Tag Archives: Keith Jarrett

UPTOWN HOSTS PAPER TIGER

Paper Tiger

CD LAUNCH: Paper Tiger, featuring Oehlers/Magnusson/Vanderwal at Uptown Jazz Cafe, 8.30pm (two sets)

To give a taste of what’s in store, here is Uptown’s take on proceedings:

“Jamie Oehlers (tenor and soprano saxophones), Stephen Magnusson (guitar) and Ben Vanderwal (drums) are three widely recognised and acclaimed Australian jazz artists, who came together in 2013 to perform each others’ original material in Perth and Melbourne.

“The results were undeniably strong – so much so that they are getting back together again in Melbourne to record a new album over this week, with this performance being a prequel to that recording.

“With distinctly different writing styles, the material will be diverse, drawn together by the always clear and unique voices of these three exceptional musicians.”

And here’s another take on this album:

“In 2013 these three fine musicians got together to perform and enjoyed the results so much they coaxed each other to go into the studio and record an album. Once in there, with the red light on they couldn’t stop, they tied the sound engineer to his chair and proceeded to record 15 songs (all available on their new release, Paper Tiger.

“The resulting music is a diverse range of colours, grooves and timbres. Each member has a very distinct writing style but the compositions are approached as a collective. You can hear the band revelling in the freedom of the bass less trio format and revelling in the knowledge they do not have to check in a double bass at the oversize counter the next day.”

Paper Tiger features five compositions by Oehlers, three each by Magnusson and Vanderwal, as well as pieces by each of Keith Jarrett, Frank Loesser, Ornette Coleman and Stephen Foster.

And our ABC has this to say about the album:

“Audacious but approachable, eclectic yet focused, Paper Tiger presents a new instrumental trio. No stranger to each other, each member is a highly regarded improvising Australian: guitarist Stephen Magnusson, saxophonist Jamie Oehlers and drummer Ben Vanderwal.

Paper Tiger has compositions by each member of the trio, plus very fresh explorations of other composers’ work – from Ornette Coleman to Stephen Foster.

“So limber is this trio that a casual listener may be surprised to discover it ‘lacks’ a bass player. Good humour, lyricism and surprise are abundant.”

Jamie Oehlers

Jamie Oehlers

WHEN KEITH JARRETT COMPLAINED

Sarah McKenzie

Sarah McKenzie

REVIEW

Sarah McKenzie Quartet and Silo String Quartet, Bennetts Lane Jazz Club, Friday 16 August 2013

Sarah McKenzie piano, vocals; Hugh Stuckey guitar; Hugh Harvey drums; Tamara Murphy bass

Aaron Barnden violin, Andrea Keeble violin, Ceridwen Davies viola, Caerwen Martin cello

There’s a story in every gig, and in this outing it came in the second set, when we learned that we would be treated to a song dedicated to Keith Jarrett. Not because he was such an inspiration, but because — surprise, surprise — Mr Jarrett made a complaint. More on this story later.

In May 2011, patrons at the opening night of Stonnington Jazz (see Ausjazz review) heard Sarah McKenzie as entertainer, engaging and captivating the audience with her evident love of performing music she loved.

A year later, McKenzie again opened the festival (see Ausjazz review), but this time as arranger, composer and musical director of a big band, Graeme Lyall’s impressive Generations in Jazz Big Band from Mount Gambier.

A lot of water had passed under the bridge since then. In 2012 McKenzie’s second album, Close Your Eyes, received the ARIA award for Best Jazz Album and after a visit to the Umbria Jazz Festival she was invited to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston, US. She made a flying visit back to Melbourne in June to be musical director in Everybody Wants to Rule the World, a concert of jazz covers, pop and rock masterpieces on the opening night of the Melbourne International Jazz Festival.

Sarah McKenzie Quartet, Silo String Quartet

Sarah McKenzie Quartet, Silo String Quartet

McKenzie came to Bennetts Lane with some significant firepower. Apart from her new quartet line-up with Hugh Harvey on drums and Tamara Murphy on bass, she had the considerable talent of the Silo String Quartet. McKenzie also brought arrangements for the string quartet by two of her Berklee colleagues, Saunder Choi (Philippines) and George Mathew Dylan Varner-Hartley (Canada).

McKenzie’s talent for and love of arranging was evident from the opening Bye Bye Blackbird, but first set highlights were her versions of Sting’s Fragile, the standard I Won’t Dance and, to close, Hendrix’s The Wind Cries Mary, which wowed the audience, showcased her skill on piano and demonstrated the appeal of her phrasing.

I’m far from an expert on vocals, but the full timbre, depth and power in McKenzie’s voice is often hinted at — albeit very gratifyingly — rather than given a real workout in the songs she chooses. Given edgier material I believe she could let loose and really challenge herself, with great results.

Silo String Quartet

Silo String Quartet

The Silo quartet added a smooth, rich feel to Little Girl Blue, I Remember You (arranged by Dylan Varner-Hartley) and In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning (arranged by Saunder Choi), which gave space to Mckenzie’s vocals over slow work in unison by the strings.

The night’s highlights came in the second set. There were many, but I felt the set went on a little too long, so that the sense of a slow build was lost. The final song, At Last, displayed the strength of McKenzie’s vocals, but it seemed a pity to close without the Silo String Quartet on stage.

The second last piece, Gershwin’s beautiful Embraceable You, was rendered superbly and showed excellent interaction between Stuckey’s guitar and the strings, yet perhaps could have been played earlier in the night.

Ceridwen Davies, Caerwen Martin

Ceridwen Davies, Caerwen Martin

That said, this set brought us great arrangements from Dylan Varner-Hartley (for You’ve Changed) and Tamara Murphy (for I’m Through With Love), the latter bringing a nice exchange between strings and voice. McKenzie’s treatment of Big Yellow Taxi was, as always, adept and carefully crafted.

Harvey’s drums fired up behind guitar in Come On Home to set the scene for McKenzie to show us how well she sings the blues, showing dynamic variation, power and the facility to bend notes. Nice work.

I felt it would have been good to have the Silo String Quartet let off the leash at times in this concert, but their skilful work in Little Fluffy Clouds and Falling Water, two of five pieces from their Cloud Suite, was a real highlight. How good is it to go to a jazz gig and enjoy a string quartet that can improvise so ably. 

Sarah McKenzie and Silo String Quartet

Sarah McKenzie and Silo String Quartet

But the standout for me came at the start of the second set, when McKenzie treated us to three of her original compositions. In the first, Letter to Lover, she split the audience into three and had us sing harmonies, which was a lot of fun.

Aaron Barnden, Sarah McKenzie

Aaron Barnden, Sarah McKenzie

Then came I Loves You Porgy, written a few days earlier in a beach shack on the Great Ocean Road and dedicated to Keith Jarrett, “who gave us a noise complaint at the Umbria Jazz Festival”. Apparently the “noise” from McKenzie’s band was reaching into another venue, annoying Mr Jarrett.

It was followed by an instrumental piece, There Were Three Ships, written in the Kimberley, featuring first violin Aaron Barnden with McKenzie and a lovely interlude by piano, bass and drums.

These three originals clearly showed that McKenzie could come up with an album of original material.

There is a lot to Sarah McKenzie. Yes, she is a natural entertainer who loves to play with standards and can work with a big band or string quartet. But I think the three original songs in this outing proved that the vocalist and pianist can not only extend herself with edgier, more challenging works, but also has a bright future as a songwriter.

ROGER MITCHELL

Sarah McKenzie Quartet and Silo String Quartet, Bennetts Lane Jazz Club, Friday 23 August, 9pm

Picture gallery: Some additional images

AURORA — MARK ISAACS RESURGENCE BAND

CD REVIEW

Aurora — Mark Isaacs Resurgence Band

3.5 stars

AS composer, arranger, producer and band­leader, Isaacs is considered and meticulous, which is a good description of this studio album.

Compared with the previous, more visceral live album, Tell It Like It Is, which comes as a bonus DVD in this release, Aurora has a decorative, almost embroidered feel that reflects Isaacs’ nurture.

He has James Muller play electric and acoustic guitar in Bagatelle
and Threnody, which is ornamented like fine porcelain. Robust For the
Road
has great solos from Muller, Matt Keegan (sax) and Brett Hirst (bass), but they remain contained. The title track builds slowly, like tension before the Wet in Darwin.

The Resurgence Band here is about finesse, cohesion and intricacy rather than bold statements or stretching boundaries.

Download: For the Road, Bagatelle

File between: Tim Stevens, Keith Jarrett

ROGER MITCHELL

This review was also published in the Play liftout of the Sunday Herald Sun on January 30, 2011