26 June 2016

Maynard's original hipsters


Rachael Thoms' dedication was to the original hipsters, the jazz musicians and hip followers from the time of '40s Bebop through to '60s cool, one radical musical stream of their age. Rach's introductory spiel for the show says it best: "These cats talked the talk and walked the walk. They were laid-back, sarcastic, sexually open and partial to the old ‘Green Badger’. They were ‘hot stuff’, ‘mad mellow’, and ‘out of this world’. Their shoes were ‘kicks’; and their teeth were ‘crumb crunchers’. Boys were ‘groovy’ and girls were ‘fly’ … The pioneers, the nerds, the weirdos, the trailblazers, the vanguards, the masters." Perfect. Rach gave us the words of the hipsters themselves, witty or profound, eminently quotable, and their music, their ultimate expression. The selected hipsters were Monk, Benny Golson, Dave Brubeck, Bill Evans, Bob Dorough and Miles. Every tune was sung, often with lyrics added later by jazz vocalese singers. Famed tunes like Round midnight, Take 5 and Devil may care; slightly lesser known masterpieces like Nardis and Whisper not; some common blow calls like Well you needn't and Blue Monk; profound numbers like Waltz for Debby and Blue and green; and the inevitably amusing ones like Too close for comfort ("One thing leads to another / too late, to duck for cover / too close, too close for comfort / now" with that ambiguous final word). And this was about the best band in town that I could imagine playing this light and tight, lyrical music with such deceptive ease: Rachael with her classical chops and jazz sensibility; Lachlan so clean and precise (Rachael's "human metronome"); Chris understated and ever aware; James accompanying then soloing with huge, unbasslike lyricism. These tunes can sound old and overworked but this was fresh, vibrant, crystalline. I was refreshed by the pleasure of the standard repertoire but I shouldn't be surprised given the band. Maynard G Krebs, would have claimed Monk as the original hipster, and so might some others, but they were all geniuses, at least near enough for jazz.

Rachael Thoms (vocals) led a quartet comprising Lachlan Coventry (guitar), James Luke (bass) and Chris Thwaite (drums) at Smiths.

24 June 2016

Katy amongst friends


Katy Gallagher spoke at a Politics in the Pub for the Australia Institute. It felt like she took the opportunity to relax, this being an audience somewhere near her comfort zone, and this being Day 44 of a long, long election campaign and (a few weeks yet to go) and she's given plenty of recent speeches. On top of that, I had to run off before most questions, so even less to report. Her theme was common questions she'd received, and these were mainly about her move to Federal politics and the Senate. She has no regrets; she felt she'd done everything she could in ACT politics; she would have been in ACT politics for 19 years by the next election and in have acted in most ministerial posts. Her decision followed a COAG meeting where Abbott reneged on agreements for funding health and education, so she decided Federal level really mattered [I wondered how she could have thought otherwise]. In addition, Shorten had healed and pulled together a strong team. She spoke of huge differences: close vs. removed relationships; a different engagement with the media; gotcha politics. Interestingly, she observed the Senate was "the most sexist workplace she'd worked in" [then felt no inconsistency in the talking of "mansplaining"]. She has now found her feet in the Senate and looks forward to 2 July. She notes the difficulties of federal policy: "wicked political policy questions are hard". Gotcha politics undermines conversational styles and promotes set massages. The difference between being involved in all decisions as Chief Minister to being just one of 80 backbenchers. Parliament House as an "isolated environment" of essentially FIFO workers and the gruelling task for MPs from WA. Satisfyingly, a positive comment on the commitment of MPs despite what (little and controlled) we see. All interesting but nothing startling; then of to record at Smiths.

Katy Gallagher (ACT Labor Senator) spoke at Politics in the Pub for the Australia Institute.

23 June 2016

A time for silence


The title and the theme were sacrifice and the sub-title was Lost songbirds of the Somme. This was another of Chris Latham's investigations into WW1 with the support of the Australian government (100 years of ANZAC) and various other embassies and institutions and departments. All part of the Flowers of War project. This one explored a string of composers from both sides who partook at the Somme and who mostly died there. There were songs, of lost fellows, of girls left behind, of memories of home, elegies and laments and war sonatas and death. Not too much of valour in battle; perhaps the piper came closest to that, given a piper's role in those days. There were pieces well known by Australians and others and many lesser known. There were instrumentals amongst several songs. The concert itself lasted 90 minutes and the request for no applause between tunes lent it a pensive air which suited well. The British High Commissioner recited the Ode of remembrance with some emotion. The Ode is longer than the commonly cited Australian version ("They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old / Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn / At the going down of the sun and in the morning / We will remember them"). The HC narrated two of seven verses from the original, excluding some specific references to England. Then a minute of silence, the Last post sung by tenor and a final bugle call. With the piper and the lofty Cathedral-like space and following over an hour of tragic memories, the room's mood was palpably affected. The musicians were impressive, intoning and bowing with lovely precision. Just 3 violins, viola, cello and accordion, sometimes with voice, so the music was clear and open. My favourite was FS Kelly Elegy, but only because I know it well, and his Somme lament. The whole was bathed in pathos which most showed in some songs. Like Suzette, presumably an ode to a lover, but displaying little joy amongst its dense Edwardian romanticism; or Gurney singing that "I'm homesick for my hills again"; or Gurney again by a bierside "It's most grand to die / most grand"; or Ibert's strained attempt at recall of home and hearth in his Noël en Picardie. Then to end, the walking piper coming down the High Court ramp growing louder as he approached, and the Ode and the Last Post. It was touching and quiet and beautifully presented and some superb performances (including some thoroughly impressive piping). And a printed program that was a work of both history and art. Congrats to all.

Sacrifice was coordinated and much music was arranged by Chris Latham (violin) and performed by the Sculthorpe String Quintet comprising Anna McDonald, Rose Kavanagh and Chris (violins), Tor Fromyhr (viola) and Zoltan Szabo (cello) with Andrew Goodwin (vocal tenor), Anton Wurzer (accordion), Jason Craig (bagpipes) and an unnamed bugler. Menna Rawlings (British High Commissioner to Australia) recited the Ode of remembrance.

21 June 2016

Back to blues


I used to attend blues jam regularly but it faded, but I've been looking forward to a return for some time. Finally, notification of a Blues Club jam at Hellenic and a free Sunday afternoon. Great! Pack my most appropriate instrument (stock standard sunburst fretted JB MIM with DiMarzio pups) and off. The host band was Northside City Slickers with John Van Buuren, Tim Spellman and Fred Pilcher and Bridget Croft sitting in for a few songs. Then the jammers list. I was lucky enough to play with a great band led by Chris Harland with Peter Kirkup, Mitch Preston and Chris Tominich on harp. Three 12-bar blues: Medium temp C, some walking; 12/8 in A; driving blues in G. That's the blues for ya. Great fun, fabulous amp (Mesa-Boogie, thanks Bucky), hot and tight. Then a series of other bands and various mates: Steve, Don, Ken, Ross, Dan, even Wayne Kelly made and appearance. A big hall with a decent crowd, some dancers, German beer away from the rain outside. Great!

Canberra Blues Society jam sessions are held 2-5.30pm, third Sunday each month, at the Harmonie German Club.

  • Canberra Blues Society monthly jam
  • 18 June 2016

    Goods


    Selby is an uncommon pleasure and closely followed by a cohort of the local classical audience. She does a program that tours much of the nation, playing in Canberra at the NGA theatre. It's chamber music, done with obvious skill, in small groups. This was a trio playing two piano trios and duos of piano with violin and cello. The players were clearly superb. Kathryn leads it all from the piano. Her colleagues for this concert were Nikki Chooi, Canadian violinist, and Timo-Veikko Valve, Scandinavian principal cellist of the ACO. No slouches. The program was an interesting modern piece, Julian Yu Prelude and not-a-fugue for piano trio, obviously a play on Bach and featuring the B-A-C-H motif in the second movement. Also, Schumann, Brahms and Schubert. All richly played with nice communication, informative intros and some smiles. I chatted with a cello player in the break and we had both commented on the bowing and some strings choices (low strings played high on the neck for a deep feel, I think in the pained Brahms) that were instructive. The clarity and openness of both sound and intent of such a small group is something special and a drawcard for small chamber ensembles like this. Selby doesn't come cheap, but she has an ardent following and she provides the goods.

    Kathryn Selby (piano) played with friends Nikki Chooi (violin) and Timo-Veikko Valve (cello) at the National Gallery.

    17 June 2016

    More Smalls

    I've commented before that Wayne Kelly's Trio leading a Wednesday night jam session at the Old Canberra Inn is our local Smalls. I got there last Wednesday. It was cold, cold outside but snug inside with wood fires behind glass and the unexpected warmth of a slab hut, no doubt sealed against drafts. So the venue was hot, good for boutique beers, and the music was too. The band was Wayne, Ben and Mark. The sitins were three drummers, one bass, one trumpet, one piano, one vocal. The piano and vocal were a pair who play Cuban music locally, so we got some great, infectious latin grooves. This really is something special. Elizabeth and Jonathan play in the local band, Clavemania, most recently at Vivaldi. Matthew was the trumpet, a local boy now student at the James Morrison Academy in Mount Gambier. Very nice playing, not least on Joy Spring. The drummers were Ken, Mitch and Andrew. I got to play bass on three favourites: Caravan, Alone together and All blues, mostly with Wayne and a variety of drummers and Matthew. Good fun and nice to play Ben's German trade bass.

    But a further Smalls matter has also taken some recently. I thought the Smalls online feed was shut, but no, it's free with registration for live shows and charged for the historical collection. Three sessions each night, 7.30am-4am NYC time, about 10am-6pm AEST. Neat. Two bands then a jam session. Funny thing, over a few days I saw both Ari Hoenig and Joe Farnsworth, two renowned NYC drummers who visited Canberra in just the last few weeks. Small world; Smalls and the world; our small Smalls.

    Wayne Kelly (piano), Ben O'Loghlin (bass) and Mark Sutton (drums) lead the weekly jam session at Old Canberra Inn, 7-9pm Wednesdays. Sitins this evening were Matthew Nicholls (trumpet), Andrew Howard, Ken Nosworthy and Mitch Preston (drums), Elizabeth Obando Paz (vocals), Jonathan Cohen (piano) and Eric Pozza (bass).

  • Smalls NYC live stream
  • 15 June 2016

    Another day, another suite


    And here I am thinking jazz suites are rare. This was Lloyd Swanton's composition, mostly music, but with accompanying and explanative spoken word and projected photographs. Again, with a collection of some of Australia's best jazz-oriented musicians and even a classical mate of mine, James Eccles, of the Australian Haydn Ensemble and Noise and more. The Ambon suite told the story of Lloyd's uncle, Stuart, who was sent with Gull Force to Ambon Island in WW2 to protect against Japanese invasion. It was a woefully inadequate response, a doomed action, and Stewart and Gull Force ended as prisoners of the Japanese, enduring harsh treatment for several years, Stuart dying of beri-beri just the day before the end of the Pacific war. Tragic and sad for family. Interestingly, while researching, Lloyd found webs of connections, not least that the father of legendary Melbourne jazz drummer, Brian Brown, had also been prisoner and died on Ambon. It's a small jazz world. We have heard much of military matters recently as the Abbott Government lavished on the centenary of WWI, and I just hope this worthy project got some of that funding.

    So what of the performance, of itself and inevitably with some comparison to yesterday's jazz suite by Stu Hunter? There were spoken words but not singing; music that was both more traditional (mirroring the music of the time) but also noise, of dismantled wind instruments and tapping various other instruments and bass with rattling metal attachments; the playing on all was impeccable; I drooled over the silver sheen of Michel Rose's pedal steel guitar (more complex than I'd imagined: 20 strings, 9 pedals, 8 knee levers? I have loved this instrument since hearing MR with the catholics - he told me that was early '90s; he'd left to play with Lee Kernaghan); I enjoyed the classical and authentic touch with James E playing uncle Stuart's actual viola; I was entranced by yet another solo by James G played with his uncommon abandon; I enjoyed some heavy beats in the second half, although these were not common, and some exquisite four part wind passages, and otherwise some delicate percussion; a passage of tunes by the strings was lyrical, just bass, viola, pedal steel, ukelele and guitar; I was intrigued by the uncannilly authentic sounds of tropical birds and forest in one passage; I was blackly amused by some stories, like the unknown brother flying low over Ambon Harbour for sheer bravado and surviving Japanese ack-ack, or of the meat-case bass. This was aural colour and historical song, religious faith and humour in adversity all in a true family story. There were even pics of Stuart's gravestone, now updated with military honour, and of his diary now resident at the War Memorial. This was touching, educative and musically satsifying, so a great success all round from a wonderful set of mature, communicative musicians and a emotionally touched composer. A second wonderful jazz suite.

    Lloyd Swanton (bass, composer) led the band in the Ambon Suite at the Street Theatre. The band was Lloyd (bass), Paul Cutlan (saxes, clarinets, recorder), Sandy Evans (saxes), Alex Silver (trombone), James Greening (trombone, cornet, tuba, baritone horn), Fabian Hevia (percussion), Ron Reeves (kendang, percussion), Hamish Stuart (drums), James Eccles (viola), Michel Rose (pedal steel guitar), Jon Pease (guitar), Sam Lemann (ukelele).

    13 June 2016

    Suite life


    A suite is a big view and not very common in jazz, but Stu Hunter does them. The migration is the third that he's composed and recorded and the first that I've heard on tour. We were lucky enough to catch the final night here in Canberra, after performances as far afield as Perth and as illustrious as the MIJF. The final night mostly has the best awareness of the music and the most delirious pleasure in playing and that's what it seemed to me this night. Not least aided by the Canberra connections, through frequent gigs or teaching or studying at our School of Music in its illustrious past. I assume there's also family here for some of them. I could only admire and wallow in the deep, often minimalist grooves, the sometimes raucous horn parts, the heavy rhythms or detailed drums or essential, busy, feathery e-bass, or Stu's directorial piano segments or Tina's blues-infested voice that stepped through lyrics in three component songs of nine tune/movements. I couldn't catch all the words and these would be essential for the theme; reading them after from the CD cover I'm still not hugely more confident in my interpretation. The migration seems a broad story of life, a "celebration, conversation, a comment and a wish ... my own life process put to music ... questions instead of answers ... movement of ideas and beliefs ... and growth and sharing of culture and ideas". That's a broad palette for the theme. The music was broad too, as well as virtuosic (although no surprise on the virtuosity given the lineup). Bass was core to the work. It started with a wah bass solo then a driving dirty bass with overlying yearning horn themes. Then a heavy groove with Afrobeat horns; a short pensive section; the theme laid out with voice on Twelve stages of freedom. Requiem for belief was a written four part horn tune (including tuba) with drums accompaniment (think Nino Rota). There was a piece outlining flowing water then a piano-heavy ballad speaking of love; an ecstatic blues/funk song with words of moonshine but themed of the joys of life lived. Finally a klezmer-like ending called Land of Gypsies, instrumental and outgoing and open to the world. Nice to see the migration was ultimately well-received by the composer. It was certainly well-received by the audience. I hugely enjoyed the grooves, head-nodding for long passages (there's a lot of music here to dance to), the horns were great, the rhythm section was wondrous, especially Cameron Undy (local origin, now Sydney), very busy on a uniquely lithe bass (short scale Fender Musicmaster with split pickup?), and Simon's insistent drumming, Tina's voice was intimately bluesy and powerful with heavy vibrato. And Julien's bass clarinet, amusingly sometimes sounding of didj, Matt's much restrained solo lines breaking into flurries, James' playful virtuosity on tuba and everything else he touches, Phil's calmly explosive precision, Carl's occasional guitar (I remember just one larger solo this night, mostly lost in the mix to my ears) that can plumb real musical depths, Declan's insistent rhythms that established more than one tune, and Stu's guidance and oversight from the piano stool and sharp solos and penetrating comping. 80 minutes that entranced and involved and passed with ease. In the wake of the like of Mingus and Carla Bley, Stu Hanter has produced his third large format compostion and it was a wonderful, engaging success.

    Stu Hunter (piano, composer) led the band in performing his suite, The migration, at the Street Theatre. The band was Stu with Phil Slater (trumpet), Matt Keegan (saxes, clarinet), Julien Wilson (saxes, clarinet), James Greening (trombone, pocket trumpet, tuba), Carl Dewhurst (guitar), Cameron Undy (bass), Simon Barker (drums, percussion), Declan Kelly (percussion, drums), Tina Harrod (vocals).

    12 June 2016

    To fret or to despair


    With all the despair around the US Election, here was one session I couldn't miss: a seminar at ANU on US Climate policy after Obama, ie, after the upcoming election. These are serious sessions and well worth the visits. This was convened by the ANU Climate Change Institute and introduced by its Director, Mark Howden, with key guest was Elliot Diringer or the Centre for Climate and Energy Solutions, with a past in the (Bill) Clinton White House. This was not a party-political presentation (although some despair or disdain is inevitable when considering some future options).

    Elliot Diringer spoke first. Firstly on the foundations for the present, how there was emerging climate bipartisanship but how it failed especially in the context of the Tea Part and conservative backlash. Then about Obama carrying out limited actions under Presidential Executive Powers, made possible as the Supreme Court included greenhouse gases under this act. Thus, standards were introduced for vehicles and power emissions were limited by plan for implementation by the States. The death of Justice Scalia brought Congress to deny a replacement, presumably hoping for a Republican win. Then Obama and international powers used for the Paris agreement and for lead-up announcements with China (oh, how that discomforted our own anti-Climate-action warriors, not least Abbott). But the agreement had to be implementable without Congressional agreement, so it is fragile. The current status is US emissions (thanks also to natural gas and new tech) is reduced 10% and a landmark climate agreement (Paris) is in place but the Clean Power Plan is in legal limbo through State actions and the outcome depends on a new Supreme Court Justice which awaits a new president in 5 months. And this election is "unusually, unpredictable ... humbling for political pundits" and will lead to the "solidification or unravelling of [established] climate change actions" given the "stark difference" between Hillary (Clinton) and Trump. Hillary has engaged with negotiation, launched coalitions, outlined comprehensive plans for a "clean energy superpower". Trumpet has no record in public office, has rhetorically called climate change a "hoax" (memories of Abbott and his "crap" call), (if I have this right - it seems so nutty) suggested it's developed by the Chinese to roll back US dominance by bureaucratic control, and that he'd cancel the Paris Agreement and declare US energy dominance. Wow! So, possible scenarios are these: 1. A Trump president who is true to his word; a return to US climate policy dark ages; EPA remains obligated to control greenhouse gases but is delayed; US withdraws from Paris which undermines the will of other countries. 2. A Clinton presidency with Republican control of Congress, requiring continued Exec powers; resistance from the States; the question of which Supreme Court Justice replaces Scalia; a possible window for legislation to enact a Carbon tax with more general fiscal reform (with public support and private sector impatience with uncertainty). 3. A Clinton presidency with 1 or 2 houses to Democrats or detente with Congress, or Trump wins and forgets his previous lines and makes a deal. ED is not a fan of US Exceptionalism but he does see the US as decisive in climate matters. There's now a decent agreement in place, 2degC is "extremely demanding" but is depends on countries "all doing our fair share".

    The local panel members were Eliza Murray and Luke Kemp. Luke spoke first. A Hillary presidency would be BAU (Business As Usual); can the Congressional deadlock [on more than just climate] be broken?; Trump ("the most interesting scenario for me as a pessimist") can't cancel Paris but can withdraw the US and this is "detrimental perhaps not fatal" and other US actors (cities, states) may continue to act and some renegotiation may be required to deal with country withdrawals (difficult and not quick). The Paris negotiations were effective but risky (but necessary given Congressional intransigence). Then Eliza on the history of policy making in Australia, how the Carbon tax/ETS were withdrawn and how a centralised approach (as in Australia) has these dangers; about how some constituencies and action, carbon farming and reinvestments were retained under Direct Action; about how maintaining a string of actors tests approaches and is less risky (but less likely in a smaller federation like Australia).

    There were questions about "bottom-up" movements and city/state action and flexibility; how Obama's earlier legislation failed despite Democrats holding both houses; about the need for different language than "carbon tax" [how trivial but necessary - so much for informed citizenship]; about Hillary's approach to the election "we are going to put a lot of coal miners out of work" but offering support for the change; about country-level carbon inventories that predate Paris, how measurements are for where a fuel is burnt and how planes and shipping are not country-based; about the UNFCC; renewable industries and the US. What thinking is in place to protect Paris post Trump? Was it ED who was terrified by this scenario: US withdraws from Paris; bullish decision makers are destroyers [reminds me of Abbott once again]; without US at the table, a US return becomes harder over time. Otherwise, this has all happened unexpectedly and quickly, so little thought is yet given. What if Sanders runs as an independent (almost audible groans) and pretty much the end of the session.

    There was more than this, but you get the gist. Watch this space over coming months. Mark Howden, Elliot Dirringer, Luke Kemp and Eliza Murray spoke on US Climate policy after Obama for the ANU Climate Change Institute.

    10 June 2016

    Edge and centre/er


    NYC is too far away for Canberra but a little of it was back at Smiths after its workshop outing that afternoon. This was Quentin Angus, ex-Adelaide but not NYC, leading a trio with Sam Anning, six recent years in NYC but recently back in Melbourne, and Ari Hoenig who I've only known as NYC. A stunner! Quentin led with several of his capable compositions plus a few that displayed his interests, Wes Montgomery, Charlie Parker, Goo Goo Dolls (Iris), Oasis (Wonderwall). Again, the updating of the standards repertoire with songs of today: it's an essential refresh. Quentin had spoken earlier in the day of the business of music: playing melodies that people know is one aspect of this. I also liked the political reference. As we fret over Trump, one of Quentin's tunes was One for Bernie (Sanders). Obama campaigned on hope: we could do with some now. But the playing? Variously restrained and exuberant. Quentin's is neat and precise, thoughtful, clean despite some discrete background echo and an intriguing freeze pedal. Sam's is also precise (they all were this!) but more playful, swapping lines back and forth with the hugely exuberant Ari. Ari's a master of the polyrhythms, although always with a purpose in the tune, cognizant of melody. But busy, he is. There's huge embellishment here, dynamics, rhythmic subdivisions, colour that washes over the band. I was amused by the interplay of Sam and Ari and additionally amused to hear Sam checking tuning in a solo and making it part of the music. This is virtuosic playing. Quentin is also listed as a composer and you can hear the complexity in unison lines and neat accompaniments - and see it in 5-page charts that get turned over mid-tune. As ever, NYC visits with chops and intellect and I love every visit. It had me resubscribing to the Smalls feed. At the edge visiting the centre.

    Quentin Angus (guitar) led a trio with Sam Anning (bass) and Ari Hoenig (drums) at Smiths.

    9 June 2016

    Double dose workshopping


    I just hope this continues. The ANU School of Music presented another public, free workshop with visiting artists, this time Quentin Angus with Ari Hoenig and Sam Anning. This is the NYC connection and I was waiting with some anticipation for the gig in the evening. The workshop was an added bonus. I arrived early enough to hear Ari experimenting with various polyrhythmic stuff. It was going ot be the theme of the day. I thought it was a warmup, various limbs playing various patterns, but he told me later it was trying to revisit something he'd heard. Then into two talks. Firstly, Quentin on the business side of making it as a muso. This is not something students always put their mind to but it's essential. He suggested even 50% of time on career vs craft is apt, perhaps even 70% career to establish yourself. Times were that you a record label contract or nix; now it's different. Then he ran through a string of matters: power is now with the artists; streaming pays virtually nix; video equals discoverability (use both Facebook and Youtube); diversify with multiple income streams: gigs, tours, workshops, music libraries, transcription and other books, teaching; philanthropy, grants and competitions; use tools (contact managers, email marketing); join APRA; websites; agents and publicists; legal matters. Lots ot investigate and necessary to make a buck.

    Then Ari provided the earliest of introductions to polyrhythms (which we mostly failed). Firstly, don;t be in denial; it's needed for all. The session reminded me of similar exercises by Will Vinson a few months before at a workshop at Smiths (Ari plays with Will). We tapped 4/4 and clapped 6 against it (quarter note triplets); then 12 over 4/4 (eighth note triplets), then displaced the accents, from first note of triplet, to second, to third; then accenting each fourth triplet note, then sixth, etc. All against the 4/4 tap and singing a song along (we did Blue monk then Blue bossa). This is the first steps for complexity in rhythm, polyrhythms, and it's needed by all players, even if only to respond to others using it. Suffice to say, we were weak. This is not easy but it is something you can practice anywhere, anytime, with no gear.

    We heard some enticing music that promised much for the evening's gig and got challenged on two fronts, Quentin's, the business front that many tend to ignore, and Ari's, the complex polyrhythmic richness that is an essential ingredient of today's jazz. I'm still pondering; a very beneficial outing.

    Quentin Angus (guitar), Sam Anning (bass) and Ari Hoenig (drums) presented a workshop at the School of Music. Quentin spoke on business matters in music; Ari spoke on first steps in polyrhythms.

    7 June 2016

    One hell of a program


    Maruki takes on the big challenges and this program was as big as I could imagine. To warm up, Dvorak Carnival overture. Then Mendelssohn Symphony no.4 Italian; someone told me some of the quick passages are commonly used for professional orchestral auditions and I could believe it. Then a break before the heavy lifting, Tchaikovsky Symphony no.6 Pathetique, a deeply felt end-of-life portrayal starting with two delicate divided double bass lines and ending with those two lines spelling out a fading heartbeat. And a waltz in five. It's quite stunning and transparent storytelling that I seldom expect in music, but maybe I'm just hearing these pieces differently given the intimacy that comes with learning to play them. The Mendelssohn was more a jaunty, bouncing line but with an equally story-like second movement with a walking bass line that speaks of a pilgrim march. The Dvorak was just lively and playful from the top. Maruki played the works best ever, as one does with the encouragement of and audience and the performance. Not quite the breakneck pace or the delicate precision of the professionals on CDs but unexpectedly well for a local community orchestra. And the sound was big. We had something like 70 players on the day and 3 basses. This was a huge undertaking pulled off with great success.

    Maruki Orchestra performed Dvorak, Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky at Albert Hall under of John Gould (conductor).

    5 June 2016

    Travelling with jazz


    It's in the essence of jazzers that they can play together easily. The training is essentially rich in theory to support improvisation and there's a widely shared language in how to interpret and what to play, not least the Real Book. Jazz is also a great way to travel. There are jazz venues in any decent city and they are announced on the web; it's open and welcoming and the musical language is common even if the verbal language isn't. Tilt had a great night the other night playing. It was to be outside in winter. It was advertised as Hot soup cool jazz, but the rain brought us inside and fireside and there was a healthy crowd, a few dancers and one couple who were perusing the drum kit. Bruce and Monika were visiting from Melbourne. Cut a long story short, and Bruce is Leading Seaman (drummer) Bruce McIntyre form the RAN band and I shared a professional background with Monika. Bruce sat in for a few tunes: a latin, a swing, a calypso. Nice also that you can call styles like that even if a tune in lesser known. Bruce got in several solos and played with ease and panache, swapping 8s and 4s and 1s for good measure. All good fun with a worthy musical edge. Thanks for dropping in, Bruce and Monika. It was not just B&M, though. Our dancers were more on the swing side, but they'd just returned from a jazz tour of the US, so more chatter there, too. Always nice to have some visiting swing dancers. So, a very entertaining evening, unexpectedly warmer and with a nice groove.

    Tilt are James Woodman (piano), Dave McDade (drums) and Eric Pozza (bass). Bruce McIntyre (drums) sat in.

    30 May 2016

    Odyssey 2

    National Capital Orchestra played with Alice Giles and it was a blast. Presumably it was conductor and musical director Leonard Weiss who chose the great program. First up, ecstatic, effusive modernism from Graham Koehne, Elevator music; then little know French baroque from Boieldieu with Alice featuring as the soloist in the Harp concerto in C major; then a lesser known but very attractive and dynamic symphony form Dvorak, his no.4 in D minor. A great and varied program. Alice played with the delicacy and facility of the star harpist that she is known as. Nice to meet her, too, as a fellow performer and friend of the family. Leonard has done a great job pulling together various strands for this concert and his glowing response at the end was deserved. Now that I'm playing in this music, I much better recognise the slips that occur (not least mine). I'm surprised that I now hear them even on professional recordings. But there are such good players in this orchestra! The winds always impress me, clear, well read, sharp playing. And the expanded percussion section for Koehner was a blast, literally. Was it 7 timpani with two players? It is a rare treat to play with fifty steaming performers of one mind on one stage. I enjoyed it immensely and friends in the audience spoke highly and tell me they have already bought tickets for our next concert. Given the program of Carmina Burana and River Symphony and a Wagner feature, and, I hear, a soprano who's performed with the NY Phil, I'm not surprised. (Carmina Burana with Canberra Choral Society on 23 July, Llewellyn Hall). Last weekend, Brindabella Orchestra. Next weekend, Tilt jazz (Mercure Ainslie Hotel, 6.30-9.30pm, Sat 4 Jun) and Maruki Tchaikovsky/Mendelssohn/Dvorak (Albert Hall, 3pm Sun 5 Jun). Busy and enjoying it.

    National Capital Orchestra performed Koehne, Boieldieu and Dvorak at TheQ, led by Leonard Weiss (conductor) with soloist Alice Giles (harp).

    28 May 2016

    Vienna below Feather


    One friend applauded this Australian Haydn Ensemble concert at the interval for its serene beauty and apt recreation of the experience of a Viennese salon. I always admire AHE's and Skye's programs for the intellectual component, the search for a theme and often the finding of a little known piece from an era. This time, too, there was one of those: a Flute Quintet by Wanhal which Skye expected had never been recorded before. Certainly there was no Wanhal Flute Quintet on the Naxos streaming service (BTW, this collection of 120,000 streaming CDs is free to members of the ACT Library Service). Skye described it as a petite concerto and demanding on flute with its use of extreme registers and wondered who it would have been written for. Otherwise, this Vienna salon had music of Hoffmeister, an early musician who managed to live relatively free of patrons, as a publisher and music teacher, Albrechtsberger and Mozart's Hoffmeister quartet. The music was variously a flute quartet and quintet and a few string quartets. The format of the AHE changes with different programs, but there's a core of performers who are regular. This time, Skye, Matthew, Melissa with Anton and Shelley. The playing is always delightful. That wooden flute and the individually expressive string sounds. I admire and learn from the cello bowing. All so light and expressive but also surprisingly voluminous in the large space which is the ANU University House Great Hall. And surprisingly apt, even fronting a wall-sized modernist mural by Leonard French.

    Australian Haydn Ensemble performed Hoffmeister, Albrechtsberger, Wanhal and Mozart in the Great Hall at ANU University House. AHE comprised Skye McIntosh (artistic director, violin), Matthew Greco (violin), Shelley Sorensen (viola), Anton Baba (cello) and Melissa Farrow (flute).