Tag Archives: Melbourne Women’s International Jazz Festival

WOMEN COME UP TRUMPS – AGAIN

Laila Biaili

Laila Biali                      Image supplied

PREVIEW

19th Melbourne Women’s International Jazz Festival, December 4-11, 2016, Bennett’s Lane Jazz Club

On the eve of Donald Trump taking the reins in the United States of America, it seems appropriate — and indeed vital — for women and men of Australia (as Gough Whitlam used to say, albeit not in that order) to come out and enjoy music mostly created and played by women.

Artists from Canada, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne will share the products of their lifestyle choices over eight days from Sunday, December 4. And in that bittersweet way of a top festival, there will be clashes — occasions when you will be torn between gigs that you won’t want to miss, but must choose between.

Opening night will feature Jann Rutherford Memorial Award winner, pianist Emma Stephenson — along with Nick Henderson (bass) and Oli Nelson (drums) as Hieronymus Trio — in collaboration with inventive vocalist Gian Slater. Stephenson has composed new material and reworked earlier compositions for this performance. Slater has been a finalist in the Freedman Fellowship in 2004 and 2010, The National Jazz Awards in 2005, and the Bell Awards for Best Jazz Vocal Album in 2010 and 2013. Hieronymus Trio has been mentored by Ari Hoenig, John Riley, Aaron Goldberg, Craig Scott, Simon Barker and Matt McMahon.

On Monday, December 5 the festival student night will celebrate emerging female musicians with a line-up featuring performers from Loreto Toorak, Stonnington Youth Jazz Initiative, Lowther Hall and Ringwood Secondary College.

Tuesday, December 6 brings an opportunity to hear prolific composer and pianist Andrea Keller with Stephen Magnusson guitar and James McLean on drums in Transients V, one of her trios inspired by the philosophy and legacy of esteemed mentor Allan Browne. Based on a collective approach to music making, the trios perform original compositions, improvisations, as well as selections from the American and Australian songbooks.

Canadian multi-award winning pianist and vocalist Laila Biali appears for her first Australia performance with countrymen Adam Thomas (drums) and Joel Fountain (bass) on Wednesday, December 7. Laila has performed at the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands, Tokyo’s Cotton Club and Carnegie Hall. She has toured with Grammy award winners Chris Botti, Paula Cole and Suzanne Vega, recorded with and supported Sting and was “Keyboardist of the Year” at Canada’s National Jazz Awards.

On Thursday, December 8, Emma Gilmartin will join James Sherlock (guitar), Frank Di Sario (double bass) and Danny Fischer (drums) to launch her album The Emma Gilmartin Quartet: Live at Bennetts Lane recorded by Niko Schauble of Pughouse Studios. They will play standards and original compositions.

Two shows on Friday, December 9 highlight the extraordinary abilities of Melbourne’s creative women jazz artists.

In the Jazz Lab, Kennedy Snow featuring Nina Ferro presents originals from the recently released debut album Follow, the result of a longtime collaboration between Nina (recently returned from a decade residency in London) and Kennedy Snow (aka drummer Sonja Horbelt). Follow encompasses such styles as Neo-Soul, R&B, jazz and heart stopping ballads. They will also debut some new tunes, and play Ferro originals and  classic R&B interpretations. The line-up will include long-time collaborators Kellie Santin (saxes) and Kim May (bass) with special guest Steve Sedergreen on piano and keys.

And in a special treat next door certain to set up a most difficult choice for patrons, the festival and Melbourne Jazz Co-operative co-present a solo piano double bill featuring friends and colleagues Nat Bartsch and Andrea Keller. These two extraordinary women pianists, composers and improvisers will share their unique sounds and distinctive work in a concert not be be missed.

And on Saturday, December 10, setting up another festival clash of competing drawcards, acclaimed Brisbane vocalist Kristin Berardi and The Balloons present work from her latest Bell Award winning album Where or When in the Jazz Lab. Appearing with Kristin are formidable Australian musicians on this ABC record release Julien Wilson (sax), James Sherlock (guitar), Steve Newcomb (piano) and Sam Anning (bass).

In the Jazz Room, MJC co-presents the composer Cheryl Durongpisitkul on saxophone, clarinet and flute in her octet with Felix Watson (trumpet), James Macaulay (trombone), Marcos Villalta (guitar), Lincoln Mckenzie (guitar), Harry Cook (piano), Stephen Hornby (double bass) and Leo Kavanagh (drums). Durongpisitkul has spent the past year writing a cohesive, narrative based piece, heavily influenced by Igor Stravinsky’s Petrushka. Cheryl’s approach to music making is described as adventurous, quirky, beautiful and at times chaotic, ranging from contemporary jazz to third stream.

The festival closes on Sunday, December 11 with Spirograph Studies led by bassist Tamara Murphy, winner of the inaugural Young Elder of Jazz Commission for the Melbourne International Jazz Festival. Spirograph Studies takes a detailed, textural approach to improvised music. Inventors of the ‘gromp’, this strong collection of music-makers each bring their unique voice to the stage in a collaborative approach featuring Luke Howard (piano), Fran Swinn (guitar) and James McLean (drums).

For full program details visit the MWIJF website and Bennetts Lane.

The Melbourne Women’s International Jazz festival gratefully acknowledges financial assistance from major sponsors APRA AMCOS, Fraser Place Melbourne, The Canada Council for the Arts, Melbourne Jazz Co-operative and Brolly Design.

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COOL SAX AND SAM’S KITCHEN

Angela Davis

Angela Davis during her quartet’s MWIJF performance at Bennetts Lane

REVIEW

Angela Davis Quartet, Melbourne Women’s International Jazz festival, Wednesday 9 December, 8.30pm at Bennetts Lane

Line-up: Angela Davis alto sax, Tony Gould piano, Sam Anning bass, Sam Bates drums

I’m showing my age, but the name Angela Davis brings to my mind the 1960s political activist in the US rather than a young saxophonist. But it’s time for me to move on.

In music, as in food, I am a lover of contrasts. I like black pepper on vanilla ice cream, fresh fig with a dash of Three Crabs fish sauce (the brand is important). And I can be moved by the beauty of a simple phrase or melody and yet also totally captivated by the most fiery, out there antics in the music you’d often hear at Melbourne’s Make It Up Club.

It’s the zone in between that at times does not grab me, I think because of my desire for tension, complexity, abrasion or propulsion in music on one hand, or exquisite simplicity and beauty on the other.

Some will share or understand this view, others won’t. It is only relevant because it influences my reaction — much as I may wish otherwise.

How is this palaver relevant to this outing by saxophonist Angela Davis, who has recently returned to Australia after having lived in New York City for the past eight years?

Well, John McBeath in one of the Murdoch newspapers I refuse to buy said Davis “has a beautifully elegant, honeyed alto tone, reminiscent of Paul Desmond” and Step Tempest has referred to her “sweet tone” and said “for Ms Davis, the ‘art’ is found in the ‘melody’”.

I’d agree. In this outing with Sam Anning (also recently returned from years in New York), maestro Tony Gould and Sam Bates on drums, Davis seemed to offer the epitomy of cool saxophone, with a pure, clean tone. The gravelly abrasiveness and guttural antics of some saxophonists was not there.

Her purity of tone was ideally suited to the pieces chosen, including Fujiyama and the sprightly Toki’s Theme from Dave Brubeck’s Jazz Impressions of Japan, gentle Joanna’s Waltz (Frank Wunsch), a warm rendition of Annie Laurie, the moving original Hymn For the Lonely and Johnny Mandel’s Emily.

Two duets with Gould — Martha (Tom Waits) and variations on Abide With Me — were especially beautiful.

I particularly warmed to the quartet’s energy and swing on Davis’s engaging compositions 41 St Nick and A Thousand Feet from Bergen Street. I also loved the look on Sam Anning’s face when Angela Davis told him she had been able to look into his kitchen from her apartment across from his in Harlem.

During her time in the US, Angela received a Masters of Music from the University of the Arts and studied with many saxophone greats including Dick Oatts, Lee Konitz and Steve Wilson.

Davis has two albums — The Art of Melody (2013) and Lady Luck (2015). If she is back in Melbourne for a while, jazz fans can look forward to some new compositions, and perhaps even new insights into what went on in Anning’s kitchen.

ROGER MITCHELL

Here’s a few images:

HOW SUITE, HOW SEAMLESS

Arlene Fletcher at the launch of Timing.

Arlene Fletcher at the launch of Timing.

REVIEW

CD launch of Timing by Arlene Fletcher Trio as part of the Melbourne Women’s International Jazz festival, Tuesday 8 December, 8.30pm at Bennetts Lane

Line-up: Arlene Fletcher double bass, Harry Cook piano, James Milic drums

This trio has been out and about for some time with the material from the new album, Timing, a live album that was recorded at Bennetts Lane in February, 2015, so the musicians know it — and themselves — well. The result — billed as “a turning point of pulling away from forms and improvising as a trio” — is seamless and organic, the intensity swelling and receding within the pieces composed by Fletcher and Cook.

I heard them at Long Play in Fitzroy North in mid November, Cook playing Nord, and it was evident then that the trio can build momentum and usher in changes that sustain interest, so that each piece is a journey.

In the first set they played mostly compositions from the album, plus an improvised solo from Fletcher. The title track and Fletcher’s Dandelion (“a happy tune with lots of minor chords”) were engrossing, Cook’s Break included some deft brush work from Milic and the closing Valley opened vistas as it waxed and waned.

Apparently this gig came with free icy poles, but for me the highlight came after the break when the trio played parts I, II and IV of Twenty Months — a suite Fletcher composed for a quintet and linked to her poetry, which was handed out to patrons.

Energetic renditions of Whiz Kid and Anti-Freeze followed, but I wanted to hear more of the suite, which really worked with the trio.

No doubt this trio will take us on new adventures — perhaps even recording Twenty Months.

ROGER MITCHELL

Here’s a few pictures: