13 November 2019

Weddings, parties...


A chamber group from the Maruki Orchestra played for the funeral service of Anne Bicknell at Albert Hall. It's not a normal gig but Anne was a foundational member of Maruki and had rehearsed the day before she suddenly and unexpectedly collapsed. Anne was always a helpful, supportive smiling face, welcoming and musical and no doubt a much-loved and worthy doctor as well (she was a GP in Ainslie and Director at BreastScan ACT). Her musical interests ranged widely, from AYO to the Australian and International Doctors' Orchestra. The musical tributes included her nephews Charles and Raphael Hudson singing Handel with Anthony Smith and our Maruki chamber-sized group playing Beethoven Violin concerto Dmaj op.61 mvt.2 Larghetto with John Gould as soloist. Anne will be missed.

Maruki Orchestra, John Gould, Charles Hudson, Raphael Hudson and Anthony Smith performed at the funeral celebration of Anne Margaret Bicknell.

28 October 2019

Newness


The ANU School of Music staged a composition showcase over the weekend, as one of several sessions for performers. I fluked one neat session, arriving as they were setting and warming up. There were other sessions, interactive sound art, various individual performances, the Laptop Ensemble. I caught 11 short compositions, mostly by groups including the composer, but some by others. The range of styles and approaches was significant. There was simple, harmonised lyricism, influences from rockets to personal loss, standard notation and two works of graphic notation, classical and electric instruments, and even one constructed for the purpose (a surprisingly effective set of rattles), classical and film/pop and jazz/rock. Perhaps some amplified music was too loud for the small, reverbernnt room. Some tunes were early and simple although pretty and others far more developed, investigative. So a worthy outing and an exposure to the range of musics now at the School. It bodes well for a renewed community.

The ANU School of Music conducted various student showcases at the Ainslie Arts Centre.

25 October 2019

Contrasts


It was a fascinating contrast to be introduced to North and South Indian classical music in one week. I'd heard of the distinction but never chased it up. I guess this is indicative: Bobby Singh and tablas and ta ka di mi in the north; Tunji Beier and various tones and drums from the south. Both were playing with western musicians in a jazz context. I wrote of Bobby Singh with Sandy Evans a few days ago. This was Tunji Beier with the ANU Jazz Faculty band in the band room. To me it was like listening to an album, with tunes running one into another, perhaps with a connecting solo segment. Each tune nicely clear and purposeful with a minimalist few chords with a head from Paul Cutlan, visiting ANU and here playing bass clarinet. The feels were spacey or 8-to-the-bar grooves or even a final South African feel, so much repetition with rhythmic plays, modern and so much less harmonic than much jazz, bebop and the like. Truly inviting solos from bass and guitar and bass clarinet variously, playing with syncopations or playing tones, not least like didj from Paul at times, or just hugely effective bass solos, soft but more jazz-like. Not that this wasn't jazz but then bundaries are flued these days anyway. And the drums. Mark took a heavy mallet solo with unrelenting pulse, then to be joined by Tunji with his powerful complex Indian broken rhythms. Lovely and it worked a treat. And to open and close, sharply toned rocks dragged and clicked against a larger rock. And that tuned bowl. And somewhere that mouth harp. This was somewhat towards music for meditation but not there, minimalist to a degree but album-purposeful. I liked this one lots.

Tunji Beier (South Indian percussion) played with Mark Sutton (drums), Brendan Clarke (bass), Greg Stott (guitar) and Paul Cutlan (bass clarinet). Kim Cuneo (piano), ANU School of Music Director, sat in for the opening bars.

24 October 2019

Be fearful but act

Just a record of an important demonstration outside Parliament House: for Whistleblowers and Press Freedom. It's an important topic and we have a series of danger signs in the form of real threats to real people in court right now. Look up the cases of Witness K and Bernard Collaery and of David McBride and of Richard Boyle; muse on Julian Assange; look up historical names like Allan Kessing and Donald McKay and Andrew Wilkie and Toni Hoffman; read Catholic nun Susan Connelly and journalist Jack Waterford; listen to the Parliamentary words of Sarah Hanson-Young and Rex Patrick; think of the 80+ pieces of national security legislation that have been passed by LNP and a meek Labor opposition since 9/11; think of your own privacy and the government's ability to follow your phone calls and web visits and the rest for the last 2 years, stored by your ISP at your expense with no judicial oversight (used by local councils, even) and new plans for a national database of our photos and of usage-creep with facial recognition in Qld. Then think to the responsibility of the German people for Nazism (Hitler was voted in, of course); muse on the famed words of Martin Niemoller: "First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak for me" and muse of Minister for Home Affairs Dutton for a minute and take stock. It's too easy to fall into the trap of calling fascism (we are certainly not there and not the worst!) but I note there were several mentions of creeping authoritarianism at this rally and already we know less of government (FOI is more and more difficult) while Government computing knows more of us. This rally was associated with the academic Honest History group. So, who do you trust? And fist up, how do you know who to trust? But first, to save Collaery and K and McBride is the first step. And K/Collaery's sin? Revealing that our Government (under Howard) bugged East Timor government offices (was it the Cabinet Room?) to gain advantage in commercial matters on sea borders and oil/gas. Confirm the details, but the essence is correct. Our Government? Australia? Our security apparatus? There's much more but be aware and be loud or prepare to be fearful. This is our government? This is our country? Sadly, it is.

The Rally for Press Freedom was held in front of Parliament House. Speakers included Andrew Wilkie MP, Dr Sue Wareham, Sister Susan Connelly, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, Jack Waterford and Rod Campbell.

22 October 2019

Down and dirty

You can feel like a star at the Canberra Blues Society jams. There's a decent hall with audience; a backline (the amps that are provided) with big names and impressive specs; a fog machine in the corner and lights and introductions and a big PA. I'd enjoyed this amp before, but this time I couldn't get it up to speed and was struggling to hear myself. Maybe it was my last minute choice of a fretless I have at home, but I don't think so. Its plain old EMG pups should be OK. We opened with Red House in B (B? Is a guitar tuned down?). So I was fighting with a few things but it was still fun. Evil ways in Amin was more straightforward and more room for a groove. I think that's all we managed, this being the last band for the afternoon and the time being tight. And not that I knew anyone much before going on stage. The bands were decent and a few impressive players passed through the stage during the afternoon. And there were people dancing (this occasionally happens for my jazz gigs and never for the classical gigs, of course). And there's beer on tap and you can choose German, this being the Harmonie German Club. Even if I'm off the grog for the week. Ah, it's a strange world but fun. And loud.

The Canberra Blues Society ran another of its monthly Sunday blues jams.

21 October 2019

Ta ka di mi


I missed Sandy Evans and band in concert the night before, but I did make their workshop on the Saturday. They introduced the session with an intriguing tune, Robben Island, a response to the South African apartheid movement and its personalities. We heard of its structure as mixing passages of 9/8 and 4/4 and use of transpositions against the Bobby Singh's tabla tuned in C; bassist Brett plays ostinatos on 3 chords, all including C#; Sandy solos on an unusual pentatonic of 1-b3-#4-5-7. Then on to hear of the band, how they work together, an introduction to the tabla and a paean on commitment to craft and a simple introduction to vocalised Northern Indian rhythms (Ta ka di mi, etc; each vocal tone is a type of tabla hit with consistent patterns underlying group improvisations) which we sang along to. These rhythms are commonly 7-9-11-13 ... 21 but can reach to 108(?) and a tabla player must hit the 1 with a "full stop" to precede that. We mused over differences from Western polyrhythms (multiple rhythms played concurrently; this Indian technique is a single, if complex, line), over approaches to composition, over differences between electric and acoustic bass (not least the calluses), how the band collaborates and creates together, and more. Then an opportunity for attendees to play. I had to go so missed that. The session was sadly short and I had too many questions and these are such informed and thoughtful players. What a pleasure and an opportunity. Thanks to Sandy and offsiders but also to the ANU Open School of Music for making this available.

Sandy Evans (tenor), Bobby Singh (tabla), Brett Hirst (bass) and Toby Hall (drums) presented a workshop at the Ainslie Arts Centre.

19 October 2019

Hope remains


Nevermind the grungy stage clothes. (Not really grungy but street wear, not stage black, but I couldn't resist the early reference). The Musica Viva host introduced the concert with a plea four younger audiences. Nevermind also spoke of this as the first issue in their meet the musicians session after the concert. Despite the casual clothes and long hair and chatty interactions with the audience, this was a genuine and fabulously satisfying baroque ensemble which, at least for our concert, was playing quite obscure French music from the court of Louis XIV. I knew of Couperin and Telemann but not so much of Marais, Quentin, maybe of Guillemain. On the other hand, I noted the no-longer-youthful Nirvana reference in the band's name (Nevermind is the breakthrough Nirvana album that starts with Smells like teen spirit, no less, released 1991) to several in the audience and none recognised it, so maybe more work needs to be done on both sides. But nonetheless, nevermind, the music was delightful and the performance was blissful. From back stalls, the balance was not easy (strong on violin and viola da gamba but a struggle for harpsichord and flute) although I was surprised how present the overall sound was in such a large space. I moved up to the front row for the second half and the details became evident, the harpsichord and flute became more obvious, the easy playing and quick smiles of the group became infectious. I guess this is how it would have been played in the Hall of Mirrors or otherwise. Sometimes quick and sprightly, mostly fairly quiet and dignified, even the lively or noisome passages still tame to our ears, the tones lovely, soft, the notes all formed and shaped, each one, so delicately. That really got me, how each note took on a life of its own, even in a phrase, not like a quick line on steel strings in a large modern ensemble. Much more fleeting, lithe, light, interactive. Nevermind would probably say "conversational". They called one album that, and they mentioned it in their patter. I was impressed to hear harpsichordist Jean is a decent jazz player. And those smiles. I couldn't see if Jean was smiling while playing although his face suggested it later, but Anna and Louis were playful in performance and expressed it with frequent, sly or open smiles, even, in Anna's case, from behind the flute's mouthpiece. This is a band that enjoys their playing. Maybe that's an answer to another question. I wondered how such light, toneful music could be so seductive in courts of the period. It's nothing like modern music that we think is seductive, but then neither were the formal dances or the stuffy costumes of the time. I guess we just have to accept the difference in their time and their place, the courts and aristocracy of Renaissance France against our open, casual period. To some degree, if only outside France, that aristocracy remains, although tempered by a need to offer a democratic face. Our wealth resides differently now and is protected through difference processes. But the music remains delightful and the take on it by Nevermind was an eye-opener. I hope they kindle interest amongst younger listeners as I hope the current audience becomes more aware of newer popular forms. As on climate, we must remain hopeful.

Nevermind performed at Llewellyn Hall. They comprise Anna Besson (flute), Louis Creac'h (violin), Robin Pharo (viola da gamba) and Jean Rondeau (harpsichord).

16 October 2019

Numbers game


Music, especially improv, is a numbers game, and this band was named for numbers. They are One Seventeen, a jazz funk trio in first year at the ANU School of Music and blowing a storm. Apparently they play around campus often. I caught them for the last set of an evening gig in the Coffee Lab, one of the new ANU venues, playing for mates from their college and others. This was no learner's outfit. It was driving, interesting, inventive, respecting and knowledgeable of their forebears. So we got Watermelon man and other such few-chord funk blowers and done with chops and nice feels. They could groove hard, then stop on a dime, then explore sidesteps and dissonances or funky polyrhythms. All solid and danceable and confident. Confident? They deserved it. Very nice and a very nice sign of a recovering School. Catch them if you can, enjoy the beer and perhaps a dance.

One Seventeen are Jamie Rea (piano), Peter Campion (drums) and Haris Hodzic (bass). They played at the Lab at ANU.

15 October 2019

Virtual listening to self

It's odd to hear your own band, here your own orchestra, playing live, but it can be informative. Given travel, I couldn't play this concert but I could attend and listen. Conductor Alan Cook, from Melbourne, was in charge of NCO and Roger and Geoff were in the bass seats, which I obviously watched with interest. I was sorry to miss playing the Mozart Clarinet concerto with Eloise Fisher, but beyond that, this was a program rich in variety. First up was May Lyon Orchestral equations, a contemporary symphonic poem about solving Fermat's Last theorem. Three varied movements with real development. Then the Mozart. Then, after interval, Rimsky-Korsakov Antar symphony, showing obvious similarities to his Scheherazade, with similar themes and similar story-telling style, and to finish, Borodin's ever-popular Polovtsian dances to leave us with smiles all round. Alan has a history in Russia and the Ukraine and with Rimsky-Korsakov. I was not the only one who loved Eloise's clarinet, beautifully expressive and softly toned. The orchestra was short on first violins, so the balance could be bass heavy, although not overwhelmed by our two basses. This is not the stuff of professional 100-piece European orchestras that I've heard recently but still admirable and satisfying and impressive. They (or We) lack the confidence of the professionals, that readiness and ease to commit and emote, even when our skills are perfectly presentable. It shows in dynamics. The Europeans attack, are quiet or loud, but are always something. We do that sometimes, it showed occasionally in responses in Mozart or in changes in Borodin, but we can tend to reticence despite chops. It's no surprise but it is something to work on. But we must remember this is a community orchestra playing the real thing with considerable ability and impressive capability. So my advice to self, be proud and be daring. It shows.

National Capital Orchestra performed Mozart, May Lyon, Rimsky-Korsakov and Borodin at TheQ under Alan Cook (conductor) with soloist Eloise Fisher (clarinet) and Grace Underhill (concertmaster). The bass end comprised Roger Grime and Geoff Prime (basses).

13 October 2019

Elation


Elation is an apt response to a Bach cantata in full flight so no surprise that I felt it at St Christopher's with Andrew Koll's Canberra Bach Ensemble. Andrew's been running these performances for a few years, each time with a chamber orchestra (23) and a decent choir (32) and some solo singers (4). This time it was Bach Magnificat and Meine Seelerhebt den Herren and Tonet ihr Pauken, Erschallet Trompeten. I know at least some of the last as a favourite, Christmas Oratorio. Bach repurposed this one. The works start and end with, and perhaps feature in the middle, a choral work of volume and exultation. In between, the soloists sing of Mary or Maria or other as the theme states. There was one solo organ passage with hidden organist that had the performers looking at a loss, but otherwise, it's an impressive sight. 50+ performers playing works of elation and depth and busy, sequenced familiarity. Bach is familiar to the modern ear even if one work isn't. The instruments are all baroque (so bassist Dave was on a 5-string with gut and baroque bow) and they got workouts. I heard the busy-ness for Dave and frequently cellist Clara so was not surprised to see Dave's part, but it was forboding none-the-less. And endless stream of a moving pattern, crochet-2 quavers, over the page with Da Capo to mark an end of sorts. They did great jobs with considerable concentration. The whole group sounded great, if just a little washed out in the reverberant environment. The winds were from Australian Baroque Brass with their odd trumpets and troms; the choir was lovely, nicely strong with preponderant sopranos; the featured soloists take a great load and did it with panache and I remember a particularly fascinating piece for massed females, three in concurrent, contrapuntal song; the orchestra just sat and spelt out the support with ease and sometimes features, several times from Aaron on Oboe d'amore; the continuo was delightful from Ariana; the leadership was joyful from Bianca, although I don't remember any solos. Too bad. I'd like to have heard her featuring again. The group is booked for the Bach Festival in Leipzig in June next year, so it's not just me who recognises they are doing something right. Just lovely.

The Canberra Bach Ensemble performed at St Christopher's, Manuka. Andrew Koll (musical director, conductor) convenes the group. The Australian Baroque Brass under John Foster (trumpet) assisted. Vocal soloists were Greta Claringbould and Karen Dalzell (sopranos), Maartje Sevenster (alto), Richard Butler (tenor) and Andrew Fysh (bass). Bianca Porcheddu (violin) was concertmaster, Ariana Odermatt (continuo) accompanied, Aaron Reichelt (oboe d'amore) soloed and some mates, Clara Teniswood (cello) and Dave Flynn (bass) worked hard down the bottom end.

12 October 2019

Distillate


There was just a time when Antipodes were playing away, clear and sharp and purposeful, that the word distillate came to me. The band has been together for some time, but I doubt they play together all the time. Nonetheless, this was beautifully correct while also being quick and complex at times and neat in passing of solos and the like. Restrained, inventive, sharp, intense. These are all words that fitted. To me, that means a nice band with artistic cred. I loved all the solos: frequently from altoist Jake, fairly commonly from pianist Luke and guitarist Callum and surprisingly frequently from bassist Max. And I really liked Max's playing. Not overtly showy but interestingly intervallic and wonderfully complex rhythmically. Smiths' budget doesn't quite come to a Steinway, but Luke's presence and solos were exploratory and always apt none-the-less. Callum's guitar was quite subdued, but could soar with speedy crisp lines or impart lovely modernist colour with various pedals. Not sure I remember a solo from drummer Tim, but his sharpness with gentility was inspirational. They could lift in volume, but they could also sit with the quietest of presence. The music was all original, interestingly from around the band and funnily enough the basis of some effective stage patter from Jake. A few songs for relatives (Tim's grandmother Joyce) or personal discoveries or cosmic themes (Phobos AND Deimos), but Sleep was the funniest. Ask Jake about that one. For a few later songs, trumpeter Alex Raupach sat in and the presence remained with neat sight-read harmonies that added nicely to the understated sophistication. Great night listening to some seriously impressive contemporary jazz. A huge pleasure.

Antipodes played at Smiths. Antipodes comprises Jake Baxendale (alto), Luke Sweeting (piano), Callum Allardice (guitar), Max Alduca (bass) and Tim Geldens (drums). Alex Raupach (trumpet) sat in for a few tunes.

11 October 2019

Doing pretty well here


This was Canberra Strings at Wesley and they were playing Mendelssohn String Quartet no.2 Amin. Barbara introduced it and it was descriptive. She talked of the influence of Beethoven, the similarity to an earlier song by Mendelssohn seemingly written for an amour, the fugue in the second movement and how it's introduced by viola leading to violin 2 and how it's inverted and how it intensifies as repeating instrumental lines gradually arrive after fewer bars. All interesting. Otherwise, the work took the whole concert and it was a pleasure. Four movements; lovely interplays and great playing all around; varied tempos and passions, but eminently confortable. It's great return to Canberra with stuff like this. Before the concert, hearing of my listens overseas, said "we do pretty well here" and it's true. We do and this was one example. A pleasure.

Canberra Strings comprises Barbara Jane Gilby and Pip Thompson (violins), Lucy Carrigy-Ryan (viola) and Samuel Payne (cello). They played Mendelssohn at Wesley.

10 October 2019

Numbers


Jazz is undergoing a revival of sorts, with commentators foretelling a new "Golden Age" led by artists such Kamasi Washington and Thundercat, bringing together afro-funk, spiritual and acid jazz into the broad church of the genre. While there are still strongly traditionalist camps harking back to the New Orleans, enclaves of newer and more diverse musical influences are starting to emerge in Los Angeles and London, to less likely hot-spots such as Istanbul and Baku.

Sam Taylor sat down to interview pianist Jamie Rea, drummer Peter Campion and bassist Haris Hodzic, three young musician who have recently formed local contemporary jazz band, One Seventeen, to make their mark in this trend.

Q: What were your motivations behind starting one-seventeen? Can you tell me a bit about your backgrounds?

Peter and Jamie originally knew each other from their Newcastle schooldays and went on to audition together for their place at the ANU School of Music. They went on to play around with a few bassists, but Haris was the standout and they asked him if he wanted to commit to a musical project and see how it worked out. Stylistically they all meshed and decided it made sense to get together permanently. One seventeen was the number of the room they first formed in and played together as a trio

Q: What sub-genre of jazz would describe yourself as and why did that resonate with you?

We're a mixture of Funk, Fusion and Nu-Jazz. Stylistically, we draw from the stuff we listen to and try and build on that legacy. Jazz is a genre which is constantly evolving. The first jazz musicians were studying classical and romantic music. There was always a muse basis and that eventually developed into Jazz fusion. Now modern jazz is wanting to study and pay homage to the generation preceding it. It's always good to start from the ground up with the fundamentals and respect the traditional, but you don’t want to stay entirely the same.

Q: Who are your musical influences and inspirations?

Jamie describes one-seventeen ethos’ as a trying to achieve a "good representation of live moderns, with lots of energy, groove, but plenty of messing around with tricky rhythmic stuff". Variously the band takes inspiration from Weather Report, Herbie Hancock, Dave Weckl, Spyro Gyra, to more modern heavy weights such as Louis Cole and Hiromi.

Q: What do you think of the Jazz scene in Canberra?

Pleasantly surprised with the amount of jazz that’s happening in Canberra, but feel there could be more of a modern element. You have to move beyond standards and doing straight-up jazz because breaking out of that mould can bring the opportunity to define a niche within the Canberra Jazz community.

Q: What are you plans going forward and where can we find more of you?

While the band is currently focussed on their live performance schedule and securing places as supporting acts, they currently have two originals in the work. They also have the privilege of having renowned sax player John Mackey as a guest addition for some performances.

Sam Taylor interviewed the local contemporary jazz/funk band, One Seventeen, comprising Jamie Rea (piano), Peter Campion (drums) and Haris Hodzic (bass).

Thanks to Sam Taylor for the interview and the band for the pic

Follow @ jamie.rea.musicology and @_petercampion on Instagram for more info and upcoming gig details.

7 October 2019

Normality

Ah, things start to go back to normal. This was my first gig after returning from Europe. Tilt played at Pialligo Estate for a private function. I was working through my bass that sounds great after recent work but feels distinctly different. James couldn't make it but old mate Ross Buchanan filled in and it went a treat. A few people came up in the last break to thank us. That's nice. Musicians? Yes, conductor. Conduct what orchestra? London Phil. London Philharmonic Orchestra?!? Yes ... and various other Euro orchestras. And you play too? Yes, flute, and involved with management of Sydney Youth Orch. This was Matthew Wood and Roslyn Perry, now in Sydney after some time in Europe and a cousin of the celebrating family. Lovely couple with serious skills. So the last set of a long night was a little more testing, being the last of a four hour gig and playing for such illustrious guests, but not for anything Matthew and Roslyn said or did. They were great listeners and eminently supportive of fellow musos. A pleasure to play for them and host Mycaila and her very lovely extended family. And to play it with Ross.

Tilt Trio were Ross Buchanan (piano), Dave McDade (drums) and Eric Pozza (bass) and our muso guests were Matthew Wood (conductor) and Roslyn Perry (flute).

4 October 2019

The biggie


The Louvre is a genuine biggie amongst museums. We started with a few hassles related to tickets, then had to buy new tickets, then got lost in the masses of rooms and overwhelmed with the crowds and the sheer size of this collection. It’s not our first time here, so that first thrill is gone, assisted ably by masses of tourists. And mobiles. And selfies. And poses. Strange that you’d pose with a thumbs up in front of a painting of massive proportions that dwarfs you. But you do. I have a pic (not selfie) problem, too, but I blame it on my CJ journalistic responsibilities! (Yeah, well…) Mona Lisa is now moved so there are lines for that. We had tix for that, just in case, but decided against it. It has been unsatisfying for years now given the distance and numbers trying for their peeks. Luckily, Leonardo’s other three works are still in place rather than moved with ML. That was a pleasure. So were Greek statuary and North European paintings and always Raphael and Botticelli. Botticelli had some glorious frescoes at the entrance to that incredible Italian corridor. I enjoyed the French, too, and they can paint big, Delacroix and David. And some lovely Cronachs and Metsys’s, both favourites. And the standards, Venus de Milo and Victory of Samothrace. Not sure I understand quite the fame of that Venus. And the wings that were closed, because it’s Friday or the renovations or whatever; those we missed. As with the Mesopotamians and the Code of Hammurabi which we discovered last time here, it’s the first legal code known and it's stunning. But so many people and so much genius to pass by. Next time, we plan Louvre as a mid-winter pleasure.

The Louvre is in Paris and it’s busy.