Tag Archives: Megan Evans

MARY HALVORSON LETS HER HAIR DOWN

Mary Halvorson Trio, Bennetts Lane, 11pm, June 10
Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2011

Mary Halvorson guitar, John Hebert bass, Ches Smith drums

Megan Evans

War on mobiles: Megan Evans introduces Mary Halvorson Trio

It was late at night when Halvorson’s trio was setting up. Bennetts Lane Megan Evans introduced the trio and could have murdered “that man at the bar talking on his mobile phone” … but she didn’t.

Mary Halvorson

In a world of hair own: Mary Halvorson plays in her cocoon

It probably says something about my lack of it, but I admit to being distracted by the guitarist’s hair. I could see that when Halvorson settled down to play she was going to literally let her hair down — not in a musical sense, but that it was going to fall in a curtain all around her face, forming a sort of cocoon. She would be in a world of hair own, I posted later to Facebook.

Ches Smith

Talent: Ches Smith

I was also distracted, and really pleased, to discover that the drummer I had loved so much at the Forum upstairs earlier with Tim Berne’s Los Totopos, Ches Smith, was a member of Halvorson’s trio. Melbourne drummer extraordinaire Ronny Ferella alerted me to this fact — fairly obvious to everybody else given that Smith was sitting in front of us at the drum kit — while agreeing that this young drummer really has talent.

Ches Smith

Tired but true: Ches Smith

Smith looked pretty tired, and at times during the first set of three pieces he seemed to go on to automatic pilot. But for my money he was the standout performer of this gig. During the first few minutes of the trio’s first piece a significant cymbal went flying off its stand, though Smith does not strike me (get it?) as a smash & bash drummer. He does go at it hard at times, but he’s a lot more interesting than that. There is variation, responsiveness and a sense of complete involvement with the music that make him great to hear, and to watch.

John Hebert

Impressive: John Hebert

I had to leave to catch a train after the first set, wimping out (as Megan suggested), so this post relates to only the first half. John Hebert on bass was impressive.

Mary Halvorson

Gravelly: Mary Halvorson

Mary Halvorson has a strong feel to her work, but on this occasion there did not seem to be a lot of variation. From this half concert it seemed she was deliberate and considered rather than being at all showy in her playing. In fact, in these three pieces she seemed almost restrained. The sound was less about individual notes and had a more gravelly feel. Pedals were present, but not used flamboyantly.

Am I saying Halvorson was not exciting? Possibly, on this occasion, when I think about it, that sums it up. But neither her playing nor her trio was at all boring. I think there was a contained yet sustained feel, with plenty of tension and interest, but not the sort of virtuosic high points that you may get from a James Muller or John Scofield.

Another set would have been good. Hearing Smith again was the highlight for me.

ROGER MITCHELL

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BAND OF FIVE NAMES

MJFF/MJC Transitions Series, Tuesday, May 3, Bennetts Lane Jazz Club

Simon Barker drums, Carl Dewhurst guitar, Matt McMahon piano, Phil Slater trumpet

Megg Evans welcomes the Five foursome

Megg Evans welcomes the Five foursome to Bennetts Lane

Bringing the Band of Five Names to Melbourne was a coup for the Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival and bound to be a highlight of a program that included the premiere local performance of Andrea Keller‘s Place and a commission work by Fran Swinn featuring aerialist Rockie Stone. But what is the attraction of this band? What is the nature of its appeal?

Carl Dewhurst

Carl Dewhurst

I welcome suggestions, because answers will differ depending on the listener. To me it has to do with an unfolding story, a sense of development, and the exciting prospect of not knowing what will emerge. That could be said of a lot of improvised music, but in the case of this band there is a real feeling of it being evolutionary in a gestational way. It’s not quite the same as listening to The Necks, perhaps because there is an absence of expectation of any climactic outcome. Audiences love that anticipation in a Necks gig that what may start slowly will heat up and provide that carthartic pleasure or relief that comes from tension slowly building and inviting release.

Simon Barker and Phil Slater

Simon Barker and Phil Slater

The Band of Five Names seems to put us right into the moment by taking away the “what if” factor and inviting acceptance of what will be. We care not whether it is planned or unplanned, whether there will be catharsis or not. The band draws us into what is happening, what is emerging, and keeps us there because it is so interesting. And that’s the key second factor in the appeal. Without any apparent stress, the musicians are watchful — not unusual at all, of course, in any improvised music — and responsive, but relaxed about that. Maybe they know where they are going because they’ve been there, or somewhere similar, a hundred times before; maybe they don’t know what is going to happen until a series of notes from one member of the band sets them on a new track. I don’t care. It’s interesting because you can watch that responsiveness at work. If it’s like anything it is maybe akin to hearing Lost and Found, with Paul Grabowsky, Jamie Ohelers and Dave Beck. Or GEST8.

Three of the Band of Five Names

Three of the Band of Five Names

So what sorts of musical moments made up the first set, which was titled Curtain? A fragmentary account would recall Dewhurst nursing or coaxing notes from his guitar, notes that evolve into a high, sustained ringing. Slater breathes through his horn into the mic, removing slides at times to adjust the air flow. McMahon is plucking at the piano strings, sending twangs into the room. Slater lets his note gradually develop intensity, force and penetration, with Barker gentle at the back. There is a trumpet break-out, a flaring up of trumpet. There is a guitar break-out, a fiery surge of strings. McMahon mumbles gently on the keys. The trumpet again exudes breaths. McMahon is so careful with his notes, as if he’s tiptoeing. Momentarily the drums and cymbals swell and die away. There is a period of what feels like reverie.

McMahon and Dewhurst

McMahon and Dewhurst

I was only able to stay for the first set, which I therefore believe was far too short — probably not much more than 30 minutes. That was a great pity, but I was sure the second set would be longer and most likely even more fulfilling that the first.

Carl Dewhurst

Carl Dewhurst

There was a reasonable crowd at Bennetts Lane in the big room, but the Band of Five Names deserves more. Let’s hear them in “Melbs” (scare quotes used courtesy of Tim Stevens) very soon. Well done MJFF, the Melbourne Jazz Cooperative and, to be fair, the band.

Matt McMahon

Matt McMahon

Barker and Slater

Barker and Slater