Tag Archives: Manhattan School of Music

SAM ANNING QUARTET at Bennetts Lane

GIG REVIEW: Sam Anning’s penultimate farewell gig before going to New York, NY.

Sam Anning

Sam Anning, bass
Eugene Ball, trumpet
Andrea Keller, piano
Rajiv Jayaweera, drums

SAM Anning is now in New York, studying for a Master’s at the Manhattan School of Music. Now that he’s gone, we can talk about him. Not that there’s much to say that’s negative about the lad, except that he was perhaps a spruiking a little loudly on behalf of _motion when he filled in for Nick Abbey at Bennetts Lane in July. Sam will be missed, not only because he was playing with some 50 bands (I heard that from reviewer and radio personality Jessica Nicholas), but also because he’s a top bloke. We wish him well and hope he does return, even when he is famous.

Sam Anning
Sam Anning

It was a lovely way for Anning to leave Bennetts. The previous night he had had another farewell of sorts — lots of fun I’m told — with Allan Browne‘s Monday nights mob. This time we heard Anning’s music and some of his favourites by others, beginning with the thoughtful Little Bay (Sean Wayland) and then a moving, slow ballad From The Cloud, written by Anning in response to Iceland’s volcanic eruption and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill — a darker cloud. Eugene Ball was in fine form in this piece and all night.

Next came Coltrane’s Countdown — energetic, bustling and bristling — and Neil Young’s Tell Me Why, which Anning first heard on the Live at Massey Hall album. The first set closed with Swinging From A Hills Hoist, which Anning wrote when he could not sleep on a flight back from New York. I loved Ball’s twisting and bending horn and his shimmering vibrato on the last note.

Keller and Ball
Keller and Ball

Set two began with Abba, the “second debut” of a tune Anning confessed to have pinched or borrowed from a couple of sources — one may have been Aaron Choulai’s Silverland. Keller opened this piece with a jaunty little melody. It was great to hear her at the piano. The standard You Go To My Head was next, with what Ball described as “the silly changes”. Fantastic horn and bass in this.

Eugene Ball
Eugene Ball

Raj Jayaweeera
Raj Jayaweeera

Then Anning expressed the bassist’s lament of “never doing your own gig” with his composition I Am the Madam and the Whore, loosely based on the style of Ornette Coleman, with melody dictating harmony. (I think that’s what Sam said.) Ball played some whip-cracking notes which kicked up sharply, and worked the valves beautifully for some irridescent shimmer. Jayaweera displayed the talent and subtlety that is sometimes overshadowed when he’s hidden in larger ensembles. I don’t know whether the madam or the whore won, but this piece ended in a reflective, ruminative passage.

Keller and Ball
Keller and Ball

Anning’s tribute to the cloudy skies of Melbourne came in Overcastaway, which he kicked off robustly. Keller and Anning were great together in this piece, which was followed by the closing Or Not, which was inspired by Ornette Coleman. Ball began with some rasping pedal notes — lovely — and produced some wild squeals from the horn as Keller proceeded to fragment the universe with the keyboard.

Sam Anning had another gig on the Friday at Uptown Jazz Cafe — that was the final one. Hope it went well.

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STONNINGTON JAZZ 2010 — DAY 10

SARAH McKENZIE SEXTET at Chapel Off Chapel

 Sarah McKenzie Sextet
Sarah McKenzie

The first set was my last for this year’s Stonnington Jazz. A family commitment meant I had to leave before Paul Williamson and Friends, and could not make it to the Sunday gig with David Jones and Friends. I was not all that happy with my photographic efforts for this “last” gig. I was probably already switching out of festival mode and into family mode for my dad’s 90th birthday bash next day.

 Sarah McKenzie Sextet
Sarah McKenzie Sextet

The sextet line-up was Sarah McKenzie on piano and vocals, Pat Thiele on trumpet, Carlo Barbaro on tenor sax, Hugh Stuckey on guitar, Sam Anning on bass and Craig Simon on drums.

 Sarah McKenzie Sextet
Hugh Stuckey and Sam Anning

 Sarah McKenzie Sextet
Pat Thiele

 Sarah McKenzie Sextet
Hugh Stuckey and Carlo Barbaro

They played McKenzie originals Blues for Monty, Don’t tempt me and I got the blues tonight, as well as Cole Porter’s You’d be so nice to come home to, Sammy Fain’s That old feeling, and Duke Ellington’s Solitude.

 Sarah McKenzie Sextet
Sarah McKenzie

McKenzie graduated from WAAPA with a Bachelor of Jazz (Composition) and has won a string of awards — the Jack Bendat Scholarship, the Hawaiian Award for “Most Outstanding Jazz Graduate”, the Perth Jazz Societies Award for the “Most Outstanding Group of the Year for 2008” and the 2009 James Morrison Scholarship for vocals (after being a finalist in the scholarship for six years).

 Sarah McKenzie Sextet
Pat Thiele and Sarah McKenzie

As I’ve said previously, vocals are not my first preference when it comes to improvised music, but I regard each vocalist I hear as an opportunity to be educated. So what can I say about McKenzie’s performance? I think it is a big plus that her renditions of her original pieces had the same feel as the Cole Porter and Ellington classics, because the heritage of Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday do seem important to this 22-year-old singer. Close your eyes and listen to McKenzie and it could be a much older woman singing, there is such power, depth and maturity in the voice. There is also warmth and conviction — when McKenzie sings “You’d be so nice to come home to”, she sings as if she has someone in mind. You know it’s not you, but you wish, in that moment, that it could be. That is a sign of how well the singer is projecting the feeling. And clearly McKenzie, as was evident when she sang In My Solitude, is not scared of emotion. She seems to be quite an open person, at least in her stage persona, and that is engaging.

 Sarah McKenzie Sextet
Sarah McKenzie

McKenzie’s style of piano is expressive but forceful and that goes well with the hard-driving energy of the sextet. This is robust jazz and it will appeal to audiences who like strong grooves and a swingin’ vibe. McKenzie has the appeal — often people make a point of saying that she has the talent to match her looks — to be an ambassador for jazz. But should that burden be placed on a young musician who simply loves to perform?

 Sarah McKenzie Sextet
New York Bound: Sam Anning

McKenzie announced after her first song that Sam Anning — who was not playing at quite all the Stonnington Jazz concerts — has won a full scholarship to the Manhattan School of Music in New York, NY. Congratulations to Sam. His departure will leave a huge gap in Melbourne and many bands will miss him. The Sarah McKenzie Sextet will be one of those.

 Sarah McKenzie Sextet
Sarah McKenzie