Tag Archives: Tony Hicks


Farewell David Tolley

Celebrating the contribution of David Tolley


PLAYING WITH DAVID TOLLEY, Monday 2 June 2014 at Carlton Courthouse, 345 Drummond St., Carlton
Tickets: $15 full | $10 concession | Box office 7 PM | Performance 7:30 PM.

This could easily slip under the radar given all the MIJF music on in Melbourne at the moment, but it is a significant event to honour the legacy of bassist David Tolley.

A concert celebrating some of the many influences that the late David Tolley — bassist-musician-artist-teacher-sculptor-individual — has had on particular artists and musicians, many of whom will be performing.

These will include Anita Hustas, Phil Bywater, Belinda Woods, Adam Simmons, Adrian Sherriff, David Brown, James Clayden, Tom Fryer, Louise Skacej, Tony Hicks, Ren Walters.

Thanks to Ren Walters for passing on the details.

Roger Mitchell

David Tolley

David Tolley

David Tolley

David Tolley

David Tolley

David Tolley


The musicians in Crossing Roper's Bar

The musicians in Crossing Roper’s Bar

PREVIEW: CD launch, Crossing Roper Bar Volume 2 — The Ghost Dances, Young Wägilak Group & Australian Art Orchestra, Bennetts Lane Jazz Club, Tuesday 27 May, 2014

This is a last-minute post (there’s been a few concerts on at somwhere called Stonnington recently), but this is a chance not to be missed.

In a rare live performance, indigenous musicians David and Daniel Wilfred from Arnhem Land will join distinguished Australian pianist and composer Paul Grabowsky and the acclaimed Australian Art Orchestra to launch their new album, Crossing Roper Bar Volume 2 – The Ghost Dances.

Crossing Roper Bar journeys into jazz and the music traditions of Australia’s first people. The result of regular exchanges that began in 2005, this work brings together two diverse cultures “in a very contemporary and yet spiritual musical fusion”.

It is based on the Yolngu song cycle Wild Blackfella and will feature indigenous musicians of the Young Wägilak Group and traditional ceremony men from Ngukurr on the Roper River — Daniel Wilfred (Wägilak Songman and dancer) and David Wilfred (Wägilak Songman and didgeridoo), Paul Grabowsky (Musical Director and piano), Tony Hicks (saxophones), Stephen Magnusson (guitar), Niko Schauble (drums).
and Philip Rex (double bass).

And at 7pm on Thursday 29 May at Moreland City Band Hall, 22 Cross Street, Brunswick, there will be a free workshop with Daniel and David Wilfred covering the storytelling, ceremony and musical traditions of Arnhem Land. Participants can take part in bunggul (dance) workshops, and enjoy live performance of beautiful songs and virtuoso yidaki (didjeridu) playing.

The following material is taken from the media release:

The manikay (song cycles) of the Yolŋu of South East Arnhem Land represent one of the oldest and most affecting musical traditions on the planet and the song men of Ngukurr have worked closely with the AAO to create a contemporary rendering of these precious cultural artefacts — performing songs that many of their Yolŋu kin further north had thought were lost forever.

Paul Grabowsky, who initiated the project, said the collaboration was based on an equal exchange of knowledge through a dialogue centred on music. “The resulting intersection of jazz and traditional Indigenous music is an electrifying marriage of the very old with the very new, and a celebration of country, ceremony, and the power of music to build enduring bridges across cultures, time and space.

“Music is integral to Aboriginal ceremony, culture and to their whole social system and the ancient song cycles of the Manikay are in real danger of being lost unless they are picked up and preserved by future generations,” Grabowsky said.

“Over the past nine years the Crossing Roper Bar project has reinvigorated the Ngukkur community, which has for many decades lived with the threat of losing its cultural traditions. It has re-engaged the young people and shown a way forward.”

The Roper River is a magnificent waterway flowing from Mataranka, 100 kms south of Katherine, and out across the land of the Mangarayi and Yungman people. Before it reaches the Gulf of Carpentaria it passes the remote town of Ngukurr, which is isolated by the Wet for several months of each year (November to Easter) when the Roper engulfs all but the highest land. At other times, Roper Bar is the point where it’s possible to cross the river and go on to Ngukurr. The crossing over seems not only a poetic but also a fitting metaphor for our collaboration, Crossing Roper Bar.

Ngukurr is an ideal place to learn about Aboriginal music because it is the gathering point for outlying peoples of the Wägilak, Ngalmi, Murrungun, Nunthirrbala, Mungurra, Lalara and Wurramurra nations, who come together under the name Yugul Mangi.

The CD was recorded in 2012 and features the Young Wägilak Group from Arnhem Land led byBenjamin Wilfred and AAO musicians, Erkki Veltheim (violin), Paul Grabowsky (piano), Tony Hicks (saxophone/flute), Philip Rex (bass) and Niko Schäuble (drums).

The Bennetts Lane doors open tonight at 8.30pm. For details visit the Bennetts Lane website.



Alister Spence and Paul Grabowsky

Alister Spence and Paul Grabowsky in ElectroACOUSTIC, ACOUSTICelectro

‘It seemed as if they were hunters and collectors, fossicking and ferreting, gathering and creating, building and engineering, coaxing and tweaking.’


ElectroACOUSTIC, ACOUSTICElectro, Australian Art Orchestra, Bennetts Lane Jazz Club, 1 August 2013

Paul Grabowsky was at the piano, but not at the helm for this exploration of meeting points between acoustic and electronic music. This was the first outing curated by the AAO’s recently appointed artistic director Peter Knight, so we were curious to know what would eventuate.

Knight is a trumpeter, composer and sound artist who has gained international acclaim for his integration of jazz, world music, and experimental traditions. He likes to experiment with instruments such as the trumpet, guitar and saxophone, combined with new technologies.

For the third year in a row the AAO has a month’s residency at Bennetts Lane, in this case presenting four Thursday concerts with guest collaborators forming different quintets. The opening night featured Alister Spence on keyboard, vibes and assorted electronic devices, Tony Hicks on reeds, Joe Talia on drums and percussion, Grabowsky on piano (slightly prepared, I think) and Knight on trumpet, laptop and assorted electronic devices.

“The music we will make will be provocative, evocative, visceral then calming, but always richly textural,” Knight said in publicising the concert. “In Melbourne we have one of the most distinctive improvised music scenes in the world and I hope that everyone with a spirit of musical adventure will come out to listen to some of its finest exponents.”

Alister Spence

Alister Spence

So how did the first outing play out? Well, apart from the curator momentarily fearing that he was having a stroke when struck by the red focus beam of a camera (mea culpa, mea culpa), everything went according to the presumably fairly fluid plan. I thought the second set worked best, but both delivered what Knight had envisaged.

In the opening set Spence devoted some time to nurturing, coaxing and fine-tuning his sounds, produced variously by keyboard, a tiny mallet stick and what appeared to be a brush with metal bristles, plus the assorted devices that added distortion and looping patterns. Grabowsky contributed piano string pluckings, spiky notes, runs and some delightful helter skelter. Hicks produced clarinet croaks and rasps, Talia some wavering, high-pitched sounds with his bow on a cymbal edge.

Spence would tap the vibes and work on the effects; Hicks produced a very long note, almost certainly achieved with circular breathing. The collective sounds built a lot of intensity before taking a slow slide towards quiescence, punctuated by sporadic attacks and underpinned by growls, tunnel and funnel sounds. In these instances I love the sense of pleasurable abatement that follows what has become, over time, a little oppressive.

Tony Hicks, Joe Talia and Peter Knight

Tony Hicks, Joe Talia and Peter Knight

The soundscape created in this performance was carefully crafted, with the smallest elements being significant to the whole. Talia’s feather-light taps and Spence’s bell shakings were examples.

Spence conjured recurring “depth” sounds that called to mind scenes from 1960s TV series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, set in a submarine. Grabowsky played chord, chord, chord insistently, then began splashing them about as if he was having summer fun with a garden hose. On tenor sax, Hicks rasped his way in as Grabowsky speeded up his input. Tension mounted. Talia was light and rapid with his sticks before a soaring, high vibrato from Hicks smoothed out the freneticism. Grabowsky tapped low notes. Spence was busily tweaking as Hicks reached a crescendo. Then the beast quietened. The remaining sounds had the feel of breathing.

Spence contributed chimes, then a burst of loudness, as if there was still the threat of a breakout that could not be controlled. Before quiet gradually descended at the set’s end, I reflected on the way the members of this ensemble were working. It seemed as if they were hunters and collectors, fossicking and ferreting, gathering and creating, building and engineering, coaxing and tweaking.

Tony Hicks and Peter Knight

Tony Hicks and Peter Knight

As mentioned, the second set seemed more engrossing. The group was focused, attentive as Hicks opened by delivering air into silence with a very small sax (perhaps a sopranino). The tiny sound was embellished by a muffled patter as pads opened and closed. It was an example of how important it is to be in a venue where patrons listen, rather than chat.

Talia displayed superb lightness of touch and fluidity as he added sprinklings of bell-like and feathery stick sounds. His sticks moved faster and faster, but delicately, until one flew off somewhere. From Knight’s horn and laptop came nasally snorting and rattling, at first animal-like and then techno chomping and static, as if there was a cyber monster gobbling a feast. Then came a bark, a squawk.

Spence introduced vibrato with sustains on the keyboard then tapped the vibes to conjure the feel of pedal steel guitar notes ringing, chiming and hanging suspended. As Grabowsky dabbled on the piano strings, Knight, Hicks and Talia began crinkling paper. This had to be planned. Unless by chance they each decided to screw up a shopping list at the one time. It was unexpectedly effective.

Paul Grabowsky and Alister Spence

Paul Grabowsky and Alister Spence

Weird bird sounds and whooshes, some more undersea echoes and some mass tweeting (not using Twitter) created an eerie feel that was restful, contemplative. I mused on our need to liken every sound to something familiar, and how we could otherwise describe them. Or is describing missing the point, since we should just hear?

Grabowsky produced chords that seemed flat in profile, separated and somehow distorted. They descended like spikes of hot rain, some heavy, some light. They seemed to drop randomly, splotches of sound. Hicks played a piccolo or tin whistle, Knight blew across his horn mouthpiece. Buried in the bowels of the piano, Grabowsky conjured up a storm. There was metallic clatter from Talia’s sticks. It became frenetic. Volumes grew. Hicks was on soprano sax. There was thunder — was it the work of Spence or Grabowsky?

This was reminiscent of a climax during a Necks concert. Was it meaningful discourse or clamorous discord? Who knew? Who cared? From the keyboard came gobble and chatter, from Talia’s drum kit emphatic statements. Knight actually began to play his trumpet. Hicks switched to clarinet. Spence poured in runs of notes. Everyone was going at it.

Before the inevitable dying back came “voices” from Spence, lots of chatter from the ensemble. Then it was over. The electro had encountered the acoustic, the acoustic had taken on the electro. They had met, challenged, teased and perhaps even had their way with each other. And, particularly in this second set, we had been carried into the fiery consummation and beyond.


PICTURE GALLERY: Click HERE for larger images.

AAO performances this month will feature:

Thursday 8 August
Scott Tinkler (trumpet)
Judith Hamann (cello)
Ren Walters (guitar/tape loops)
Peter Knight (trumpet/laptop/amplifier)
David Tolley (bass/laptop)

Thursday 15 August
Joe Talia (drums/Revox)
Peter Knight (trumpet/laptop/amplifier)
Jon Smeathers (saxophone/laptop)
Dale Gorfinkel (prepared vibraphone/devices)
Adrian Sherriff (bass trombone/electronics)

Thursday 22 August
Georgie Darvidis (voice)
Peter Knight (trumpet/laptop/amplifier)
Stephen Magnusson (guitar/pedals)
Scott Tinkler (trumpet)
Paul Grabowsky (piano)
Dale Gorfinkel (prepared vibraphone/devices)

Tickets are available from Bennetts Lane Jazz Club