Tag Archives: Mike Nock

A SANDWICH OF FOOD FOR THE SOUL

Mike Nock at The Wheeler Centre

Mike Nock at The Wheeler Centre

REFLECTION:

A Conversation at The Wheeler Centre and three concerts at The Malthouse on Saturday 7 June 2014 for Melbourne International Jazz Festival

1pm: A Conversation with Mike Nock

Improvising musicians are always listening to the others in the band, on the lookout for something they can pick up on and take somewhere. Journalists are always on the lookout for the angle — the unifying aspect that can help make a collection of events into a story.

Mike Nock handed me the angle to this post about his Wheeler Centre conversation and the three gigs to come later, although I did not pick up on how it would work until the evening. He spoke about a lot of aspects of music in this hour, including the fact that he once sang at the London Palladium, but more about these topics later if time permits.

I want to highlight a couple of Nock’s statements about jazz. He said jazz is “about connecting with people emotionally”. Later he said, “It is food for the soul — that’s what jazz is.”

I was happy to hear a musician of Nock’s stature say this, because I am at times moved to write food-for-the-soul-type comments about the music that moves me, although I am wary of slipping into sentimentality and aware of reactions to what’s played being subjective. If I do write thus about a musical experience I seem to be nagged by an inner voice wanting to dismiss this sort of talk as emotional claptrap and asking what it really means to say something “feeds” the “soul”.

That’s a topic for later, perhaps, but as it turned out, the Malthouse gigs later that evening — ironically, perhaps, the two before and after Nock’s gig with Laurence Pike — prompted me to want to use that emotive description.

Mike Nock at The Wheeler Centre

Mike Nock at The Wheeler Centre

7pm: Hunters & Pointers

First on stage were members of Hunters & Pointers, who had not performed together for 21 years. They were John Hoffman on flugelhorn, Graeme Lyall on saxophone, Tony Gould on piano, Ben Robertson on double bass and Tony Floyd on drums. How much talent can you fit on one stage?

From the opening notes I just wanted to find better words than smooth to describe this quintet’s work. Like a well-oiled trombone slide these luminaries of Australian jazz just let the notes slip into the auditorium and hang there in space.

I often prefer tension-filled music that’s prickly and sharp-edged. But this was sublime stuff that I knew would draw out that stuff about “food for the soul”. Luckily, I had Mike Nock’s words to provide support.

After Just Friends, my favourite vocalist Kristin Berardi joined Gould for Body and Soul, then the band for a vivacious rendering of Tea For Two. In I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face, Lyall delivered some super smooth alto sax that was fat and furry, Floyd’s work on brushes and mallets was superb, and Gould’s solo was a treat. This piece drew a loud “Yes” from the audience and justifiably so.

In mid concert there was some horseplay and even a joke, before the set’s highlight, for me — Berardi’s performance in Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most. Her vocals in this were eloquent, sensitive and yet not sentimental at all. The audience forced an encore, It Could Happen to You, that featured a solo with Robertson really jumping and evolved into a really swinging number.

This was food for the soul part one.

Tony Floyd and John Hoffman

Tony Floyd and John Hoffman

Kristin Berardi with Hunters and Pointers

Kristin Berardi with Hunters & Pointers

Kristin Berardi with Hunters and Pointers

Kristin Berardi with Hunters & Pointers

Graeme Lyall

Graeme Lyall

Tony Gould

Tony Gould

Tony Floyd

Tony Floyd

Ben Robertson

Ben Robertson

John Hoffman

John Hoffman

9pm: Mike Nock and Laurence Pike

As mentioned, this set had a different sort of appeal. Immediately I was struck again by Nock’s ability to create an air of reverence that is totally engrossing, yet does not require many notes to be played.

Pike was extremely busy at times on drums and percussion, playing almost as if possessed — but in a muted fashion. (What is conveyed comes as much from what he holds back as by what he actually does, if that makes any sense. An example is the vigour with which he goes to hit with brushes, yet hardly any sound emerges.) I was reminded of a Cannonball Adderley live gig in which you can hear the audience respond to what’s hinted at by the rhythm section.

Nock built tension and focus, commanding attention. As the set progressed, both Pike and Nock were tinkering at sounds, producing electronic static along with rattles and the shaking of bells, plus short flurries of piano notes between pauses. I thought there was a lot in common with the Alister Spence Trio‘s set of the previous evening.

I was not moved to describe this as food for the soul. My appreciation of the set was more dispassionate. The appeal lay in the fascination of a changing landscape.

Laurence Pike

Laurence Pike

Laurence Pike

Laurence Pike

Mike Nock

Mike Nock

Mike Nock

Mike Nock

11.20pm: Julien Wilson Quartet

The finish of this narrative is probably fairly obvious by now. Julien Wilson on clarinet and tenor sax joined Barney McAll (over from New York) on piano, Jonathan Zwartz on acoustic bass and Allan Browne on drums and cymbals to complete a dream line-up.

I had lost any urge to dash off to Bennetts Lane to hear Django Bates Beloved play Charlie Parker. Another time. I wanted — wait for it — food for the soul, and this was the quartet to provide exactly that.

They began with Ellington’s The Feeling of Jazz, then Deep Night followed by a new ballad, Bernie, in honour of the late great Bernie McGann. Weeping Willow followed as a tribute to recently departed Gil Askey. There were great solos by Browne and McAll in this. In particular I loved how the quartet ended this and the previous piece, allowing them to gradually slip away. It was appropriate, I thought, to have such peaceful departures for these two characters of jazz.

From the opener, Wilson showed again that he continues to play with assurance and to draw on deep inspiration that is clearly a sustaining force.

They played another new piece, Rain Man, and ended with Farewell off the album This Is Always as an encore.

McAll seemed attentive rather than flamboyant on the night. He later said how much he appreciated Browne being so zen at the drum kit.

This concert was good for the soul. It was the perfect ending to the penultimate day of MIJF 2014.

ROGER MITCHELL

Jonathan Zwartz

Jonathan Zwartz

Barney McAll

Barney McAll

Barney McAll and Julien Wilson

Barney McAll and Julien Wilson

Allan Browne

Allan Browne

Julien Wilson and Jonathan Zwartz

Julien Wilson and Jonathan Zwartz

Barney McAll

Barney McAll

 

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SLIP OUT OF THOSE COMFORT ZONES

PREVIEW PART 2: Melbourne International Jazz Festival, May 30 to June 8, 2014

An earlier post mentioned some of the gigs that will attract the big crowds at this year’s festival, which artistic director Michael Tortoni has described it as “the broadest, most inclusive ever”.

Before mentioning some concerts that are a little less mainstream, it’s important to highlight the successor to a major hit of last year’s festival, which is sure to again fill Melbourne Town Hall with dancers having the time of their lives.

Swing Noir

774’s Swing Noir will be a hoot                            (Image supplied)

This year, 774’s Swing Noir concert will offer gypsy swing and hot club jazz as Swing Patrol dancers provide the inspiration and help with classic steps of the Charleston, and two bands — Ultrafox and Swingville — delve into the world of Django Reinhardt and the Hot Club of France. The festival invites the energetic to “slip on your dancing shoes, dress to kill and join us at the dawn of European jazz”. And for fans of ABC radio’s 774, the host will be Hilary Harper, who will apparently be “dazzlingly bohemian” on the night.

STRETCH YOURSELVES

It’s been said many times before, but festivals are one way to tempt music lovers to dip their toes into unfamiliar waters. Sometimes this means “jazz” becomes less of a perceived obstacle; sometimes devotees of jazz try moving outside their comfort zones.

And speaking of breaking boundaries, one significant change of this year’s MIJF is Jazz Out West, which for the first time will bring some musical events to Melbourne’s west. That’s especially exciting for Ausjazz, because there are many musicians living in this part of the city, but live music is not as prolific and does not attract the crowds of suburbs such as Northcote — yet.

Satsuki Odamura

Satsuki Odamura

The big drawcard will undoubtedly be cross-cultural sextet Peter Knight’s Way Out West at Footscray Community Arts Centre. Many will know the albums released by an earlier incarnation of this award-winning ensemble, but this outing will air new compositions written since Sydney’s koto virtuoso Satsuki Odamura and Lucas Michailidis on guitar came onboard.

Led by Peter Knight, their fascinating new project features the seamlessly combining Asian instrumentation and approaches with irresistible influenced grooves and jazz-inflected melodies. Others in this top line-up include Knight on trumpet and laptop, Howard Cairns on bass and button accordion, Paul Williamson on saxophones, Ray Pereira on percussion and Rajiv Jayaweera (rejoining the group from New York) on drums. I can’t wait to hear the new material and let’s hope there’s room for a few Westies to fit into a packed venue.

Other western offerings include Horns of Leroy — a funky brass band — at the Reverence Hotel, Hey Frankie at The Dancing Dog, Afro Beat — with an Ethiopian meal — at African Town Café Bar, and Soundwalk, in which Aboriginal elder Uncle Larry and others will lead a walking and listening tour of the streets, waterways and secret spaces of Footscray.

At last year’s MIJF crowds of younger fans crammed in to catch Snarky Puppy, and Tortoni expects similar enthusiasm for bassist Derrick Hodge and vocalist Chris Turner, who perform at The Forum.

In this “festival exclusive” billed as “exciting, cutting edge stuff on the razor’s edge of new generation jazz”, Hodge — who performed with The Robert Glasper Experiment in 2012 — and Turner — who many will recall from ERIMAJ last year — will be joined by Federico Pena and Michael Aaberg on keys, Paul Bender on bass and Mark Colenburg on drums. The combination of Hodge with Turner could take this concert in many directions.

In four gigs at Bennetts Lane, the man dubbed “probably the most dangerous drummer alive” — Chris Dave — will defy all attempts at categorisation, bringing elements of R&B, funk, rock, jazz, hip-hop and electronica via his band The Drumhedz. Expect hypnotic beats.

Serious fans of music that ventures into exciting territory must mark their digital diaries for a Malthouse double bill from Australia — Alister Spence Trio — and the USA — Dawn of Midi. Spence’s trio is well known here and accurately described as “endlessly surprising”. Brooklyn trio Dawn of Midi — Amino Belyamani piano, Aakassh Israni double bass and Qasim Naqri percussion — has been lauded for the album Dysnomia. Expect the unexpected from both trios in a concert not to be missed.

Kristin Berardi

Kristin Berardi

Also at the Malthouse, significant figures in Australian jazz — John Hoffman, Graeme Lyall, Tony Gould, Ben Robertson and Tony Floyd — get together for the first time in 20 years to form The Hunters and Pointers. Joined by award-winning vocalist Kristin Berardi, they will celebrate the release of a collection of unheard live recordings that originally featured Christine Sullivan on vocals.

Julien Wilson

Julien Wilson

Another Malthouse double bill will be a musical treat. In one set, the winner of this year’s Don Banks Music Award and member of the Jazz Bell Awards hall of fame, Mike Nock, will join his former student, drummer Laurence Pike. In the other one set, saxophonist Julien Wilson — who was a star of the 2013 Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival — will again visit the quartet format with New York-based pianist Barney McAll, Sydney bassist Jonathan Zwartz and Melbourne drummer Allan Browne. This double bill will not disappoint.

The Monash Art Ensemble, led by Paul Grabowsky, never disappoints, so seat belts may need to be fastened when this exciting ensemble of students and seasoned players teams with British jazz maverick, pianist and composer Django Bates and his piano trio, Belovèd. Together they will explore the music of Charlie Parker as well as Bates’ compositions.

As mentioned in the earlier preview post, Charles Lloyd’s The Greek Project clashes with an exciting world premiere of PBS Young Elder of Jazz Commission winner Tilman Robinson’s The Agony of Knowledge at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club. Robinson has demonstrated his facility for composition, so his musical exploration of the Icelandic epic poem Volsungasaga promises to be a festival highlight. The work will draw on Norse legends that have influenced music and literature for centuries, as exemplified in Wagner’s Ring Cycle and Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

Sydney musicians at Deakin Edge, Fed Square will explore jazz and film in The Wires Project, a collaborative multi-media work in which vocalist Briana Cowlishaw, Gavin Ahearn on piano, Peter Koopman on guitar and Nic Cecire on drums improvise a musical response to a video by Aymeric De Meautis based on photographs by Singapore’s Chia Ming Chien. The bonus is that this experience is free.

Ausjazz had hoped to preview the intimate club sessions at MIJF 2014, which are the meat and potatoes of this festival and my favourites. Time has ruled that out, so stay tuned for further festival posts and reviews.

ROGER MITCHELL

MUSICIANS WHO MOVE

Gerald Clayton

Gerald Clayton                          Picture: Ben Wolf

Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival, November 1-4, 2013

This preview covers a lot of ground, with the aim of letting people know what is on offer. The joy of a festival such as Wangaratta is that patrons can take risks and dip into unfamiliar territory.

JAZZ PROGRAM PREVIEW

Music moves us, musicians move us and musicians move. So many times when we read the biographies of favourite musicians, we find they have made leaps to new places and new music communities — sometimes returning home eventually, sometimes not.

On a recent Sunday night at Melbourne’s Uptown Jazz Café, pianist Marc Hannaford played two sets at a farewell gig before leaving for at least five years in New York. He invited musician friends and colleagues to sit in. It was a great way to celebrate a big move in his life and career.

This year’s Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues brings us many artists who have made significant moves to new places as their music developed.

As in previous years, many of the musicians are expatriate Australians. The line-up, carefully crafted by artistic director Adrian Jackson, raises the (admittedly immaterial) question of how long a local musician has to be living overseas before being classified as an international artist.

In a year when piano is the chosen instrument for the National Jazz Awards, it is fitting that the headline artist will be thrice Grammy-nominated young US pianist Gerald Clayton, who has attracted attention as a rising star in a trio with Joe Sanders on bass and Justin Brown on drums. On this visit Pete Van Nostrand  will be at the drum kit.

Clayton was born in Amsterdam, grew up in Los Angeles and now lives in New York. His trio’s third album, Life Forum, was due for release in Australia by Universal on September 2.

Clayton will spend some time working with Monash University music students before the festival, so a few students could well end up with the trio on stage for one concert. Here is a sample.

Chris McNulty

Chris McNulty      (Picture supplied)

Among the expatriate internationals making the trip to Wangaratta will be vocalist Chris McNulty, who has been based in New York since 1988, and this year won Best Australian Jazz Vocal Album for The Song That Sings You Here.

McNulty, who was in Melbourne for the Jazz Bell Awards, will perform with her partner, guitarist/composer Paul Bollenback, and bassist Ugonna Okegwo, both from New York, in The Magic Trio, a drumless collaboration they have shared since 2000. Bollenback will also lead a trio with Okegwo and Perth-based drummer Daniel Susnjar, who played with Paul when he was in the USA last year.

McNulty will also re-establish a link from her early days in a band with pianist/composer Paul Grabowsky, joined by Frank Di Sario on bass and Mike Jordan on drums.

Expatriate international Barney McAll is no stranger to Wangaratta. In 2011 he brought a choir and large ensemble to the festival stage for Graft, but this year he will appear solo and in a trio.

In what promises to be real treat, McAll will take to the Holy Trinity Cathedral stage to explore some of the gospel music he regularly performs on Sundays at a church in Brooklyn. Anyone who heard McAll’s three solo pieces during the Melbourne Jazz Co-operative 30th Anniversary Concert on January 27 this year at The Edge, Federation Square, will look forward to hearing more.

McAll, who described the Wangaratta festival as “the bohemian grove of Australian jazz”, told organisers he would be playing some spirituals and new solo pieces, including a preview “of my first solo piano recording, which will be called Every Piano Needs A House In It”.

Joining McAll in his Non-Compliance Trio will be friends Jonathan Zwartz on bass and Hamish Stuart on drums.

Another Australian export, guitarist/composer Peter O’Mara left Sydney for New York in 1981, moved to Munich the following year and has lived in Germany and, more recently, Austria for 30 years. Last at Wangaratta in 2002, O’Mara will lead his quartet from Vienna in what Jackson describes as music “on the jazz side of jazz-rock fusion, very electronic, funky and pretty exciting”. Expect a mix of what O’Mara describes as “modern jazz, odd-metre fusion and groove”, in which expat American Tim Collins on vibes shares melodies with the guitar. Here is a sample.

More of the European input so vital to any festival will come from Dutch trumpet player Eric Vloeimans, who uses an electronic attachment on his instrument and, with his quartet Gatecrash, will also bring a fusion and funk emphasis. Expect a range from jazz to world, electro-funk and “contemplative soundscapes that are punctuated by a touch of wackiness”.

Jef Neve

Jef Neve

Belgian pianist Jef Neve was most recently at Wangaratta in 2010 with his trio (see Ausjazz’s rave review), but this time will play solo piano as part of a world tour. Neve regards the piano as an orchestral instrument — “Everything is present: choir, strings, woodwinds, brass and, of course, percussion” — and says the “soul and sound of the instrument” is his main source of inspiration in his classically influenced playing.

Froy Aagre

Froy Aagre         (Picture supplied)

Norwegian saxophonist Froy Aagre performed at Wangaratta in 2009 with members of the Brisbane band Misinterprotato, now known as Trichotomy, who she met at Canada’s Banff Jazz Workshop in 2005. Sean Foran (electric piano) and John Parker (drums) from Trichotomy will join Aagre to present her new electric repertoire, which she says “fuses new electronic sounds into melodic, groove-based jazz” and is “a way to communicate joy to the audience”.

AUSTRALIAN ARTISTS

That pretty much covers the FIFO (fly in fly out) jazz and improvised music performers, but the line-up of Australians at Wangaratta this year is so extensive and exciting that it is arguable they could carry the festival.

Sydney pianist and composer Mike Nock will join reedsman Julien Wilson, whose playing recently has been outstanding, and guitarist Steve Magnusson will re-visit the trio that was so successful in May at Stonnington Jazz.

Barney McAll’s presence will enable two CD launches. Bassist Jonathan Zwartz will bring his nine-piece band together for the first time since the recording of The Remembering and Forgetting of the Air, which features McAll, Magnusson, Phil Slater on trumpet, Wilson on tenor, James Greening on trombone and sousaphone, Richard Maegraith on tenor and bass clarinet, Hamish Stuart on drums and Fabian Hevia on percussion. With this material and this line-up, no one should miss this.

McAll will also join Zwartz, Allan Browne on drums and Wilson — Julien recording for the first time in a classic tenor sax quartet — to launch their album of mostly standards, mostly ballads entitled This Is Always.

Julien Wilson, Sam Anning, Allan Browne

Julien Wilson, Sam Anning, Allan Browne

In another launch not to be missed (I know this because there was a recent preview at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club), expatriate bassist Sam Anning will join Wilson and Browne to celebrate Sweethearts, an absolutely entrancing album that serendipitously was recorded when Anning, over from New York, was delayed in Melbourne by a US visa problem, for which we all should be eternally grateful.

Expat drummer Raj Jayaweera, also be back from New York for the festival, will form the house band with Anning for the National Jazz Awards piano recitals.

The plethora of Australian jazz musicians in New York will be further depleted by the departure to Wangaratta of trombonist Shannon Barnett, who will reconvene her quartet — Nash Lee guitar, Chris Hale bass guitar and Hugh Harvey drums — and also launch a new band, U.nlock, with vocalist Gian Slater, Sam Anning and Raj Jayaweera with material the four worked on in New York recently. A key feature of U.nlock will be “voice and trombone sharing both the lead and accompanying roles”, Slater says.

Barnett will also perform as part of clarinettist and vocalist Barry Wratten’s New Orleans Pelicans with Michael McQuaid on trumpet and reeds, Steve Grant on piano, John Scurry on guitar and banjo, Howard Cairns or Leigh Barker (Saturday morning) on bass and Lynn Wallis on drums.

The much-missed trombonist will also assemble Dixie Jack, a local version of Ragstretch, a band with whom she has played in Denmark consisting of Copenhagen-based expat clarinet player and vocalist Chris Tanner, known for his classic jazz work with Julien Wilson in the band Virus, and guitarist Craig Fermanis, Sam Anning and Raj Jayaweera. Dixie Jack, consisting of Barnett, Wilson, Anning and Jayaweera, will play traditional jazz.

Classic jazz is well represented this year. Melbourne band the Sugarfoot Ramblers is led by Travis Woods on trumpet, with Jason Downes on reeds and graduates or current students of the jazz course at Monash University who share a fondness for New Orleans Jazz. Others in the line-up are James Macaulay trombone, Brett Thompson banjo and guitar, Marty Holoubek bass and Daniel Berry drums. From Sydney, The Cope Street Parade and The Finer Cuts, who have recorded with experienced trumpeter Geoff Bull, will also add their traditional jazz sounds. Allan Browne will join the Finer Cuts, who usually don’t perform with a drummer, for one session.

The Wangaratta festival always draws musicians from across the country, providing a relatively rare opportunity for them to share the stage. The exciting sextet led by Melbourne’s Paul Grabowsky will feature Jamie Oehlers from Perth on tenor and Sydney musicians James Greening on trombone, Andrew Robson on alto, Cameron Undy on bass and Simon Barker on drums. This band has recorded an album it hopes to release at the festival.

Satsuki Odamara

Satsuki Odamura, Paul Williamson and Peter Knight.

Another certain hit, Peter Knight’s band Way Out West, now features Sydney-based koto player, Satsuki Odamura, along with Melburnians Lucas Michailidis on guitar and Hugh Harvey on drums as well as founding members, Peter Knight on trumpet, flugelhorn, Paul Williamson on saxophones, Howard Cairns on bass and Ray Pereira on percussion.

And Melbourne vocalist Gian Slater will team with Perth saxophonist Jamie Oehlers and Melburnians Paul Grabowsky on piano, Ben Robertson on bass and Dave Beck on drums in The Differences to play material from the album of that name.

Two concerts enjoyed by patrons of Stonnington Jazz in May will also be on the Wangaratta program. Red Fish Blue is an alliance of two musicians from Melbourne, pianist Sam Keevers and percussionist Javier Fredes, with two from Sydney, bassist Brett Hirst and drummer Simon Barker. And vocalist Josh Kyle and Keevers will perform Songs of Friends, which are their interpretations of songs by Australian singers/composers.

The Cup Eve Concert will feature Joe Chindamo with his trio and Monique Di Mattina performing music from her recent album Nola’s Ark, which is a jazz blues hybrid.

AUSJAZZ RECOMMENDATIONS

This preview covers a lot of ground, with the aim of letting people know what is on offer. The joy of a festival such as Wangaratta is that patrons can take risks and dip into unfamiliar territory.

In case it helps, the following are the concerts that I’d be keen not to miss:

  • Barney McAll’s solo piano in Holy Trinity on Sunday, November 3 at 3pm
  • Jef Neve solo piano, WPAC Theatre, Sunday, Nov 3 at 1pm
  • Launch of Jonathan Zwartz album The Remembering and Forgetting of the Air, Friday, Nov 1, WPAC Theatre
  • Launch of McAll/Wilson/Zwartz/Browne album This Is Always, WPAC Memorial Hall, Saturday, Nov 2 at 2.30pm
  • Launch of Wilson/Anning/Browne album Sweethearts, WPAC Memorial Hall, Saturday, November 2 at 4.30pm
  • Barnett and Slater’s U.nlock, WPAC Memorial Hall, Sunday, Nov 3 at 2.30pm
  • Paul Grabowsky Sextet, WPAC Theatre, Sunday, Nov 3 at 10.30pm
  • Way Out West, WPAC Theatre, Saturday, Nov 2, 11am

ROGER MITCHELL

Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues