16 August 2018

Discovering Schubert

Despite their reputation, I hadn't warmed to Schubert's songs before but this was different. Australian Haydn Ensemble came to town with guest singer David Greco. The ensemble was restructured at the short notice after a death in the family meant leader and first violinist Skye couldn't make it. Simone moved from second to first violin and Rafael sat in on second. Otherwise the team was James and James and Jacqueline. The program also changed with mostly alternating Schubert songs and miniature string quartets from The Four Seasons by Felicien David. FD was also new to me but generally much more light and joyous than the Schubert. The whole was presented as a single set with no interval and with discussions and translations of Schubert's songs ad backgrounds by David. Delightfully and unexpectedly, the concert went off with no applause until the end. This was a pleasure. I've come to dislike clapping for jazz solos and the response here was blissfully uninterrupted. It may leave the performers a little lost between tunes but it carries the flow of music purposefully. The playing was neat and involved as always. Jacqueline was solidly tested in a later song, the famed Der Erlkonig, but her presence was rich and full throughout. So were the others. I wondered about balance at one time as passages passed between strings, but it's relatively trivial, and the commitment, especially from Simone, was captivating. David's interpretations were stunners, with big, rich voice, clear enunciation (although given that it's German, I didn't catch much anyway) and emotive, even dramatic, presentation. His tonal formation was to die for. My choir does nothing of the sort: I'd love to hear the choirs he's appointed to, given this sample (Westminster Abbey and Sistine Chapel, no less!). It was a short program given the last-minute changes but deeply satisfying so the repertoire change was no disappointment and it taught me the impressiveness of this Schubert song repertoire. So, it went well. Our condolences to Skye.

David Greco (baritone) sang with the Australian Haydn Ensemble at ANU University House. Tonight AHE comprised Simone Slattery and Rafael Font (violins), James Eccles (viola), James Bush (cello) and Jacqueline Dossor (bass).

9 August 2018


Again I heard Gravy 'Trane as openers. GT are a quartet of students from the Jazz School, obviously a formidable group. Here they appeared with a different drummer as Hugh was to play with the main band. They laid down some seriously capable solos against Bird, Steven Scott, Coltrane's Naima, Miles' So what, Sonny Rollins' Oleo and one original. I particularly liked Caleb's floating chords in various spots, Thomas' and Isaac's fluent and purposeful solos and Alex also laid down some committed fours and eights and the like. The original was interestingly more floating, calling naturally for those more meditative sounds of Caleb's floating chords. But then he could also move through different feels with considerable ease. Sometimes, perhaps I felt some over-excitement in grooves or fills, but the student life is a settling period to do just that settling. Nice chops and melodies and ideas evident. GT are very satisfying now and only promise more.

Gravy 'Trane were Thomas Coleman-Bell (alto), Caleb Campbell (piano), Isaac Said (bass) and Alex Wanjura (drums).

8 August 2018

A visit from Graz

This was one of those times you realise it's good to have a music school nearby. In this case it was visiting saxophonist Julian Arguelles, professor of sax studies at the relevant jazz school in Graz. This was particularly interesting as we saw and heard a matchup of two master sax players, Julian with our own John Mackey. Two vastly different interpretations, different sounds, different approaches, both impressive and fascinating. They were joined the local jazz and jazz school community: Hugh Barrett, Brendan Clarke, Greg Stott, Hugh Magri-Bull and Alex Manjura. It was essentially a jam, these people just meeting Julian in recent days, I guess. The tunes were standards: After the rain, I hear a rhapsody, Sophisticated lady, Stella, Bye bye blackbird. But with such players we expect fireworks and/or depth. We got both at various times, highlighted by two tenors soloing in conversation at various times, or listening and responding otherwise. Then a delicacy of guitar in several solos by Greg and some laid out fours by Hugh and Alex and Hugh's intriguing explorations and Brendan's melodicity and plain virtuosity. It's not something people outside jazz really get - that these players can do it so neatly, impressively but immediately. I was about to say unpreparedly, but it isn't that. There are years of preparation and listening to be able to interact so easily and fluidly at first meeting: this is no trivial pursuit. The two tenors spoke and conversed, even if almost in different languages. Julian was fat, rounded, mostly tonal, fast, from bottom to top of range; John was more atonal or substituted (how? pentatonics?), more edgy-toned, again extended ranged, more bucking. Both master, but different. Two views of the same standards. But a great and informal community concert.

Julian Arguelles (tenor) performed with John Mackay (tenor), Hugh Barrett (piano), Brendan Clarke (bass), Greg Stott (guitar) and Hugh Magri-Bull and Alex Manjura (drums, percussion).

6 August 2018


Cello was the theme of this NCO concert. The feature was the famed Elgar cello concerto in the nice key of Dmin played by Canberran international and SSO member, Christopher Pidcock. Suffice to say, it's fairly difficult given its breath-like timing, in/out, fast/slow, but Lenny was there to follow and he's a master of the prompts so it mostly went well. Chris did a great job, virtuoisic and expressive, played from memory, obviously superbly imbibed. It was the last item of the night, other than Chris' encore of a movement of a Bach cello concerto (4th?) which was done with far more solid time than the concerto, even more steadily than I might have expected. Before the interval things were different. First up was Holst Somerset rhapsody, apparently Holst's first success and a rendition of several English folk songs. I liked the war-like steady bass runs most, but that was our feature. Then a world premiere from Chloe Sinclair called Autonomy. It was fairly short and an easy read other than for the timing: 3/2, 3/4,2/4, some 4/2. It looks tricky but that timing became self-evident as we played it and I liked this one. Then the hard one. Counting was an issue with Elgar, but the Vaughan Williams symphony no.8 Dmin had everything: space, speed, urgency, all manner of changing keys and syncopations. Lots of accidentals (how often do I play Fb?); odd timings like notes on 3 and 5 of 6/8; hazy interleaved themes; sudden accelerations. Even a movement that's just winds, then another movement that's just strings. It was modern, written just in the mid-1950s. I liked the complexity but it's this very thing that takes time to appreciate and double time to learn. Sometimes you never quite get there. Depends on skills and practice time and even memory for the particularly quizzical bits. But so it was. A few errors and a few passes but mostly acceptable and hugely satisfying to have studied and performed. This was at TheQ, a favourite theatre, under Lenny Weiss, a favourite conductor, to a full house. Megan got the last seat, only available after a no-show. And we played as a full, 4-member bass section. Great. Thanks to all.

National Capital Orchestra performed Holst, Siinclair, Vaughan Williams and Elgar at TheQ under Leonard Weiss (conductor) featuring soloist Christopher Pidcock (cello) and a world premiere from Chloe Sinclair (composer). The bass section was Roger Grime, Kate Murphy, Geoff Prime and Eric Pozza (basses).

1 August 2018


The Mendelssohn is a classic of the form and the Spohr is a prelude to it. These are two pieces for 8 string players. Spohr's was written at age 40 when he was well respected; Mendelssohn's when he was just 16. Spohr's is a double quartet, inventive but essentially two string quartets playing together. Mendelssohn's is more a work for 8 players playing together, soaring, lyrical, intricate, as the program says, with exuberant joy. Famous enough that you're expected to remember the first time you heard it. I remember, at least, hearing this group do it some time back at Tuggeranong Arts Centre. The group is a relatively new one, eight strings, professional players from the Canberra Symphony Orchestra, led by BJ Gilby, with various faces mostly from front desks. Impressive. And well presented. Quiet and effective entries and bows. Barbara likes that: you have to be the musician people expect, confident in performance. Her style shows in a presence that's engaging. This was another in the High Court foyer, so a large audience, well versed, frequent attendees, listening with that reverberence of concrete and marble. And the black against the bright, sun-lit, tree-blown windows. Professional, serious but relieved, well punctuated music; phrases and scales dropped from strings like honey; busy and intricate in the passing of passages through the members. I found it fascinating to follow some of these passages, starting with one cello then to the other, through violas to violins and a final exhuberant embellishments on the first violin. Wonderful music in a wonderful space with wonderful local musos. Much enjoyed

Canberra Strings comprised Barbara Jane Gilby, Doreen Cumming, Pip Thompson and Isobel Ferrier (violins), Jack Chenoweth and Lucy Carrigy-Ryan (viola) and Matisha Panagoda and Julia Janiszewski (cello).

31 July 2018

Birthdays and more lost

Now, this was a strange thing, No-one actually knew Wanda June, at least no-one in this family. She was in Heaven. It was her Birthday cake that appeared sometime during the first act. It was on sale and bought for a lost husband's birthday. WJ had just died in an accident and her parents hadn't picked up the cake. This was a play by Kurt Vonnegut of Slaughterhouse 5 fame and more. KV had been a POW outside Dresden when it was flattened by Allied bombing so he was early to be concerned with mass killings. The story was set in 1972 and some scenes some time before and in Heaven where time is immaterial. Apparently shuffleboard is all the rage there, with Wanda June and various military types. 1972 is just post hippies and Summer of Love and Vietnam so it was inevitable there was at least one peace necklace being worn, by a new-age doctor, Norbert Woodly. He's to be engaged to Penelope Ryan. PR has a son, Paul. Her husband, Harold, had been pronounced dead after being missing 15 years. He had been a seriously male ex-soldier and game hunter. PR was also being pursued by Herb Shuttle, a very successful vacuum cleaner salesman. He's the one who bought the cake ... for Harold's birthday. Harold had been lost in South America with his helicopter pilot buddie, Looseleaf Harper, famed for dropping the A-bomb on Nagasaki (the actual pilot was Charles W Sweeney flying the B-29 bomber called Bockscar). Suffice to say Harold and Looseleaf arrive home unexpectedly and all manner of unhappiness ensues. Strange play. Nicely done by our longstanding Canberra Rep company at Theatre 3 with sickly 70s-coloured scenery and costumes and relevant musical cues. But strange; interesting but strange. There's a final dust-up between Norbert and Harold, Harold the clever and confident man of arms and Norbert the new man carrying the power of words and emotions. It's not surprising (or, for that matter, convincing) how it turns out, but no spoiler. Perhaps the most touching part, in a play that speaks with irony rather than heart, is Looseleaf's turning at the end. And Penelope's singular strength and independence. So there's some good even if the world tends to death and Heaven.

Canberra Rep presented Happy Birthday Wanda June, a play by Kurt Vonnegut. Performers were Jess Waterhouse (Penelope Ryan), Nick Dyball (Paul Ryan), Michael Sparks (Harold Ryan), David Bennett (Looselead Harper), Rowan McMurray (Herb Shuttle), Peter Holland (Norbert Woodly), Jemima Phillips (Wanda June), Iain Murray (Major Monigswald) and Antonia Kitzel (Mildred Harper) under Cate Clelland (Director).

30 July 2018


M16 is an artspace and gallery in Griffith, once Griffith Primary then Griffith Library. Now it's a warren of studios for numerous artists with an attached gallery. It's an impressive group of visual artists who work there and presumably influence each other with their creations. I imagine their interaction must be a major reason for such venues: otherwise it's an individual and perhaps lonely pursuit. Presumably like literature, poetry, although I guess they may require that detachment even more than do visual artists. It's an interesting discussion, but I was too busy playing to chat too much. We had a wonderful time, playing jazz with double bass earlier and into e-bass and e-piano for funk and pop later. And in breaks the cheeses and beers and wines donated locally to the cause were seriously good. Just a record of a thoroughly enjoyed gig at an impressive art space with some great local produce.

Tilt played at the annual M16 ArtSpace open day. Tilt comprises James Woodman (piano), Eric Pozza (bass) and Dave McDade (drums).

29 July 2018

Milano and more

Eamon Dilworth led his band in the new, larger room at Smiths. It's a good room. The music was good, too. I was thinking of Smalls in NYC and when I visited and when I watch on their video stream. No way this would have been any lesser. The room was great and just in its early days. The compositions, the playing, the authenticity were first class. I could hear that strain of NYC guitar in Carl's driven lines and Hugh was relentless and Mark only met Eamon that day but sat in easily as sideman and Hannah laying solid lines while absorbed with ceiling tiles and Eamon himself having written most of the music, clean and purposeful in composition and performance. He introduced his new album, Viata (=life, Romanian), speaking of purpose in music, relevance not mere cleverness. There's a maturity in his purpose even if joviality in presentation. Nice guy, Eamon, and easy on the mic between tunes. I could hear Miles often enough with his 70s jazz rock grooves, but also odd times and neat melody and written accompaniments, like Hannah's in Milano, a record of his year spent in Italy, or Carl's unisons on melodies. This was seriously satisfying music, wonderfully played, well written, with raison d'etre. I've talked of good music and musicians being everywhere and this night was just confirmation Great gig, intimate and capable and with purpose. A blow out.

And walking out, past PJ O'Reilly's, what did I see? Aron Lyon and mates playing an R+B jam session. It's a different world but it's fun; few chords but deep funky grooves. And Rachael Thoms singing made for a fabulous front line. I've since discoverd the Thurs eve R+B jam sessions as PJ O'Reilly's and some new names to listen to (Allen Stone and, of course, Pino Palladino) and an opportunity for some seriously funky grooves.

Eamon Dilworth (trumpet) led his (Canberra) band comprising Hugh Barrett (piano), Carl Morgan (guitar), Hannah James (bass) and Mark Sutton (drums) at Smiths. He was on tour to launch his new album, Viata.

28 July 2018

Spreading jam

My Wednesdays are seldom free but I was this week so I made it to the Old Canberra Inn jazz jam. The music has migrated to another room, giving more space for musos and more comfort all around. The beer's still great. This week's hosts were Wayne, Ben and Mark with a string of sit-ins. I got to play for a few tunes, including backing several singers and doing a jump blues with Leo. There's a new French bassist in town who played with some authority (Francois?). Mark S and Mark L were playing a storm. Great fun. This jam is a local gem but it has me intrigued: why so many jam sessions around at present? This is the most longstanding, but there's also Smiths and Wig & Pen. The blues players have been at it for yonks. Then I happened on an R&B session led by the Canberra R&B Collective at PJ O'Reily's on Thurs nights. Are jams spreading?

The Old Canberra Inn jazz jam was hosted by Wayne Kelly, Ben O'Loghlin and Mark Sutton.

27 July 2018

On Inequality

They asked for anyone with questions to state their Name and Union. This was an introduction to the new President of the ACTU and a session on Inequality. I didn't ask a question, but those comfortable with this convention did, eg, "[Name], CPSU Retired". It amused me. As did the ongoing convention within the Union movement of using the term "Comrade". It jangles to my ear and dates the movement but it's obviously a tradition of note for those within. But those are trivial issues. The main matters were to meet Michele O'Neil, the new ACTU President (of one week) and inequality. I warmed to her. She smiles easily; she speaks well and with conviction; she has a Canberra connection and friends (lived here 15 years from age 8). She talked of her time representing the Textile and Clothing workers, well known for their poor treatment - working from home; paid low or under-minimum wage; no conditions or paid leave; poor treatment - and of their Union's response. And interestingly, of the similarity of their plight and the nature of the current gig economy. Then on to the session on Inequality. The chair spoke very strongly and deeply personally of her experiences (from Iran, including the death of her father while medicines were not available due to sanctions). Then Emma Dawson of Per Capita think tank on relevant stats and John Falzon (CEO of St Vinnie's) on listening to the people, inequality as "not an accident" and the secret weapon of "solidarity". Michele reprised some of her earlier introduction and added more on wage theft, homelessness, working poverty and responses: structural change and a rebalance of power for workers through winning the argument with the public and government. There were questions on economic mobility, UBI (not popular with this group), the Union movement, engaging young people, CDP, benefits of work. I could only agree about the core issue of inequality (not alone there) and warm to social democratic responses. I could accept this is a time of transition in technology (I add, end-times for climate) so ructions are inevitable. I can easily question the unbalanced approaches to capital(-ism) and individuality and worry of our politics and its influences and distribution of power in society. But at the same time, I'm in two minds that the traditional Union movement is the response. But then, the Greens can be pretty blind to class and there's lots of self-serving wealth out there to unduly influence politics and a very limited media to inform us. So the Unions may remain our best path. However it happens, it's clear we need change, massive and quick. So best of luck to Michele and John and Emma ... and us.

Michele O'Neil, Emma Dawson and John Falzon spoke at an Inequality forum organised by the CPSU.

24 July 2018

Three into two

It's surprising but after playing with James for several years, this is the first duo gig we've done, especially given I've played duos with several others, Ross, Hugh. This was good. At a cellar door at Gundaroo. Very civilised with a full house for a truffles lunch and cellar door visitors dropping in and boxes of wines going out and some very pleasant brie and blue and reds. And most interestingly, the volume was low with my amp was just giving a little bass kick and my bass sounded fabulous, earthy with edge, unlike anything I can get amplified at higher volumes. Maybe the sound's there, but I don't hear it at volume. And a chance to run through new standards and find some new faves. We've had a few trio gigs recently and they've been good, but nice to enjoy a good day as a duo, too.

Tilt Duo comprised James Woodman (piano) and Eric Pozza (bass). TD played at the Gundog Estate Cellar Door at picturesque Gundaroo.

23 July 2018

Showing age

It's the 50th anniversary of the building and the 27th year since I left. It's the National Library of Australia. It was my workplace for 6 years or so and we were invited to an evening for ex-staff members. So nibbles and drinks and some minor speeches and an opportunity to see old faces - increasingly and inevitably older. But for CJ just a pic of John Black playing piano standards on the Yamaha grand that resides in the NLA foyer. John never shows age. Nice if lost amongst the chatter and hubbub.

John Black played at a National Library reunion.

20 July 2018

What a blast

Another Canberra Symphony Orchestra concert but special. The music was accessible and well known and not too challenging, but it was special, at least for me. It was the first time I'd attended a concert where I'd played all the pieces before. I find my appreciation of a piece is immeasurably deeper when I've played it before: the structure becomes more visible; the lines (most prominently the bass lines) are expected and the harmonies and melodic and rhythmic plays with other parts are at front of mind. Nothing too surprising in that, but it's a revelation. The program was Brahms Academic Festival overture, Beethoven Triple concerto for violin cello piano and Elgar Enigma variations which I've played over time with Maruki and NCO. I'd played the Brahms twice, with Maruki and Brindabella. All exciting. And the soloists were Dimity Hall, Julian Smiles and Piers Lane. I'd played with Dimity and Julian at Llewellyn with NCO. All very exciting. The second half was on the program as just Enigma variations, so short, but the CSO encored with that English soul stirrer, Elgar Pomp & circumstance march no.1, also known for its lyricisation as Land of Hope and Glory. I'd played that too, with Maruki, one December. It took all my willpower not to stand and squat in rhythm as the upper class twits do in (London's) Albert Hall for the final night of the Proms (see YouTube). I was beaming and singing as I left. But what of the orchestra? BJ Gilby was missing from her seat and Maria Lindsay took that spot with Pop Thompson to her side. Lots of common faces but a few new and young ones too. Five basses this time, led by Kyle and Dave in the core of the back line. Nicholas Milton up front. I loved the program; I loved the playing. The Brahms is lively and fun; the Beethoven couldn't be by anyone else and Julian's cello playing was a revelation (my take of this was BJ Glby, David Pereira and Edward Neeman but I was too busy playing and too far from the sightlines to appreciate it like this night); the Elgar was really nicely done, dynamics, relaxation, intensity, variation, good all round. Then the final Elgar Pomp&Circ was just nicely played and is such an infectious blast. I just sat nodding time and grinning. So, suffice to say I really enjoyed this concert, not for intellect or adventurousness so much as for affinity and simple pleasure.

The Canberra Symphony Orchestra under Nicholas Milton (conductor) performed Brahms, Beethoven, Elgar and Elgar at Llewellyn with soloists Dimity Hall (violin), Julian Smiles (cello) and Piers Lane (piano).

14 July 2018

Where samba's from

[Ignore all this discussion on samba: Gary was speaking of Salsa - see his post below. My apologies, but a great concert none-the-less / Ed.]. Gary France gave one answer: from a tune on Cal Tjader's album called Soul Sauce, thus Samba. Wikipedia locates it in NYC in the 1960s and mentions Johnny Pacheco, Celia Cruz, Ray Barretto, Rubén Blades, Eddie Palmieri and others, but not Cal Tjader. My trivia session the other day said Brazil and I knew that was wrong. Whatever, it's fabulous music that moves the body and soul and sounds a million and Gary led a CD release concert dedicated to Cal Tjader the other night at the ANU Pop-Up Bar. The band is called Vibellicious and it is delicious, on the CD and live. This was his Canberra version with Perth visitor Daniel Susjnar and our best locals, John and Miro, Hugh and Brendan and Sinuhe. The CD is mostly Gary with Daniel's Perth band but features one track with this Canberra collection. The grooves were to die for, the solos were inventive and modern, the feel was luscious and infectious. That mix of percussion is sensuous: deep complexity made from mixed syncopations. The regularity is also insinuating, like Hugh's montuno or Brendan's solo passage that was just a busy but angular bass clave. But then there were solos that thrilled with variation, again Hugh with right hand rhythms and left hand melodies and floating chords or Brendan's rapturous blow. And the front liners, John and Miro, snapping melodies and responses and passing solo passages or just laying down ecstatic runs and leader Gary comping with two or four mallets on vibes behind or soloing out front with immense authority. Then a percussion solo with swaps from drums to congas, snapping, chatting, and that sense to time and accent from Daniel's splash cymbal. All delightful for some joyful music. Perhaps too loud over that PA and sometimes not too clear and the piano wasn't great, but what a great night! A blow out.

Vibellicious was led by Gary France (vibes) with Daniel Susnjar (drums), Sinuhe Pacheco (congas), Brendan Clarke (bass), Hugh Barrett (piano), John Mackey (tenor) and Miroslav Bukovsky (trumpet).

12 July 2018

Passed time to worry

It's time well passed to worry about Climate Change, although you wouldn't believe it listening to our dreadful politicians. They still don't get it or if they do they suffer internal machinations ones who don't - or they have just sold out. I've been just preparing a session for a discussion group today on "Death of democracy". Attending a discussion like this illuminates much. The Climate Change update 2018 was presented by Professor Mark Howden of the ANU Climate Change Institute. He's also Vice Chair, IPCC Working Group II and it's in this role that he is a Nobel Prize winner (with others). Of course, some say IPCC are the corrupt ones ripping us off for $billions according to the deniers (as I was told by a NZer recently, almost without prompting). But let's look at this summary of recent science: CO2 emissions rising; Methane rising; temperatures rising; Canberra temps rising; sea temps, levels and volumes rising; catastrophes rising; Australian greenhouse gases rising; heat stress rising. What's going down? Our time to act; not much else. Some startling factoids? Atmospheric CO2 352ppm(2006)>407(2017); CO2 emissions 1990-99 +1.1%pa>2000-2009 +3.3%pa; Sea level rise +2mmpa(1993)>+3.4mmpa(2017); World-wide climate-related catastrophes (Munich Re 2018) ~250(1980)>~720(2017); Perth's dam flows ~340Gl (1911-1971)>~40gL (2011-) . Mark's response to the denialist meme "It's all happened before" was "Rubbish". Who else is warning about climate? Oh, let's see ... Munich Re (reinsurer); Bank of England; APRA. And a day or so ago, so is the tourist industry on the Great Barrier Reef - finally they've got it - and the NFF. There were questions about ice loss, paralysis by uncertainty, tipping points, Paris agreement, short termism, etc. Fascinating and informed but nothing was a joy. Follow it up. I've linked Prof Howden's overheads below.

Professor Mark Howden of the ANU Climate Change Institute presented on Climate Update 2018.

  • http://climate.anu.edu.au/files/Mark-Howden-ANU-Climate-Update.pdf