Tag Archives: James Waples



Hear and know

4 stars
FWM Records

Mike Nock piano, James Waples drums, Ben Waples double bass, Karl Laskowski tenor saxophone, Ken Allars trumpet

This trio’s first album, An Accumulation of Subtleties, was a triumph, demonstrating on two discs how well the Waples brothers work with Nock’s presence and mastery. Hear and Know is altered radically by the addition of horns — it is fascinating to hear how the “plus” of sax and trumpet influence the character of this album, often expanding the sound to wide vistas of cinematic proportions.

The result is a richly expressive foray into varied moods and styles, making this outing full of interest. The opening title track demonstrates this, moving through intimate piano and bass to sweeping ruminations of brass, with an intricate overlay of bass, before a lively jaunt. The diversity continues with slow, soaring horn interplay in The Sibylline Fragrance, a whole forming from fragments in the melee of Colours, and a minimalist opening stretched in scope by soaring horns in After Satie.

Komodo Dragon is a feast of melodies and conversations with an entree of staccato trumpet and breathy sax, while If Truth Be Known is big, powerful and eventually swinging, underpinned by Nock’s deep, grumblings and topped by strident horns. Gathering intensity is also evident in the closing Slow News Day, suggestive perhaps that some late wire taps eventually produced a front page.

Laskowski and the exciting Allars add a great deal to this collection of Nock originals, though for me it’s not quite enough to top the trio’s earlier Subtleties.

Hear and Know illustrates again that Mike Nock is always on the move and never stuck in the here and now.

File between: Paul Grabowsky, Tomasz Stanko

Download: Colours, If Truth Be Known


This album includes a booklet of photographs taken by Gerard Anderson.


Craig Simon

Craig Simon, one of the 2011 National Jazz Awards finalists, at Bennetts Lane.

Duties related to a certain annual report have delayed this post, but if you haven’t heard the latest on the national jazz awards at this year’s Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues then read on.

Ten drummers will perform in competition during the festival, which runs from Friday, October 28 to Monday, October 31 October, competing for a first prize of $8000 and a studio recording session.

For those who are yet to become regulars at Wang, each year the awards focus on a different instrument, and this year finalists will be drumming up a storm accompanied by saxophonist Dale Barlow, previous 1999 National Jazz Awards winner pianist Matt McMahon and 2008 runner-up Ben Waples. The finalists will compete with pieces composed by Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Dale Barlow and Paul Grabowsky, as well as their original compositions.

The best three will then play in the final round at 5pm on the festival, in a performance broadcast live-to-air on ‘Jazztrack with Mal Stanley’ on ABC Classic FM (from 5pm-7pm).

Entries received from across Australia, New Zealand and Japan were judged by that most poetic and versatile of drummers, Allan Browne, a recipient of the Australia Council’s Don Banks Award; pianist extraordinaire Mike Nock (whose album An Accumulation of Subtleties was given four stars by Ausjazz blog when it should have received more, given that I’ve enjoyed it so much); and veteran drummer Ted Vining who has been leading bands for over four decades.

The National Jazz Awards have been presented at the festival since it began in 1990 and were designed to contribute to the development and recognition of young jazz and blues musicians up to the age 35. The awards are a highlight of the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues.

So, after all that palaver, here are the top ten finalists:

Ben Falle, 25, Perth
Graham Hunt, 27, Sydney
James Waples, 28, Sydney
Tim Firth, 29, Sydney
Hugh Harvey, 30, Melbourne
Evan Mannell, 32, Sydney
Sam Bates, 33, Melbourne
Craig Simon, 34, Melbourne
Dave Goodman, 34, Sydney
Cameron Reid, 34, Sydney

The prizes at these awards are worth playing for. The first prize winner will receive $8000, a studio recording session for ABC Classic FM’s ‘Jazztrack with Mal Stanley’ and an invitation to perform at the Stonnington Jazz Festival in May 2012. The runner-up will receive $5000 and the third finalist will receive $2000.

Past winners include pianist and 2007 Grammy award nominee Barney McAll (1990 winner) who joins the festival from the US, saxophonist and improviser Elliott Dalgeish (1995 winner), guitarist James Muller (2000 winner) and Thirsty Merc bassist Phil Stack (2008 winner) who have all been invited to perform at the festival this year.


Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues
Dates: Friday October 28 to Monday October 31
Festival Passes: On sale now. Passes allow access to all venues or blues venues only and range from $65 to $220, or from $45 to $170 for earlybird and concession.
Early bird: Purchase before 30 September to save! Full details on the website
Program & bookings: www.wangarattajazz.com
Accommodation: Wangaratta Visitor Information Centre 1800 801 06 / www.visitwangaratta.com.au

ROGER MITCHELL (with help from the festival press release)


Mike Nock's New Quintet

Mike Nock's New Quintet

GIG: Wangaratta Performing Arts Centre Theatre, Friday, Oct. 29, 8pm

Mike Nock piano, Karl Laskowski tenor sax, Ben Waples acoustic bass, James Waples drums, Phil Slater trumpet

AFTER the vibrant, energetic opening piece, Hop, Skip, Jump, Mike Nock told the audience, “This is jazz. It may seem to be arranged, but things happen. It’s spontaneous. So it’s always going to be new to us.” But this ensemble — yet another group for the irrepressible Nock — was so tight it was hard to believe they had not rehearsed a set script for weeks. Nock can immediately take a piece to a higher level and he did so here, with sweeping vistas and ringing chords to hang suspended.

Slow News Day — was this inspired by the decline of newspapers? — opened with resonant, slow, sustained piano with plenty of space. The mood was wistful, with Phil Slater adding dimension to the sound. Horn notes bent as sax and trumpet interleaved before a fiery Slater solo with sizzling vibrato slowing to a stately finish. James Waples added drama, Ben Waples contributed a strong but melodic solo over Nock’s sensitive chiming chords. Nock lyrically returned the piece to the ensemble and the wistfulness returned.

This post is burbling on and ought to be more concise. After Satie, a tribute to French composer and pianist Eric Alfred Leslie Satie (1866 – 1925) wandered through harmonies, with the horns playing tag and catching each other in a meadow of lush lyricism. The beat built before the horns swept serenity and splendour into the sky. Nock closed with a rainbow.

Well that may have been a bit over the top, but that was the highly subjective imagery that came to mind.

Mike Nock's New Quintet

Mike Nock's New Quintet

In Speak to the Golden Child, deep chords established a grounding that was picked up by bass and drums. This was rhythm driven. Horns built the intensity, piano built the sense of swing and sax drove that further before Slater entered the fray. He was really into it, notes screaming and flaring and squealing out of the trumpet bell. Great instrument. Great player. Nock’s contribution was light but emphatic, his notes touching the top of the swing and dancing along it. Then he was bolder, and the drums seemed to take just a little while to jell, but then it worked. The horns finished it.

Mike Nock knows, as Megg from Bennetts Lane once commented, how to work an audience. He starts with pieces that are accessible, winning hearts and minds before stretching them a little. Choices was the final piece of the set and it took us into that glorious territory that can really be enjoyed if you let go, as if on a rollercoaster. Sax and trumpet opened a dialogue early, the piano attempted to calm, but the horns burst out in rapid fire. There were delightfully robust harmonies in a horn duel, then drum attacks and a dull rumble from piano and bass. It was fragmentary music, with sharp bursts and changing patterns. Eventually the piano lightened proceedings and the horns delicately followed. Melody crept in and the horns echoed it.

Wangaratta Jazz was launched with finesse and verve.

Pictures? Well, the powers that be have banned picture taking in the arts centre venues, though I noticed that was honoured largely in the breach for this concert. I am disappointed that those of us who have silent cameras and do not move about are not given some licence to take a few shots, because this is history. As a reviewer, I also like to look through images to as an aid to my failing memory. Well, we’ll work on that issue.