Tag Archives: Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra

SYDNEY’S MOTHERSHIP LANDS BRIEFLY IN MELBS

Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra, Chapel Off Chapel, Monday, May 23 as part of Stonnington Jazz, 2011

Carl Morgan guitar; Hugh Barrett piano; Brendan Clarke contrabass; Jamie Cameron drums & cymbals; David Theak, Murray Jackson, Richard Maegraith, Mike Rivett, James Loughnan saxophones; Darryl Carthew, Angus Gomm, Simon Frenci, Ken Allars trumpets; Jeremy Borthwick, Lucian McGuiness, Danny Carmichael, Justin Kearin trombones; Kristin Berardi guest vocalist

Joseph O'Connor

Joseph O'Connor conducts the Mothership in "Rationalisations".

An earlier post recorded Joseph O’Connor’s win in the 2011 National Big Band Composition Competition, with his piece Rationalisations. Runners up were (in no particular order) Cameron Earle and Alice Humphries. There were 22 entries, so making the finals was a significant achievement and conducting the JMO must have been a thrill. I arrived late (not following festival artistic director Adrian Jackson‘s advice to “read your program”), so I heard only part of Earle’s piece, Run Run. What I heard was vigorous and pretty full-on.

Alice Humphries conducts JMO in "The Mending"

Alice Humphries conducts JMO in "The Mending"

For the record, if I’d had to judge I would have favoured Humphries’ composition The Mending, which had a strong feeling from the beginning that it was heading somewhere as well as the light and shade evident also in Rationalisations. I love that feeling of tension and sense of momentum, especially from a big band. The Mothership Orchestra really delivered in all three competition pieces.

Band leader David Theak kept us in suspense during Mike Nock‘s piece Hadrian’s Wall, arranged by Murray Jackson, which began the second set. Then he announced the competition winner before the orchestra played Florian Ross‘s Teen Adventure, with solid solos from Mike Rivett and James Loughnan, and the trumpeter buried up the back on the right.

Kristin Berardi aboard the Mothership

Kristin Berardi aboard the Mothership

Then Kristin Berardi joined the band for Moonbeams (Berardi, arr. Florian Ross), Mr Jackson (Berardi, arr. Ross Irwin), My One and Only Love (Guy Wood, arr. Steve Newcomb) and Ode to Oli (Berardi, arr. Ross).

For a vocals skeptic, which I usually am, this was a valuable part of my education. Berardi’s gestures are compelling and her voice equally so, with depth, dynamic variation and range. I can’t write technically about vocalists, or much in music for that matter, but I found myself making a comparison (actually a contrast) between Berardi and Sarah McKenzie. They are, obviously, very different kettles of fish (do fish come in kettles?).

Berardi’s voice has something very distinctive and I warmed to that. I especially loved her song Mr Jackson, about a man in New York who had a lot to say. I felt it succeeded in conveying the feel of this man and could almost picture him rabbiting on. This piece was really swinging and highlights from the band included contributions by Hugh Barrett and Brendan Clarke, Jamie Cameron and a trombonist (not sure of his name).

Jazzhead has released an album entitled, predictably, Kristin Berardi Meets the Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra.

Exciting trumpet: Ken Allars with Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra

Exciting trumpet: Ken Allars with Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra

The JMO finished the set with a premiere of Jackson’s composition Who Do You Think Of Now — in which his solo included some fantastic gobbledegook, squeaky, all-over-the-place stuff that can give you goosebumps, and Lucian McGuiness and Hugh Barrett made strong contributions — and Mr Dodo (Bert Joris), which began with some exciting horn from Ken Allars and followed with a tenor solo from Richard Maegraith before a really tight interlude leading back to Allars’ trumpet.

Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra

Murray Jackson on sax, Richard Maegraith on flute with the Mothership Orchestra

I thought the audience could have scored an encore, but it wasn’t to be. Pity. The whole gig seemed to pass very quickly, but, when you take into account the work involved in rehearsing the competition compositions, this was a busy night for a big band that always seems to shine.

I really enjoyed what the band and conductors did with the three pieces in the first set. Second set highlights were Berardi’s Mr Jackson and the playing of Allars on trumpet.

I should get out to hear more big bands, such as Bennetts Lane Big Band and ATM15, but the Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra can land in Melbs any time.

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NATIONAL BIG BAND COMPOSITION WINNER

Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra, Chapel Off Chapel, Monday, May 23 as part of Stonnington Jazz, 2011

Joseph O'Connor

Joseph O'Connor conducts the Mothership in "Rationalisations".

Breaking news:

Joseph O’Connor from Queensland has won the 2011 National Big Band Composition Competition in a play-off hosted by Stonnington Jazz. He wins $3500 for his piece Rationalisations, which was performed by Sydney’s Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra as part of its national tour.

The other two finalists were Cameron Earl, who composed Run Run, and Alice Humphries, whose piece was titled The Mending.

The Orchestra performed the three pieces in their first set for the festival, following it with a set of some of the band members’ compositions and some by vocalist Kristin Berardi, who joined the band for four numbers.

Cameron Earl conducts JMO in "Run Run".

Cameron Earl conducts JMO in "Run Run".

The Finalists travelled to Melbourne to rehearse and conduct the JMO at the concert. All finalists receive music composition and notation software Finale 2011. The cash prize is provided courtesy of APRA.

There was stiff competition this year, with 22 compositions received. Cam MacCallister (now in Sydney) and Elliot Hughes from WA were given a special commendation, missing out by the narrowest of margins on being finalists.

JMO runs the big band composition competition in conjunction with APRA, ABC Classic FM, Intelliware (Finale) and JozzBeat.

More on the Mothership gig with Kristin Berardi soon.

ROGER MITCHELL

Alice Humphries conducts JMO in "The Mending"

Alice Humphries conducts JMO in "The Mending"

WYNTON MARSALIS SENDS HIS APOLOGIES

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.

ROGER MITCHELL