23 November 2020

Tourism

There's a big push for local tourism with the waning of Covid in Australia but I'm not sure this can be called tourism.  Not sure it can even be called "on tour" because we just drove out for the day but it sounds cool.  Not that being on tour is such a comfy existence in the real world, but Musica da Camera's Sunday concert jaunt after each Saturday Cook concert is a pleasure.  And this was our 10th anniversary in Gunning; in the richly reverberant Shire Hall.  These out-of-town gigs are fun and, given it's a rehash of the program, they tends to be our best performances.  With Covid, the programs are shorter and we are doing two iterations in Canberra, so this was particularly satisfying as the third try.  Those missed repeats and poor counts and the like were fixed, and Rosemary took it slower and the works seemed to grow in intensity.  That surprised me.  So a pleasure it was.  The program was quite obscure, at least to me.  Rossini Viva Rossini was cute. Then Respighi Ancient arias and dances suite 3, the major ensemble work of the day, was somewhat odd and quite challenging.  Then Vivaldi Winter featuring a 15-yo violin powerhouse, a student of Rosemary, Fumiyo Yamamoto.  She also played the drastic dynamics of Sarasate Zigeunerweisen to finish up, with Alex Rowley Christmas suite for strings interspersed with its disguised carol quotes as a reminder that this unfortunate year of fires and hail and pandemics and Trump and more is coming to an end.  Good riddance.  But nice to do our little tour and to play with Fumiyo and just to neaten things up for this, the third and final iteration of this concert.  Until next year...

Musica da Camera performed Rossini, Reshigi, Vivaldi, Rowley and Sarasate under Rosemary Macphail (director) with soloist Fumiyo Yamamoto (violin) in two concerts at Cook and one in Gunning.

This is CJBlog post no. 2,300.

20 November 2020

When commitment shows

It wasn't a program I particularly recognised and not even a format I particularly know, although I have heard four-handed piano before.  But rarely and I don't remember it being like this.  The playing here was intense, unbending, busy, complex, deeply felt by players rocking backwards and forwards ont heir stool.  They were both products of the Russian/Ukrainian systems, one a Masters from Donetsk State Conservatorium; the other Honours from the Moscow State Institute of Music.  Now both in Canberra, teaching, accompanying and the like.  I remember a story told by Elena Katz-Chernin, also a product of that education, that indicated the demands placed on students compared to Australia's.  It was an eye-opener (Look for the story somewhere here on CJ under EKC).  Suffice to say, these were impressive and they played wonderfully together.  They had even had classes in four-handed piano in their studies.  They played Rosenblatt (including one well-known Russian theme) and Gluck and Piazzola Libertango, (obviously one I knew well) and Rachmaninov Vocalise and a nicely structured modern Christmas medley (is it that time already, in this strangest year 2020) by Jonathan Scott.  All was obviously arranged for four-hands, so the lines and sounds were different.  I couldn't easily separate the players/hands by ear, although seeing a video afterwards with hands showing made it obvious.  But whatever, this was a virtuosic effort with absolute commitment.  Few words, short breaks, some smiles form Natalia and quiet determination from treble-ended Elena.  Just wonderful.

Elena Nikulina and Natalia Tkachenko played four-handed piano on the Yamaha grand at Wesley Music Centre.

16 November 2020

Getting to normal?

It seems just a little normal to be seeing the second concert of a local ensemble since Covid-19.  This is Limestone Consort and they performed again at All Saints.  Last time was a little turnout next to St Christopher's in Manuka.  This time it was back to All Saints, our superb little church with carved angels and even gargoyles and with a more generous attendance.  All Saints is our touch of the mediaeval, literally here in Ainslie.  A local gem.  So is this group.  Lauren leads with some regular players, Clara, James, Michelle and Iska.  That forms the basis of Limestone, a gut-strung string quartet with harpsichord accompaniment.  Then adding Jennifer on baroque flute for a few tunes and Greta to sing another.  Limestone's music is baroque or early classical: Handel, Quantz, Telemann, Brescianello, Vivaldi, and this time two new names, at least to me, Fasch and Leonarda.  Interestingly, Leonarda was a Mother Superior, so a female composer in early times, apparently composing in her spare time.  The music was various sonfonias (sinfonie?), sonatas and a concerto.  Guest Jennifer's baroque flute was a delight on several pieces,  changing the tonality and effect and bouncing lines with Lauren's violin.  But perhaps the feature was the final piece, Vivaldi Nulla in mondo pax sincera, with Greta singing the soprano part.  She's such a lovely voice and this was such a fabulous piece, not least the elaborations on Alleluia at the end.  Greta carried it out with great effect, although talking after of being concerned she couldn't do a last minute warm-up.  Understandable given the virtuosity of the piece, but she's too hard on herself.  It was wonderful.  Such a lovely repertoire, a lovely, joyous, happy outfit and a second appearance for them in this haggard year.  In case it's not obvious, Limestone are a fave of mine.

Limestone Consort comprised Lauren Davis and Michelle Higgs (violins), Iska Sampson (viola), Clara Teniswood (cello), James Porteous (harpsichord) with Jennifer Brian (flute) and Greta Claringbould (soprano).  They performed at All Saints, Ainslie.

14 November 2020

Offerings

I was interested to hear that a collection of over 1,000+ prints had been offered to the National Gallery by the Megalo Print Studio but not accepted into the collection.  Being an ex-librarian, I understand the implications of such an acquisition, so I could understand to some degree (this being a large local collection), but I was interested in seeing the prints anyway.  A small sample were on exhibition at Megalo's premises in Kingston.  Megalo is a Canberra institution dating back 40 years, having originated in a tin shed in the Ainslie Village in the 1980.  For Canberra, that's an institution.  They have a small collection on show in the workshop's foyer.  I recognised a few names and various techniques and a few historical themes, many political - Fraser, Whitlam, Howard, feminism, class, events.  Printing seems to have always been a political medium.  It had me thinking back to the '60s/'70s screen printing scene: everyone had posters on walls, for bands and more; poster shops were institutions; every demo had its prints.  It was a peoples' artform although not without its skills.  My indulgence for a short time was linoprint and I still love the mediaeval effect of woodblock printing.  So, this was in some ways a visit to a past that's somewhat replaced by newer technologies.  But if the return of vinyl means anything, it suggests that art forms of all eras tend to co-exist.

The Megalo Print Studio is in Kingston.

13 November 2020

Near enough for jazz

Not really near enough, but it is relevant.  Tilt played another best-eva gig for the opening of the British Film Festival at Palace Electric.  BTW the pic isn't Tilt hard at it, but from the Festival film White Riot about late-70s punk in Britain.  The Clash, I think, from the Festival brochure.  Not sure what makes for these best-eva gigs.  A good day, good acoustics, good feel, volume, repertoire?  I fought for tone this time, but it worked in the end.  Concentrating on tone is physical, especially on the double bass, but it lets me relax into melody, so better solos.  And I was standing, so there's that sensuous aspect of poring over a big, old, clumsy, wooden instrument.  And we had to reduce volume when one film started, and that has its influence, adding to subtlety and care.  Whatever,  it worked and we had a ball.

Tilt Trio played at Palace Electric.  Tilt are James Woodman (piano), Dave McDade (drums) and Eric Pozza (bass).

11 November 2020

Buzzing

It was after the demos and I was wasting time mosying around Civic, the civic area, Garema Place, outside Hippo, rather than the privatised Centre.  A band was playing, or at least a duo, The Beez, two vocalists, male and female, on guitar and accordion.  They were playing Midnight Oils' Beds are burning as I arrived.  Very catchy, sounds fun, nicely lively.  Then, what?  German?  Yes, they'd switched to a verse in German.  I caught a string of other songs before they closed shop.  Faco Der Commissar, apparently in a Viennese dialect.  Never going to be Barry White, I assume an original (see The Beez performing this on YouTube).  Baissong (?), perhaps a Euro-take on Kiss' I was made for loving you, and that 80s glam-pop classic, Nena's Neunundneunzig Luftballons (99 balloons) which I've just learned has a theme of nuclear holocaust.  The Beez: nice and lively, great fun, with those unexpected Germanic lyrics.  Nice to hear some other languages on the bandstand: we are so unrelentingly monolingual in English-language countries.  It's a weakness.

PS. Megan recalls we saw their show "Don't mention the wall" (about the Berlin Wall) at the Artist Shed.  The Beez site says they toured it to Australian in 2013.  That's two years before the advent of CJ so no record here.

The Beez performed in duo format in Garema Place in Civic.  They were Deta Rayner (accordion, vocals) and Rob (guitar, vocals).

10 November 2020

Day of demos

If you listen to my recorded music (under the pseudonym "The Pots" on Spotify et.al.) you'll realise I have political opinions.  Fairly strong and, at least I think, fairly ethical.  Also, I think, reasonably informed by good sources providing guidance from evidence.  Now, we have had some dog days of late.  The bushfires and Covid and ScoMo/LNP's response to rebuilding the economy and generally to climate and secrecy and security and much more.  But maybe there's some hope.  Trump got the flick and he seems to be strangely restrained in the face of defeat.  Biden is no arch-lefty (clearly to the right of our own revered Liberal Menzies, as is our contemporary Labor party) but at least he's not so impetuous and ill-informed and has at least some respect for truth and belief that it exists and we can at least approach it.  So there's some mild, distant hope.  Thus, I embarked on a day of demos. 

First up, a morning fling outside Parliament in support of Zali Steggall's climate bill.  Not a big crew, mostly retired.  Strange that, but the kids have much less time these days, what with flexible work and dearer housing and the rest.  I was handed a sign to hold and it worked for me "Coal ... too stupid", but I wish I'd made one "Invest in Gas / What could possibly go wrong".  Well, lots, given Europe, US, Japan, South Korea, China (others too) are committed to give up on fossil fuels within 30 (China 40) years.  So it's not just survival of civilisation, but even survival of economy.  That's changing minds!

Second up, a lunchtime session outside the ACT Courts in support of Bernard Collaery and the subjects of secret trials.  I wish to say justice, but the essence of secrecy is the denial of justice.  Thus is the way of an increasing state of security, the primacy of Home Affairs and the rest.  Our local luminary journos spoke, Jack Waterford and Mark Kenny, with hosting presumably by host Sister Susan Connelly.

I took the opportunity to promote my albums to the fellow travellers at the demos.  If you've heard my albums, you'd recognise all these themes: climate, broken politics, Covid.  If not, catch up with these.  In the meantime, remember Gramsci: "Pessimism of the intellect; optimism of the will".

The Pots is a project of Bassist EP of Canberra.  Here's some listening:
On Broken politics > Spotify
On Climate > Spotify
On Collaery et al > Spotify
On Trump's Bible photo-op > Spotify

9 November 2020

Masters

Thanks to George for asking me to record Georgina.  I've watched Georgina for several years and played with her occasionally but as is with youth, she's blossomed.  She's now in her honours year in violin performance (UQ) and seeking entry to a Masters program.  My recording is a help towards that.  How they play!  She performed with accompaniment by Anthony Smith, so this was a mighty pairing with some unique music.  First up, a movement from Saint-Saens Violin concerto no.3.  Then some solo Bach from his Violin sonata no.3.  Then the odd one, Ravel Violin sonata no.2.  Why odd?  Just not at all like baroque or classical or romantic.  This had growls and rhythmic grooves and the like.  Some reminded me of modern US music, perhaps even country.  I guess that was the growls; the grooves perhaps suggested funky something or other.  But so nicely played all around.  Nicely intoned, alive and vibrant, fast and sometimes furious, delicate and formal as required.  I can just hope she takes a Masters spot.  I cna only imagine she deserves it.

Georgina Chan (violin) performed a recital with accompanist Anthony Smith (piano) at Wesley.

8 November 2020

Pic an excuse

Tilt played another gig at Molly last week.  We had just a little competition on the night: the US Presidential Election and State of Origin.  Nonetheless we got listeners and they were stayers, so all was well on the night.  I've got to little else recently and otherwise nothing particularly to mention here so it didn't get a run earlier.  But I like this pic from Layla, with cocktails front and centre while we strived in our profound artistic pursuits (!).  Good gig though; much enjoyed.

Tilt Trio comprises James Woodman (piano), Dave McDade (drums) and Eric Pozza (bass).

31 October 2020

Dubbo

This CV19 era is a downer. There have been a few jazz gigs but I couldn't get to them for some reason of other. As a break, we went off to Dubbo. Dubbo? Yeah, famed for the zoo but we didn't go this time. We did check out some historical sites, the gaol and the homestead, and the Botanic Gardens and Cultural centre and various restaurants. I noticed a ton of motels in town. I guess it's the zoo's pulling power. We chatted in a surprisingly large music store and discovered the local conservatorium (our local SOM heavies had played there recently). Met the great-great-niece of Ben Hall, the famed local bushranger. Got to see the Canowindra fish fossils and the Parkes radio telescope in our travels. The music highlight was the Old Bank pub, with guitars on the wall a la Hard Rock Cafe. These guitars always surprise me as attractive instruments (335, superstrat, jb, DanElectro, Gretsch, etc) but they are not really so expensive as decoration and possibly serve as investments. That was the site for the Tuesday night jam session. This was rock with a string of hit covers - Paul Kelly, Pink Floyd, Dylan, Angels, Santana and the like. I liked it but didn't end up sitting in. So be it. The band was greying (I can talk!) and capable. The burgers were huge. We only stayed for the host band's set. We liked it. Takes you back. As for Dubbo, there must be layers to unearth that we didn't have time to discover. 
 
Eric and Megan visited Dubbo.

25 September 2020

Maintaining history

The Wadsworth organ seemed out of place in this modern church space, all stage upfront with lectern and no altar, but with resident band gear in the corner.  The organ, though, had history, birthing in 1908 in Manchester and finding its way through a number of moves to Marist College here in Canberra, then finally to the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Cook.  Linus Lee played it for this RSCM (Royal Society of Church Music, Australia, ACT Branch) concert.  I'm working my way around the organs in Canberra through this lovely group that presents monthly lunchtime concerts around town.  It's a pleasant interlude with these unique and complex instruments. They are mostly not the grand organs of European cathedrals, but satisfying none-the-less, even if their spaces here in Canberra can lack requisite stone to share their profundity. Whatever...  This concert featured Linus Lee playing a range from Buxtehude through Bach and Beethoven to Franck, Ketelbey and Lefebre-Wely.  There was a pleasant mix of stateliness and lighter contrasts, right from the Buxtehude on, and counterpoint and renowned melody - the Beethoven was his piano sonata no.8 Cmin put to organ so less percussive and fuller.  And a string of organ grinder-like joviality and joy to finish.  That was a little unexpected but clearly welcomed.  There were some low notes that felt weak and some clunks and knocks but that is all part of this mechanically complex instrument that demands such maintenance.  The cost of that, the age of the instruments, the lack of expertise militate against that these days.  But the sounds can be blissful and there were some lovely passages in this.  Thanks to RSCM(ACT) and Linus Lee for the concert and Westminister Presbyterian for the opportunity.

Linus Lee (organ) played Buxtehude, Bach, Beethoven, Franck, Ketelbey and Lefebre-Wely on the Wadsworth Organ at the Westminister Presbyterian Church for the Royal Society of Church Music monthly concert.

23 September 2020

Best eva

Megan says that I report every gig as the "best eva".  I don't think I do, quite, but this one really was.  Maybe it was getting up again on stage.  With Covid, it's relatively rare for all players.  This was only my third jazz gig since March.  But it all just seemed to gel.  Sometime it does.  I remember reading Leonard Cohen's novel decades back and he said that about performing.  I have always thought it's not particularly professional - we should we able to play decently whenever called - but there's some truth in it.  Sometimes your hands are just not in, or it's cold or the sound doesn't work, and that's particularly an issue with double bass.  But last night I could hear myself so well with my mammoth, heavy Eden amp, relax into the tone and the tunes and interactions with James and Dave.  So I was enjoying it, my hands were supple and quick, and I found it a great night.  But then last time on this stage in a duo with James was good too.  Was that the best eva?  Well, it's difficult to say...

Tilt Trio comprises James Woodman (piano), Dave McDade (drums) and Eric Pozza (bass).  They played at Molly.

20 September 2020

Concert in the time of Covid

It's a strange experience.  This was my first concert since the Covid close-down six months ago.  The group was much the same - twenty or so string players in Musica da Camera with guest guitar soloist and director.  The location was the same, but instead of 100+ audience, there were just 30 seats sparsely strewn in front of us.  Better than nothing.  Someone mentioned the sound was different but I didn't particularly notice, being too busy trying to play the parts.  Because that's another thing: the parts were not too challenging, but my practice hasn't been so established for several months.  Covid has done strange things to our mental states.  And another thing, I couldn't play the Sunday concert.  I have to confirm 14-days staying in the ACT in a bit less than 2 weeks and the Sunday concert was close, but in NSW.  Strange, really, given that ACT is so small, and so many NSW residents come to Canberra for work or pleasure anyway.  But they have to set some rules and this is a little oddity.  So I thought we were just a little rusty but the music was surprisingly satisfying - Grieg, Vivaldi, Whitacre, Boccherini and Piazzolla Libertango.  The soloist was Canberra-trained guitarist Andrew Blanch and the conductor was local music educator and bassist Lizzie Collier.  Both were impressive.  I expected it would be too much guitar, too Spanish, but I came to enjoy the performance immensely: the passionate, driving rhythms and growling bass parts.  Lizzy advised that tango should be played virtually 100% with down-bows on bass and cello.  Interesting and strange but it gave a drive and growl that I loved. The Grieg was lovely folk song as Nordic melody; the Whitacre was colours of autumn interpreted with all manner of time signatures (3/4,5/4,4/4,6/4) and harmonic colour.  The Vivaldi and Boccherini were with guitar, one a guitar concerto and the other including a fandango.  Libertango is just a fabulous, hugely covered passionate tango (from Grace Jones on).  So, I'm sorry I'm not playing the Sunday concert (it's being played as I write this) because the rehash is always more comfortable and committed, but I enjoyed that which I could and I remain Covid-correct.  Thanks to all and hope it's going well right now.

Musica da Camera string orchestra performed Vivaldi, Whitacre, Boccherini and Piazzolla under Lizzy Collier (director) with soloist Andrew Blanch (guitar).

13 September 2020

Experienced


FWIW, a note of consternation for readers.  Blogger has changed its publishing interface and I can no longer publish multiple images to display as I always have.  So, just one pic per post until they fix this.  I'm not alone: there's a discussion happening with lots of disgruntled bloggers.  How often do updates reduce effectiveness in computing?  Too often.  So, sadly, just one pic posts from now on.

It's the mark of a seasoned professional that they've played all manner of musics and they can pull different styles off with some conviction.  I knew Wayne Kelly was seasoned and professional from seeing him around town over the years but this was particularly obvious this night.  He wasn't playing a jazz bar, but the Lone Wolf blues-rockabilly venue of Jeffro and fondly remembered Bucky (vale Bucky).  So we got a mix of musics but with the conviction and wit and jazz-tutored chops of Wayne.  Not that he did it all alone.  He had James Luke and Chris Thwaite on side.  James has been everywhere over the years and Chris has been around for a similarly long time, although I haven't seen him for years.  Amusingly, the name suggested the styles, Wayne Kelly Experience, although the pop was the Polics (Walking on the Moon) and Beatles (Strawberry Fields forever).  Perhaps the bluesier numbers with Jeffro sitting in on blues harp were more Hendrixy, but they included some.  Or the Trane-ish  original, King of Kings.   Then there were a few songs, both ballads, with Wayne doubling on vocals, When I fall in love and Crazy, both immensely popular and clever tunes.  And the intro on Nardis, the first bars, had me floored with jazz subtlety and harmonic invention.  Wow.  Then another Bill Evans tune I'd never even noticed, Very early.  But then, after interval, was something different again, solo Wayne on Maple Leaf rag and, oddly but intiguingly, some classical solo piano, Chopin nocturne F#maj op.15 no.2 and two Bach Two part inventions, no. 14 Bb and no.8 (F?) that everyone knows.  Wow; and intriguing playlist.  Quite and experience.  And the most fabulously substitutioned Doctor Kirkland Blues (after Kenny Kirkland): so, so clever.  But this is not to say his offsiders weren't worthy.James blew us out with a string of solos.  He's quick and expansive and melodic, although we couldn't alwasy hear his that well.  That's a problem with amplifed double bass, here over a bluesy PA.  And an interesting looped take on Strawberry Fields, starting with pizz then through a number of bowed harmonies under the melodoy.  Verr cool.  And Chris, solid and steady, intriguing with a djembe-styled solo on King of Kings, and intriguing with some very satisfying, determined solos otherwise.  And not to forget Jeffro, more blues than jazz, sitting in on a few tunes that suited him and giving that plaintive edge of authentic blues.  Takes you back to early jazz, I guess.  Before The Police or Beatles, before Coltrane or Oliver Nelson, before Ellington (oh, Caravan was in there too) although not before Bach.  So, some great playing and an expansive vision.  I guess that's an experience to savour.

Wayne Kelly Experience comprised Wayne Kelly (piano, vocals), James Luke (bass) and Chris Thwaite (drums) with Jeffro Martin (blues harp) sitting in on a few tunes.  They played at the Lone Wolf sessions at the Austrian-Australian Club.

1 September 2020

Journaling the plague year

There's little music and particularly little jazz that I know of these days, this being the time of the pandemic.  But a last minute advice on FB about our star young local bassist, Brendan Keller-Tuberg playing at Molly with his quartet was enticing.  The band was Brendan with Wilbur Whitta (piano), Steve Read (guitar) and Rhys Lintern (drums) playing variously over 3 sets.  I hoped to catch the middle set and more, with the non-jazz arrangements and interpretations (Radiohead and the like) going into standards to finish.  I arrived to instruments laid on stage and the band in a break and a decent buzz and a girl who didn't offer me a beer, but informed me they'd reached their limit (51).  So that's that.  And so little more jazz!  That was sad: they would have made a worthy outing.  In a related vein, that afternoon I offered to record a classical group in a few weeks time.  To allow them a full paying audience, I offered to sit in the Green room.  No choice anyway: it was already sold out.  I've always enjoyed that we needn't book for jazz.  If this is our new entertainment world, I can only hope dearly for an early vaccine.  And no pic.