Tag Archives: The Fringe

FESTIVAL TAKES TO THE SKIES

Hiromi

Hiromi is among artists who will fly Qatar Airways to Melbourne. (All About Jazz image)

Ausjazz blog previews the Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2012, which was launched on March 13:

The hubbub on level 24 of The Langham in Melbourne gave way to attentive silence yesterday evening as Murphy’s Law treated the assembled multitude to about four minutes of Big Creatures & Little Creatures: The Modular Suite.

The music was a welcome relief from the necessary formalities of the official launch of this year’s Melbourne International Jazz Festival, which will run from June 1 to June 10.

If the fragment of this commissioned work by Tamara Murphy was any indication, its full performance at Bennetts Lane as part of the festival’s Club Sessions will be compelling.

And if the question on everybody’s lips as program details emerged was how the festival’s focus under artistic director Michael Tortoni would differ from its direction under Sophie Brous, the real story of the night was about a key sponsorship.

As Melbourne’s music glitterati watched a promotional video about the delights of the Middle East state of Qatar, it was dawning on us all what a coup it was to bag Qatar Airways as a festival sponsor. The benefit is obvious — it will be much cheaper to fly in international artists, thus countering to some extent the isolation of Australia from the jazz hotspots of the United States and Europe.

So who are the big names and what is the flavour of this festival? Tortoni described the focus as “jazz royalty alongside the voice of a rising generation” and said MIJF 2012 was “all about what jazz is when the talking stops and the music starts”. Well, every festival has to have its catchphrases, but to take up his theme with another well-worn phrase, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

An initial glance at the program shows it is not overly adventurous, and represents less of a challenge — or an enticement — to audience groups on the fringes of more straight ahead jazz. The very popular multi-stage day of music madness and mayhem at Melbourne Town Hall will not take place this year, due to an absence of sponsorship and most likely of Sophie Brous. That’s a pity, because that gave the recent festivals a welcome edge that it must now fall to the Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival to fill.

The main international artists include pianist McCoy Tyner revisiting the 1963 John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman album, this time with vocalist Jose James and saxophonist Chris Potter.

Potter will also perform some of his own material with Sydney’s Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra as well as some commissioned Australian material. This should be exciting.

James will also feature in the Robert Glasper Experiment, “an Australian premiere event that smashes stylistic boundaries to reshape the future directions of jazz” by “taking hip-hop, R&B, soul and post-modern jazz to never-before-seen places”.

For lovers of Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan, US vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater will visit Melbourne for the first time, and also from the ‘States’, Patti Austin will perform a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald with one matinee and one evening performance.

The familiar vocal extravaganza at the Palais this year is entitled “The Way You Look Tonight” featuring Katie Noonan, Vince Jones and Kristin Berardi in an opening night gala.

Likely to attract a much younger audience will be keyboardist-composer Hiromi (Japan/USA) who blends jazz with progressive rock and classical styles. Her first concert will open with US bassist Robert Hurst joining locals Jamie Oehlers and Dave Beck.

Hiromi’s second gig will be a double bill with the Israeli Eli Degibri Quartet, featuring 16-year-old prodigy Gadi Lehavi on piano.

A film-themed package will feature five-time Grammy Award winner and cinematic composer Terence Blanchard on trumpet (in a quartet with Brice Winston on tenor, Fabian Almazan on piano and Kendrick Scott on drums), Australia’s Joe Chindamo performing his arrangements of Coen Brothers film music and an ACMI Jazz on Film program.

The Salon at MRC will host three concerts with Monash University under the Jazz Futures banner featuring the Terence Blanchard Quintet, The Fringe (with George Garzone on sax) and Tarbaby (with Oliver Lake on alto sax).

The Fringe and Tarbaby will also perform at a new venue for this festival, the Comedy Theatre. These outings should keep us awake.
From Europe will come bassist Renaud Garcia-Fons, appearing in the Arcoluz Trio at the MRC after a real highlight opener of pianist Luke Howard with Janos Bruneel (Belgium) on bass.

Samuel Yirga Quartet from Ethiopia will feature the piano prodigy at the Comedy Theatre, opened by locals The Black Jesus Experience.
For lovers of the Hammond B3 (and I’m one), Dr Lonnie Smith (USA) will perform at Bennetts Lane.

In the Club Sessions, Motif from Norway will feature along with Robert Hurst and the Luca Ciaria Quartet from Italy.
Allan Browne Sextet will celebrate the launch of Conjuror — a collection of his jazz poetry — in two sets which should be a festival standout. Sandy Evans will join Lloyd Swanton and Toby Hall for a special closing night celebration presented with the Melbourne Jazz Cooperative.

The Melbourne International Jazz Festival opens on June 1.

ROGER MITCHELL

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GEORGE GARZONE at Bennetts Lane

GIG: August 15, 2010

George Garzone, saxophone
Paul Grabowsky, piano
Phillip Rex, bass
Niko Schauble, drums

Garzone, Grabowsky, Rex and Schauble
Garzone, Grabowsky, Rex and Schauble

Courtesy of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, tenor saxophonist George Garzone passed through Melbourne, playing three gigs. This was the first. He played at Uptown Jazz Cafe on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, with Craig Simon on drums and Phillip Rex again on bass, and guests Stephen Magnusson on guitar and Scott Tinkler on trumpet.

Publicity material on Garzone mentions that in more than 35 years he has performed with artists such as Chick Corea, Ron Carter, George Russell Orchestra and John Patitucci. He leads one of the longest running groups in jazz history, The Fringe, which has a cult-like following in the US. His former students include Joshua Redman, Branford Marsalis, Teadross Avery and Australian saxophonists Julien Wilson and Jamie Oehlers.

Grabowsky and Garzone
Grabowsky and Garzone

Garzone & Rex
Garzone and Rex

There was a good crowd in the large room at Bennetts. The quartet opened in robust fashion with Like Someone In Love (Jimmy Van Heusen). I’m never comfortable with labels lest I am completely wrong, but this was upbeat hard bop, with heaps of energy from all, especially Grabowsky, Schauble and Garzone. There was some banter between Garzone and “my bodyguard” up the back (Scott Tinkler) before I Love You (Cole Porter), in which the sax and drums played off each other in a nice duel.

Phillip Rex
Phillip Rex

Grabowsky
Grabowsky

Next came Coltrane’s ballad Say It (Over and Over Again), which I really enjoyed because it gave us a chance to hear the grace and elegance to Garzone’s tenor rather than just its strength and his virtuosity. Thelonious Monk’s Pannonica followed, with a great bass solo from Rex, some angular “stick clicks” from Schauble (he is so expressive with dynamics), drama in Grabowsky’s spatially isolated chords and plenty of bounce and verve in his ensuing solo. The rhythm section took over before a great Garzone solo and then Schauble treated us to rapid runs and stops which grew gradually and organically into a solo and eventually into an end to the piece. Garzone seemed happy, reminding us that “I think about this guy (Grabowsky) all year” and “I rave about you guys in America, where taxes are high and jobs are none”.

George Garzone
George Garzone

George Garzone
George Garzone

A “blues” piece by Garzone, Hey Open Up, ended the set, exploding out of the blocks and setting our feet tapping with some rapid-fire contributions and Garzone over playing into the drums again. Top solos from Grabowsky and Garzone took us to the break.

Phillip Rex
Phillip Rex

Niko Schauble
Niko Schauble

Set two opened with free improvisation flowing into Equinox (John Coltrane), with long solos by Garzone and Grabowsky. By this time I was in the mood for whatever this band produced and it seemed as though every track was another highlight.

George Garzone
George Garzone

One of the standouts for me was next, Garzone’s ballad Alone, which he “wrote a long time ago when I was alone … I’m still alone”. This was beautiful and seemed to capture the “aloneness” of being alone so well. Towards the end there was a familiar melody, maybe Girl From Ipanema. Then came a return to the physicality, which Garzone seems to enjoy and to epitomise in his playing, in Have You Met Miss Jones (Richard Rodgers). He seems to feel the music in his body and it pours out with that forcefulness and power. Schauble added some explosive brilliance to this.

Grabowsky & Garzone
Grabowsky & Garzone

Phillip Rex
Phillip Rex

Coltrane’s Theme For Ernie came next, a moving and slower piece. Then Garzone showed his appreciation to an enthusiastic audience” “I love coming here. No one really listens except you guys.” Yeah, I bet you tell that to all the audiences, George. His “tune I wrote for everyone”, Head Now, began with a frenzy and kept going, adding to that sense from the night that music is truly felt either in the bones and fibres of our being — muscular music — or in the emotions which it can awaken and which can plumb our depths if the moment is right.

I’m glad I’ve heard George Carzone and sorry I did not make it to either of the Uptown Jazz Cafe gigs. But I’m sure plenty did and were amply rewarded.