Tag Archives: John Coltrane

BRUNSWICK NIGHTS — THE ANDY SUGG GROUP

CD REVIEW

THE saxophonist leading The Andy Sugg Group is a quite different beast from his fiery free-jazz incarnation with Kris Wanders. In a recording taken at the end of a long season at the Brunswick Green Hotel, Sugg’s ensemble of Daniel Gassin (keys), Nashua Lee (guitar), Thom Mann (drums) and Michael Story (bass) delivers detailed and delicate fusion.

Sugg’s originals are layered and incremental, but the feel is relaxed, with none of the developmental tension displayed by The Necks. The appeal is in the obvious synergy, with each member of the group feeling free to contribute alongside others in varied absorbing entanglements.

It would have been nice to hear more of Mann and Story — as in Blah — and perhaps some fiery Sugg, but this is a valued testament to nights in Brunswick.

File between: John Coltrane, Weather Report

Download: Blah, Tower Road

ROGER MITCHELL

This review also appeared in the Play liftout of the Sunday Herald Sun, Melbourne on January 9, 2011

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PERFECT PRESENT — KURT ELLING ON BEING IN THE MOMENT

INTERVIEW

Kurt Elling
Drawcard: Kurt Elling

KURT Elling is a hard taskmaster — hard on himself and on his audiences.

The Grammy award-winning vocalist has made a rigorous study of the great jazz singers and strives for total engagement with music through improvisation and spontaneity. He has mastered scatting, singing and writing vocalese lyrics for jazz standards and current repertoire. He can sing a beautiful ballad and he knows how to touch people’s hearts. His lyrics are sensitive and intelligent.

Elling will be a big drawcard at Wangaratta Jazz, having built a strong Australian following since his first appearance at the festival in 1998.

He clearly has the discipline as well as the gift of ingenuity with which he says jazz musicians are born. But for him the key to experiencing music, as performer or audience member, is to be “fully present”.

“When one is fully present, one isn’t worried about other concerns,” Elling says by phone from his base in Chicago.

“I find it annoying (at my concerts) when people come in and are taking pictures or recording the event on their little iPods or whatever it is. If they are not fully present, they are conscious that they are engaging something they want to enjoy later. And that means they are not enjoying the gift we are trying to give them right now. It’s a distraction.”

Elling believes the onslaught of information and experience can create too many distractions in life.

“One has to make a conscious decision to shut that down much of the time, to not be overwhelmed by the internet, television, movies and other input — much of it inane, a bit degrading and the worst of human possibilities. You’ve got to turn that stuff off, turn your phone off sometimes and really listen to your heart.”

In his appreciation of others’ music, the vocalist is equally demanding.

“I have to work when I go out to a jazz concert. You really need to focus. You need to get in there and wrestle with your concepts. The moments are fleeting, but the experience is so rewarding because the exchange is so pure.

“I do ask a lot of my audiences, whether they’re hearing something the first time or something they like and want to hear again,” Elling says.

“I’m an artist in a difficult and challenging genre. I don’t want anybody to be put off by the level of difficulty or challenge, but I trust my audiences to give it their best shot, and by and large I get the impression that people are having a good experience.

Elling says music can transcend language differences.

“I travel about 200 nights a year and over half those nights I’m in countries where people don’t speak English. I’m doing the same material and I don’t think it keeps people from having a good time. They take what they can from it.”

Elling says music can remind people that there’s more than just the everyday grit and struggle and “that we have transcended possibilities”.

“One lives in music, one forgets about time and one’s concerns, one forgets oneself. And that is one of the definitions of happiness. You are no longer self-conscious, insecure about your insecurities or feeling regret or any specific thing other than elation. You’re not looking at your watch, you’re not looking at your past or your future. You’re simply happy.”

At Wangaratta, Elling — joined by longtime collaborator Laurence Hopgood on piano, Harish Raghavan on bass and Ulysses Owens on drums, and featuring Bob Sheppard on tenor sax — will treat audiences to a preview of songs from his coming studio album as well the Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane material he has interpreted for some time.

“The new record will be called The Gate and will feature John Patitucci (bass) and Terreon Gully (drums) as our rhythm section, Chicago guitarist John McLean [and drummer Kobie Watkins]. I’ve been very excited about what we’ve been getting there. That’ll definitely be a very different thing than much of the music that we’ve been playing in the last few years,” Elling says.

ROGER MITCHELL

An edited version of this interview was published in Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper on October 25, 2010

GEORGE GARZONE at Bennetts Lane

GIG: August 15, 2010

George Garzone, saxophone
Paul Grabowsky, piano
Phillip Rex, bass
Niko Schauble, drums

Garzone, Grabowsky, Rex and Schauble
Garzone, Grabowsky, Rex and Schauble

Courtesy of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, tenor saxophonist George Garzone passed through Melbourne, playing three gigs. This was the first. He played at Uptown Jazz Cafe on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, with Craig Simon on drums and Phillip Rex again on bass, and guests Stephen Magnusson on guitar and Scott Tinkler on trumpet.

Publicity material on Garzone mentions that in more than 35 years he has performed with artists such as Chick Corea, Ron Carter, George Russell Orchestra and John Patitucci. He leads one of the longest running groups in jazz history, The Fringe, which has a cult-like following in the US. His former students include Joshua Redman, Branford Marsalis, Teadross Avery and Australian saxophonists Julien Wilson and Jamie Oehlers.

Grabowsky and Garzone
Grabowsky and Garzone

Garzone & Rex
Garzone and Rex

There was a good crowd in the large room at Bennetts. The quartet opened in robust fashion with Like Someone In Love (Jimmy Van Heusen). I’m never comfortable with labels lest I am completely wrong, but this was upbeat hard bop, with heaps of energy from all, especially Grabowsky, Schauble and Garzone. There was some banter between Garzone and “my bodyguard” up the back (Scott Tinkler) before I Love You (Cole Porter), in which the sax and drums played off each other in a nice duel.

Phillip Rex
Phillip Rex

Grabowsky
Grabowsky

Next came Coltrane’s ballad Say It (Over and Over Again), which I really enjoyed because it gave us a chance to hear the grace and elegance to Garzone’s tenor rather than just its strength and his virtuosity. Thelonious Monk’s Pannonica followed, with a great bass solo from Rex, some angular “stick clicks” from Schauble (he is so expressive with dynamics), drama in Grabowsky’s spatially isolated chords and plenty of bounce and verve in his ensuing solo. The rhythm section took over before a great Garzone solo and then Schauble treated us to rapid runs and stops which grew gradually and organically into a solo and eventually into an end to the piece. Garzone seemed happy, reminding us that “I think about this guy (Grabowsky) all year” and “I rave about you guys in America, where taxes are high and jobs are none”.

George Garzone
George Garzone

George Garzone
George Garzone

A “blues” piece by Garzone, Hey Open Up, ended the set, exploding out of the blocks and setting our feet tapping with some rapid-fire contributions and Garzone over playing into the drums again. Top solos from Grabowsky and Garzone took us to the break.

Phillip Rex
Phillip Rex

Niko Schauble
Niko Schauble

Set two opened with free improvisation flowing into Equinox (John Coltrane), with long solos by Garzone and Grabowsky. By this time I was in the mood for whatever this band produced and it seemed as though every track was another highlight.

George Garzone
George Garzone

One of the standouts for me was next, Garzone’s ballad Alone, which he “wrote a long time ago when I was alone … I’m still alone”. This was beautiful and seemed to capture the “aloneness” of being alone so well. Towards the end there was a familiar melody, maybe Girl From Ipanema. Then came a return to the physicality, which Garzone seems to enjoy and to epitomise in his playing, in Have You Met Miss Jones (Richard Rodgers). He seems to feel the music in his body and it pours out with that forcefulness and power. Schauble added some explosive brilliance to this.

Grabowsky & Garzone
Grabowsky & Garzone

Phillip Rex
Phillip Rex

Coltrane’s Theme For Ernie came next, a moving and slower piece. Then Garzone showed his appreciation to an enthusiastic audience” “I love coming here. No one really listens except you guys.” Yeah, I bet you tell that to all the audiences, George. His “tune I wrote for everyone”, Head Now, began with a frenzy and kept going, adding to that sense from the night that music is truly felt either in the bones and fibres of our being — muscular music — or in the emotions which it can awaken and which can plumb our depths if the moment is right.

I’m glad I’ve heard George Carzone and sorry I did not make it to either of the Uptown Jazz Cafe gigs. But I’m sure plenty did and were amply rewarded.