Tag Archives: Myles Mumford

THE OUTER LIMITS

Preview: Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival, April 29 to May 8, 2011

Mastaneh Nazarian

Mastaneh Nazarian barely contains her love for her Parker guitar

Yes, the image above is unashamedly a bid to attract attention to this preview of this year’s MJFF, but in my defence it is the picture guitarist Mastaneh Nazarian chose to be used on the Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival website, which is where all the details of this festival can be found. Nazarian, who migrated from Teheran, Iran to the US and suffered “mild malnutrition” in Boston in the mid ’90s, will feature in a double bill with Jonathan Dimond‘s Loops and her group Kafka Pony, which she named after reading lots of Kafka, dreaming of a pink penguin and waking with the word “pony” on her lips.

Anyway, speaking of matters barely contained, my excitement is mounting about what’s on offer this year. Details are on the website, but here’s a quick glimpse of some highlights. First, because it is first, is the opening concert on Friday, April 29 at the Melbourne Recital Centre’s Salon, which will give us a chance to hear a work so far aired at only in parts, at least in Melbourne and at Wangaratta. Andrea Keller Quartet, with two violins, viola and a cello, will perform Place, a 60-minute commissioned work in seven parts that draws inspiration from the area surrounding Bermagui NSW, and explores notions of belonging and identity. The quartet employs electronics, improvisation, preparations and acoustic instruments in the piece.

We’ve had two tantalising tastes of this work — at Uptown Jazz Cafe in August last year, when the quartet played Guluga and Belonging, and in the WPAC Theatre at Wangaratta Jazz 2010, when Belonging closed the set. I loved these tidbits and look forward to hearing the whole piece. The icing on the cake will be special guests Stephen Magnusson and Raj Jayaweera performing as a duo.

I have to keep this short and avoid mentioning every gig, tempting as that is. So, on Saturday, there’s a wild night in a warehouse opening with Ronny Ferella and Sam Price, who make up Peon, no doubt playing some similar material to what’s on their album Real Time, and ending in an iPhone mash-up — an app-created orgy of sounds under the watchful ear of Myles Mumford. You have to be there.

After Loops and Kafka Pony on Sunday, and Sam Bates Trio on Monday, a real highlight for me will be Band of Five Names on Tuesday, May 3, at Bennetts Lane. When this group (Phil Slater on trumpet and laptop, Matt McMahon on piano and Nord, Carl Dewhurst on guitar, Simon Barker on drums and percussion) performed at at Alpine MDF Theatre, Wangaratta in 2009, I thought of it as entering a musical space of light and shade, frenzy and reflection, and at times absolute simplicity. The ensemble was affective, slowly evolving and highly involving. I thought then, “How can a Nord sound so gentle?” and “Stillness can take root here”.

Zoe Scoglio‘s audio visual evening on Wednesday will be a treat for the ears, because Stephen Magnusson (guitar), Stephen Grant (cornet) and James McLean (drums) will accompany what Zoe has in store.

And in an unprecedented move, MJFF this year has some gigs out west, which is fantastic for those of us who believe more music should happen where so many of those who create it reside. The first performance at the Dancing Dog Cafe/Bar, on Thursday, May 5, features award-winning Peter Knight (trumpet and laptop electronics) and the irrepressible Motion. The second, on Saturday, May 7, features Nat Grant (solo percussion and electronics) and Kewti with “wild black metal experimental microtonal tropical jazz”. How can you resist that?

“What about the famous MJFF commission concert?”, you ask. Well, yes, it’s on at BMW Edge on Friday, May 6 and it must not be missed. That rascal Allan Browne will open with his “three turks and a wasp”. The drummer has a new piano-less quartet with Phillip Noy (alto sax), Sam Pankhurst (bass) and Stephen Grant (cornet) in dialogue, using new material written for the Fringe plus “compositions from the Duke and Jelly Roll”.

And for the main act, Fran Swinn, winner of this year’s APRA Composer Commission, has written Inform for jazz quartet and corde lisse (aerial circus act involving acrobatics on a vertically hanging rope). Circus Oz virtuoso acrobat/aerialist Rockie Stone (pictured below courtesy of Seth Gulob) will perform with the Fran Swinn Quartet (Swinn on guitar, Tamara Murphy on double bass, Ben Hendry on drums), and guest soloist Eugene Ball on trumpet.

Rockie

Rockie Stone at Circus Oz (Picture by Seth Gulob)

Swinn’s work promises to “integrate the forms and structures inherent in Jazz and improvised music with the forms and structures integral to a circus act” and acknowledges influences from dance, theatre and clowning as well as the music of Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman and Bill Frisell.

What could top that? Well, after such high-flying aerial pursuits it has to be time to sit. So Big Arse Sunday is exactly what’s needed. This year it’s at Cafe 303, 303 High Street, Northcote, from 2pm until about 9pm and the line-up includes Collider, Make Up Sex, Tinkler/Pankhurst/McLean, and 12 Tone Diamonds. And if you need a break from the music, the musicians you’ve heard or will hear later will probably be selling some nibbles or sitting on the door, so there’s a chance to chat.

With all these highlights, you may as well give in and decide you’ll never make it home before midnight during the Melboune Jazz Fringe Festival. This is a real grass roots festival run by musicians who volunteer lots of time to make it happen. If you’ve never dipped your toe in, try it. You won’t regret it.

ROGER MITCHELL

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MELBOURNE JAZZ FRINGE FESTIVAL 2010 — DAY 7

MOVEable Feast: Kings Artist Initiative

The brainchild of Zoe Frater, this feast took us to two inner city galleries — Kings Artist Run Initiative in King St and Brood Box in Rankins Lane. The night began and ended with Bach.

John Taylor Electric Guitar Quartet
John Taylor Electric Guitar Quartet

First up we heard the — shock horror — totally scripted and completely unimprovised The Art of Fugue (Die Kunst der Fuge), or fugues 1, 2, 3, 4 and the unfinished 14th, played on soprano, alto, tenor and bass guitars by Fran Swinn, Jon Delaney, Zoe Frater and Ben Edgar. A bit of fun was had the ensemble’s title — John Taylor Electric Guitar Quartet — because British eye surgeon John Taylor operated on Bach in Leipzig in 1750 and this may have contributed to Bach’s death in July that year at the age of 65.

Zoe Frater
Zoe Frater

Fran Swinn
Fran Swinn

The longest piece was the unfinished fugue, Contrapunctus XIV, which breaks off abruptly. I think it was Jon Delaney who said Glenn Gould had likened listening to this fugue as being like “hearing the universe become balanced”. But there was nothing at all boring or hard to take about this sensitive rendition by musicians whose usual fare is improvised. The spare gallery, with delicate shadow patterns on its white walls, was a great setting for this classy ensemble.

Jon Delaney
Jon Delaney

Ben Edgar
Ben Edgar

Zoe Frater
Zoe Frater

Fran Swinn and Jon Delaney
Fran Swinn and Jon Delaney

John Taylor Guitar Quartet
John Taylor Guitar Quartet

OK, it was not improvised, but the freedom of the fringe festival is the ability to break the “rules” and defy expectations.

For the next set we took to Melbourne’s streets, some of us (Bob and Michael from RMIT) deep in conversation about the artistic possibilities of the city’s laneways, soon arriving at Brood Box gallery, resplendent with the colourful works of Ed Bechervaise.

Xani Kolac
Xani Kolac

In her tiny, elevated “secret space”, electric violinist extraordinaire Xani Kolac performed four of her compositions in her debut with a laptop. In Five, using the ping-pong delay effect on the laptop, Kolac sent soaring surges of sound sashaying into the room below.


The “secret space”

Xani Kolac
Xani Kolac

The fluidity and expansiveness of her next piece reminded me of a Curved Air album from the 1970s, Air Conditioning. Some of the “chords” as Kolac bowed across strings had a satisfyingly grunge depth to them.

Xani Kolac
Xani Kolac

Kolac closed with Merry Go Round, which included pizzicato, string strumming and vocals, ending with the words “I’ll play whatever I like because I choose to die happy”. Magnifique.

NMIT Laptop Orchestra
NMIT Laptop Orchestra

Finally, in the room below, Myles Mumford and Adrian Sherriff assembled an extra-curricular ensemble called the NMIT Laptop Orchestra. They played Up Down Up Down Up, a piece by Mumford making use of the laptop system sound, followed by a sine tone dedicated to La Monte Young and inspired by his intonations with two pianos tuned to a Pythagorean scale.

Then came Sherriff’s Study No. 2 (For Jan Stole Who) — the title an anagram of John Oswald, of Plunderphonic fame, and the piece plundering Oswald, and Gobo Sine 47.3 by ensemble member Graeme Croft.

They finished with Four Musical Hobos, dedicated to Harry Partch, who spent 60 years creating musical instruments capable of using 43 notes in every octave and training musicians to use them, and the J.S. Bach chorale Jesu, meine Freude, which was slow, wistful and short.

Max MSP to the max
Max MSP to the max

It was fascinating to hear Adrian Sherriff talk about what the laptop ensemble can explore and how a motion sensor in each laptop enables players to control volume. Interaction between the players was obvious to the audience and the musicians played their laptops as they would other instruments, with great expression and obvious delight — and perhaps occasional apprehension — in what they were doing.

There was some wry humour. Sherriff noted that one of the group’s challenges was dealing with “six nervous computers on stage”. There seemed to be hints of swing or a dance band in Jan Sol Who, followed sampling of Dolly Parton’s The Great Pretender, which was mashed into what sounded like a sea of machine-gun chatter.

Controlling the nervous laptops
Controlling the nervous laptops

This was quintessential Melbourne Fringe Jazz Festival — the laptop as a means of creating instruments, creating an interface and creating new works, rather than merely for playback and recording. And the exploration of pure tones in the Harry Partch tradition was way over my head, but fascinating.

This ensemble will perform at the Quiet Music Festival this weekend. (Why does this excellent festival clash with the Melbourne International Jazz Festival?

The night’s performances were indeed a moveable feast.