Tag Archives: James McLean

FINELY BALANCED QUINTET

Paul Williamson leads his quintet to launch "Finding the Balance".

Paul Williamson leads his quintet to launch “Finding the Balance”.

IMAGE GALLERY

Paul Williamson Quintet: Finding the Balance album launch

Trumpeter and composer Paul Williamson launched his 11th CD at The Jazzlab on Sunday, November 12. Finding the Balance (Jazzhead), features long-time collaborators, Perth-based Jamie Oehlers (tenor saxophone), Andrea Keller (piano), James McLean (drums) and Christopher Hale (acoustic bass guitar).

The original compositions and group aesthetic reflected Williamson’s desire to produce music with memorable themes with the ability to take listeners on musical journeys. Expect mesmerising improvisations, spirited interaction and complementary individual conceptions.

The Jazzlab was packed for this outing, the musicians attracting enthusiastic applause. Some images from the gig are below.

Roger Mitchell

 

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IN SPACE, EVERYONE MAY HEAR YOU DREAM

Joseph O'Connor

Joseph O’Connor

REVIEW: Joseph O’Connor Trio / McDougall-Noy-Murphy, Chapel Off Chapel, Thursday 22 May, 8pm for Stonnington Jazz

As Sun Ra may have put it, space is the place, and both sets at the Chapel had plenty of that highly prized attribute in improvised music — space. OK, so in space no one can hear you scream, but when you listen to music that is open and airy, there may be room to dream.

James Macauley

James McLean

It was evident throughout the Joseph O’Connor trio’s set. There was an acceptance of space in Sotto Vocce in the way the three instruments — O’Connor on piano, Marty Holoubek on bass and James McLean on drums — acted cooperatively yet independently, intervening and then withdrawing as the piece developed. McLean’s sparse work on the drum kit had plenty of it.

Marty Holoubek

Marty Holoubek

In the standard Solitude, Holoubek’s bass was open, airy, relaxed and unhurried, with room to move. And the ballad Fractured Symmetry had notes splaying and spilling everywhere, with fragments, short runs and again that welcome space.

Originally from Brisbane, pianist Joseph O’Connor is completing a PhD course at Monash University. He won first prize in the National Jazz Awards at Wangaratta Jazz last year.

This outing demonstrated his delicacy of touch, expression (in Paul Bley’s Carla), his ability to enter a piece so lightly and convey just the right feel (in Ellington’s Solitude) and his gentle swing (in Noy’s Lady Lachs Schinken). Possibly it may have been good for O’Connor also to play some pieces allowing stronger, more emphatic work at the keys, with greater drive and dynamic variation. In other words, a taste of O’Connor let off the leash and a little more out there would have been nice. I’m sure we’ll see plenty of that in concerts to come.

That said, this was definitely a set of therapeutic or healing music that was good for the soul. It confirmed that the judges at Wangaratta chose well from a highly talented group of finalists in the National Jazz Awards.

And speaking of therapeutic music with plenty of space, the second set delivered more of both.

One of the greats (and great guys) of Australian jazz, Stonnington Jazz patron and drummer-bandleader Allan Browne, was unable to make this gig for health reasons. We wish him a quick return to the stage. Rory McDougall, who plays with Aaron Choulai, Sam Zerna and The Putbacks, stepped in.

According to bassist Tamara Murphy, pianist Andrea Keller had been in the line-up, but was away touring, so saxophonist Phil Noy stepped in. This trio began and ended the set with Bernie McGann — the recently departed saxophonist’s Brownsville to start and Murphy’s moving tribute Bernie to close. McDougall’s solo in this was assured and he engaged in some nice exchanges with Noy, who opened with a solo full of subtleties. Murphy’s playing is always interesting in the best sense — imaginative and never predictable.

Phil Noy

Phil Noy

In a beautifully controlled solo in The Opposite of Afar, Noy reached some distinctive high notes that I find it hard to describe, but they a had a special quality, being penetrating yet not at all forced.

Tamara Murphy

Tamara Murphy

Murphy’s solo in this seemed considered, deliberate and crafted with a lot of care — I’m not sure whether that will mean anything because I appreciate that much of what musicians perform ought to fit that description. But in this case that aspect seemed particularly evident.

During The Two Bears (Noy) I reflected that Noy was delivering a soft, yet full sound on reeds that was often floating as if on a cushion of air. There were no squawks and no sharp edges. His solo in Stablemates (Benny Golson) had just the right amount of swing. Great piece. Hoo Hoo, a ballad Noy wrote in Tasmania, had some more of those intriguing  higher notes plus a tiny vibrato, and Murphy produced a slow solo with enough space to let the light of Leonard Cohen’s Anthem lyric get in.

Rory McDougall

Rory McDougall

Maybe the Allan Browne vibe hung around for this concert despite his absence because this trio worked really well. McDougall’s brief solo in Staples (Noy) was great, and during the closing Bernie I was musing on the way in which the timbres of all three instruments were on out there to be enjoyed.

Space is indeed the place and there was plenty in the Chapel on this occasion.

ROGER MITCHELL

WINE, WOMEN AND SONG — IT’S A DREAM DROP

Martha Baartz

Martha Baartz with Baartzy’s Brew at Bennetts Lane in 2010.

CD REVIEW / MWIJF PREVIEW

Melbourne Women’s International Jazz Festival: Martha Baartz Quintet Dream Drops CD launch, Wednesday 11 December 2013, Bennetts Lane Jazz Club, 8.30pm

Alto saxophonist Martha Baartz was lost to the Melbourne jazz scene when she returned to northern New South Wales a while ago after 12 years down south, but she has visited for MWIJF gigs in 2010 and 2011.

Dream Drops cover

This year Baartz is launching her new album, Dream Drops, at the festival and drawing on a stellar line-up of Paul Williamson on tenor, Bob Sedergreen on piano, Greg Lyon on electric bass and Sonja Horbelt on drums.

Baartz has featured original compositions on her earlier sextet albums with guitarist Lliam FreemanSoutheast (2003, Move) included five Baartz pieces and 12 Salutations (2005, Newmarket) had six of her originals, including a favourite of mine, Jungle of Flies.

Stephen Grant‘s trumpet is not in the Dream Drops line-up for the recording and Jim Kelly replaces Freeman on guitar. The rest of the band consists of Stephen Russell on piano, David Sanders on drums and Lyon on electric bass.  Jack Thorncraft plays double bass on the final track, Johnny Green’s standard Body and Soul.

The relaxed, even languid feel of northern NSW seems to have permeated this album, which displays the fluidity and ease of Baartz’s sax work these days. She is obviously having fun and that comes through on this CD.

Dream Drops sandwiches four Baartz originals between two standards. A lively, lightly swinging version of Jimmy Forrest’s Night Train opens the album  and a live rendition of Johnny Green’s classic Body and Soul, recorded at the Brisbane Jazz Club, wraps it up. On a relatively short album (in other words, I’d have liked to hear more) this 10-minute standard is a highlight, with Baartz displaying great finesse and subtlety, as does Russell on piano. I found this interpretation a beautiful reminder of why we warm to standards.

Of the originals, Walking in the Moonlight is warmly melodic and the title track exemplifies the gentle interaction of Baartz and Kelly on sax and guitar. The First of July includes a great solo by Russell.

Dream Drops is music to infuse a sunny disposition into your day or night.

ROGER MITCHELL

Now here’s a preview of this year’s Melbourne Women’s International Jazz Festival. I’m going to miss some of these concerts due to night shifts at work, but there are plenty of treats in store for those able to be there.

2013 MWIJF GIGS AT BENNETTS LANE:

Sunday 8 December, 8.30pm — Double bill: Jodie Michael Trio and Audrey Boyle Quartet

Jodie Michael Trio

A graduate of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music in 2012 with a Bachelor of Music, (Performance), Jazz, Michael returned to New York this year for further study. Her trio of Michael on drums, Steve Barry on organ and Carl Morgan on guitar will endeavour to present a music that expresses the drummer’s “love for all styles of music, something that highlights the `broken’ quality of music; an adventure of sorts into music, breaking it up and putting it back together rhythmically and structurally, communicating what I had found in the process of exploration”.

Audrey Boyle

Audrey Boyle                                   (Image supplied)

Audrey Boyle Quartet

A Melbourne trumpet player, composer and improviser, Boyle graduated in 2012 from Monash University with Honours in Music Performance. She was the 2011 recipient of the James Morrison Jazz Prize as part of the Melbourne International Brass Festival. She has performed with Don Burrows, James Morrison, Tony Hicks, Adam Rapa, Kendrick Scott and Terence Blanchard. Her quartet will comprise this year’s National Jazz Awards winner Joseph O’Connor on piano, Marty Holoubek on bass and James McLean on drums.

Tamara Murphy with her ensemble performing Big Creatures Little Creatures

Tamara Murphy

Monday 9 December, 8.30pm — Browne, Keller and Murphy Trio

Allan Browne, Andrea Keller & Tamara Murphy formed their trio in 2003 for the MWIJF and continued intermittent performances on Monday nights. Now they have recorded their “tender tapestries” on an album that “seems to know the B-line to the beating heart of your ear”. Multi-award winning composer/pianist Andrea Keller joins talented and awarded bassist Tamara Murphy to “bring to the fore the feminine and the poetic side” of drummer Allan Browne as they collaborate to feature compositions from the trio’s debut album Carried By The Sun.

Sarah Holmes and Arlene Fletcher

Sarah Holmes and Arlene Fletcher                (Image supplied)

Tuesday 10 December, 8.30pm, Double bill — Arlene Fletcher Quintet and Sarah Holmes’ The Outfit

Arlene Fletcher Quintet: Arlene Fletcher is known as a bassist with The Furbelows, Sidney Creswick, STEM, SMES and Taktok. She will lead a line-up of Harry Cook piano, James Milic drums, Tom Sly trumpet and Tom Noonan saxophone to play originals and some cheeky arrangements influenced by Brad Mehldau, Avishai Cohen.

The Outfit: This Melbourne group plays tunes about coffee, knitting, tumbleweeds and a young man who looks like Jesus. It features compositions by bassist Sarah Holmes, and the talents of Daniel Brates/Adam Coad drums, Diego Villalta guitar, Rob Simone saxophone and Louise Goh vocals, playing swinging tunes and layered soundscapes. It’s music that will make you happy.

Martha Baartz

Martha Baartz

Wednesday 13 December, 8.30pm — Martha Baartz Quintet, CD launch

Alto saxophonist and composer Baartz has travelled and performed extensively including international festivals such as the world famous Glastonbury Festival and The Edinburgh Festival. She will launch her new album Dream Drops with Melbourne musicians , featuring Paul Williamson tenor saxophone, Bob Sedergreen piano, Greg Lyon electric bass and Sonja Horbelt drums. The band will play original tunes that range from delta blues and New Orleans funk to beautiful ballads and smooth swing.

Monique diMattina

Monique diMattina                                        (Image supplied)

Thursday 12 December, 8.30pm — Monique DiMattina and Guests

Singer/songwriter, Fulbright scholar, radio personality, boogie-woogie barrelhouse basher, composer of crystalline piano miniatures, bunjee jumper, marathon runner and mother of two, Monique diMattina is known for her song-in-an-hour antics on Melbourne 3RRR and ABC 774. DiMattina on piano and vocals will be joined by Kellie Santin saxophone, Doug de Vries acoustic guitar, Howard Cairns sousaphone and bass to perform material from her latest release Nola’s Ark recorded in New Orleans.

Lisa Young

Lisa Young                                         (Image supplied)

Friday 13 December, 8.30pm — Lisa Young Quartet

A creative rhythmic vocal stylist and improviser who incorporates Indian and African elements, Young has been a long-time student of maestro Guru Kaaraikkudi Mani in Chennai. Specialising in South Indian vocal percussion, Young has performed with vocal group Coco’s Lunch and her quartet. In a rare Melbourne performance, she will play with her award-winning quartet featuring Ben Robertson bass, Hugh Stuckey guitar and Danny Farrugia drums to performing the song cycle The Eternal Pulse and other favourites.

Saturday 14 December, 8.30pm — Creative Vocal Series

Curated by vocalist/composer Gian Slater this series of concerts celebrates the abundance of distinctive, innovative vocalists in Melbourne’s jazz and contemporary music scene in Melbourne. For the MWIJF the series features vocalists Clio Renner, Helen Catanchin and Hailey Cramer presenting original music with their ensembles.

Clio Renner: A recent VCA graduate, Renner fuses pop song form with improvisational elements to deliver a musical tapestry woven with Folk sensibilities and Art Song poetics. Renner (voice, piano) will be joined by Steve Hornby on bass and James McLean on drums to explore the relationship between piano and voice as lead instrument and accompaniment.

Helen Catanchin: While completing a Master of Arts (Music Performance) at Monash University, Catanchin focused on wordless singing. She created 10 new works created explore the aesthetic, expressive and abstractive potential of a range of wordless vocal sounds, juxtaposed against the limits on lyrics. Catanchin’s MWIJF performance will feature this new music and earlier works. Catanchin will be joined by Ben Edgar guitar, Luke Howard piano, Philip Rex double bass and James McLean drums. This intensely personal music has been described as “melodic and reflective, lush, tender and at times raw”.

Hailey Cramer: Reputed to be one of the most interesting artists in Melbourne’s burgeoning electronic-infused soul scene, Cramer featured on the hit collaboration The Festival Song’ with rapper Pez and has performed with Michael Franti, 360, Mark Levine, Paul Grabowsky and Blue King Brown. She released her debut self-titled EP last year at the Toff. Working alongside producer Dan West, Hailey has sculpted a remarkable sonic landscape that draws on her musical past while revealing her eclectic musical inspirations and aspirations. Cramer’s vocals will be accompanied by Justin Marshall percussion and bits, Dan West beats and bits, with backing vocals by Zoe Kalenderidis and Joanna Lavell.

Gian Slater

Gian Slater

Sunday 15 December 2013, 8.30pm — Festival Sextet
Each year MWIJF seeks to form a sextet of leading female musicians to perform and promote original material and pieces by other female artists. Past members have included Sandy Evans, Nadje Noordhuis, Felicity Provan, Anita Hustas, Shannon Barnett, Tamara Murphy and Fiona Burnett.

This year the sextet comprises Gian Slater voice, Savannah Blount saxophone, Andrea Keller piano, Fran Swinn guitar, Arlene Fletcher bass and Sonja Horbelt drums.