Tag Archives: Trichotomy

MANY HIGHLIGHTS, MANY FROM CLOSE TO HOME

Jamie Oehlers

Eric Harland and Jamie Oehlers in a MIJF highlight for 2014.

WRAP-UP REVIEW: MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL JAZZ FESTIVAL 2014, 30 May to 8 June

So far for this year’s MIJF I’ve posted previews, pictorial updates and reflections that have sometimes ended up as mini reviews. But the intention was to leave most of the reviewing until the festival was over. So, I can report that I went to 23 concerts, counting each set of two double bills and each set of three with brief support acts. The venues included Hamer Hall, the Melbourne Recital Centre, the Malthouse, Melbourne Town Hall and Bennetts Lane. I did not make it to club sessions at Uptown Jazz Cafe or Dizzy’s Jazz Club, but heard there were some great gigs there that I missed.

While on venues, it was good to have Uptown included this year and the Malthouse turned out well, attracting some good crowds to evenings that included, effectively, three concerts. The lighting there, as I have said elsewhere, was poor, but that comment also applies to the Footscray Community Arts Centre and to Bennetts Lane. (I’m told by Laki Sideris that I have to make the lighting work for me when taking photographs, and I’ve been trying to do that.)

The observation has been made elsewhere that this festival brought out international artists who’ve been before, rather than other musicians new to the festival who do not have the established names to draw crowds. It must always be a balancing act for any festival’s artistic and program directors, but Adrian Jackson has long had a reputation for bringing relative newcomers to the Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival, so it can be done.

I think a more important issue is what happened in the venues on the nights, and how audiences reacted. The other question is how are we to judge the success or otherwise of these festivals — is it about bums on seats, audience reaction or the opinions of assorted critics? That could open a large can of worms, but I think it is useful to report on gigs that electrify or engage the audience, as well as to comment on the performances.

I tried dividing the concerts I attended into highlights, worthy mentions and those not so hot. Of the highlights, only seven involved international artists and the remaining 12 were by Australian musicians. I found that interesting.

Jorge Pardo

Jorge Pardo

The “not so hot” category is a misnomer, because it was probably the type of music played that did not appeal to me so much. In each case there were plenty of happy patrons. But I was not among them when Jorge Pardo joined Josemi Cameron and Jose Manuel in Huellas. Pardo on tenor sax and flute, and Cameron on guitar were skilled musicians, but as the solos dragged on and the music rose and fell, I found that it did not go anywhere too interesting (too subtle for me?) and that there was insufficient variation in Jose Manuel’s percussion work.

Larry Carlton

Larry Carlton

The Larry Carlton Quartet also suffered from repetitive drumming by Gerry Pantazis and, while Phil Turcio on keys did his best to lift the intensity, I found this group’s material too fruity and easy listening for my taste — soft rock that lacked differentiation and space, failing to reach any heights or plumb any depths.

Israeli pair Daniel Zamir and Tomer Bar engaged the audience with melodies that seemed to draw more on Jewish tradition than jazz. There was some audience involvement that worked, but it just was not going to set my nerves jangling.

On to the worthy mentions, which is meant as a positive category without any rafters being lifted. The lightly cooked Omelette served up by Jordan Murray, Stephen Magnusson, Mark Shepherd and Ronny Ferella before Charles Lloyd’s Sky Trio took the MRC stage was muted, carefully crafted and perfect as a way into the main gig, although I found the guitar did not come through strongly.

Sky Trio was as anticipated, delivering fluidity, warmth, a sense of fun at times, beauty, musings and flights of fantasy. Being at a Lloyd concert is akin to a religious experience. Backed by the superb rhythm section of Reuben Rogers on bass and Eric Harland on drums, Lloyd showed he has the breath and finesse to deliver long, meditative solos on tenor sax, flute and tarogato. The encore of standard Where Are You and Lloyd’s Sweet Georgia Bright, including Harland’s controlled solo, ended the set on a high. A festival highlight? Not quite, possibly because it was so laid back.

Sean Foran and Julian Arguelles

Sean Foran and Julian Arguelles

This concert was great, but I went on to hear Brisbane’s Trichotomy at Bennetts Lane, with UK guest Julian Arguelles on sax, and discovered this night’s highlight. Formerly known as Misinterprotato, this trio featured Sean Foran on piano, Sam Vincent on bass and John Parker on drums. The set was full of inventiveness, interest, variation and effective provision of space.

The Greek Project musicians on stage at Melbourne Town Hall.

The Greek Project musicians on stage at Melbourne Town Hall.

Back on the worthy mentions track, Charles Lloyd and Maria Farantouri’s The Greek Project, also featuring Rogers, Harland, Takis Farazis on piano and Socratis Sinopolous on politiki and pontiac lyras, was an exposition of the unity achieved when two individuals from different cultural roots and musical traditions discover much in common. In CL Blue, Lloyd seemed to lay his notes on the air and send them off and in Requiem his sax was ending Farantouri’s sentences. In Prayer, the lyra notes from Sinopolous were high, clear and plaintive, then entering a dance. Farantouri’s voice was fascinating — it had strength without great projection, emerging from deep in her throat and seeming to delve into history. This concert was a monumental event. But it lacked the focus and impetus of Lloyd’s Sangam concert of 2010, and in Greek Suite pieces it perhaps lacked the ability to hold attention.

It may seem heresy to some, but I have to be honest and say that one of my festival highlights followed The Greek Project. I’d been told by several people not to bother hearing Chris Dave and The Drumhedz, especially not after the Lloyd/Farantouri concert, because it would be such an abrupt change.

Isaiah Sharkey on guitar and Marcus Strickland on sax.

Isaiah Sharkey on guitar and Marcus Strickland on sax.

I went to Bennetts Lane expecting to feel like a fish out of water at a gig that would have appeal to a younger audience into a mix of R&B, funk, hip-hop and electronica, with some rock and jazz thrown in. I had listened to some YouTube clips that had not turned me on. Well, Chris Dave on augmented drum kit — with two tall, corkscrew cymbals — Isaiah Sharkey on guitar, Nick McNack on bass and Marcus Strickland on tenor and soprano sax produced a set that held my interest from the word go until almost the finish, when an encore piece went on a bit too long. Sharkey’s guitar playing was a work of art, with lots of variation and heaps of skill. Dave on drums was virtuosic, Strickland produced some excellent solos and McNack was solid on electric bass. But the appeal was in the watchfulness and interaction in this band. So much was going on and in this performance (out of three) it was evident that decisions were being made and fun was being had throughout. They were having a ball and so was the audience. This was an unexpected, but clear highlight.

Eminently worthy of mention was the Allan Browne Quintet‘s performance of The Drunken Boat suite the following night at Bennetts Lane, its often short pieces providing a feast of diverse moods and styles.

Livio Minafra

Livio Minafra

An unexpected festival highlight was Livio Minafra‘s entertaining and engaging gig at the same venue that night, which I have already reviewed.  OK, it was a stretch to call it jazz, but I found it most enjoyable and fun.

Satsuki Odamura

Satsuki Odamura

Tuesday 3 June was a standout in my view, bringing two festival highlights in one night. At Footscray Community Arts Centre — see earlier postPeter Knight’s Way Out West played long-awaited new material that will soon emerge on a fourth album, as well as some pieces from earlier recordings. There was so much to like about this diverse ensemble’s outing, but I particularly appreciated the space and developing intensity of The Birds, which made excellent use of the clarity in  Satsuki Odamura‘s koto notes. In Music For April, muted koto notes were like drops of water and Lucas Michailidis’ guitar notes seemed to be propelled as if by springs. Laptop crackle, guitar and koto built an eerie feel to Nine Years Later, in which the ensemble took us to wonderful places. This was a considered and carefully crafted outing and I look forward to the new Way Out West album.

Eric Harland at Bennetts Lane

Eric Harland at Bennetts Lane

From way out west I rushed to Bennetts Lane for what was to be my top highlight of this festival for 2014, bringing Rogers and Harland from Lloyd’s Sky Trio together with Paul Grabowsky on piano and Jamie Oehlers on saxophone. As mentioned in an  earlier post, this concert was an excellent example of why many of us love jazz. Paper Tiger opened with all stops out and we heard some sharp attacks and searing solos during the set, but in Oehlers’ Innocent Dreamer and Grabowsky’s Angel we were surrounded by inexpressible beauty. This group is recording in January. Bring it on.

Jarmo Saari on electric guitar with Jukka Perko Avara Trio

Jarmo Saari on electric guitar with Jukka Perko Avara Trio

Other festival highlights covered in earlier posts were the opening set at Melbourne Recital Centre by Here and Now, the fascinating outing by Finnish trio Jukka Perko Avara at Bennetts Lane and the double bill at The Malthouse featuring Alister Spence Trio and Dawn of Midi. The last of these three posts also covered Django Bates Beloved trio’s celebration of Charlie Parker, with help from Monash Art Ensemble, which I ranked as eminently worthy of mention, but not one of my highlights.

Another post, entitled a Sandwich of Food for the Soul, covered festival highlights at The Malthouse on Saturday 7 June: The Hunters & Pointers with Kristin Berardi, Mike Nock with Laurence Pike, and the Julien Wilson Quartet with Barney McAll.

Chick Corea and Gary Burton

Chick Corea and Gary Burton

The final highlight for me of the Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2014 was the Hamer Hall outing of duets by Chick Corea on keys and Gary Burton on vibes. As they played I thought about what made this performance so successful; what was evident in their playing. It seemed to include mutual understanding and appreciation, subtlety, fun, finesse, dexterity, delicacy, intricacy, splendour, responsiveness, lightness of touch, rapidity, clarity, virtuosity, luminosity, melody, translucence (of vibes notes) and maybe even whimsy. As I posted elsewhere “there was plenty of pixie dust flying from the vibes”, especially in Crystal Silence, which seemed to be a contest to see who could play with the lightest touch.

Corea and Burton had been here before, but that did not detract from the enjoyment of this outing. Their concert seemed a fitting end to a festival, which artistic director Michael Tortoni described as “the broadest, most inclusive ever”.

So, there were plenty of highlights at the MIJF 2014. Two innovations — the excursion to Melbourne’s west and the use of The Malthouse — were a great success. Artists visiting from overseas did not dominate the highlights, in my view. It’s fair to say that the mix was eclectic, taking in The Drumhedz and Bates’ take on Charlie Parker, but clearly the MIJF under Tortoni allows plenty of scope for the Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival to reclaim some of the “out there” ground if funding becomes available in future years.

ROGER MITCHELL

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MUSICIANS WHO MOVE

Gerald Clayton

Gerald Clayton                          Picture: Ben Wolf

Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival, November 1-4, 2013

This preview covers a lot of ground, with the aim of letting people know what is on offer. The joy of a festival such as Wangaratta is that patrons can take risks and dip into unfamiliar territory.

JAZZ PROGRAM PREVIEW

Music moves us, musicians move us and musicians move. So many times when we read the biographies of favourite musicians, we find they have made leaps to new places and new music communities — sometimes returning home eventually, sometimes not.

On a recent Sunday night at Melbourne’s Uptown Jazz Café, pianist Marc Hannaford played two sets at a farewell gig before leaving for at least five years in New York. He invited musician friends and colleagues to sit in. It was a great way to celebrate a big move in his life and career.

This year’s Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues brings us many artists who have made significant moves to new places as their music developed.

As in previous years, many of the musicians are expatriate Australians. The line-up, carefully crafted by artistic director Adrian Jackson, raises the (admittedly immaterial) question of how long a local musician has to be living overseas before being classified as an international artist.

In a year when piano is the chosen instrument for the National Jazz Awards, it is fitting that the headline artist will be thrice Grammy-nominated young US pianist Gerald Clayton, who has attracted attention as a rising star in a trio with Joe Sanders on bass and Justin Brown on drums. On this visit Pete Van Nostrand  will be at the drum kit.

Clayton was born in Amsterdam, grew up in Los Angeles and now lives in New York. His trio’s third album, Life Forum, was due for release in Australia by Universal on September 2.

Clayton will spend some time working with Monash University music students before the festival, so a few students could well end up with the trio on stage for one concert. Here is a sample.

Chris McNulty

Chris McNulty      (Picture supplied)

Among the expatriate internationals making the trip to Wangaratta will be vocalist Chris McNulty, who has been based in New York since 1988, and this year won Best Australian Jazz Vocal Album for The Song That Sings You Here.

McNulty, who was in Melbourne for the Jazz Bell Awards, will perform with her partner, guitarist/composer Paul Bollenback, and bassist Ugonna Okegwo, both from New York, in The Magic Trio, a drumless collaboration they have shared since 2000. Bollenback will also lead a trio with Okegwo and Perth-based drummer Daniel Susnjar, who played with Paul when he was in the USA last year.

McNulty will also re-establish a link from her early days in a band with pianist/composer Paul Grabowsky, joined by Frank Di Sario on bass and Mike Jordan on drums.

Expatriate international Barney McAll is no stranger to Wangaratta. In 2011 he brought a choir and large ensemble to the festival stage for Graft, but this year he will appear solo and in a trio.

In what promises to be real treat, McAll will take to the Holy Trinity Cathedral stage to explore some of the gospel music he regularly performs on Sundays at a church in Brooklyn. Anyone who heard McAll’s three solo pieces during the Melbourne Jazz Co-operative 30th Anniversary Concert on January 27 this year at The Edge, Federation Square, will look forward to hearing more.

McAll, who described the Wangaratta festival as “the bohemian grove of Australian jazz”, told organisers he would be playing some spirituals and new solo pieces, including a preview “of my first solo piano recording, which will be called Every Piano Needs A House In It”.

Joining McAll in his Non-Compliance Trio will be friends Jonathan Zwartz on bass and Hamish Stuart on drums.

Another Australian export, guitarist/composer Peter O’Mara left Sydney for New York in 1981, moved to Munich the following year and has lived in Germany and, more recently, Austria for 30 years. Last at Wangaratta in 2002, O’Mara will lead his quartet from Vienna in what Jackson describes as music “on the jazz side of jazz-rock fusion, very electronic, funky and pretty exciting”. Expect a mix of what O’Mara describes as “modern jazz, odd-metre fusion and groove”, in which expat American Tim Collins on vibes shares melodies with the guitar. Here is a sample.

More of the European input so vital to any festival will come from Dutch trumpet player Eric Vloeimans, who uses an electronic attachment on his instrument and, with his quartet Gatecrash, will also bring a fusion and funk emphasis. Expect a range from jazz to world, electro-funk and “contemplative soundscapes that are punctuated by a touch of wackiness”.

Jef Neve

Jef Neve

Belgian pianist Jef Neve was most recently at Wangaratta in 2010 with his trio (see Ausjazz’s rave review), but this time will play solo piano as part of a world tour. Neve regards the piano as an orchestral instrument — “Everything is present: choir, strings, woodwinds, brass and, of course, percussion” — and says the “soul and sound of the instrument” is his main source of inspiration in his classically influenced playing.

Froy Aagre

Froy Aagre         (Picture supplied)

Norwegian saxophonist Froy Aagre performed at Wangaratta in 2009 with members of the Brisbane band Misinterprotato, now known as Trichotomy, who she met at Canada’s Banff Jazz Workshop in 2005. Sean Foran (electric piano) and John Parker (drums) from Trichotomy will join Aagre to present her new electric repertoire, which she says “fuses new electronic sounds into melodic, groove-based jazz” and is “a way to communicate joy to the audience”.

AUSTRALIAN ARTISTS

That pretty much covers the FIFO (fly in fly out) jazz and improvised music performers, but the line-up of Australians at Wangaratta this year is so extensive and exciting that it is arguable they could carry the festival.

Sydney pianist and composer Mike Nock will join reedsman Julien Wilson, whose playing recently has been outstanding, and guitarist Steve Magnusson will re-visit the trio that was so successful in May at Stonnington Jazz.

Barney McAll’s presence will enable two CD launches. Bassist Jonathan Zwartz will bring his nine-piece band together for the first time since the recording of The Remembering and Forgetting of the Air, which features McAll, Magnusson, Phil Slater on trumpet, Wilson on tenor, James Greening on trombone and sousaphone, Richard Maegraith on tenor and bass clarinet, Hamish Stuart on drums and Fabian Hevia on percussion. With this material and this line-up, no one should miss this.

McAll will also join Zwartz, Allan Browne on drums and Wilson — Julien recording for the first time in a classic tenor sax quartet — to launch their album of mostly standards, mostly ballads entitled This Is Always.

Julien Wilson, Sam Anning, Allan Browne

Julien Wilson, Sam Anning, Allan Browne

In another launch not to be missed (I know this because there was a recent preview at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club), expatriate bassist Sam Anning will join Wilson and Browne to celebrate Sweethearts, an absolutely entrancing album that serendipitously was recorded when Anning, over from New York, was delayed in Melbourne by a US visa problem, for which we all should be eternally grateful.

Expat drummer Raj Jayaweera, also be back from New York for the festival, will form the house band with Anning for the National Jazz Awards piano recitals.

The plethora of Australian jazz musicians in New York will be further depleted by the departure to Wangaratta of trombonist Shannon Barnett, who will reconvene her quartet — Nash Lee guitar, Chris Hale bass guitar and Hugh Harvey drums — and also launch a new band, U.nlock, with vocalist Gian Slater, Sam Anning and Raj Jayaweera with material the four worked on in New York recently. A key feature of U.nlock will be “voice and trombone sharing both the lead and accompanying roles”, Slater says.

Barnett will also perform as part of clarinettist and vocalist Barry Wratten’s New Orleans Pelicans with Michael McQuaid on trumpet and reeds, Steve Grant on piano, John Scurry on guitar and banjo, Howard Cairns or Leigh Barker (Saturday morning) on bass and Lynn Wallis on drums.

The much-missed trombonist will also assemble Dixie Jack, a local version of Ragstretch, a band with whom she has played in Denmark consisting of Copenhagen-based expat clarinet player and vocalist Chris Tanner, known for his classic jazz work with Julien Wilson in the band Virus, and guitarist Craig Fermanis, Sam Anning and Raj Jayaweera. Dixie Jack, consisting of Barnett, Wilson, Anning and Jayaweera, will play traditional jazz.

Classic jazz is well represented this year. Melbourne band the Sugarfoot Ramblers is led by Travis Woods on trumpet, with Jason Downes on reeds and graduates or current students of the jazz course at Monash University who share a fondness for New Orleans Jazz. Others in the line-up are James Macaulay trombone, Brett Thompson banjo and guitar, Marty Holoubek bass and Daniel Berry drums. From Sydney, The Cope Street Parade and The Finer Cuts, who have recorded with experienced trumpeter Geoff Bull, will also add their traditional jazz sounds. Allan Browne will join the Finer Cuts, who usually don’t perform with a drummer, for one session.

The Wangaratta festival always draws musicians from across the country, providing a relatively rare opportunity for them to share the stage. The exciting sextet led by Melbourne’s Paul Grabowsky will feature Jamie Oehlers from Perth on tenor and Sydney musicians James Greening on trombone, Andrew Robson on alto, Cameron Undy on bass and Simon Barker on drums. This band has recorded an album it hopes to release at the festival.

Satsuki Odamara

Satsuki Odamura, Paul Williamson and Peter Knight.

Another certain hit, Peter Knight’s band Way Out West, now features Sydney-based koto player, Satsuki Odamura, along with Melburnians Lucas Michailidis on guitar and Hugh Harvey on drums as well as founding members, Peter Knight on trumpet, flugelhorn, Paul Williamson on saxophones, Howard Cairns on bass and Ray Pereira on percussion.

And Melbourne vocalist Gian Slater will team with Perth saxophonist Jamie Oehlers and Melburnians Paul Grabowsky on piano, Ben Robertson on bass and Dave Beck on drums in The Differences to play material from the album of that name.

Two concerts enjoyed by patrons of Stonnington Jazz in May will also be on the Wangaratta program. Red Fish Blue is an alliance of two musicians from Melbourne, pianist Sam Keevers and percussionist Javier Fredes, with two from Sydney, bassist Brett Hirst and drummer Simon Barker. And vocalist Josh Kyle and Keevers will perform Songs of Friends, which are their interpretations of songs by Australian singers/composers.

The Cup Eve Concert will feature Joe Chindamo with his trio and Monique Di Mattina performing music from her recent album Nola’s Ark, which is a jazz blues hybrid.

AUSJAZZ RECOMMENDATIONS

This preview covers a lot of ground, with the aim of letting people know what is on offer. The joy of a festival such as Wangaratta is that patrons can take risks and dip into unfamiliar territory.

In case it helps, the following are the concerts that I’d be keen not to miss:

  • Barney McAll’s solo piano in Holy Trinity on Sunday, November 3 at 3pm
  • Jef Neve solo piano, WPAC Theatre, Sunday, Nov 3 at 1pm
  • Launch of Jonathan Zwartz album The Remembering and Forgetting of the Air, Friday, Nov 1, WPAC Theatre
  • Launch of McAll/Wilson/Zwartz/Browne album This Is Always, WPAC Memorial Hall, Saturday, Nov 2 at 2.30pm
  • Launch of Wilson/Anning/Browne album Sweethearts, WPAC Memorial Hall, Saturday, November 2 at 4.30pm
  • Barnett and Slater’s U.nlock, WPAC Memorial Hall, Sunday, Nov 3 at 2.30pm
  • Paul Grabowsky Sextet, WPAC Theatre, Sunday, Nov 3 at 10.30pm
  • Way Out West, WPAC Theatre, Saturday, Nov 2, 11am

ROGER MITCHELL

Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues