Tag Archives: Wangaratta Jazz 2011

STOP PRESS: NATIONAL JAZZ AWARDS 2011

NEWS

Tim Firth and Mike Nock

First among drummers: Tim Firth with one of the judges, Mike Nock

from Wangaratta: National jazz awards for 2011 (drumming) are as follows:

1. Tim Firth from Sydney
2. Ben Falle from Perth
3. Dave Goodman from Sydney.

Tim wins $8000, a studio recording session for Jazztrack with Mal Stanley on ABC Classic FM and an invitation to appear at Stonnington Jazz Festival in 2011. Ben wins $5000. Dave wins $2000.

Congratulations to the winners, finalists and all who almost made it.

Here’s a look at Tim Firth’s style in the final play-off:

Tim Firth

Sticks crossed: Tim Firth during his award-winning finals peformance.

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WANGARATTA OPENS WARM & A LITTLE WACKY

Ausjazz blog catches the flavour of Wangaratta Jazz & Blues Festival on Friday, October 28, 2011

Linda Oh

Linda Oh

It was balmy, warm and threatening rain when festival artistic director Adrian Jackson welcomed patrons to the first gig of this festival, the Linda Oh Quartet. This group, with Sam Sadisgursky on tenor sax, Fabian Almazan on piano and Rhodes and Kendrick Scott on drums, played with zest, energy and interaction. Oh, who moved from Malaysia to Perth when she was two and now lives in New York, was a hit on her previous visit to Wangaratta, but her approach to the music then was cooler and less relaxed.

This quartet really works well, and the focus is less on Oh as a skilled young female bassist who has made it to New York (quite an achievement) and more on the creative work of the ensemble. The quartet included some tracks from its forthcoming album Initial Here, due out next year. They played The Ultimate Persona, Something’s Coming (West Side Story), Deeper Than Happy, Little House and No. 1 Hit.

On tenor sax: Sam Sadigursky

On tenor sax: Sam Sadigursky

There was a very enticing, warm feel to this ensemble. It was polished, with fluid transitions and no jagged edges, exhibiting a group dynamic without any hint that players were seeking the limelight. The band expertly explored a range of moods and emotions.

Kendrick Scott

On drum kit: Kendrick Scott

Kendrick Scott on drums was skilled and subtle, not resorting to any smash and bash. Sadigursky contributed some beautiful tenor sax passages and the combination of Almazan on Rhodes with Oh on electric bass guitar worked really well in Deeper Than Happy and Little House. Some who admire Oh’s upright bass skills may have preferred that she stay on that instrument throughout, but the change seemed to allow Almazan more prominence on the weatherbeaten Rhodes and that was no bad thing.

On keyboards: Fabian Almazan

On keyboards: Fabian Almazan

Next up, in the WPAC Hall, was pianist/composer Walter Lampe, an expatriate now living in Amsterdam, with Dale Barlow on sax and flute.

Walter Lampe

Walter Lampe

This was but a brief glimpse of this concert, hardly enough to justify any broad observations. Lampe was alone on stage when I entered, playing sumptious chords. When Barlow returned, he introduced their take on Somewhere Over the Rainbow, which he said would “take all sorts of liberties” with the original, though paying it great respect.

Dale Barlow

Dale Barlow

Barlow’s sax sound for this delightful deconstruction of the favourite tune was fat, air-filled and luscious as it drifted languidly over Lampe’s piano. Lampe dug out some strong, rumbling chords before some more delicate work in his solo. It was a beautifully laid-back interpretation (what else would you expect). Barlow took up the flute for the next tune. I had to leave, heading to
St Patrick’s Hall to catch James Muller Trio.

James Muller Trio at St Patrick's Hall

James Muller Trio at St Patrick's Hall

Again, this was a brief sojourn just to see what was afoot. Muller on guitar was with Alex Boneham (fresh from his engaging and compelling accompaniment of Geoff Page reading his poetry at the launch of extempore‘s volume of Page’s jazz poems entitled A Sudden Sentence in the Air) and Ben Vanderwal on drums. Apologies for that convoluted parenthesis.

These musicians are brimful of talent and this was, I imagine, a set with plenty to offer for fans of robust jazz with some rock influence thrown in. It is a treat to hear Muller in full flight, ably backed by Boneham and Vanderwal, but this was to be a treat for others. I had to catch Josh Roseman with the Australian Art Orchestra.

Josh Roseman

Quirky: Josh Roseman

This is where the “wacky” part of the heading of this post starts to make sense. The Australian Art Orchestra can always be expected to come up with something out of the ordinary, so this concert was always likely to be a little different, given Roseman’s taste for similarly thinking outside the square. He is one interesting cat, as they say in jazz milieu. And of course there was expatriate Barney McAll, brother of John McAll of Black Money fame, who is also “out there” in the nicest way.

Barney McAll

Barney McAll

So, who was there and what happened? Well, the laundry list of players was, for the AAO, Tim Wilson and Jamie Oehlers on saxophones, Eugene Ball and Paul Williamson on trumpets, Jordan Murray and James Greening on trombones, Geoff Hughes on guitar, Phillip Rex on double bass and “Mr Grabowsky” (as Roseman always addresses him, with obvious respect) on piano. For the Josh Roseman Unit, Barney McAll played Rhodes, clavinet (electrophonic keyboard instrument manufactured by Hohner, according to Wikipedia), laptop, piano, Chucky (a homemade musical instrument he describes as being “for textural enterprise and underwater landscapes as metaphor”) and maybe another device or two, Ted Poor was on drums and Peter Apfelbaum on drums, keyboards and saxophone.

Paul Grabowsky

Paul Grabowsky

What happened? Well, it is hard to describe, but quite amazing. At one point Roseman told the audience that he and Barney had been “ploughing a path through absurdity” for many years, though this was “the first time we have set foot together on a stage in his motherland/fatherland”. Roseman added (and this seems to sum up the night): “He is truly out of a tree and we are going to shake a tree”. And shake a tree they did.

Josh Roseman

On vocals: Josh Roseman

But how to describe the result is a challenge. I admit to having been quietly laughing inside on many occasions during the set, because there seemed to be so much absurdist humour built into the performance. Tungsten Mothra (an allusion to a fictional moth monster who is pitted against Godzilla in many Japanese movies) was “dedicated to a lady — a whole lot of them” and was intended (I think) to conjure up visions of cheer leaders. Unspeakable (these were all Roseman compositions), which included a solo by Apfelbaum on melodica, segued into The Execution Tune in an extraordinary multi-layered display, with histrionics, which I was sure featured a fantastic guitar solo by Hughes, but maybe it was produced on the clavinet.  It was hard to grasp exactly from whence the sounds originated. McAll pulled enough expressive faces to rival Jim Carrey, as well as leaping about behind his instruments to produce effects or overcome technical difficulties.

Bold as brass: Josh Roseman

Bold as brass: Josh Roseman

Manifest Density followed, before Invocation, a work commissioned by the SFJAZZ Collective. This was epic but episodic music, with the structure not that easy to uncover amidst the short interventions by many players and combinations thereof. Contributions were often brief and the overall effect often a busy marketplace of rhythms, textures, patterns and incursions.

The set closed with what Roseman described as the King Froopy All Stars theme song, a reference to his 11 or 12-piece big band. This was a sonic feast, with a rich, resonant solo from the bandleader, spiced with some effects. There was a strange, but appealing feel to this piece, with flamboyant piano and keyboards and some piercing “whistles” from Ball’s horn. The musicians were all serious concentration, but the music was laughing. McAll had some fun with effects, producing sounds reminiscent of bird calls. At the end the band went into hymn-like Salvation Army band mode, with Grabowsky really getting into it on piano.

Grabowsky and Oehlers

Hey, Paul, we could try that in Lost and Found tomorrow morning.

I have little doubt that this was challenging music even for these talented musicians, though often lots of fun to play. But it was also challenging for the listeners, because there was little to latch on to before the constantly changing and evolving music moved on. That’s no bad thing, especially in a festival where “really out there” music was not so prevalent in the program. But this fun night did not leave me feeling it was one of the AAO’s highlight performances or that I could walk out with the tag “memorable” embedded in my deteriorating memory bank. It was more music for the intellect than the soul.

ROGER MITCHELL

Note: For those who made it this far and intend to return for more on this year’s Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues, I intend posting one overview of Saturday’s concerts, and one of Sunday’s, rather than attempting to review individual performances. These will be posted in the next few days. Please re-visit the blog, because pictures will be added gradually as time permits.

HOME-GROWN HIGHLIGHTS APLENTY

WANGARATTA JAZZ & BLUES FESTIVAL PREVIEW — PART 2

October 28 – 31, 2011

Sandy Evans

Highlight: James Greening's 'bone frames Sandy Evans at Stonnington Jazz 2011

The line-up for Cup weekend this year at Wangaratta includes enough expatriate musicians to suggest our local performers have all jumped ship in over the years. That’s far from the truth, of course, but the festival does have the pull to entice many musicians back for a visit.

Pianist Barney McAll will travel from New York to perform with Andrea Keller in a work for two pianos, vibraphone and 16-voice choir led by Gian Slater. Then Malaysian-born bassist Linda Oh, who grew up in Perth and has since moved to New York, will bring a quartet as well as performing duets with  Slater. And pianist composer Walter Lampe will travel from Amsterdam — his home of 20 years — to perform in a trio.

Wangaratta Jazz & Blues 2011

Launched: Wangaratta Jazz & Blues festival 2011

Wangaratta also reunites overseas musicians with Australians with whom they have collaborated. So Adam Simmons (saxophones etc.) will be joined by Denis Colin (bass clarinet) from France, Benjamin Moussay on keyboards and Chander Sardjoe on drums to celebrate their collaboration as La Societe des Antipodes.

And the great and inspiring Mike Nock, whose history takes in his native New Zealand, then time in Sydney, Boston, San Francisco and New York before he settled again in Sydney, will be reunited with bassist Barre Phillips, with whom he played in New York. Their improvised duets must not be missed.

But many of the highlights at the festival will be performances from Australian artists. The Australian Art Orchestra, which was founded by Paul Grabowsky and made its debut at Wangaratta in 1994, will include local luminaries Paul Williamson and Eugene Ball on trumpets, Jordan Murray and James Greening on trombones, Ian Chaplin and Jamie Oehlers on saxophones, Grabowsky on keyboards, Geoff Hughes on guitar, Phil Rex on bass for its collaboration with visiting trombonist Josh Roseman. There is a heap of creativity in that list.

Grabowsky and Oehlers will join Dave Beck on drums for a wholly improvised trio outing that will knock our socks off for its originality and ability to take us on a journey that is cohesive, developmental and has never a dull moment. That’s what they did at “Wang” in 2008 and I’d expect no less this time.

Saxophonist composer Sandy Evans, who inspired a rapturous review from Ausjazz blog for her sextet’s recent album When the sky cries rainbows, will add Phil Slater on trumpet, James Greening on ‘bone and Alister Spence on piano to her trio with Brett Hirst (bass) and Toby Hall (drums) to play the  recorded suite live. Don’t miss it.

And for the first time at Wangaratta, Evans and Grabowsky will perform as a duo, something they have often talked about but never achieved.

Another first-time duo that promises to be a highlight of the festival will be Brisbane saxophonist Elliott Dalgleish in a twosome with Melbourne drumming great Allan Browne. Bring it on.

James Muller — one of John Scofield‘s favourite guitarists — will play with his trio (Alex Boneham on bass and Ben Vanderwal on drums) as well as featuring in a trio with Thirsty Merc bassist Phil Stack and Tim Firth on drums. Thirsty Merc has a gig at Mulwala on the Saturday, so Adrian Jackson made the most of that to invite Stack to visit Wangaratta.

Paul Williamson’s Hammond Combo will play a concert with brilliant Hammond B3 organist Tim Neal and drummer Mike Jordan.

Trumpeter Paul Williamson‘s Inside Out will feature Marc Hannaford on piano, Sam Zerna on double bass and James McLean on drums.

For something a little off the beaten track, definitely make sure you catch Perth’s Memory of Elements, with Oehlers on tenor, Carl Mackey on alto, Tom O’Halloran on piano, Simon Jeans on guitar, Pete Jeavons on bass and Ben Vanderwal on drums.

Other home-grown highlights will include the Sydney powerhouse Mike Isaacs Resurgence Band (with Muller on guitar, Matt Keegan on reeds, Hirst on bass and Firth on drums), the Daniel Gassin Sextet (see Ausjazz blog’s review of its eponymous album), the David Rex Quartet (with Rex on alto, brother Phillip on bass, Grabowsky on piano and Craig Simon on drums), the warm and wonderful Howard Cairns Quintet (with Ball on trumpet, Don Jordan on ‘bone, Adam Simmons on sax and Mike Jordan on drums) and the swinging New Sheiks (with bassist Leigh Barker, Eamon McNelis on trumpet, Don Stewart on trombone, Matt Boden on piano and Alistair McGrath-Kerr on drums, and vocals by Heather Stewart).

And then there’s  the National Jazz Awards, with all those talented Australian drummers. (See Extempore’s interviews with the finalists by Miriam Zolin.)

If you’ve made it this far, you probably need to rest before booking your ticket to the Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival for 2011.

ROGER MITCHELL