alpine MDF Theatre, Wangaratta in 2009, I thought of it as entering a musical space of light and shade, frenzy and reflection, and at times absolute simplicity. The ensemble was affective, slowly evolving and highly involving. I thought then, “How can a Nord sound so gentle?” and “Stillness can take root here”.

Zoe Scoglio‘s audio visual evening on Wednesday will be a treat for the ears, because Stephen Magnusson (guitar), Stephen Grant (cornet) and James McLean (drums) will accompany what Zoe has in store.

And in an unprecedented move, MJFF this year has some gigs out west, which is fantastic for those of us who believe more music should happen where so many of those who create it reside. The first performance at the Dancing Dog Cafe/Bar, on Thursday, May 5, features award-winning Peter Knight (trumpet and laptop electronics) and the irrepressible Motion. The second, on Saturday, May 7, features Nat Grant (solo percussion and electronics) and Kewti with “wild black metal experimental microtonal tropical jazz”. How can you resist that?

“What about the famous MJFF commission concert?”, you ask. Well, yes, it’s on at BMW Edge on Friday, May 6 and it must not be missed. That rascal Allan Browne will open with his “three turks and a wasp”. The drummer has a new piano-less quartet with Phillip Noy (alto sax), Sam Pankhurst (bass) and Stephen Grant (cornet) in dialogue, using new material written for the Fringe plus “compositions from the Duke and Jelly Roll”.

And for the main act, Fran Swinn, winner of this year’s APRA Composer Commission, has written Inform for jazz quartet and corde lisse (aerial circus act involving acrobatics on a vertically hanging rope). Circus Oz virtuoso acrobat/aerialist Rockie Stone (pictured below courtesy of Seth Gulob) will perform with the Fran Swinn Quartet (Swinn on guitar, Tamara Murphy on double bass, Ben Hendry on drums), and guest soloist Eugene Ball on trumpet.

Rockie

Rockie Stone at Circus Oz (Picture by Seth Gulob)

Swinn’s work promises to “integrate the forms and structures inherent in Jazz and improvised music with the forms and structures integral to a circus act” and acknowledges influences from dance, theatre and clowning as well as the music of Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman and Bill Frisell.

What could top that? Well, after such high-flying aerial pursuits it has to be time to sit. So Big Arse Sunday is exactly what’s needed. This year it’s at Cafe 303, 303 High Street, Northcote, from 2pm until about 9pm and the line-up includes Collider, Make Up Sex, Tinkler/Pankhurst/McLean, and 12 Tone Diamonds. And if you need a break from the music, the musicians you’ve heard or will hear later will probably be selling some nibbles or sitting on the door, so there’s a chance to chat.

With all these highlights, you may as well give in and decide you’ll never make it home before midnight during the Melboune Jazz Fringe Festival. This is a real grass roots festival run by musicians who volunteer lots of time to make it happen. If you’ve never dipped your toe in, try it. You won’t regret it.

ROGER MITCHELL