Tag Archives: Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2012

TIMBRES WELL CRAFTED IN NEW SUITE

REVIEW:

Murphy’s Law premieres “Big Creatures Little Creatures: The Modular Suite”, written for MIJF by PBS Young Elder of Jazz Competition winner Tamara Murphy — Jordan Murray trombone, Nashua Lee guitar, Tamara Murphy bass, Joe Talia & Daniel Farrugia on drums and percussion — at Bennetts Lane, Melbourne, Saturday, June 2 at 8pm for Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2012

Murphy's Law

Murphy’s Law plays “Big Creatures & Little Creatures: The Modular Suite”

It’s the sign of a good festival, I’ve been told, when there are gigs you’d love to be at that clash with others you can’t miss. Tamara Murphy‘s suite clashed with visiting saxophonist Chris Potter‘s appearance with the Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra at The Forum and I had decided on the big band — until I realised that fast footwork could allow a visit to Bennetts Lane before catching Potter in the second set.

Nashua Lee

Nashua Lee

I was really glad that I’d opted to hear the Australian (and world) premiere of Murphy’s work, because it was entrancing. It was also, to my surprise given the modular nature of the suite (referred to by Murphy in an interview with Miriam Zolin before the work was complete), not at all fragmented, but rather seemed to be compellingly cohesive.

Tamara Murphy

Tamara Murphy

But how much was improvised on the night and how much was scripted? None of the musicians appeared to be using any charts, and there was a level of concentration and intensity that usually accompanies spontaneous improvisation. Clearly the musicians were highly attentive to what the others were up to, but it was almost as if they were following a script that was not written down, yet was in their heads. Surely there must have been hours of rehearsal for this suite to work so well, but I do not know whether that’s the case.

Daniel Farrugia

Daniel Farrugia

The suite came across as an exploration of timbres and textures in a way that was tonally and percussively rich — even luxuriant at times. Some pairings of instruments worked extremely well — Murphy’s bowed bass with Murray’s muted trombone, Lee’s guitar with Murphy’s bowed bass — and Farrugia’s intensity on drums contributed significantly.

Tamara Murphy

Tamara Murphy

Big Creatures Little Creatures was relatively subdued until the latter stages, when that changed as the work ended in a real climax. The tight playing at this point emphasised the musicians’ synchronicity, especially as exemplified by Talia and Farrugia, who worked faultlessly together on drums in a way that was hard to believe.

Daniel Farrugia

Daniel Farrugia

I would definitely like to hear this suite performed again, perhaps at a Stonnington Jazz or Wangaratta Jazz festival. It deserves a wider audience than there was space for in the large room at Bennetts Lane, though that was packed.

Daniel Farrugia & Tamara Murphy

Daniel Farrugia & Tamara Murphy

With this work, Murphy and her colleagues have added to the growing list of important and engrossing suites created in Australia, such as those by Allan Browne et al (The Drunken Boat, Une Saison en Enfer) in Melbourne and Stu Hunter (The Muse, The Gathering) in Sydney.

ROGER MITCHELL

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SURF’S UP, BUT I’M NOT

REVIEW: Jamie Oehlers Quartet featuring Robert Hurst  — Jamie Oehlers saxophone, Robert Hurst bass, Tal Cohen piano, Jacob Evans drums — at Bennetts Lane, Melbourne, Friday, June 1 at 11pm for Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2012

Robert Hurst

Robert Hurst

For reasons I don’t need to go into here I have been attending some career transition courses at work. One tip the instructor gave — and this has nothing whatsoever to do with this MIJF gig — is that before looking for a job it is vital to remove all images of yourself from social media such as Facebook, because prospective employers may check your profile, take one look and decide “he’s too old” or “I can’t stand bald people” or some such. Interesting. But I digress. What is slightly connected to this review is that the instructor also warned that in job interviews it is important to avoid waffle. Well, I can feel some waffle coming on. Be warned.

To be honest, I suspect I’m tempted to indulge in palaver because I don’t have that much to say. How can that be, with players such as Jamie Oehlers and US bassist Robert Hurst performing in an intimate venue such as Bennetts Lane? I love Oehlers’ work and have waxed lyrical about it, especially with Paul Grabowsky and Dave Beck in the exciting and totally improvised playing of Lost and Found.

Jamie Oehlers

Jamie Oehlers

Well, the mundane realities were that this was my third gig for the night, that I’d just been blown away by Bernie McGann‘s two sets and that I had to miss the second set by the Oehlers quartet in order to make the last train home. Also, I was not really in the mood for the onslaught of sax power that Oehlers unleashed. My bad. Somehow, like a wave that you don’t quite catch, it came at me but failed to pick me up and carry me in.

Others loved this outing.  I can quote respected jazz writer Andra Jackson, herself a saxophonist, who commented on this gig via social media in these words: “PHEN-omenal unofficial opening gig for the Melbourne International Jazz Festival last night from saxophonist Jamie Oehlers. Can it get much better than that! Such seamless playing on Aisha. And in one extended passage he even sounded like he was playing two instruments, playing an insistent riff and bringing in a melody over it.”

And, according to Andra, saxophonist George Garzone was at Bennetts and said he’d never heard Oehlers in better form.

Jacob Evans

Jacob Evans

I was not familiar with Hurst, but his website mentions that he featured on 12 tracks from Paul McCartney‘s Kisses on the Bottom and on Chris Botti‘s Impressions, and toured the US with Diana Krall this year. His
Unrehurst Vol 2
and Bob Ya Head were critics’ picks for best albums of 2011.

In the first set at Bennetts, the quartet began with the energetic Hurst original Tiger’s on Venus, which was hard-driving stuff throughout. I felt Hurst’s work was exemplary and virtuosic, but lacked the warmth of a player like Charlie Hayden.

Hurst & Oehlers

Hurst & Oehlers

Next up was McCoy Tyner‘s Ballad for Aisha. Oehlers was doubly impressive in this, playing two very different solos during the piece — one intense and the other relatively laid back. Jacob Evans used his hands effectively on the skins. Hurst’s solo had space and dignity.

Jamie Oehlers

Jamie Oehlers

The final piece for the set was Hurst’s original Aycrigg, I think named for a street in which he once lived. This was a return to the faster pace and vigour of the opening and certainly gave us a chance to see Hurst’s nimble fingers at work at an incredible speed. If Tim Davies impressed with his drumming speed at Stonnington Jazz, Hurst certainly demonstrated his skill at speed on the bass.

Tal Cohen

Tal Cohen

I suspect that the second set delighted those in the audience who were up for a hard-driving quartet in the mood to take no prisoners.

On the last train home, my strongest memories were of Bernie McGann standing almost unmoving on stage as his playing moved us.

ROGER MITCHELL

QUITE A PROPER A WAY TO START A FESTIVAL

Review: Three Lanes — Genevieve Lacey recorders, Joe Talia Revox B77, electronics & percussion and Andrea Keller piano, The Salon, Melbourne Recital Centre, Friday, June 1 at 6pm for Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2012

Keller, Lacey, Talia

Three Lanes — Keller, Lacey, Talia

The Salon has an air of refinement or gentility about it, even when hosting musicians willing to push the boundaries a little. It seems quite a proper space, in which patrons sit quietly without much chatter, possibly absorbing the beautiful feel of the room. As Andrea Keller, Genevieve Lacey and Joe Talia filed in to present material from their album Three Lanes, the Melbourne International Jazz Festival opened with grace and dignity.

Andrea Keller

Andrea Keller

The trio played six pieces from the album before Keller took time to explain how the project grew from the gathering of the musicians and a wish to explore their talents, including Talia’s skill with anything electronic. As she said, the music is varied in its approach and “in the concepts behind it”. The brief Little Sweet Pea is a merry dance, whereas Between Six and Six employs simple patterns and pauses to build tension, topped with a squirt or two of attractive static.

In Nine Variations, Lacey delivered fine vibrato and Talia dragged on his thin recording tape to create surges and seemed to sample then play back Keller’s piano as if it was woozy or slightly drunk, and even discordant. Dial-twiddling sounds  Talia managed in Little Perisher, again produced by dragging the tape (I kept worrying it would break) worked surprisingly well with Lacey’s recorders.

Genevieve Lacey

Genevieve Lacey

Probably the most effective combination of tape, electronics and the other instruments came in On A Hill, which Keller explained was a “slightly composed” piece inspired by a workshop in which improvisation was compared to a cow bell ringing as a cow eats grass, in that there was no thinking involved and there were just responses or reactions occurring in the moment. It was an intriguing piece, with Talia creating busy sounds that did not prevent a peaceful feel from the slow piano and recorder.

Joe Talia works his magic.

Joe Talia works his magic.

During the playing of extra Collage pieces and Sweet Pea II, I felt that Talia was producing something like electronic versions of “prepared” piano and recorders, with sampled bits of Keller and Lacey’s playing reworked on the fly, but in a way similar to what Erik Griswold, for instance, does with a piano he prepares.

The evening finished, ironically, with an engrossing piece entitled Stay.

I’m not sure what the audience made of this combination, but I think it worked well. Throughout it was evident that Keller and Lacey were attentive to developments emerging as Talia worked his magic. And Keller’s presence on piano was often compelling.

ROGER MITCHELL