Tag Archives: Nat Bartsch

NAT BARTSCH BOWS OUT … FOR A WHILE

Nat Bartsch Trio

Farewell, for a while: Nat Bartsch Trio plays to a crowded house

REFLECTIONS on Melbourne Women’s International Jazz Festival 2014

1. Tuesday, December 9: Nat Bartsch Trio, Kellie Santin CD launch, Bennetts Lane

I’ve been to four evening concerts of this festival at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club this week, each completely different. Each has been a delight.

On Tuesday the two rooms hosted markedly different bands and audiences. In the gig billed as Nat Bartsch Trio‘s final one for a while, pianist Bartsch joked that the way to pack a room was to hold a farewell concert and reckoned she knew almost everyone there, many of them who’d been at her 30th birthday celebration.

Daniel Farrugia

Daniel Farrugia

As anticipated, the atmosphere was warm and relaxed, the audience appreciative as Bartsch, Tom Lee on bass and Daniel Farrugia on drums treated us to originals and rearrangements, many from the eponymous 2008 album, Springs, for all the Winters (2010) and the most recent To Sail, To Sing, which was released in 2013. It can sound cliched to say that members of a jazz band show and share empathy and understanding, I suppose because that is a prerequisite to improvisation. But, along with the pleasure of hearing this often gentle and yet totally absorbing music — and a tinge of sadness that they are taking what may be a longish break from work as a trio — there was undeniably a comfortable feel between the three players. They showed perfect complementarity, I thought.

Tom Lee

Tom Lee

In A True Conundrum, Lee’s responses to Bartsch seemed to epitomise an aspect of jazz that I love — the ability to give hints or suggestions rather than spell something out, so that the listener can fill in the details.

Nat Bartsch

Nat Bartsch

Before the trio played the last three pieces, including their version of Radiohead’s Motion Picture Soundtrack as an encore we were told about ahead of time, Nat Bartsch showed considerable courage in talking about her struggle with depression and anxiety over more than four years, during which the trio toured overseas and in Australia. She spoke perceptively about the dichotomy performing artists face in their private and public worlds, adding that the stress of touring and playing contributed to ill health that was manifest at home rather than on stage.

Bartsch had to be convinced by the sustained applause that she should take up Martin Jackson’s offer of a Melbourne Jazz Co-operative gig to celebrate the trio’s return. As she said in closing, “we’ll be back in 2016, or 2060, or in a couple of months”. Let’s hope it is sooner rather than later.

Kellie Santin

Kellie Santin launches her CD with guest vocalist Carmen Hendricks

Next door, in the larger Bennetts Lane Lab, a much younger crowd was helping saxophonist Kellie Santin launch her CD Quintessence. When I slipped in for a five-minute listen, guest vocalist Carmen Hendricks was wowing the audience and there was no doubt about the vigour of this outing. These days I can’t help lamenting the demise next year of Bennetts Lane because there are so many talented young players needing venues in which to perform.

ROGER MITCHELL

NAT’S BACK, WITH NEW TRIO AND NEW ALBUM

Tom Lee and Daniel Farrugia with Nat Bartsch Trio

Tom Lee and Daniel Farrugia with Nat Bartsch Trio

GIG REVIEW / PREVIEW: Nat Bartsch Trio, Bennetts Lane Jazz Club, Melbourne, 9pm Thursday 25 April 2013 with guest saxophonist Kieran Hensey; Thursday 2 May and Thursday 9 May with guest vocalist Gian Slater.

What was intended to be a brief review of the Nat Bartsch Trio’s debut in its present line-up (Bennetts Lane, 26 March) has become a short preview for a CD launch and three-week residency.

After Springs, for all the Winters, Bartsch’s album with Josh Holt on double bass and Leigh Fisher on drums, the pianist has had a long break due to illness. Now she is back with a new line-up — Tom Lee on double bass and Daniel Farrugia on drums — and a new album, To Sail, To Sing. If their debut outing was an indication, Bartsch has chosen wisely. Lee and Farrugia have shown in other settings they can deliver energy and intensity that will complement the beauty of Bartsch’s melodies.

Tom Lee and Daniel Farrugia with Nat Bartsch Trio

Tom Lee and Daniel Farrugia with Nat Bartsch Trio

After her studies at VCA with Paul Grabowsky, Andrea Keller and Tony Gould, Bartsch travelled to Europe to study with ECM artists Tord Gustavsen (Norway) and Nik Bärtsch (Switzerland) for two months. She has toured in Japan and Germany. Influences on her work include Scandinavian composers, Debussy and bands such as Elbow, Radiohead and Sigur Ros, along with a wish “to link Australian/European jazz and minimalism to her ‘Triple J upbringing’”.

Nat Bartsch  with her trio

Nat Bartsch with her trio

At its debut gig the new trio played all the pieces on the new album and some from the previous release. A highlight not on the recording was A True Conundrum, which Bartsch wrote when Jill Meagher was missing, but before she was found, as “an ode to all people who have gone missing”. The piece had space and there was some darkness and tension helped by piano and bass exchanges, but Bartsch’s inherent lyricism was evident in beautifully melodic passages.

Tom Lee with Nat Bartsch Trio

Tom Lee with Nat Bartsch Trio

The rhythmically strong Let’s Go Little Dude, inspired by Bartsch’s dog, was upbeat, energetic and brought a big response from the audience.

Pianists are quite different in the way they play and in their compositions, though I often find it hard to understand or express what it is exactly that creates those marked contrasts. Bartsch’s playing and originals bring to my mind Andrea Keller’s work. There is little use of the piano as a percussive instrument and there is always beautiful use of melody. There is also something special in the ability of Bartsch to hold the listener’s attention without a lot of force or dynamic variation.

Tom Lee with Nat Bartsch Trio

Tom Lee with Nat Bartsch Trio

Another Bartsch talent is in new arrangements of pieces by groups such as Radiohead and Gotye. These may not sound a lot like the originals, but that’s because they bring a new perspective.

Daniel Farrugia with Nat Bartsch Trio

Daniel Farrugia with Nat Bartsch Trio

It will be interesting to see how this trio develops over time. It’s an exciting prospect that the energy, intensity and focus of Tom Lee and Daniel Farrugia will take this trio into some new territory.

ROGER MITCHELL

Nat Bartsch  with her trio

Nat Bartsch with her trio

For a sneak preview visit the trio’s website or soundcloud page.

Album available from Rufus Records or Birdland Records.

Digital downloads available via iTunes or at CD Baby.