Tag Archives: Melbourne

ALMOST TOGETHER AGAIN

Barney & John McAll

The McAlls: Barney and John   (Image at right supplied)

DOUBLE PREVIEW

Monash Art Ensemble CD launch: Barney McAll’s Zephryix, 7.30pm Thursday, April 19, Bird’s Basement, Tickets from $29 + booking fee

John McAll’s Black Money launches new album, Secular, 5pm Sunday, April 22, Bird’s Basement, Tickets from $27 + booking fee

You don’t often catch the brothers McAll together on stage, but this week they are coming close to that congruence — performing in the same venue only days apart.

The first — and possibly the only time — these polished and passionate performers appeared together was during the Stonnington Jazz festival on May 23, 2012 at Chapel Off Chapel.

The creativity of these siblings is always evident, although Barney’s flamboyance and energy contrasts with the elder McAll’s distinguished and more reserved presence. Both are capable of splendiferous feats on piano.

Grammy nominated Barney McAll has played on over 100 recordings and has released 13 highly acclaimed solo albums. In Thursday’s concert he joins the critically acclaimed Monash Art Ensemble to perform his six-part suite, Zephyrix.

Barney was commissioned by the Monash Art Ensemble to compose this piece during his residency at the Peggy Glanville-Hicks composer house in 2015. “Whilst there, I had flashes of an image … half man, half bird with one large wing on its right side, dressed in business attire,” he explains.

“Following the abstract advice of this image I decided to fuse the Greek God Zephyr with the mythical Phoenix to create a new beast; the Zephyrix. It’s a hybrid creature which, for me, symbolises the bridging of tensions that occur between our mundane struggles and the evils of life, and the liberating creative expression of our true selves.

“Zephyrix is the musical embodiment of that tension, encapsulating both the strain and release of this dichotomy. It seeks to explore the dialectic between struggle and serenity, and illuminate the myriad of unseen colours, tones and potentials that are held within a new and ever-emerging mind (Metanoia).

“The five birds of alchemy and transformation have been invoked to summon the Zephyrix: Black Crow, White Swan, Peacock, Pelican and Phoenix. They are the sign posts that guide us on our journey toward true serenity and real happiness.”

Zephyrix was premiered at Sydney Conservatorium’s Verbrugghen Hall in October 2015.

The Monash Art Ensemble acts to support the development of excellence in young Australian musicians, foster a culture of innovation among established Australian musicians and encourage community engagement with Australian musicians and music.

The ensemble, founded by Paul Grabowsky in 2012, has successfully embraced this concept and offers a pathway for talented students to interact with and build this basis for a strong and uniquely Australian 21st century musician.

The impressive line-up for the MAE performance of Zephyrix is as follows:

Barney McAll, piano
Jordan Murray, trombone
Josh Bennier, trombone
Paul Williamson, trumpet
Eugene Ball, trumpet
Lachlan Davidson, flute
Lara Wilson, percussion
Phil Rex, bass
Kieran Raffetty, drums
Jonathan Cooper, tenor
Zac O’Connell, alto
Joel Hands-Otte, bass clarinet
Harry Tinney, guitar

Black Money — Secular

I have always associated John McAll with wide-screen cinematic performances, the big stage and large productions, but his work with Black Money is edgy and often darkly humorous. The first Black Money album was recorded in New Jersey in 2007 and released in 2009. Alter Ego followed in 2012, recorded and produced by the ABC’s Mal Stanley. This is a rare opportunity to hear the elder McAll up close.

An inaugural graduate of the VCA’s jazz course, pianist and composer John McAll has been in demand as a musician over two decades. He was musical director and producer of shows At Last The Etta James Story and Here Comes The Night, which sold out Hamer Hall and the Opera House. This Van Morrison homage incorporated the MSO and SSO with McAll’s orchestrations.

Now John is taking a break from producing the latest Black Sorrows album and a busy international touring schedule to release Secular, the third album in a trilogy. Rumour has it there may be special guests along with his Black Money line-up.

John McAll on piano will be joined in this album launch by:

Tim Wilson alto flute
Carlos Barbaro tenor saxophone
Madison Foley trumpet
James Macaulay trombone
Philip Rex bass
Hugh Harvey drums

John McAll has worked with artists such as Gregory Porter, Ross Wilson, Wycliffe Gordon, Brian Abrahams, Renee Geyer, Kate Ceberano and Nichaud Fitzgibbon, as well as playing international concert stages with The David Chesworth Ensemble, Vika Bull and The Black Sorrows.

Here’s a video of Black Money’s Jungle Love:

ROGER MITCHELL

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FIRST, SHE TAKES MELBOURNE

Chris McNulty

Chris McNulty                                              (Image: M. Montgomery)

PREVIEW

Chris McNulty Quartet (Australia/US), The Jazzlab,
Friday 4 August and Saturday 5 August, 8pm

Australian-American jazz vocalist Chris McNulty is giving two back-to-back performances in Melbourne next month before embarking on a world tour.

The award-winning singer/composer will introduce her new trio — Darrin Archer piano, Hiroki Finn Hoshino bass and Aaron McCoullough drums — to Melbourne audiences in two concerts at Melbourne’s newest jazz club, The Jazzlab.

McNulty premiered her singing with the trio to great acclaim earlier this year at the Mansfield Art gallery now run by Miriam Zolin of extempore fame.

Melbourne-born Ms McNulty moved to the United States in 1988 and has been a fixture on the New York jazz scene for almost three decades. She worked with American jazz musicians such as pianists Mulgrew Miller and John Hicks, saxophonists Gary Bartz and Gary Thomas, drummers Billy Hart, Kenny Washington, and Matt Wilson, guitarist Paul Bollenback, bassist Ugonna Okegwo . She featured on the Venus label’s recording Big Apple Voices in 1995 that presented six “new exceptional” vocal talents. Her seventh and latest album, Eternal, a chamber ensemble and jazz quintet collaboration reached #11 on the 80th Downbeat readers Poll in America.

McNulty has often performed at international festivals. Her next tour will take her back to Europe, Russia and America. The American magazine Jazz Times has described her vocalising as “fearless” and her composing as “peerless”’. Britain’s Jazz Wise magazine said she possessed “a voice of serene beauty, striking veracity and compelling emotional fervency”.

In 2013 McNulty received the Australian Jazz Bell award for the Best Australian Jazz Vocal Album for her album The Song That Sings You Here. Since moving back to Melbourne she has performed at the Perth Jazz Festival in 2014 and 2016, the Stonnington Jazz Festival in 2014 and 2016 and at the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues in 2013 and last year.

She has continued her work as a teacher and is about to launch her groundbreaking book Vocalist As Complete Musician, in which she expounds a method (utilising tetra chords) for singers to expand their knowledge of jazz harmony and provides them with tools for improvising while improving sight reading and composing skills. The book will be launched internationally and available through Amazon, McNulty’s webpage, and digital platforms from August 30.

Information above taken from material provided by Andra Jackson.

Roger Mitchell

Reviews:

“Exquisitely delivered with consummate feeling and jazz sensibility … McNulty’s uniquely emotive vocal interpretation achieves a transcendent quality.”
— 4.5 stars, The Australian, Weekend Review – John McBeath, Oct 2015

“McNulty applies poignant jazz chops to the vocal, while accomplishing the impossible, the expression of her story through song….making listeners rethink the meaning of why we love jazz..”— 5 Stars,  All About Jazz (USA) , July 2015

“Chris McNulty wowed an audience full of rapt jazz lovers at Mansfield Art Gallery who were thrilled by the sounds of world-class jazz delivered by one of the best voices in the business. A well deserved standing ovation finished the night and every heart in the room was filled by the experience.
A highlight for music lovers in Mansfield.”  —   Miriam Zolin, Mansfield Art Gallery, April 2017

OF BIRD’S, BENNETTS AND BEYOND

Ravi Coltrane's quartet at Bird's Basement

Ravi Coltrane’s quartet at Bird’s Basement

REFLECTION

Ravi Coltrane at Bird’s Basement, Singers Lane, Melbourne on Sunday, March 6, 2016

IT HAS been said often in recent months, but there’s a lot of live music happening in Melbourne, plenty of it being jazz / improvised. That can’t be bad.

But as venues proliferate, the challenge remains to really get more Melburnians — and visitors to town — off their couches and out there listening, hopefully on a regular basis.

Change has been in the air for Melbourne’s jazz scene since the closing of Bennetts Lane Jazz Club after last year’s Melbourne International Jazz Festival and the shift of regular Melbourne Jazz Co-operative gigs to Sonny Rehe’s Uptown Jazz Cafe in Fitzroy. Then Bennetts staged its most convincing Lazarus-like recovery pending the advent of developer David Marriner’s planned incarnation of the iconic venue in Flinders Lane  at a date to be fixed.

Patrons file into Bird's Basement to hear Ravi Coltrane

Patrons file into Bird’s Basement to hear Ravi Coltrane

Early this month (March 2016) Albert Dadon launched his Bird’s Basement club in the appropriately named Singers Lane close to Flagstaff Station, opening with seven nights of “jazz royalty” as reedsman Ravi Coltrane played two concerts a night in the slick, custom-built basement.

There had been much talk in jazz circles about whether the Bird’s Basement model of an early dinner show and a separate supper show would work, and how long the extensive resources of Dadon could sustain the new venue if he built it and crowds did not come. Ironically, that question came up recently in the small venue Conduit Arts in Fitzroy, host to many creative and superb performances over recent years. Now, it seems, Conduit Arts will be closing.

In this context, it was with great interest that I took my camera to Bird’s Basement for the supper show on the final night of Ravi Coltrane’s stint with Glenn Zaleski on piano, Kush Abadey on drums, Dezron Douglas on acoustic bass. Coltrane played tenor and sopranino sax. (The names of Coltrane’s band members were not listed on printed material at the club, as far as I could see. I am indebted to John McBeath for letting me know that I had two members of the line-up wrong in this post earlier.)

Bird's Basement has a blue note

The ambience at Bird’s Basement has a blue note

A few remarks about the venue. After years of feeling familiar and comfortable in the two rooms at Bennetts Lane, at which patrons find their own way to tables or single seats, I felt strangely formal in having Bird’s staff conducting patrons to seats.

I can say without reservation that all of the many staff at Bird’s were unfailingly friendly, welcoming and helpful. Ordering and delivery of drinks was smooth and payment at or shortly before the gig ended did not disrupt the music.

Being on my own, I was initially taken to a seat at the bar, but a more suitable vantage point for taking photographs was soon found.

Ticket purchase and seat allocation are no doubt still evolving, but I found the Ticketek process awkward and unsatisfactory. In the process of registering I ended up with two tickets in my checkout basket with no obvious way to remove one. Also, seat allocation was impossible without knowing the seating plan at Bird’s, which apparently changes according to numbers booked.

As for ambience, it’s all very blue and a little shiny. It seems a pity that patrons and waiting staff have to cross in front of tables to get to the far side tables, and there is no standing area at the back where the press of punters can build the sort of excitement often felt, for instance, in the small room at Bennetts. Bird’s Basement has a refined feel that may appeal more to those used to dinner with their music.

But musicians and patrons seem to agree that the acoustics are good, as may be expected in a purpose-built space.

Johnathan Blake

Kush Abadey enthuses from the drum kit

Now for a mention of the music. Given that this was the final night of seven paired performances, the attentiveness and enthusiasm of this quartet was pleasing. I was mightily impressed with Kush Abadey at the drum kit and Glenn Zaleski at the piano.

With Coltrane on tenor for his originals Coincide and Candlewood Path, Ralph Alessi’s Who Wants Ice Cream, and another brief piece, the quartet delivered compelling, intelligent jazz in which the leader left plenty of space for his young rhythm section to show its undoubted prowess. Abadey often seemed to drive proceedings.

Coltrane’s tenor forays included brief statements that said a lot without any attempt to dominate, leaving us wanting more. He closed the concert on sopranino, firing up on Billy Strayhorn’s Lush Life and John Coltrane’s Equinox, appropriately resisting any temptation to announce the latter with a paternal reference.

Bird’s debut week must rate as a success, but the real tests will come when international artists are not on the bill. And it will be interesting to see whether this venue linked loosely to New York’s Birdland will attract new patrons to live music or tap into the numbers already turning up to Bennetts Lane, Uptown, Paris Cat, The Brunswick Green and other Melbourne venues.

Bird’s Basement has a long way to go before it develops the rich history that adds significantly to a well-established and much-loved venue. But the music is what counts and nostalgia should not be overrated.

Rightly or wrongly, I felt that I ought to dress up for Bird’s — that it possibly was a bit flash for my taste and may attract a different crowd. If so, that could work and would help provide work for local musicians as well as imports. But let’s see.

Meanwhile, the following night I sat in a familiar chair in the small room at Bennetts Lane to hear Tim Stevens deliver 13 brand new and unnamed compositions with help from Dave Beck and Ben Robertson. It had a different feel.

ROGER MITCHELL