Tag Archives: Pat Thiele



Daniel Gassin Sextet

3.5 stars

THE complexity and diversity of the ensemble pianist Daniel Gassin gathers to air his compositions on this outing suit the material.

On reeds are Phil Noy (alto) and Anton Delecca (tenor), Pat Thiele and Cam McAllister share horn roles, Michael Story is on bass, and on two tracks Felipe Cornejo on bata drums joins Craig Simon on drum kit.

The emphasis is on changing rhythms, patterns and textures rather than melodies, with energy, tension and attention to detail resulting in wonderful busyness.

Yet Interlude, McDaniel Avenue, Crossover and San Jose, in which McAllister shines, celebrate the simplicity of solo instruments.

Gassin’s piano is eclectic, providing propulsion or tripping lightly over Simon and Story’s strong foundation.

Download: Banff Song, San Jose

File beside: Johannes Luebbers Dectet


This review was published also in the Play section of Melbourne’s Sunday Herald Sun on September 3, 2011.


Ausjazz blog previews Stonnington Jazz 2011 — May 19 to May 29

The days are suddenly much colder and the nights have that stay-at-home chill. Many of us are suffering from sore throats, persistent coughs and similar energy-sapping afflictions. So what’s the incentive to venture out to hear live music? During the past few nights I’ve had some of the worst coughing bouts in years, so I sympathise with anyone wanting to hunker down at home. But there are some real spirit-lifting performances coming up at Stonnington Jazz (May 19 to 29) and that’s exactly what we need as winter sets in. So, why not decide to catch one or two of these gigs over the 10 days of this festival? Go on, (to use an expression doing the rounds at our house), you know you want to.

The full program is online at the Stonnington Jazz website, so this preview is merely picking out some highlights — essentially what Ausjazz blog fancies as the gigs not to miss.

One thing to keep in mind about Stonnington Jazz. This is all home-grown talent and there is plenty of it. International artists can be a thrill, but this festival’s strength is that these musicians are ours — inventive and able and with the freedom that comes from being so far from the big names in the United States.

 Sarah McKenzie Sextet
Sarah McKenzie at Stonnington Jazz 2010

The artists who are likely to feature in print media publicity for the festival are probably pianist and vocalist Sarah McKenzie, who will open the festival on Thursday and Friday nights (May 19 and 20) with her sextet; vocalist Katie Noonan, who will perform on May 22 with Elixir (Zac Hurren on sax and Stephen Magnusson on guitar); and Vince Jones & Band plus guests (May 21).

McKenzie is an engaging performer who delivers swinging standards and originals in a forthright and spirited manner that recognises the long history of jazz vocalists. She wowed crowds at Chapel Off Chapel during this festival last year and will return — this time at the Malvern Town Hall — with award-winning Eamon McNelis on trumpet (replacing Pat Thiele) and Alex Boneham on bass (replacing Sam Anning). Julien Wilson will be a special guest on sax. This venue will be larger and acoustically tougher, but McKenzie has the power to fill the hall. She will be launching her new album Don’t Tempt Me (ABC Jazz).

Allan Browne

Festival hopping: Allan Browne performs at Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival.

Ausjazz blog’s list of anticipated highlights begins with drummer and Stonnington Jazz Patron Allan Browne, who on May 22 at 2pm presents a program of musical portraits and poems inspired by some of the great jazz artists he has played with, including Johnny Griffin, Milt Jackson, Art Hodes, Wild Bill Davison, Emily Remler, Buddy Tate, Teddy Wilson, Mal Waldron and Jay McShann. Joining Allan will be members of his quintet — trumpeter Eugene Ball, saxophonist Phil Noy, guitarist Geoff Hughes, bassist Nick Haywood — and trio (Haywood and pianist Marc Hannaford). All those names may look like a laundry list, but Al Browne and his crew have been trying out this new material at some Bennetts Lane gigs on Mondays and, though I have not made it to these gigs, I am certain the result will be moving as well as lots of fun. Jazz and poetry may not always work, but the Browne Quintet suites The Drunken Boat and Une Saison En Enfer are evidence enough that these guys know what they’re doing.

Any opportunity to hear Sydney’s Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra is to be valued. You may be surprised at how a big band can do much more than merely blast away. Under the direction of saxophonist David Theak, JMO is a sensitive, expressive beast. And the finals of the National Big Band Composition Competition will add interest to this outing at Chapel Off Chapel at 7.30pm on Monday, May 23.

Anyone who heard Lost and Found at Wangaratta Jazz some years back, when Paul Grabowsky, Jamie Oehlers and Dave Beck played a standout set of unscripted improvisation, will value the chance to hear Grabowsky and Oehlers. Their 2010 album On A Clear Day explored their take on some standards. These two musicians will show the depth of their musical understanding in a Chapel Off Chapel double bill with Nat Bartsch Trio on May 24.

Stu Hunter

Sweet suite: Stu Hunter at Wangaratta

How suite it is that pianist / composer Stu Hunter‘s two magnificent suites — The Muse and The Gathering — will be played at Chapel Off Chapel on succeeding nights (May 25 and 26). The second work won Contemporary Jazz Album of the Year at the Bell Awards and Best Independent Jazz album in the Independent Music Awards in 2010. Both were huge hits at Wangaratta. I marginally prefer The Gathering, with the larger ensemble adding Phil Slater on trumpet and James Greening on trombone and pocket trumpet to quartet members Julien Wilson (on sax rather than Matt Keegan this time), Cameron Undy (instead of Jonathan Swartz on bass) and Simon Barker (drums).

But the deal is so good it’s hard to believe, because each gig has a substantial other half. Along with The Muse, tenor saxophonist Andy Sugg will fuel controversy over whether jazz stays tied to its apron strings or is let off the leash to explore (apologies for the mixed metaphors). Sugg, with help from Shannon Barnett on trombone, Natalia Mann on harp, Steve Magnusson on guitar, Kate Kelsey-Sugg on piano, Ben Robertson on bass and James McLean on drums, will endeavour to link John Coltrane‘s music with British punk, and use some technologically up-to-date devices to give Coltrane’s later music “radically new contexts”. I understand Wynton Marsalis has sent his apologies.

Scott Tinkler on fire at MJFF Big Arse Sunday 2011

Scott Tinkler on fire at MJFF Big Arse Sunday 2011

The other half of the The Gathering gig will feature four names to strike terror into their instruments and evoke frenzied adulation from their fans: Ian Chaplin, Scott Tinkler, Philip Rex and Simon Barker. On sax, trumpet, bass and drums respectively, these “daring and potent improvisers” (as the program notes put it) will be fathering children … no, sorry, creating a storm of fiery improvisation that will delight body and soul. (I know this because I heard Tinkler with bass and drums on the final night of Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival this year — he’s in great form.)

That this list of highlights is growing too long and in danger of leaving out little is testament to the quality of the programming by artistic director (and trophy-winning golfer) Adrian Jackson. So I’ll gloss over some gigs (Tina Harrod; Bloodlines: Dave Macrae, Joy Yates & Jade Macrae; Joe Chindamo Trio and guests) to mention three more.

Bassist Leigh Barker and The New Sheiks, flush with Jazz Bell Awards success (and cash), will keep things swinging at Chapel Off Chapel on Friday, May 27, giving patrons a chance to catch Eamon McNelis on trumpet. And sharing the stage for another set will be the collectively led Bopstretch, with McNelis, Rajiv Jayaweera (is there anywhere he’s not playing?) on drums, Ben Hauptmann on guitar and Mark Elton on bass. This band will play classic 1950s BeBop era material, with tunes from some famous names.

On the festival’s second Saturday, May 28, Chapel Off Chapel patrons will be treated to a top double bill. Paul Williamson (the saxophonist version) will add to his Hammond Combo guests Geoff Achison (blues fans will be there) on guitar and vocals, James Greening on trombone, Gil Askey on trumpet and vocals, and Bob Sedergreen on keyboards. Get ready for jazz with an R&B flavour. At the same gig, trombonist Shannon Barnett will perform with the quartet that released the album Country in 2010 and toured nationally after being awarded a contemporary music touring program grant.

James Greening

James Greening at Wangaratta in 2010

Finally, Ausjazz blog’s highlights list ends with a combination I would not miss for quids. On Sunday, May 29 at 2pm, in a quartet of revered musicians (Sandy Evans saxophones, James Greening trombone & pocket trumpet, Steve Elphick bass), saxophonist Andrew Robson will perform his arrangements of hymns by Thomas Tallis. And Greening, forming The World According to James with Elphick, Robson and Toby Hall on drums, will perform original compositions. What a way to finish a festival.

As these highlights demonstrate, there is a lot of class to this festival. Because the program revisits some bands and works aired previously either at Stonnington or Wangaratta, I was initially inclined to think there was less breaking of new ground than in past years. Perhaps so, but for anyone who has not had an opportunity to hear these musicians before, and for all those who have heard and want to listen again, Stonnington Jazz has a power of Australian music in store.


THE ESCALATORS at Melbourne Recital Centre

GIG — July 30, 2010

DJ Element
DJ Element with the Escalators

Kynan Robinson (artistic director/composer) on trombone
Marc Hannaford on piano
Joe Talia on drums
Michael Meagher on bass
Lawrence Folvig on guitar
Pat Thiel on trumpet
DJ Element on turntables and samples

TOUGH day at work with a longer day to follow, cold Friday night, early concert at the Melbourne Recital Centre, but in the Salon, so the centre’s escalators were not necessary for access. Much more light in the room than when I last heard The Escalators live at Northcote Uniting Church in April, also on a Friday night. And this time DJ Element (Edryan Hakim) was veiled in an elegant, domed cubicle lightly clad with muslin, so that his movements — required to adjust some audio equipment at floor level — were less obvious. Though the domed structure seemed more appropriate to a wedding party than a DJ, I recalled how DJ Element’s busy activity had been a little distracting at Northcote.

The Escalators
The Escalators

It was a long set, running from shortly after 6.30pm until almost 8pm. The Escalators played the pieces from the album Wrapped In Plastic in order, beginning with Log Lady (about 25 minutes) and segueing into the brief Uncle Bob, then Blue Fire, James Boy On A Motorcycle, The Great Northern and the brief finale, Josie. Most, if not all, of these titles are references to filmmaker David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, though composer Robinson has said he did not mean the music to be specifically related to Lynch’s work. Rather, he “sought to imply concepts such as an investigation into normality as well as an application of dual narratives involving both the ideas of reality and fantasy into the sometimes beautiful, sometimes unsettling music played by the Escalators”.

To complete the scene, which was created by visual artists Kiron and Michelle Robinson (is there a Swiss family reference here?) and lighting designer Annabelle Warmington, images were projected on to a main screen above DJ Element’s enclosure, on to the surface of Talia’s kick drum and on to the right-hand side wall. These were repeated during the performance, so it was easy to catch them if you could see the screens. I always find that a passing glance at the images is enough for me, because it seems unnecessarily restrictive to try to relate an image or image sequence directly to the music, and I often want to close my eyes and just let myself become totally immersed in it. That also applies in situations in which I am not immediately aware of how a sound is being created. I’d rather not let my mind wander to wonder about that.

Lawrence Folvig
Lawrence Folvig

So, what was it like? Kynan’s description of “an investigation into normality” or his dual narratives involving reality and fantasy would not be how I’d put it, of course, but those ideas don’t jar with what I heard. I thought all sorts of things during the playing and I think that’s part of what it’s about. Log Lady is totally absorbing and it takes you on a journey that could easily be like a David Lynch film. The music creates a world that suggests strangeness and mystery, with the hint of events unfolding. I found that my awareness of each musician’s contributions shifted throughout, so that I would become aware of my awareness of Joe Talia’s amazingly even and unwavering rhythm for a while, then have my attention grabbed by a sharp burst from DJ Element, then notice the stillness of Hannaford at the piano, then a few notes from him, then a delicate intervention from Folvig on guitar.

Marc Hannaford
Marc Hannaford

I also noticed how I began to look for those brief and simple horn interventions, which added a sense of space and of reverence. I came to depend on them arriving and passing at intervals, and I thought about how easily the mind can be led into such expectations and carried along by patterns, even if the intervals between repeated themes are quite long.

DJ Element’s contributions were sharper and a little louder than in the album mix, but they always seemed to mesh with what the others played. I’m not sure where the samples were from, though possibly from Twin Peaks, but it did not seem to matter. I don’t think we were meant to look for some sort of hidden meaning in the snippets or in the glimpses of visual imagery. To me, the benefit of this Escalators concert lay in its ability to carry us away into our own landscapes of the mind, and its ability to free us from any requirement to find any specific meanings.

Joe Talia and Kynan Robinson with The Escalators

I am not doing any sort of job here of describing the processes going on in terms of changes to rhythm, tempo, chord changes, dynamics or harmonies. But I don’t think that is needed. Each musician played their parts. I appreciated in particular the horn interventions, including some free work by Pat Thiel, the standout drum work by Joe Talia, the DJ obviously in his element, and Lawrence Folvig’s exquisitely delicate guitar work.

Was I wrapped in plastic? Well, I was rapt and the gig was fantastic.

To make it more like a review, I have to say that I did feel the compelling tension was lost a little during part of The Great Northern. Perhaps it was just me, or maybe the performance was a little long in one sitting.

I will be posting some more images from the concert.