Tag Archives: Uptown Jazz Cafe

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.

 

 

OF BIRD’S, BENNETTS AND BEYOND

Ravi Coltrane's quartet at Bird's Basement

Ravi Coltrane’s quartet at Bird’s Basement

REFLECTION

Ravi Coltrane at Bird’s Basement, Singers Lane, Melbourne on Sunday, March 6, 2016

IT HAS been said often in recent months, but there’s a lot of live music happening in Melbourne, plenty of it being jazz / improvised. That can’t be bad.

But as venues proliferate, the challenge remains to really get more Melburnians — and visitors to town — off their couches and out there listening, hopefully on a regular basis.

Change has been in the air for Melbourne’s jazz scene since the closing of Bennetts Lane Jazz Club after last year’s Melbourne International Jazz Festival and the shift of regular Melbourne Jazz Co-operative gigs to Sonny Rehe’s Uptown Jazz Cafe in Fitzroy. Then Bennetts staged its most convincing Lazarus-like recovery pending the advent of developer David Marriner’s planned incarnation of the iconic venue in Flinders Lane  at a date to be fixed.

Patrons file into Bird's Basement to hear Ravi Coltrane

Patrons file into Bird’s Basement to hear Ravi Coltrane

Early this month (March 2016) Albert Dadon launched his Bird’s Basement club in the appropriately named Singers Lane close to Flagstaff Station, opening with seven nights of “jazz royalty” as reedsman Ravi Coltrane played two concerts a night in the slick, custom-built basement.

There had been much talk in jazz circles about whether the Bird’s Basement model of an early dinner show and a separate supper show would work, and how long the extensive resources of Dadon could sustain the new venue if he built it and crowds did not come. Ironically, that question came up recently in the small venue Conduit Arts in Fitzroy, host to many creative and superb performances over recent years. Now, it seems, Conduit Arts will be closing.

In this context, it was with great interest that I took my camera to Bird’s Basement for the supper show on the final night of Ravi Coltrane’s stint with Glenn Zaleski on piano, Kush Abadey on drums, Dezron Douglas on acoustic bass. Coltrane played tenor and sopranino sax. (The names of Coltrane’s band members were not listed on printed material at the club, as far as I could see. I am indebted to John McBeath for letting me know that I had two members of the line-up wrong in this post earlier.)

Bird's Basement has a blue note

The ambience at Bird’s Basement has a blue note

A few remarks about the venue. After years of feeling familiar and comfortable in the two rooms at Bennetts Lane, at which patrons find their own way to tables or single seats, I felt strangely formal in having Bird’s staff conducting patrons to seats.

I can say without reservation that all of the many staff at Bird’s were unfailingly friendly, welcoming and helpful. Ordering and delivery of drinks was smooth and payment at or shortly before the gig ended did not disrupt the music.

Being on my own, I was initially taken to a seat at the bar, but a more suitable vantage point for taking photographs was soon found.

Ticket purchase and seat allocation are no doubt still evolving, but I found the Ticketek process awkward and unsatisfactory. In the process of registering I ended up with two tickets in my checkout basket with no obvious way to remove one. Also, seat allocation was impossible without knowing the seating plan at Bird’s, which apparently changes according to numbers booked.

As for ambience, it’s all very blue and a little shiny. It seems a pity that patrons and waiting staff have to cross in front of tables to get to the far side tables, and there is no standing area at the back where the press of punters can build the sort of excitement often felt, for instance, in the small room at Bennetts. Bird’s Basement has a refined feel that may appeal more to those used to dinner with their music.

But musicians and patrons seem to agree that the acoustics are good, as may be expected in a purpose-built space.

Johnathan Blake

Kush Abadey enthuses from the drum kit

Now for a mention of the music. Given that this was the final night of seven paired performances, the attentiveness and enthusiasm of this quartet was pleasing. I was mightily impressed with Kush Abadey at the drum kit and Glenn Zaleski at the piano.

With Coltrane on tenor for his originals Coincide and Candlewood Path, Ralph Alessi’s Who Wants Ice Cream, and another brief piece, the quartet delivered compelling, intelligent jazz in which the leader left plenty of space for his young rhythm section to show its undoubted prowess. Abadey often seemed to drive proceedings.

Coltrane’s tenor forays included brief statements that said a lot without any attempt to dominate, leaving us wanting more. He closed the concert on sopranino, firing up on Billy Strayhorn’s Lush Life and John Coltrane’s Equinox, appropriately resisting any temptation to announce the latter with a paternal reference.

Bird’s debut week must rate as a success, but the real tests will come when international artists are not on the bill. And it will be interesting to see whether this venue linked loosely to New York’s Birdland will attract new patrons to live music or tap into the numbers already turning up to Bennetts Lane, Uptown, Paris Cat, The Brunswick Green and other Melbourne venues.

Bird’s Basement has a long way to go before it develops the rich history that adds significantly to a well-established and much-loved venue. But the music is what counts and nostalgia should not be overrated.

Rightly or wrongly, I felt that I ought to dress up for Bird’s — that it possibly was a bit flash for my taste and may attract a different crowd. If so, that could work and would help provide work for local musicians as well as imports. But let’s see.

Meanwhile, the following night I sat in a familiar chair in the small room at Bennetts Lane to hear Tim Stevens deliver 13 brand new and unnamed compositions with help from Dave Beck and Ben Robertson. It had a different feel.

ROGER MITCHELL

 

 

A FUTURE WITHOUT AL BROWNE IS UNTHINKABLE YET

Allan Browne

Allan Browne

AFTER days of sunshine uncharacteristic to British Columbia, Canada, it is a grey day in Prince Rupert. That seems appropriate as I feel a deep sense of loss, sharing at a distance what many are feeling — a sense of disbelief that Allan Browne is no longer with us.

He was supposed to be the host for the final night at Bennetts Lane. He was supposed to carry on the tradition of Monday nights, at Uptown. He was supposed to always be there, to bring us warmth and laughter and the love of music that welled deep within him and emerged so often in that heartfelt endorsement from the drum kit, “yeaaaaahh”.

Others have written tributes to Al in the past few days that have moved us and brought tears and a realisation of what he meant to so many. His presence — and now absence — has been in my mind so much since I heard the news. Not unexpected, it may be, as Adrian Jackson observed, yet hard to accept all the same.

Allan once wrote of his close friend and fellow musician, the late bassist Gary Costello, “I still can’t get used to the past tense, a future without Gaz is unthinkable yet. We both loved e.e.cummings …” Well, I’m certain that many of us will be thinking that a future without Al Browne is unthinkable yet, and that we won’t get used to talking about him in the past tense.

This was supposed to be a review of this year’s Melbourne International Jazz Festival, which would have been hard enough after the wrench from that bustle of gigs and the imminent closure of Bennetts Lane into the mode of international travel. Now it must be about Al Browne, whose quintet brought us a new work, Ithaca Bound, inspired by Homer’s Odyssey. Allan’s odyssey has ended, but his journey will remain with us.

The recent loss of Ornette Coleman is also deeply felt. His great contribution to improvised music will also sustain us long into the future.

It feels as if the jazz scene in Melbourne is in a period of major change. Bennetts Lane is closing, but, as Marc Hannaford points out, there are many outlets for jazz in the city. Also, new venues will arise from the ashes of Bennetts — they will have to develop their own character and characters over time.

Cuts to the ABC meant that Gerry Koster, host of Jazz Up Late, had to move on. Let’s hope he can bring his breadth of knowledge and taste for adventure into something new, because the demise of his program was a significant loss. As was the separation of Adrian Jackson from the programming of Stonnington’s festival of Australian jazz. The new arrangement may have soul, but I am yet to be convinced that it has that rare ability to bring us exciting and unexpected juxtapositions of players in what has been one of my favourite festivals.

Funding shortfalls have also curbed the nurturing and mentoring role of Martin Jackson’s Melbourne Jazz Cooperative. It will have a new home at Sonny’s Uptown Jazz Café, which is great, but it may be necessary to mount a public campaign to gain more financial backing for this vital cog in the Melbourne jazz machine.

But we move on. Jazz is, after all, about improvisation. The musicians make decisions on the run every time they play, and we mostly love the results. What will the rest of this year and the next bring to the Melbourne scene? We await that with interest.

Vale Allan Browne. See ya, mate.

ROGER MITCHELL

In 2010, before his quintet ushers the Stonnington Jazz audience into his quintet’s suite A Season In Hell, Allan Browne tells of his personal journey to the brink: CLICK TO READ THE INTERVIEW

Allan Browne

Allan Browne

Allan Browne

Allan Browne

Allan Browne

Allan Browne

Allan Browne

Allan Browne

Allan Browne

Allan Browne