Tag Archives: Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival

IF ON A SUMMER EVE AN ENSEMBLE

PREVIEW: Network of Lines album launch, Melbourne Recital Centre’s Salon, 6pm Tuesday 11 February

Tilman Robinson trombone/laptop, Peter Knight trumpet/laptop, Callum G’Froerer trumpet, Erkki Veltheim violin, Judith Hamann cello, Brett Thompson guitar/banjo, Berish Bilander piano, Sam Zerna bass, Hugh Harvey drums. Additional cello Melanie Robinson, additional percussion Joe Talia, Josh Barber and Tilman Robinson

Tilman Robinson

If On a Winter Night a Traveller in December 2012

It’s very late to post about a performance the day before it’s taking place, but tomorrow’s recital in the Salon deserves attention. I’ll be working and can’t be there, but I highly recommend that anyone able to make it to the launch of this album should go.

Network of Lines is Tilman Robinson‘s debut album performed by a nine piece electro-acoustic ensemble of Melbourne musicians. Written in response to the Italo Calvino novel If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller, the piece derives its form from the novel’s distinctive narrative structure.

Tilman Robinson MJFF commission

If On a Winter Night a Traveller May 2012

The work was commissioned by the Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival and demonstrates again how important that festival’s commissions have been in adding substantial compositions to the Melbourne jazz repertoire. 

Tilman Robinson MJFF commission

If On a Winter Night a Traveller May 2012

As these images record, the work has been performed previously twice — first on 13 May 2012 at Northcote Town Hall as part of the MJFF and second on 4 December the same year in Abbotsford.

Tilman Robinson MJFF commission

If On a Winter Night a Traveller May 2012

On both occasions the performances were intricately constructed and exquisitely executed, demonstrating the talents of the ensemble members and the care Tilman Robinson had taken in constructing the piece.

Tilman Robinson MJFF commission

If On a Winter Night a Traveller May 2012

Xani Kolac was on violin during these outings. Erkki Veltheim is featured on that instrument in the recording.

Tilman Robinson MJFF commission

If On a Winter Night a Traveller May 2012

Tilman Robinson MJFF commission

If On a Winter Night a Traveller May 2012

The work is adventurous, exploring a a range of textures, timbres and effects, including laptop work by Peter Knight and Tilman Robinson.

Tilman Robinson

If On a Winter Night a Traveller December 2012

The moods created are diverse. There are slow, dreamy parts, as well as classical and hymn-like interludes, passages of building tension and sudden, dramatic outbursts.

Tilman Robinson

If On a Winter Night a Traveller December 2012

There are sweeping vistas. There is gradual fragmentation.

Tilman Robinson

If On a Winter Night a Traveller December 2012

There are percussive nibblings, pizzicato incursions and wailing sirens from the strings. Horns — trombone, trumpet and flugelhorn — are resplendent, then muted, then soaring. Notes are bent. Drums break in, break out.

The album closes with Robinson’s arrangement of Sean O’Neill’s composition What Story Down There Awaits Its End? It is a fitting end to the journey.

The Salon at MRC is an ideal room for this album launch. I am sorry to be missing it.

ROGER MITCHELL

Tilman Robinson

If On a Winter Night a Traveller December 2012

Network of Lines will be launched at the Melbourne Recital Centre’s Salon at 6pm on Tuesday 11th February ($30/$25). Tickets are now available through the Recital Centre’s website.

Network of Lines is also available through theListen/Hear Collective.

Miriam Zolin of Extemporé/AustralianJazz.net has posted an interview about this work and its inception.

Melbourne musician Don Jordan has written a review.

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PUPPY LOVE CAN’T BE CONFINED

Snarky Puppy

Sput from Snarky Puppy

Update: Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2013

Due to popular demand, the MIJF is moving US instrumental fusion band Snarky Puppy from the Forum Upstairs to the Forum main stage for its concert with Alison Wedding on Saturday, 1 June at 8pm.

Billed as “one of the hottest new names on the international touring circuit”, Snarky Puppy make its Australian debut at the Melbourne International Jazz Festival.

All other event details remain the same and ticketholders can use their existing tickets on the night.

Snarky Puppy

Snarky Puppy

A MIJF media release says, “The Texas-and New York-based collective has gained a reputation for putting on virtuosic live shows. Combining raw funk, soul and jazz this is music ‘to move the brain and booty’.”

The festival has also announced that with deep regret it has cancelled all performances by Rebirth Brass Band at the festival due to the illness of a core member, preventing the band from travelling to Australia in June. Rebirth Brass Band sincerely apologise to their fans for this unavoidable cancellation.

“The Festival apologises for any inconvenience caused to our audiences by the cancellation of this much-anticipated event. We’re naturally disappointed that Rebirth Brass Band will not be part of the 2013 lineup,” the release states.

For anyone that has purchased tickets to Rebirth Brass Band’s performance at The Forum on Sunday 2 June, the Festival is offering the option to exchange tickets for Snarky Puppy featuring Alison Wedding (USA) at The Forum on Saturday 1 June at 8pm and a complimentary ticket to Chucho Valdés and the Afro-Cuban Messengers (CUBA) at Hamer Hall on Saturday 8 June at 8pm. Alternatively, a full refund is also available.

Anyone with Rebirth ticket/s should hold on to them until contacted by Ticketmaster.

The Second Line Street Party planned for Saturday June 1 has now been cancelled in light of this news.

For full program details visit the Melbourne International Jazz Festival website.

ROGER MITCHELL

THE BEAT OF SEX, DRUGS & SPIRITUALITY

REVIEW

Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival, including 2013 APRA Composer Commission Concert, Sunday 5 May, 2-8pm at
 Northcote Town Hall

Steve Grant

Steve Grant

The Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival runs on a shoestring, but that doesn’t prevent it running like clockwork. There was a little “bracket creep” during the afternoon, but generally performances started pretty much on time. So, when I arrived about 15 minutes late — mainly because I set out later than planned — Steve Grant was already well into his allocated half hour at the grand piano.

Armed with a coffee generously given to me on the way in by Ronny Ferella — he had bought too many — I quietly moved to a seat closer to the front, then settled into listening mode. With Marc Hannaford playing next, this was a chance to indulge in my recent practice of trying to focus on the individual approaches of pianists and gain some clues as to why they sound so different or similar. I can definitely hear similarities and differences, but I lack the know-how to attempt a technical explanation.

This brief excerpt of Steve Grant’s performance seemed to provide welcome space, a sense of reflection or reverie, and great fluidity.

Marc Hannaford

Marc Hannaford

Marc Hannaford also left plenty of space between his carefully selected notes, which were delivered with great precision. His improvisation gradually evolved, building in intensity as patterns emerged of immensely pleasing complexity. It became more percussive, with bold, emphatic statements, before slowing to take on a feel of solemnity. I had a sense of Hannaford listening intently, hearing pitches or tones or sounds and either repeating them or adjusting slightly.

I could not help but wonder what it would be like to be in Marc Hannaford’s brain — would there be joy, a sense of wonder at the discovery of what happened when he played these notes, or would it be delight in complexities or mathematically appealing combinations?

The piece became faster, with an insistent right hand, before a busy period. Then it was all over, too quickly for my liking, because I was really enjoying this as a journey of discovery. What a privilege we have, as audience members, to be able to share in these journeys when musicians of calibre (that one’s for Tony Abbott) are improvising.

IshIsh

IshIsh

Next up in this afternoon on the fringe was drummer Ronny Ferella’s band IshIsh, which has a fondness for the music of Ornette Coleman. That’s a big plus in my book.

Magnusson and Wilson

Magnusson and Wilson

The line-up varies, but on this occasion it was Jordan Murray trombone, Julien Wilson saxophone, Mark Shepherd bass and special guest Stephen Magnusson (recently a recipient of an Australian Jazz Bell Award for his Magnet album) on guitar.

Julien Wilson

Julien Wilson

IshIsh played four pieces, including Ferella’s What Should Be (the title track from the band’s 2000 album) and “a tribute to Joe Lovano’s tribute to Ornette Coleman”. I really liked the organic feel of this group and the absence of the cycle of solos.

Jordan Murray

Jordan Murray

 The music changes gradually within each piece, evolving rather than being more compartmental.  To me IshIsh has a European feel that escapes regimentation, with the musicians seeming to lose themselves in ebbs and flows as the pieces develop. The guitar, sax and ‘bone provided a rich array of textures and timbres.

Ronny Ferella

Ronny Ferella

Shepherd’s bass was more evident in the Lovano-Coleman tribute, which opened as a sharper, faster piece before evolving to a slower resolution with great resonance and depth. Magnusson produced some lovely high “scribblings” in this.

IshIsh was definitely a welcome inclusion in the day’s outings.

Ren Walters

Ren Walters

The next set was to be a trio, but saxophonist Scott McConnachie was too ill to join Erkki Veltheim on viola and Ren Walters on guitar. Before the final duet Ren Walters said that he and Eki would “dedicate the healing energy from our music to our friend Scott, who is going through a terrible time”. I’m sure the audience shared the hope that Scott’s health would improve.

Erkki Veltheim

Erkki Veltheim

In this totally improvised exchange, I was struck first by the extraordinary flexibility and fluidity of Veltheim’s playing, as well as his dexterity and the rapidity of his movements. He is amazingly virtuosic, though there is absolutely no hint of showmanship accompanying his ability. He is totally focused on the interaction with Walters.

Ren Walters

Ren Walters

Next I noticed the attentiveness of Walters, which is hardly surprising given that the nature of this exchange is utterly based on each player listening and responding. I don’t believe I was imagining it when I saw Walters’ face display signs of delight as he puzzled out responses to Veltheim.

Erkki Veltheim

Erkki Veltheim

This absorbing work was full of contrasts, switches of direction, sharp and edgy attacks followed by passages of great fluidity. Veltheim seemed to be plucking strings while bowing, and at other times he dragged his bow abrasively across the strings. For a while Walters was changing the tunings constantly as he played.

Erkki Veltheim

Erkki Veltheim

The rapidity, lightness and almost spindly nature of the sounds in the final piece were striking. At one point I visualised mice on a skating rink. In the whole outing I greatly appreciated the beauty and clarity of notes played, the occasional gentleness and the abundant space.

Again it struck me how privileged we are to hear this music being created. The other day I heard Kavisha Mazzella on ABC 774 telling how she was attracted to Melbourne because of the city’s vibrant music (or words similar). We are indeed lucky to have many hard-working musicians, but their work too often slips by unnoticed.

Howl

Pat Thiele, Gideon Brazil, Luke Moller and Julien Wilson perform in Howl.

Now we come to the big event of the festival, the APRA Composer Commission, which this year was awarded to pianist composer Darrin Archer. He chose to focus on Allen Ginsberg‘s poem Howl, using modern composition and improvisation to explore the sex, drugs and spirituality of the beatnik as a sonic landscape.

The work was titled Drunken Taxicabs of Absolute Reality: Howl to music.

Howl

Sam Zerna bass, Maxine Beneba Clarke voice, Danny Fischer drums in Howl.

I was not familiar with Ginsberg’s epic poem, so probably ought to have done my homework before this performance by reading it with care and attention in order to be properly prepared. As it was, during the longish sound check I called up the text on my phone and scanned through it, wondering whether we would hear excerpts or the whole poem. It also seemed highly likely, given the blasts from the band during the check, that I may not be able to hear the words, so I was taking belated precautions.

Darrin Archer

Darrin Archer

When the music began, and Maxine Beneba Clarke began to read from her long paper roll containing the text, I realised my fears were well founded. It may have been different in other parts of the auditorium, but I could only hear the words clearly when the volume dropped at various points in the piece. So I followed the text on the phone screen while listening to the musical drama unfold.

Howl

Maxine Beneba Clarke reads Howl.

Archer’s composition certainly had the appropriate dramatic force and complexity to match Ginsberg’s words, which were articulated clearly and with feeling by Beneba Clarke. This was dark music to match dark imagery.

The poem opens thus:

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
looking for an angry fix, 

It does not shrink from bleakness or harshness. Archer’s music undeniably had to be robust, strident at times.

Howl

Maxine Beneba Clarke

My issue with this work is that I felt torn between wanting to hear the poem being read (or at least read the words as they were delivered) and on the other hand giving up on Ginsberg’s imagery so that I could concentrate on the musical imagery unfolding under Archer’s direction. It seemed that, with the exception of some quieter passages, that was impossible. The spoken word and music were too often competing.

Howl

Pat Thiele in Howl.

Beneba Clarke’s delivery was excellent, particularly in the oft-repeated “Moloch”, which was audible and effective as a way to communicate all the evil that Ginsberg meant by this name. Repetition of “Rockland” towards the end of the poem was also a chance for the voice to come to fore and achieve more of a balance with the ensemble.

Howl

Sam Zerna in Howl.

I hope that this work is revisited, as have been other works commissioned for the Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival. But I think either the words of the poem need to be audible over the music, or they should be projected somehow so that the audience can ponder and appreciate them at the same time as the music. It also would not hurt to remind patrons to be familiar with the poem before the performance. Drunken Taxicabs of Absolute Reality has the potential to be a powerful interpretation of Howl, but in this debut outing it did not quite succeed.

Howl

Maxine Beneba Clarke nears the end of Howl.

After the commissioned work, in Chris Port’s Mixer at about 7pm, Port on drums and laptop joined James Gilligan on bass/tape machine/effects and Marty Hicks on piano and Nintendo DS to explore Beat and hip-hop culture through improvisation.

I was only able to hear the very beginning of this outing before having to leave.

In terms of bums on seats, the MJFF did not score spectacularly, which is a great pity. A lot of creativity and inventiveness was on display at an excellent venue. I’d definitely rate the afternoon as a success, but in an ideal world more people would be there to share.

ROGER MITCHELL