Tag Archives: Phil Slater


Mike Nock's New Quintet

Mike Nock's New Quintet

GIG: Wangaratta Performing Arts Centre Theatre, Friday, Oct. 29, 8pm

Mike Nock piano, Karl Laskowski tenor sax, Ben Waples acoustic bass, James Waples drums, Phil Slater trumpet

AFTER the vibrant, energetic opening piece, Hop, Skip, Jump, Mike Nock told the audience, “This is jazz. It may seem to be arranged, but things happen. It’s spontaneous. So it’s always going to be new to us.” But this ensemble — yet another group for the irrepressible Nock — was so tight it was hard to believe they had not rehearsed a set script for weeks. Nock can immediately take a piece to a higher level and he did so here, with sweeping vistas and ringing chords to hang suspended.

Slow News Day — was this inspired by the decline of newspapers? — opened with resonant, slow, sustained piano with plenty of space. The mood was wistful, with Phil Slater adding dimension to the sound. Horn notes bent as sax and trumpet interleaved before a fiery Slater solo with sizzling vibrato slowing to a stately finish. James Waples added drama, Ben Waples contributed a strong but melodic solo over Nock’s sensitive chiming chords. Nock lyrically returned the piece to the ensemble and the wistfulness returned.

This post is burbling on and ought to be more concise. After Satie, a tribute to French composer and pianist Eric Alfred Leslie Satie (1866 – 1925) wandered through harmonies, with the horns playing tag and catching each other in a meadow of lush lyricism. The beat built before the horns swept serenity and splendour into the sky. Nock closed with a rainbow.

Well that may have been a bit over the top, but that was the highly subjective imagery that came to mind.

Mike Nock's New Quintet

Mike Nock's New Quintet

In Speak to the Golden Child, deep chords established a grounding that was picked up by bass and drums. This was rhythm driven. Horns built the intensity, piano built the sense of swing and sax drove that further before Slater entered the fray. He was really into it, notes screaming and flaring and squealing out of the trumpet bell. Great instrument. Great player. Nock’s contribution was light but emphatic, his notes touching the top of the swing and dancing along it. Then he was bolder, and the drums seemed to take just a little while to jell, but then it worked. The horns finished it.

Mike Nock knows, as Megg from Bennetts Lane once commented, how to work an audience. He starts with pieces that are accessible, winning hearts and minds before stretching them a little. Choices was the final piece of the set and it took us into that glorious territory that can really be enjoyed if you let go, as if on a rollercoaster. Sax and trumpet opened a dialogue early, the piano attempted to calm, but the horns burst out in rapid fire. There were delightfully robust harmonies in a horn duel, then drum attacks and a dull rumble from piano and bass. It was fragmentary music, with sharp bursts and changing patterns. Eventually the piano lightened proceedings and the horns delicately followed. Melody crept in and the horns echoed it.

Wangaratta Jazz was launched with finesse and verve.

Pictures? Well, the powers that be have banned picture taking in the arts centre venues, though I noticed that was honoured largely in the breach for this concert. I am disappointed that those of us who have silent cameras and do not move about are not given some licence to take a few shots, because this is history. As a reviewer, I also like to look through images to as an aid to my failing memory. Well, we’ll work on that issue.



Andrea Keller Quartet

3.5 stars

A TRIUMPHANT gallop, as Lewis Carroll conceived “galumphing”, is an apt description of this foursome’s national tour, armed with Andrea Keller’s compositions and invitations for guests along the way to make up a quintet.

So Miroslav Bukovsky, Phil Slater, Bernie McGann, Jamie Oehlers, John Rodgers and Stephen Magnusson in turn join the core of Keller (piano), Eugene Ball (trumpet), Ian Whitehurst (tenor sax) and Joe Talia (drums).

The result is a feast of compositional and playing styles, as Keller’s inventiveness intersects with the creativity of guests on their chosen instruments. Trumpet complements trumpet, sax adds to sax, and violin and guitar each contribute their tone and timbre.

Galumphing ably airs the nation’s talent.

Download: For Bernie, Small Comforts
CD launch: Aug 29, Uptown Jazz Cafe, 7pm




Charles Lloyd

What a joy it was to spend a peaceful hour in a small group at BMW Edge for Charles Lloyd‘s masterclass. A few times Lloyd asked whether anyone wanted to play something, but no one volunteered and he talked about life, his life and mentors, and music. I had intended to take a few notes, but instead it seemed right to relax, listen and take many photos. Lloyd’s face is lively and changeable. When a topic really takes his fancy, his face glows with enthusiasm.

It was a privilege to meet Charles Lloyd, shake his hand and chat for a while.

Here’s another picture, but the colour balance is a bit odd:

Charles Lloyd

A tribute by Paul Grabowsky and the Australian Art Orchestra

ON Wednesday night Miles Davis returned, but The Prince of Darkness did a quick costume change at Melbourne Town Hall, emerging after interval a changed musician. Grabowsky and the AAO were never going to offer a pedestrian tribute to Davis, but adventurous compositions by Anthony Pateras and Phillip Rex must have sent some fans home clutching at remnants of their comfort zones.

Grabowsky, always the consummate host, ushered us into three pieces from 1949 arranged for Davis by Gil Evans and played on this occasion by a Birth of Cool nonette. They opened with Boplicity, then Eugene Ball sounded iridescent in the luminous Moonbeams, followed by the sharp, electric Move, on which James Greening‘s trombone was spot-on.

Phil Slater plays Miles
Phil Slater plays Miles

Then came a festival highlight that was a rival to the Charles Lloyd New Quartet experience. Grabowsky conducted the talent-laden AAO in the first part of Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto De Arunjuez from Sketches of Spain, arranged by Gil Evans and orchestrated by Eugene Ball. Percussion and a sweeping orchestral passage ushered in soloist Phil Slater as Miles in a beautifully measured performance. Adrian Sherriff on bass trombone provided fantastic depth, Scott Tinkler and Paul Williamson joined Ball on trumpets and Stephen Magnusson on guitar seemed to find just the right time to play a few significant chords. The orchestra created magnificently sweeping vistas, and Ball’s muted horn was light and ethereal.

Any Miles fans would have been convinced of his return, on this night, in this place.

Tony Williams — drummer with Miles Davis Quartet from the mid to late sixties — composed Black Comedy (from Miles in the Sky), which Grabowsky, who was the arranger for this outing, said “changes meter constantly”. This was a change to punchy, spiky music. Erkki Veltheim on violin and Sandy Evans were featured, and there were solos from Paul Cutlan on sax and Simon Barker on drums. Energetic stuff, but no real preparation for what was to come after interval.

Tomlinson, Tinkler and Veltheim
Tomlinson, Tinkler and Veltheim

First up was a world premiere of Anthony Pateras’ composition Ontetradecagon, which he said arose from the idea that at the time of On the Corner being released in 1971, Miles was exposed to electronic pieces by Stockhausen. Pateras saw the album as having “the sound of someone going outside their comfort zone”, so he set out to feel “as unsafe as possible” in this project. He cut sections of On the Corner tracks to make 70 loops on a Revox B77 tape machine, considering these “plunderphonic” and drawing on James Tenney’s Blue Suede, which also used tape.

(The term plunderphonic had been new to me until last week, during the Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival, when the NMIT Laptop Orchestra played Adrian Sherriff’s Study No. 2 (For Jan Stole Who), the title an anagram of John Oswald, of Plunderphonic fame, whose work it plundered.)

Pateras worked the loops into a 20-minute tape, then made sure the pitches from the loops matched what he was calling on the ensemble to produce, so that both live music and tape input were of equal importance. Pateras had six sub-groups of players, so that some were playing from the sides and back of the space.

So how did it work in practice? Vanessa Tomlinson, Scott Tinkler and Erkki Veltheim launched the piece in almost complete darkness, offering subdued growls, blaring notes and high-pitched spikes. Later reeds came in from the right, and tuba with trombones from the left. The reeds and ‘bones echoed Tinkler’s high spikes, and Veltheim contributed a similarly high-pitched shimmer. I was wishing for lower pitches.

At one stage the hall seemed to be full of chattering monkeys, agitated insects. A bass clarinet started munching before more lush chatter and then machinegun runs of sound. There was agitation, wailing, sirens or mournful wails — a sense of urgency before some slow, sweeping brass took over. Clearly conveyed in the dark came a sound akin to masticating for us to chew on. The agitation continued. There was bustle and unrest and mayhem.

The piece finished. Was Miles still in the audience, or had he left the building?

Phillip Rex as DJ Davis
Phillip Rex as DJ Davis

Maybe he had slipped out to a rave party, or to find some drugs. That would have suited the final contribution for the night, Phillip Rex’s work Black Satin, which he led from his laptop in centre stage. He had the facility to bring in instruments at will and vary their input from the laptop live as the musicians on stage made their contribution. Rex acknowledged after the gig that this piece would probably work better in a setting where people could dance or move freely to the music.

Paul Williamson and Elliott Dalgleish
Paul Williamson and Elliott Dalgleish

There did not seem to be a direct or indirect connection to Miles, but Grabowsky did say it was appropriate to ask “If he were alive, what would Miles Davis be doing now?” Maybe hip-hop and rave parties would be his scene.

I like to be stretched and these works after interval did that. I found Pateras’s work easier to warm to than Rex’s piece, mainly because more happened and it never lacked interest. But my pick of the night by far was the music from Sketches of Spain.

A final comment: What a fantastic array of talent was on stage for this gig. Everywhere you looked in the rows of musicians were the faces of great musicians — not imported musos, but locals. We should value them more, whatever occasional pain they cause us on the stretching rack.