Tag Archives: Nashua Lee

IKEA NO, IDEAS YES

Tamara Murphy with her ensemble performing Big Creatures Little Creatures

Tamara Murphy with her ensemble performing Big Creatures & Little Creatures

REVIEW:

Murphy’s Law performed Big Creatures & Little Creatures at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club in Melbourne on November 11, 2012

I don’t know much about modular furniture, but I have a hunch it is fairly dull. You have a box-shaped couch seating three, you add a couple of modules and it seats five.

Forget Ikea. Tamara Murphy‘s suite Big Creatures & Little Creatures is not at all dull., but it is “modular” — the order in which its movements are played can be determined, or improvised, on the night.

A bonus of this approach is that the suite will be different each time it is played, though the main movements (big creatures) may be similar. This potential for variation is particularly enticing and encourages listeners to pay attention, especially if they have heard an earlier version. It sets in train a gentle form of suspense — what will this ensemble play next?

Jordan Murray with Murphy's Law.

Jordan Murray with Murphy’s Law.

Big Creatures & Little Creatures, for which Murphy won PBS Young Elder of Jazz Commission, features two drummers  — Danny Farrugia and Joe Talia — in the line-up, along with Murphy on bass, Jordan Murray  on trombone and Nashua Lee on guitar. The work was premiered in June this year at the Melbourne International Jazz Festival and revisited at Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival 2012.

Tamara Murphy with her ensemble performing Big Creatures Little Creatures

Tamara Murphy with her ensemble performing Big Creatures & Little Creatures

I found this performance even more enjoyable and sustaining than the MIJF premiere. Again, the music was immediately compelling, so that any plans I had to pay careful attention and record some thoughts were soon abandoned. I wanted to experience the immediacy, the in-the-moment nature of it, rather than trying to be a detached observer.

Joe Talia and Nashua Lee with Murphy's Law

Joe Talia and Nashua Lee with Murphy’s Law.

Yet I did reflect on the reasons for its appeal. This suite is engrossing due to its explorations of texture, the interplay, the level of detail, the attention of the musicians to their tasks, their focus and their responsiveness. Of course, these are not unusual features of improvised music.

Also, there are the combinations of instruments that come in and out of play as the music develops, swelling in volume and growing in intensity, then backing off. All sorts of sounds are appealing: the droning ‘bone against the patterns created by guitar and drums; the stronger, declarative trombone eventually jettisoned by drums as they exude the patter of tiny feet; the rasp of brass and the insistence of guitar; the hints and suggestions in a spare solo; the muted rustle of drum sticks on knees; the sound of one drummer’s hands clapping; the ‘slapping’ sound of Murray’s mute.

Jordan Murray

Jordan Murray with Murphy’s Law.

In scripted parts the band was tight, scintillating. Breakouts occurred, as if someone had left the gate open, but the escapes were short-lived. As if not sufficiently satisfying, they had to be repeated. But the instances of explosive release were cathartic.

Joe Talia with Murphy's Law

Joe Talia with Murphy’s Law.

There was grace in a solo by Murphy, then solemnity in Lee’s guitar chords and simplicity in the patterns he sustained behind the bowed bass. Guitar and trombone acted as effective anchors as notes of an emerging melody floated free from the bow.

Quite a lot of the suite was slow, but for periods it gradually gathered momentum as the ‘bone and two drummers built intensity over the guitar’s musings.

Tamara Murphy with her ensemble performing Big Creatures Little Creatures

Tamara Murphy with her ensemble performing Big Creatures & Little Creatures.

Being at this live performance prompted me to reflect on the value of jazz as experienced this way rather than on a recording. Musicians are releasing their work via live streaming, digital downloads and on USB flash drives, as well as on vinyl. But can it ever match the immediacy and impact of listening in the moment?

Maybe not, but I have been playing Big Creatures & Little Creatures a lot, before and after this live rendition, and, though it is not quite the same as being there, it  does the trick. And there is always the option of doing the modular thing by selecting the tracks at random.

Certainly there is every reason to drive past Ikea and find your modular suite on CD or at a live music venue.

ROGER MITCHELL

Tamara Murphy with her ensemble performing Big Creatures Little Creatures

Tamara Murphy with her ensemble performing Big Creatures Little Creatures

Tamara Murphy has a website

And to buy Big Creatures & Little Creatures (both the physical album and digitally) visit Bandcamp.

Jessica Nicholas reviewed this performance at Bennetts Lane for The Age.

LAYING DOWN THE LAW

Ninth reason

___________

9. A suite creature feature

I had the privilege of reviewing the debut of Big Creatures and Little Creatures, which Murphy’s Law — led by bassist Tamara Murphy — performed at Bennetts Lane, Melbourne, in June this year for Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2012.

PBS Young Elder of Jazz Competition winner Murphy wrote the suite for her band, which comprises the bassist, two drummers — Danny Farrugia and Joe Talia, also on electronics — with Jordan Murray on trombone and Nashua Lee on guitar.

In the Ausjazz blog review, I wondered how much was improvised on the night and how much was scripted, because “none of the musicians appeared to be using any charts, and there was a level of concentration and intensity that usually accompanies spontaneous improvisation. Clearly the musicians were highly attentive to what the others were up to, but it was almost as if they were following a script that was not written down, yet was in their heads.”

It was an impressive performance. But it deserved a wider audience and another airing, so I recall expressing the hope that this suite would be performed again, “perhaps at a Stonnington Jazz or at Wangaratta”.

Adrian Jackson has given us the opportunity at this year’s Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival.

The suite has five movements, each featuring a member of the ensemble.

On the festival website, Murphy describes Big Creatures and Little Creatures as “fairly simple music”. She says each movement has a particular musical theme or character, which is used as a basis for improvisation.

“We deconstruct the movements as part of the suite. We call it a ‘modular’ approach, as the order of movements is not set and can be rearranged, or led by any member of the ensemble.

“We’ll probably play one long set of music, but with smaller musical structures comprising the larger, and it will be very dynamic. We have two drum kits too – so the grooves are very strong — and sometimes in stereo! We try to use the band both in conventional and unconventional ways. The audience will hopefully walk away not knowing what material was composed and what was improvised.”

Performance: Sunday, November 4, at 4pm, St Patrick’s Hall

ROGER MITCHELL

TIMBRES WELL CRAFTED IN NEW SUITE

REVIEW:

Murphy’s Law premieres “Big Creatures Little Creatures: The Modular Suite”, written for MIJF by PBS Young Elder of Jazz Competition winner Tamara Murphy — Jordan Murray trombone, Nashua Lee guitar, Tamara Murphy bass, Joe Talia & Daniel Farrugia on drums and percussion — at Bennetts Lane, Melbourne, Saturday, June 2 at 8pm for Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2012

Murphy's Law

Murphy’s Law plays “Big Creatures & Little Creatures: The Modular Suite”

It’s the sign of a good festival, I’ve been told, when there are gigs you’d love to be at that clash with others you can’t miss. Tamara Murphy‘s suite clashed with visiting saxophonist Chris Potter‘s appearance with the Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra at The Forum and I had decided on the big band — until I realised that fast footwork could allow a visit to Bennetts Lane before catching Potter in the second set.

Nashua Lee

Nashua Lee

I was really glad that I’d opted to hear the Australian (and world) premiere of Murphy’s work, because it was entrancing. It was also, to my surprise given the modular nature of the suite (referred to by Murphy in an interview with Miriam Zolin before the work was complete), not at all fragmented, but rather seemed to be compellingly cohesive.

Tamara Murphy

Tamara Murphy

But how much was improvised on the night and how much was scripted? None of the musicians appeared to be using any charts, and there was a level of concentration and intensity that usually accompanies spontaneous improvisation. Clearly the musicians were highly attentive to what the others were up to, but it was almost as if they were following a script that was not written down, yet was in their heads. Surely there must have been hours of rehearsal for this suite to work so well, but I do not know whether that’s the case.

Daniel Farrugia

Daniel Farrugia

The suite came across as an exploration of timbres and textures in a way that was tonally and percussively rich — even luxuriant at times. Some pairings of instruments worked extremely well — Murphy’s bowed bass with Murray’s muted trombone, Lee’s guitar with Murphy’s bowed bass — and Farrugia’s intensity on drums contributed significantly.

Tamara Murphy

Tamara Murphy

Big Creatures Little Creatures was relatively subdued until the latter stages, when that changed as the work ended in a real climax. The tight playing at this point emphasised the musicians’ synchronicity, especially as exemplified by Talia and Farrugia, who worked faultlessly together on drums in a way that was hard to believe.

Daniel Farrugia

Daniel Farrugia

I would definitely like to hear this suite performed again, perhaps at a Stonnington Jazz or Wangaratta Jazz festival. It deserves a wider audience than there was space for in the large room at Bennetts Lane, though that was packed.

Daniel Farrugia & Tamara Murphy

Daniel Farrugia & Tamara Murphy

With this work, Murphy and her colleagues have added to the growing list of important and engrossing suites created in Australia, such as those by Allan Browne et al (The Drunken Boat, Une Saison en Enfer) in Melbourne and Stu Hunter (The Muse, The Gathering) in Sydney.

ROGER MITCHELL