Tag Archives: paul grabowsky

BLUES IN AMERICA, TOM VINCENT

bluesinamerica-web-pic-with-text_600x

CD REVIEW 

3.5 stars *

Blues in America: Tom Vincent piano, Branford Marsalis soprano and tenor sax, Leigh Barker & Matt Clohesy double bass, Alf Jackson drums

I have not reviewed albums for a long time, for a few reasons, but that may change. Let’s see how this turns out.

If I were a musician it’s fair bet that I’d be anxious about not being inventive enough and being caught out repeating phrases that I’d used in previous solos — worried that I may not be keeping the improvisations fresh and always different. That kind of concern is in the back of my mind whenever I write reviews of albums or live performances — my version of the goalkeeper’s fear of the penalty kick is the fear that I’ll keep repeating words and phrases, thereby revealing an inability to do more than trot out a standard set of reactions to the music. With that goes a worry about my lack of musical training or knowledge, and my limited knowledge of the American songbook and the deeply embedded lore of jazz.

When I read, for instance, Paul Grabowsky‘s words about music and musicians, I’m inclined to think that if the people who play so well and compose music so well can write about it so eloquently, why not leave it to them.

Another reason for avoiding CD reviews is that I slipped so far behind in delivering them that it became an obligation not met and therefore the joy of listening slipped away a little. Why was it hard to just pop out a review? Well, partly for the reasons expressed above, but also because music is, I believe, not easy to write about. I have long yearned for a feed from the brain to the screen (or paper) so that my experience can be delivered directly to the reader, without interference. In that way, when I’m in the moment listening at a live gig or to an album via headphones, the intensity of that experience could be delivered undiluted. It would still, of course, be one person’s experience, as is any reviewer’s.

So, with that palaver out of the way, what can I say about Tom Vincent‘s Blues in America? First, the mechanics. Blues in America was recorded in October 2015 at Sound Pure studio in Durham, North Carolina and at Big Orange Sheep in Brooklyn, New York City.  Vincent is joined on the Durham tracks — one, three and five — by Branford Marsalis on soprano and tenor saxophones and by Leigh Barker on double bass, and on the Brooklyn tracks —two and four — by Matt Clohesy, who has lived in New York for many years, on double bass. Hobart drummer Alf Jackson plays on all tracks.

The title track is a Tom Vincent original. The others are composer Donald Kahn’s classic A Beautiful Friendship, the Bernie, Pinkard & Casey standard Sweet Georgia Brown, Russian-born composer/songwriter Vernon Duke’s Autumn in New York and Jimmy Hanley’s hit (Back Home Again in) Indiana.

When Vincent launched his Pozible campaign to fund Blues in America, he said, “This is going to be a swingin’ album”. He’s not wrong. Swing and propulsion are evident throughout, and that’s not so common in a lot of improvised music these days. Much of the drive comes from Barker and Clohesy, of course, but the rhythmic thrust shown in Sweet Georgia Brown, along with varied dynamics and nice chordal contrasts, provides a great paradigm of a rhythm section in top form. This Georgia is one toe-tappin’ gal.

The opening A Beautiful Friendship — featuring wandering, exploratory and at times embroidered piano soloing followed by tenor musings and some interplay from Marsalis — is well laid back, yet ends with a heightened sense of swing.

Vincent’s original Blues in America is pretty jaunty for a blues and much faster, with lots of rapid and intricate repartee between piano and soprano sax, Marsalis being more agile than the nation Malcolm Turnbull once dreamed about. The exchanges make this a favourite for me.

Much slower is the Autumn in New York ballad and the mood change conjures images of leaves drifting down from the trees in Central Park, with maybe a sprinkling or two of drops after a shower. Put your feet up for this and let the thoughts drift past.

Indiana is bright and jaunty, Barker taking us on a fast walk as Vincent treats us to expansive vistas with gentle swing and Marsalis floats out easy tenor notes over the brush work of Jackson. The ending is tight and punchy, with a final “parp” from Marsalis.

Tom Vincent’s Blues in America is further confirmation — as if we needed it — that Australian jazz musicians can seamlessly team with those in the New York scene and produce a fine result. It also provides an excellent opportunity to demonstrate just how good Vincent is at the keyboard, delivering fluidity and swing in a way that draws on what I think of as older traditions or roots of jazz.

ROGER MITCHELL

* Stars? I’m not so keen on the star ratings, mainly because they can be used so differently by reviewers. In the tradition I was taught by Kenny Weir at the Sunday Herald Sun, where 4.5 or 5 stars were reserved for albums that had survived the test of time and had probably been re-released, I’d say this is a 3.5 plus, which is a definite recommendation to buy. If you want to, go to Tom Vincent’s website.

 

OF JAZZ HEROES AND HIGHLIGHTS

Wayne Shorter

Wayne Shorter at Hamer Hall … surely one of the jazz heroes.

REVIEW / RAVE

Melbourne International Jazz Festival, June 3 to June 12, 2016

One of the most interesting conversations I’ve had during this jazz festival — and I’ve had a few, before and after attending 15 concerts — was about the jazz hero.

The person I spoke to was a musician who said he wanted to move away from that approach or model in bands in which he played. In this context I recalled a wonderful concert in Melbourne in which a band gradually swapped players while the music continued, morphing into a new group as newcomers quietly joined in and then others moved off stage during the set.

On the second night of this festival, June 4, I went to The Reverence Hotel in Footscray to hear 30/70 Collective make “future soul and hip-hop meet in the middle via jaunty boom bap”, to quote the program. As they say in some news programs, more on that story later.

After the first set by members of the collective who formed A Brother Scratch, the 30/70 Collective band members did something I have never seen before at a gig — they went into a huddle.

30/70 Collective

30/70 Collective in a huddle before performing.

Already feeling the warm glow from the first set of music that was out of my familiarity zone, so to speak, I was quite taken by this musical group hug, which seemed designed to engender team spirit. It was not long before the packed room was moving to the hypnotic grooves — myself included.

By now you’ll have realised this is more of a rave than a hard-nosed review. But there is a point. The musician mentioned who wants to move away from dependence on heroes in jazz described 30/70 Collective as being like a family. That certainly fitted with my impression from the vibes in the pub.

I decided to try applying the idea of avoiding heroes to the reviewing of a festival. Bear with me.

Reviewers often mention their list of standout gigs or highlights during a festival. I have often done that. And I’ve often asked other patrons and other reviewers to name the bands they’ve most enjoyed. It’s a natural thing, especially if there is limited space in a review, to pick the standouts.

But what if a festival review was more like a collective of gigs? Then I could value each for its special qualities — what worked well and even what didn’t. That’s how I feel about the mix of very different MIJF concerts that I went to this year.

Children of the Light Trio

Children of the Light Trio at Bennetts Lane

On night eight of the MIJF I went to Bennetts Lane at 10pm to hear Children of the Light Trio consisting of Danilo Perez on piano, John Patitucci on bass and Brian Blade on drums — Wayne Shorter‘s band without the hero, if you like.

That’s laughable, you’ll say, because each member of this trio is a hero in their own right. True, but — and I’m already breaking with the “no highlights” approach — that band’s performance without Shorter that night was the gig I’d have to say has stayed with me and will do so for a long time to come.

On the final night of the festival I did hear Wayne Shorter with the members of this band. Afterwards I heard snippets of opinion, including comments that he did not play for a great portion of the set, that some say he’s too comfortable with Perez, Patitucci and Blade, and, notwithstanding, that this hero of jazz is on a different plane from any of the great players still alive.

Wayne Shorter

Wayne Shorter plays Hamer Hall

Hearing Shorter at Hamer Hall was special. Getting relatively close to record some images was pretty special.

Hearing him in conversation with Jon Faine, Wilbur Wilde and Kristin Berardi on ABC radio 774 was also special — and at times hilarious. His refusal to get bogged down by labels and his wish to think so broadly about life made me wonder whether Wayne Shorter would want to be put on a pedestal.

I enjoyed his playing on this occasion a lot more than when I heard him some years ago at The Palais in St Kilda, which is perhaps a sign that I had then been uneducated in what to expect — frequent changes of direction and very short bursts of sax. This time he did not play for too long in the set, but what he contributed was considered and just right in the moment.

That said, after reflection, I took more away from his quartet members’ gig as a trio in the much smaller venue. Of course it would be far too exclusive to have Shorter perform to such a limited audience.

Anyway, my search for a hook or a story on which to hang reflections on this year’s Melbourne International Jazz Festival has ended — albeit in way too meandering a fashion — at that strong image of 30/70 Collective in a huddle. To that image I add some showing large ensembles featured at this festival at the ends of their concerts.

the migration

Stu Hunter and musicians after “the migration” at Malthouse Theatre.

We’ve seen some big projects come to fruition on stage this year — Stu Hunter‘s the migration, the Monash Art Ensemble‘s performance with Tomasz Stanko, the release of a new album by Peter Knight’s Way Out West.

Jordan Murray and Tomasz Stanko with Monash Art Ensemble

Jordan Murray and Tomasz Stanko with Monash Art Ensemble

All of these have involved a lot of work and huge collective effort.

Keyon Harrold with Twi-Life

Keyon Harrold with Twi-Life

And of course in smaller ensembles such as Andrea Keller’s Transients, the Allan Browne Quintet performing Ithaca Bound at Uptown Jazz Cafe, Keyon Harrold with Twi-Life, Shai Maestro Trio, the Tomasz Stanko Band and the Tribute to Allan Browne trio of Paul Grabowsky, Mirko Guerrini and Niko Schauble, we have heard the results of collective interaction.

Even in the solo gig by Paolo Angeli at the Bluestone Church in Footscray we saw how his instrument’s many parts worked together to produce different styles of music.

Interaction is what makes the diverse music that makes up jazz so engrossing, inventive and wonderful. And each musician brings to the stage the formative background that has shaped them — influences that interact and find expression in changing ways as they practise and play.

Some of us will love, like or not like some of the music we hear from improvising musicians, but at its core is that interaction. We see and delight in it as we watch the faces of the musicians at work.

End of rave. In the days ahead I will add a few, much shorter, separate posts — with pictures — to cover concerts I attended as part of this festival.

In the meantime, musicians will be playing live in lots of venues around Melbourne, so get out there. You won’t regret it.

ROGER MITCHELL

 

 

 

 

 

LONG LOOK AT A SHORTER FESTIVAL

PREVIEW

Melbourne International Jazz Festival, June 3 – 12, 2016

Tomasz Stanko

Tomasz Stanko

SOME of the main drawcards at this year’s festival are well-known knowns — Wayne Shorter, Esperanza Spalding, Gary Bartz — but it’s a big program with plenty of other artists to be excited about.

Stats don’t put flesh on the bones, but over 10 days the festival will stage 74 events involving 335 artists (75 international and 260 Australian), 22 free events and heaps of club sessions at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club, Uptown Jazz Cafe and Dizzy’s Jazz Club. The larger venues will include Hamer Hall, Melbourne Recital Centre, Forum, Malthouse and The Channel at Arts Centre Melbourne.

On the final three days Riverside Bar at Southbank will host Hamer Jazz Bar each evening from 6pm as a rendezvous for festival patrons.

As usual, the main program is divided into Modern Masters, Explorations in Jazz and the three sets of Club Sessions, plus five Jazz Out West events, seven Close Encounters and two Artist Workshops at Monash University.

Gary Bartz

Gary Bartz

All good festivals come with a clash or two not emanating from a drum kit and MIJF 2016 opens with a big one. Our own flamboyant pianist and composer Barney McAll has had a hand in bringing jazz great Gary Bartz from the US to play Melbourne Recital Centre on opening night, with Andrea Keller’s Transients I as support.

This clashes head-on with PBS Young Elder of Jazz Commission winner Joe O’Connor on piano in a quartet at Bennetts Lane to perform Confrontations. In six dialogues, O’Connor’s work will balance “tonal and non-tonal harmony, regular and irregular rhythm, delicate lyricism and impressive density”. That sounds pretty damn interesting. These two gigs present a tough choice.

Esperanza Spalding

Esperanza Spalding

There’s no need to say a lot about Esperanza Spalding, who will play the Forum at 9.30pm on opening night, because she will draw crowds. Marcus J. Moore on Pitchfork described her album Emily’s D+Evolution thus: “Using a dissonant guitar riff, thumping drums, and lurching time signature, it almost feels like a dare to stick around. The album has the feel of a nervy gauntlet throw, seething with the sort of ferocity that only comes from time spent alone, far away from the limelight. These are exuberant, confrontational songs, amplified in the same sort of rock/funk hybrid style that brings Prince and Janelle Monae to mind. Gone is the Afro, replaced with long braids, wide-rimmed glasses, and ornate outfits.”

Wayne Shorter

Wayne Shorter

Wayne Shorter also needs no promotion. He plays Hamer Hall on the festival’s closing night with Danilo Perez on piano, John Patitucci on bass and Brian Blade on drums. Enough said, although I’m hoping for some longer bursts of saxophone magic from the great player than we heard at the Palais when he was last here.

Perez, Patitucci and Blade will play two gigs at Bennetts on Friday, June 10 as Children of the Light Trio. Surely this must be one not to miss.

While on the subject of bass players, Hawthorn luthier Benedict Puglisi is making acoustic bass instruments specifically for Spalding and Patitucci to play while they are here. That suggests his work is pretty special.

The international artists include some who were popular on previous visits to the festival. Genre-crossing Robert Glasper Trio (US), who performed in 2012, will return in an acoustic trio format with new album, Covered, on June 4 at MRC with Ross McHenry Trio supporting.

Mulatu Astatke

Mulatu Astatke (Image: Nick Pitsas)

And the “father of Ethio jazz” Mulatu Astatke (Ethiopia), who played the festival in 2010, will join the local band Black Jesus Experience at the Malthouse on Wednesday, June 8 to give the world premiere of The Cradle of Humanity.

Hiromi

Hiromi

Also returning is the pianist from Japan who sold out three shows in 2012, Hiromi. She who joins Simon Phillips on drums and Anthony Jackson on contra bass guitar at Hamer Hall on Thursday, June 9.

Tomasz Stanko

Tomasz Stanko (Image: Caroline Forbes)

And I don’t care what clashes with Polish trumpet maestro Tomasz Stańko‘s band featuring Alexi Tuomarila on piano, Slawomir Kurkiewicz on bass and Olavi Louhivuori on drums. I’ll be at one of their two Malthouse concerts on Thursday, June 9 at 6.30pm and 9pm.

Also at the Malthouse and not to be missed on Saturday, June 11, will be Stańko and Paul Grabowsky leading the Monash Art Ensemble at 6.30pm to explore the music of Krysztof Komeda, who scored Rosemary’s Baby and Knife in the Water. Not to be missed.

Latin jazz titan, pianist Eddie Palmieri (US) will spend five days with Monash University student musicians before their Jazz Futures performance at the MRC Salon on Thursday, June 9 at 6pm. Palmieri’s Latin Jazz Septet will set feet tapping at Hamer Hall on Friday, June 10 at 7.30pm.

Singer José James will pay tribute to the music of Billie Holiday in Yesterday I Had the Blues at Hamer Hall on Saturday, June 11 at 7.30pm.

And to complete the Modern Masters concerts, Vince Jones and Matt McMahon will join the Astral Orchestra to bring us Van Morrison’s Masterpieces at 7.30pm on Friday, June 10 at MRC.

Snarky Puppy

Snarky Puppy (Image: Philippe Levy Stab)

As part of the Explorations in Jazz series, guitarist Lionel Loueke (US) will join Sydney group The Vampires for two Bennetts Lane gigs on Saturday, June 4. And crowd-pleasers Snarky Puppy (US), who wowed crowds here in 2013, will be in the Forum at 9.30pm on Thursday, June 9.

The Coopers Malthouse has great beers on tap (I’m not paid to say that) and it may suit many to spend Friday, June 10 there to hear Stu Hunter‘s suite The Migration (a fantastic line-up) at 6.30pm and then Kristin Berardi Band (also a top line-up) at 9pm. You could not possibly go wrong with these two performances by Australian bands.

The Malthouse also hosts Peter Knight’s Way Out West on Saturday, June 11 at 9pm, featuring koto virtuoso Satsuki Odamura and Ray Pereira on fun and fiery African-influenced percussion. This gig will showcase new material and is sure to be a knockout.

And anyone who can remember the Chris Dave and the Drumhedz festival gig in 2014 should recall multi-reedist Marcus Strickland. Twi-Life is set to deliver soul, jazz-funk and R&B in two shows at Bennetts Lane on Saturday and Sunday, June 11 and 12, at 7.30pm and 10pm (they must be expecting a crowd — that’s four concerts).

If all that music’s not enough, there are club sessions. Can’t mention them all, but here are a few likely highlights.

Guitarist Paolo Angeli (Italy) will join local musicians at Bennetts Lane to bring us jazz influenced by Sardinian folk songs (June 3). He will also play solo guitar at Bluestone Church Arts Space in Hyde Street, Footscray at 4pm on Sunday, June 5. Westies must come out to this and other MIJF gigs at Dancing Dog Cafe (Wallace), Reverence Hotel (30/70 Collective) and Footscray Community Arts Centre (Jazz-a-Bye Baby).

Get close up and personal with Robert Glasper Trio at Bennetts on June 5. Hear a tribute to our maestro of Mondays and much besides, drummer Allan Browne, on June 6. If you fancy trumpah, as Scott Tinkler would put it, don’t miss Keyon Harrold and Twi-Life musicians in two gigs on June 8. And for fans of drummer Ari Hoenig, there are two gigs on June 9 at Bennetts featuring guitarist Quentin Angus and bassist Sam Anning.

Uptown Jazz Cafe has a ripper line-up of gigs during the festival. Don’t miss Mark Fitgzibbon Trio (June 3), Paul Williamson Quartet playing Monk (June 3), Andrea Keller’s Transients IV (June 4), Stephen Magnusson Trio (June 5), Ithaca Bound suite, music of the Allan Browne Quintet (June 6), Jamie Oehlers/Paul Grabowsky Quartet (June 9) and Sam Keevers’ Red Fish Blue (June 12). These and the other Uptown gigs are delivering seriously good jazz.

Dizzy’s Jazz Club in Richmond also has eight festival gigs, so look these up on the festival website.

Time’s almost up if I’m to post this as the embargo expires. Apologies for any errors. Other events of note include the free opening concert at Fed Square on June 4 at 1.30pm featuring Brazilian and Latin ensembles led by Alistair Kerr and Sam Keevers respectively.

Barney McAll is going to play about with the Federation Bells and anything could happen with that. Keep an ear out at noon on June 4 in Birrarung Marr.

And the Queen Vic market will groove to Los Cabrones on June 8 at 6pm to warm up the Winter Night Markets.

And at noon on Sunday, June 12, at The Channel, 100 St Kilda Rd, Southbank you may find out how many festival artistic directors it takes to change … well … a light globe, a set list, a door gig, a minor key … you name it.

ROGER MITCHELL

For further details and full program visit the festival website.

Note: Many images posted above are supplied by MIJF.