Tag Archives: Monash University


PREVIEW: World Premiere of new composition by Dave Douglas, featuring the Monash Art Ensemble, Saturday 15 March, 7.30pm, Music Auditorium, Monash University, Cost: $20 / $15

Dave Douglas

Dave Douglas                           (Image supplied)

There are two reasons to be excited by the collaboration to aired this evening at Monash University. The first is that renowned trumpeter and music educator Dave Douglas, fresh from his performance with John Zorn at the Adelaide Festival, will unveil a new and as yet untitled composition to a Melbourne audience.

The second is that the new work will be played by the exciting, inventive and talented Monash Art Ensemble under the direction of Professor Paul Grabowsky, who is Executive Director, Performing Arts, Academy of Performing Arts. This group, which features the cream of students and staff from the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music and veteran players of the Australian Art Orchestra, has collaborated recently in projects with leading figures in contemporary music including Mark Helias, George Lewis and Mary Finsterer.

Monash Art Ensemble

Monash Art Ensemble at MIJF 2013

At last year’s Melbourne International Jazz Festival, the Monash Art Ensemble’s concert in The Forum upstairs with bassist Mark Helias was a definite highlight, not only because of Helias’s compositions, but also because the ensemble played difficult material with finesse and power. For the Ausjazz review of this concert, see BAND ON THE RUN.

Monash Art Ensemble

Monash Art Ensemble on stage at The Forum upstairs

Douglas says his new composition for the Monash Art Ensemble features 16 musicians in ensembles of wind, brass, percussion and strings. It is inspired by the timbres of the composers of the Ars Nova in 14th century France, but moves into “wholly uncharted territory”.

“Improvisation meets composition as these sounds walk across the centuries for a new chapter in this American composer’s oeuvre, written especially for this engagement”, Douglas said.

Paul Grabowsky described the collaboration with Douglas as “a milestone in the already eventful life of the Monash Art Ensemble”.

“He is without doubt one of the deepest thinkers around contemporary jazz and improvised music today, a composer of great depth who is able to embrace a pluralistic vision of music within a strong stylistic framework. He is also one of the leading trumpeters of his generation, and a major educator, so there is much to be excited about,” Professor Grabowsky said.

Dave Douglas has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Aaron Copland award and two Grammy nominations. Douglas has a new quintet, an electric sextet (Keystone), and Sound Prints Quintet, which is co-led with saxophonist Joe Lovano.

From 2002 to 2012, he served as artistic director of the Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music at The Banff Centre in Canada. He is a co-founder and director of the Festival of New Trumpet Music, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2012. In 2013 Douglas was, for the second year, International Jazz Artist in Residence at the Royal Academy of Music in London and launched his own Jazz Workshop, dedicated to enriching the musical experiences of younger players.

Here’s a clip of the Dave Douglas Quintet at work in July 2013 .



George Lewis

George Lewis                    Image by Michael Hoefner


George and Mary, Monash Art Ensemble with George Lewis, Mary Finsterer, Paul Grabowsky and Gian Slater

Work is necessary to help pay the bills, if for no other, more exalted reason, but sometimes it gets in the way of what we value highly in life. That waffle amounts to my lament that I have to work tomorrow night — Saturday, August 16 — because I will miss a great concert.

But you can go.

One of the definite highlights of this year’s Melbourne International Jazz Festival was the performance in which the Monash Art Ensemble (previously known as Shapeshifter) teamed with US bassist/composer Mark Helias at The Forum upstairs.

The ensemble tackled Helias’s challenging compositions with zest and great competence, delivering a compelling performance that demonstrated how well this collaboration could work.

The ensemble continues to break new ground this weekend by allowing students and staff from the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music to join veteran players of the Australian Art Orchestra in another exciting musical venture.

Tomorrow night, in its “biggest challenge yet”, the MAE will perform the premiere of an as yet untitled work written especially for the ensemble by a giant of contemporary improvised music, US composer George Lewis, who is on his first visit to Australia.

The ensemble, joined by Lewis on trombone and electronics and guest vocalist Gian Slater, will also play new versions of his recent pieces including Tractatus, Triangle, Fractals and Angry Birds.

Composer, philosopher and writer Professor George Lewis is now on the faculty of Columbia University. He has performed with every major voice in the world of experimental and improvised music during the last 40 years, and has increasingly turned his considerable imagination to composing for various ensembles in the US and Europe.

The concert at Monash University — entitled George and Mary — will also feature a world premiere of Aerea by Mary Finsterer, who is regarded by MAE Musical Director and founding Artistic Director of the Australian Art Orchestra Paul Grabowsky, as one of Australia’s most original musical voices.

Finsterer was commissioned by the Monash Academy of Performing Arts to compose this piece for the MAE.

Mary Finsterer

Mary Finsterer                  (Image from Southern Highland News)

Mary Finsterer’s work has won many awards, including the prestigious Paul Lowin Orchestral Prize in 2009 for her work inspired by Jorge Luis Borges, In Praise Of Darkness. In 2006, Mary received a Churchill Fellowship to compose alongside Marco Beltrami for the blockbuster movie Die Hard 4.

Describing the work, Finsterer says, “Aerea reflects on that slight sense of deja vu you might feel while looking down from an aeroplane window which comes in part from the shifting correspondences between the world below and your own. You start to notice relationships in abstract things that recur, oddly, not only from one shape to another, but also within the same shape.

“Aerea takes this idea of shifting entities as a metaphor to generate dramatic twists and turns of movement and gestural interplay as the music unfolds from one passage to the next. In the music I have composed, figures are repeated and multiplied, and so are motions. As ideas echo from one instrument to another, they are guided by a musical narrative that works to propel them through time and spaces.”

At the concert MAE will also launch a self-titled debut CD, Monash Art Ensemble, at the concert. The album features two never before recorded Paul Grabowsky epics, Variations ‘d’un goût étranger’ on a theme by Marin Marais (2000) and Tall Tales (2010).


Saturday 17 August at 7:30pm
Tickets: $20 – $25
Venue: Music Auditorium, Building 68 Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music, Monash University Wellington Road, Clayton

Bookings and enquiries 03 9905 1111 or Monash Academy of Performing Arts website

For more event information visit the Monash Art Ensemble website


Jazz Bell Awards 2013

BIG NIGHT OUT: Australian Jazz Bell Awards 2013, Plaza Ballroom, Regent Theatre, Melbourne on Thursday, May 2

It’s a strange night and yet it fits. The oddity is that jazz is being celebrated and its champions honoured in a place of such ostentatious opulence, when its performance is often conducted on lean budgets and rewarded with slim takings. The aptness is that this is one night when exponents of jazz and improvised music can dress up, wine and dine, and celebrate as if this source of such complex pleasures were up there on society’s pedestal along with the Oscars.

It also fits in the way that Melbourne’s Kelvin Club did for the Sun Ra Arkestra performance during the 2011 Melbourne International Jazz Festival — there’s an eccentric, idiosyncratic feel to the Bells that is right on the money for jazz.

Albert Dadon

Albert Dadon

Speaking of money, the significant prizes handed out at the Bells — albeit low by the standards of mainstream arts — are provided by a string of sponsors (TarraWarra Estate Winery, Monash University, Palace Cinemas, Ubertas Group, APRA/AMCOS, Brand Partners, Fender Katsalidis Architects, Allans Billy Hyde) — but Bell Awards chairman Albert Dadon is behind the scenes making it all happen.

Albert Dadon spoke with feeling about this being the first awards night since the passing of Graeme Bell MBE, AO, after whom the awards are named. Sadly, Bell, one of the most respected Australian jazz musicians, died last year.

Dorothy Bell

Dorothy Bell

His wife, Dorothy, was invited to the microphone and provided us with a frank and engaging portrait of the man with whom she spent so many happy years. She let on that Graeme was “not so good with the money”, but he was “a really nice, caring person who liked to do things for people”, including arranging a live cello recital at home for her birthday, because she loved the instrument so much.

“I miss him terribly every day. There’s not a day goes by that I don’t think about him,” Dorothy told the gathering, bringing warm applause.

Michael Danby

Michael Danby, Parliamentary Secretary for the Arts

The mandatory politician on the night was Michael Danby, Parliamentary Secretary for the Arts, who paid tribute to Dadon’s contribution to raising the profile of jazz in Australia and mentioned that the guitarist’s sixth album, Long Way, had reached the top 50 in the US.

Danby also urged musicians to apply for money via the music board of the Australia Council for the Arts. He said former Arts Minister Simon Crean had ensured there was an extra $3 million put aside for contemporary music, including $1.75 million to Sounds Australia to grow Australian music exports and $1.25 million to promote career pathways for contemporary musicians. 

Let’s hope some of this money can end up in the pockets of Australian jazz artists.

David Ades

David Ades wins

In the first round of awards, saxophonist David Ades picked up the first two, which we hope cheered him up in Germany, where he is having further treatment for cancer. His outing at Wangaratta Jazz Festival last year was a ripper.

Ades won Best Australian Jazz Ensemble for A Glorious Uncertainty and Best Australian Jazz Song of the Year for  Joe The Kid

Amelia Thomas

Amelia Thomas receives the Best Jazz Song of the Year award for father David Ades.

MC Tracey Curro noted that Joe the Kid was written for David Ades’ father, who was famous for selling potato peelers on the streets of New York. David’s daughter Amelia received the awards on his behalf and said she couldn’t wait to tell him because “he’ll be over the moon”, adding “he deserves this”.

Chris McNulty

Best Australian Jazz Vocal Album:
Chris McNulty – The Song That Sings You Here

The winner of Best Australian Jazz Vocal Album was Chris McNulty for The Song That Sings You Here. McNulty, who had just flown from New York, paid tribute to the hard work of her band.


Flap! members work out who’ll take their award home.

After an entree, there was much hilarity when the award for  Best Australian Traditional Jazz Album went to Flap! for A Great Day For The Race.


Steve Magnusson and Eugene Ball, from Magnet, hand out credit to others.

It was especially heart-warming to see the happiness that the award for Best Australian Contemporary Jazz Album to Magnet brought to the face of much-loved guitarist Steve Magnusson. He and Eugene Ball received the award, paying compliments to all involved in the album as well as praising the other nominees — Jamie Oehlers Quartet featuring Ari Hoenig  and Bernie McGann.

Steve Barry

Steve Barry

Steve Barry was in New York (isn’t every young Australian jazz artist these days?) and could not receive his award for Young Australian Jazz Artist of the Year.

Marc Hannaford

Marc Hannaford

More broad smiles came with the award of  Most Original Australian Jazz Album to Marc Hannaford for Sarcophile, which he released only online. This is a great send-off for Marc, who leaves soon for New York to take up a fellowship at Columbia to complete a PhD in music theory. It will be sad to see him go, but we look forward to some amazing work emerging from his study and performance abroad.

Marc Hannaford

Marc Hannaford

We were treated to a short, but vibrant performance by Marc.

After the main course came Tony Gould’s moving solo piano tribute to the Australian jazz musicians who died during the past 12 months. It is always an important opportunity to reflect on the contributions that these artists have made during their lives.

James Morrison

James Morrison

Then came the announcement most of us knew before the ceremony — that the affable, but retiring multi-instrumentalist James Morrison would be entering the Graeme Bell Hall of Fame.

James took the opportunity to speak about the Generations in Jazz Festival in Mount Gambier and its rich history in educating and encouraging young jazz artists.

James Morrison

James Morrison watched by fellow trumpeter Paul Williamson

James had to have a jam session and, luckily, had brought his horn in case that opportunity arose. Good on him, I say. You can’t keep an irrepressible man from having fun, and there’s nothing wrong with some fun in jazz.

Tamara Murphy

Tamara Murphy

Tamara Murphy was, as usual, on fire behind the band.

James Morrison

Tamara Murphy, Tim Wilson, James Morrison and Paul Williamson go for it.

It was short, but sweet, and, yes, fairly loud.

Schroder's Big Band

Schroder’s Big Band

To finish the night, Schroder’s Big Band played to an audience who were mostly interested in talking and drinking, but that’s showbiz.

Michelle Nicolle

Schroder’s Big Band

Michelle Nicole showed us how a vocalist can work with a band and an audience.

Michelle Nicolle

Michelle Nicolle and Carlo Barbaro

They showed the power of voice and big band.

Michelle Nicolle

Michelle Nicolle

The winners went in search of a gin palace — well some did. The judges avoided anyone who looked likely to disagree with the results of their long hours of hard work.The rest of us took to taxis or, in my case, the last train.

The Bells had tolled again.