Tag Archives: Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival


Tenth reason

10. A bounty from baecastuff

Among these highlights chosen by Ausjazz blog as 12 great reasons for not missing the Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival is one concert that is especially intriguing.

I have not heard Baecastuff, led by saxophone player Rick Robertson (of d.i.g fame), but the band comes highly recommended. I have no idea what to expect, but a glance at the line-up shows this group is guaranteed to produce extraordinary music.

Baecastuff features Phil Slater on trumpet, Matt McMahon on piano, Alex Hewetson on bass, Simon Barker on drums. Robertson formed the band in 1996 after he and Slater returned from a European Tour with d.i.g, which included appearances at the Montreux and North Sea Jazz festivals. The concept was to create an ensemble to present original compositions with influences from 1970s Miles Davis, Dave Holland, Ornette Coleman and Jan Garbarek, and to combine that with modern rhythms such as jungle and drum’n’bass. The band has developed a unique sound that one reviewer described as “jazz in spirit, but open to developments in funk and electronic music such as drum’n’bass.”

To Robertson the heritage of Norfolk Island, where he was born, is an important part of the music he has written for Baecastuff. His family descended from HMS Bounty mutineers, who occupied Pitcairn Island before being removed to Norfolk Island.

On the festival website he explains that Baecastuff will play Mutiny Music, “a musical narrative based on the music, language, and culture of the Pitcairn Islanders, depicting in musical terms what happened as a direct result of the Bounty mutineers’ need to retrieve their Tahitian ‘wives’ and hide successfully from the wrath of the English in tiny Pitcairn’s Isle. The music draws on Pitcairn hymns, melodies derived from spoken word and Polynesian rhythms.”

Performances: Saturday, November 3 at 3pm, WPAC Theatre; Sunday, November 4 at 10pm St Patrick’s Hall



Ninth reason


9. A suite creature feature

I had the privilege of reviewing the debut of Big Creatures and Little Creatures, which Murphy’s Law — led by bassist Tamara Murphy — performed at Bennetts Lane, Melbourne, in June this year for Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2012.

PBS Young Elder of Jazz Competition winner Murphy wrote the suite for her band, which comprises the bassist, two drummers — Danny Farrugia and Joe Talia, also on electronics — with Jordan Murray on trombone and Nashua Lee on guitar.

In the Ausjazz blog review, I wondered how much was improvised on the night and how much was scripted, because “none of the musicians appeared to be using any charts, and there was a level of concentration and intensity that usually accompanies spontaneous improvisation. Clearly the musicians were highly attentive to what the others were up to, but it was almost as if they were following a script that was not written down, yet was in their heads.”

It was an impressive performance. But it deserved a wider audience and another airing, so I recall expressing the hope that this suite would be performed again, “perhaps at a Stonnington Jazz or at Wangaratta”.

Adrian Jackson has given us the opportunity at this year’s Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival.

The suite has five movements, each featuring a member of the ensemble.

On the festival website, Murphy describes Big Creatures and Little Creatures as “fairly simple music”. She says each movement has a particular musical theme or character, which is used as a basis for improvisation.

“We deconstruct the movements as part of the suite. We call it a ‘modular’ approach, as the order of movements is not set and can be rearranged, or led by any member of the ensemble.

“We’ll probably play one long set of music, but with smaller musical structures comprising the larger, and it will be very dynamic. We have two drum kits too – so the grooves are very strong — and sometimes in stereo! We try to use the band both in conventional and unconventional ways. The audience will hopefully walk away not knowing what material was composed and what was improvised.”

Performance: Sunday, November 4, at 4pm, St Patrick’s Hall



Eighth reason


8. Origami IS SIMPLE. OR IS IT?

Media coverage of festivals often gives emphasis to overseas drawcards, which is understandable given that these artists are not usually on the musical menu at Australian venues.

But festivals are also an excellent opportunity for patrons to discover how much our local musicians — many with extensive overseas experience — have to offer.

Saxophonist Adam Simmons’ trio Origami, with Howard Cairns on bass and Anthony Baker on drums, is another highlight that I’d highly recommend not be missed at this year’s Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival.

Last year this trio released a superb debut album The Blues of Joy. Recently the band was back in the studio, so there are more recordings on the way.

Inspired by the Japanese art of folding paper, this trio works from a simple beginning to create pieces of great complexity and beauty.

Simmons is quoted on the festival website as saying, “Whether it is the stripped back instrumentation or the musical compositions, the idea has been to focus on limited materials and expand from there.

“My original idea was to form a ‘fierce alto trio’, full of strength, bravado and power – but partly due to choosing the friendliest rhythm section in Melbourne, as well as composing a whole bunch of gentle tunes, the reality became something quite different. It is still strong, due to the individual voices of each musician and their vast experience, but it is a gentle strength, without having anything to prove.

“At Wangaratta, we will perform original music from the CD, The Blues of Joy. And there will be music from a forthcoming CD, which will feature the songs by well-known (and not so well-known) contemporary artists such as Nick Cave, Gotye, Colin Hay and others.”

Simmons cites his musical influences as Ornette Coleman’s trio, and  alto sax players such as Maceo Parker, Johnny Hodges, Ian Chaplin, Tim O’Dwyer and Anthony Braxton.

Performance: Sunday, November 4 at 2pm, St Patrick’s Hall