13 December 2017

Difference engineers

Sunday afternoon was back at Albert Hall for another orchestral concert, this time with Maruki. So how is this one different? It was oddly arranged with the symphony up first before interval. That may seem trivial but it's a radical departure from the norm. It was done this way as the three shorter works had to go together and the final piece should be Elgar Pomp & Circumstance no.1. That's the Land of Hope & Glory theme and the final tune of Proms at the other Albert Hall (London) and this concert was called Last night Prom. And, finally, because it's fun to singalong with and the tune is so lively and stirring. It was also fast and tricky. The other shorties were Gounod Ballet music from Faust, mostly sight readable except maybe the quick final movement, and Tchaikovsky Marche Slave, which I've played before but still haven't mastered some tricky spots. The symphony was Dvorak 6, intense, committed, very fast even into thumb positions in the final movement, rest-less so the second movement was slower but demandingly passionate, and tricky in often unexpected themes and melodies. Not a work for slouches, but Maruki are not that: John can be expected to call up the big works. Maruki pulled it off not perfectly but surprisingly well. Congrats to all for a very demanding, extensive concert with some seriously demanding works.

Maruki Orchestra played Dvorak 6, Tchaikovsky, Gounod and Elgar at Albert Hall under John Gould (conductor).

12 December 2017

Still kids

Amongst all the differences are the similarities. This one was the kids. National Capital Orchestra played a final concert for the year at Albert Hall on a Saturday afternoon and it was for families. One third of the audience was kids, mostly little ones. Many up front, a few feet from delicate instruments (so think the musos in the front rows) but there were no accidents. There were little bouncing dancing girls, intrigued little ones, very little ones who weren't old enough to get it, hoards lying or sitting on the floor up front. The theme was Peter and the Wolf, Prokofiev's dark story and introduction to the orchestra, narrated by Charles Hudson with suitable deep voice, playful interchange and menacing storyline. He did a great job, as did Leonard throughout, flashing silhouettes of wolf and cat and bird and the rest, chatting with audience with friendly glee, selecting for a kids' conducting competition (a girl won it and got to lead NCO in a encore of a rousing section of Rossini) and otherwise just conducting in his supportive and thoroughly capable way. The other music was Rossini Barber of Seville overture and two that were certainly adult works, Mozart Flute and harp concerto mvt.2 with John Smiles and Elizabeth Alford and Honegger Cello concerto with Christian Renggli. The HOnegger is a strange mix of Gershwin jazz themes and modernism. This was Chris' final play with the orchestra before returning to Europe. He's been here for a PhD at ANU including 3.5 years with NCO; he'll be missed. The whole concert went went with amusement and elan where fitting and tons of great playing. This is a seriously capable non-prof orchestra. And then afternoon tea for all after. A great afternoon.

National Capital Orchestra performed at Albert Hall under Leonard Weiss (conductor) with Charles Hudson (narrator) and soloists John Smiles (flute), Elizabeth Alford (harp) and Christian Renggli (cello).

11 December 2017


Difference and tolerance is a theme of our identify-obsessed times, so here's a weekend of difference. First up, Tilt played a jazz gig at Red Hill Primary for its end-of-year family event. We've done it for several years and it's always fun, playing into the dark, sometimes threatened by rain. NO rain this year. The little kids and some parents interested in our music or my conversation-starter EUB, others just eating or playing or chatting. Tilt free to play and enjoy the outing. The next few days will see considerable difference in my musical life, but also some similarities.

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

9 December 2017

Another thing

Antipodes was my second concert for the night. Less than a concert, really, because I only caught 2 tunes from the second set, but these were fascinating and only went to confirm the chalk and cheese difference of these styles and of the range of jazz played now. John Mackey's concert had been Coltrane, intensely spiritual, relatively simple structurally and melodically, open and interactive and improvised. Antipodes was far more ordered, written, its loose space bounded and arranged. Here there's extended unison melody, arranged structure, different sounds. The guitar was strong and driven in its solo; a synth appeared; bass and drum took solos at the end, drums playing against a riff. Not sure I caught a trumpet or sax solo in these last tunes, or from Luke on keys, but they would have earlier. The environment was different, too, of course, Hippo's noisy cocktail atmosphere, so I was envisaging as much as I was hearing. So different from JM; so much a modern take on the history; complex in composition as well as improv. They are about to record this music. Can't wait to revisit it. Maybe to hear what I didn't from a late arrival and some tech probs and Hippo's busy space.

Antipodes are Jake Baxendale (sax), Ken Allars (trumpet), Callum Allardice (guitar), Luke Sweeting (piano), Max Alduca (bass) and Aidan Lowe (drums). They played at Hippo.l

7 December 2017

One thing

My first concert for the night was John Mackey playing with Matt McMahon, Jonathan Zwartz and Simon Barker celebrating the 50th anniversary of Coltrane's death. Just stunning. It was Geoff Page's concert series, now in the ANU Popup village, with space, a larger stage, a piano (upright), PA and peopled with an audience of 150 or so. They were playing a blues as I entered. Stunningly expressive, exploratory. John's tone big and edgy and beautifully formed, breathy to end notes, varied to follow his phrasing, spread over all manner of consonance and dissonance, always purposeful, honest and hugely expressive. But they were all stunningly masterful. Matt on piano maintaining long, long eighth-note runs, moving through harmonies with ease with stunning chordal stabs and colourful leading chords behind solos and I guess those sounds were fourths voicings because they sounded so true to the original. I think it was the PA that highlighted the interplays: not so much transparent (I've only heard that in massive outdoor rigs) as identifying and projecting the musicians. Matt floored me. But so did Jonathan, and for that matter, Simon, although I'm still learning of his style. Jonathan's a bassist, so easy for me to appreciate. Big strong tone, great intonation right up the neck, but more than that, always inventive walks, a few solos, especially one of the final tune, to die for, fast where it's called for but never without a call, but always fast enough. Such easy moves over the fingerboard spelling such interesting harmonic explications. Stunning. And Simon, a tall man hunched over a low kit, arms and sticks akimbo, fast like the others but not without reason, sharp and accurate rolls and the rest, sometimes head dropped to snare side, sometimes lifted and open and watching the others. The final dissolution was just evidence of the togetherness of this group. They are great musicians, locals of world class, easily playing with whoever but these guys have also played together so this was a reformation and something beyond. There was a closeness that's rare. That final dissolution was so easy and together. I was sitting with some classical mates who were over the world with the performance. The room was abuzz. Stunning stuff.

John Mackey (tenor) played Coltrane with Matt McMahon (piano), Jonathan Zwartz (bass) and Simon Barker (drums) for Geoff Page at the ANU Popup.

5 December 2017


I've got an affection for Brindabella Orchestra. They were the first orchestra I played with when I took up this style a few years ago, so it includes lots of friendly faces. This was their end-of-year concert and included a few works that I've touched on with them in the past. The program was a collection of marches and dances. Short works but by big names - Elgar, Delibes, Berlioz, Beethoven, Dvorak, Saint-Saens, Orff. Plus a Telemann that was a concerto rather than a dance or march, and a few modern dances from Fiddler on the Roof and Jamaican Rumba. So, an entertaining and lively program. I particularly liked the first, Elgar Pomp & Circumstance no.4, and the Telemann viola concerto Gmaj. Viola has such a nicely rich tone, I guess the alto to the violin's soprano, but it's a less common concerto instrument. Marilyn Moir played that one with considerable panache. I admire concerto players for the individual tone they must draw from the instrument; she did it nicely. The whole was conducted by Rosalie Hannink, sometimes cellist in the orchestra, oftentimes conductor. Brindabella is just another of the tapestry of classical groups in Canberra, one of several local symphony orchestras and an enduring joy for a committed group of players. Great to hear Brindabella again.

Brindabella Orchestra played a program of marches and dances at Queanbeyan Uniting Church. Rosalie Hannink (conductor) convened and Marilyn Moir (viola) soloed for a Telemann concerto.

3 December 2017

To Anaheim and places in between

Steve and his mates started in true jazz tradition with Moment's notice, a Coltrane standard, but this was a much more diverse performance: Sting and Scofield, Lyle Mays and Crowded House, Bobby Timmons and Jamiroquai, Todd Gustavsen and King Crimson. Steve noted the contrary derision between prog rock and jazz as overblown or pretentious ("they can't both be wrong") but played it anyway. Good. It gets in my history somewhere amongst the clarion call of Music to Midnight. I know Steve and Barney well from performing with them and hearing them around often so I had full expectation of great skills and sharpness and got it. I was floored at times with Barney's clever runs and some stupendous fills, and Steve's slick and deceptively easy rudiments and the rest. I didn't know Adam on alto and he was a pleasant discovery. Alto can be relatively shrill to the deeper tenor but, especially as he warmed up, I was taken by his quick chops, his clarity and precision, and his increasing softness of tone and phrasing. But it was Sally who was such a find on the night. We all know Sally well, of course, but I hadn't heard her play too often and especially not recently, and she's reputed as a composer and I think of her that way. But her playing was a revelation. Maybe it was the composer's vision, but her solos were glorious melodic displays, playful harmonic interludes, self-evidently structured, capably sequenced, richly vibrant and coloured. And then to spell her invention, Steve and Sally played an improvised duet, latterly named, at the gig, as Nigel's song. There was softness and tinkling start and finish, rolling handfulls of notes, cowboy grooves, Chinese snippets, funky stabs, C20th atonality, a quote from Caravan, this and more against toms and a snare without wires. Lots of possibilities; a composer's mind. Then a jazzer, You and the night and the music, the only American songbook excerpt despite a few jazz tunes, Moanin' and that Coltrane hit. And to finish it all, a Disney tune. Steve explained he'd got a 3-year old around the house so is aware of Disney songs. I don't so can't identify it but it was cute and cheerful as a final tune and just highlighting just how diverse this program was. Nice band, nice gig!

Steve Richards (drums) led his quartet with Adam Matthews (alto), Sally Greenaway (piano) and Barnaby Briggs (bass) at Smiths.

2 December 2017

Surviving a future #2

ANU has a ream of public events, not least public lectures. I get to very few these days, but with a title like "Ecologically responsive regulation: searching for regulatory hope in Pandora’s Box of crises?" at a time I could attend and I was a ring-in. It was in a small seminar room with limited academics and students (~12) and even fewer outsiders (just me?). The speaker was Fiona Haines, Prof of Criminology at UMelb. Essentially, she argued there are two types of regulation, Instrumental and Responsive. Instrumental is the type we have now, essentially working within the existing business/economic systems, through bureaucratic-legal means, to limit specific damage and specific, limited business malfeasance. Problems include that the system is essentially preserved through this action and the problems dealt with (read, externalities) are limited to specifics and fail on board scale, Earth-level sustainability. Responsive regulation utilises social mechanisms, considers psychological, social and political dimensions and would presumably seek to manage for full-system sustainability. Fiona went on to outline a project she is to carry out, involving identification of businesses (in a broad sense) that are functioning (and not) in an effective sustainable style, to identify their experiences, how they use/respond/ignore instrumental regulation, how they interact with other business and society, etc. Essentially taking an observational approach to find what works while recognising that only some of the literature can feasibly be considered (there's more than a lifetime there without time for research). It's a hopeful approach, somewhat assuming a new generation is approaching things differently so there's a chance of success/survival. I have my reservations. A recent activity I'm involved in is to develop a political manifesto. When writing and reviewing it, I found that I always came around to corruption of the political process (in a broad sense, including straight-out corruption but also funding, lobbying, even factions and ideologies, think tanks, limited and unprincipled MSM and social media and just plain [dis-]honesty) as being central. Thus Adani, bank royal commissions (or not), climate change, refugees, housing and much more. Fiona was more hopeful for a new and changing generation and perhaps a bottom-up regulation and sustainability. Maybe I'm old school, but I just think the individual level is not enough to win change, especially in this case: it's too local and small and, in the case of climate, there's limited time. Fiona also recognised that new regulation has to reach to the big players, the multinationals, etc, even if she's starting small. As for a new generation, they are mostly just products of their society (just like my and other generations were of their societies) where their society prioritises individualism, thus identity over class politics. I continue to doubt there's time (Mauna Loa Observatory, NOAA-ESRL, has CO2 at 406.29ppm on 26 Nov 2017, up from 404.93 ppm same day last year*) but ya gotta have hope. Otherwise, there's just despair.

Fiona Haines presented a seminar at ANU School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet) on ecologically responsive regulation.

  • * https://www.co2.earth/daily-co2
  • 1 December 2017

    Surviving a future #1

    Here's one glimpse of the future. I went for a ride on a fully automated (presumably electric) vehicle. It was on display for the weekend in Garema Place, provided by Trandev. It just went from one end to the other, starting and stopping as required. Stopping for impediments (it moved around a foot that was leant out in front); very slow (I walked faster than it travelled); still with a safety override person on board (but he just chatted on our run). Airconditioned, apparently safe, very relaxed and even sociable. I long for the time that I needn't drive and one car can be easily shared, so it can go find a park or deliver something when it's forgotten, or serve two masters. Or pickup the kids from school (not that I need that now). Megan would be happy to be rid of my driving; me too. It's closer than we think although not quite next year. Bring it on.

    Transdev provided an automated vehicle in Garema Place to display the technology.

    30 November 2017

    A community that jams together...

    It seems the local jamming community is gathering. Partly it's down to the committed jazzers - many of whom once satisfied their desires through the School of Music - seeking other outlets, so it's a function of deinstitutionalisation. This deinstitutionalisation is nothing to be lauded - it's actually a great loss to the community - but it has a corollary of a more informal community development. I've been impressed by the opening of jazz jam sessions around Canberra over recent years. Firstly, for a few months at Smiths (after the move from the Loft) then at Old Canberra Inn, then a rekindling at Smiths, now Wig & Pen is being spoken of as another jam session. Jams are a mainstay of the blues community, too, and they have been doing it around Canberra in various locations for yonks. It's interesting sociologically, I guess, but also musically. Get along to whatever time and place suits. They are all free and good beer and cheer on tap.

    Canberra jazz jam sessions are at Old Canberra Inn (Wayne Kelly, 6.30-9.30pm Wednesday), Smiths (Hugh Barrett, 2-4pm Sundays) and starting up at Wig & Pen (John Mackey and Leisa Keen, 2-5pm Saturdays).

  • Thanks to Wikicommons for the image, Charles Demuth, Jazz Singer (1916)
  • 29 November 2017

    Honouring Aaron

    Concert 2 for the day was Victor Rufus' band playing at Smiths. Victor has recently returned from several (5?) months in NYC. Does it show that he (and the others in the band) chose to play the music of Aaron Parks, along with some originals, mostly by Victor. Victor writes some very decent tunes. The band was Tate Sheridan, Brendan Keller-Tuberg and Jamal Salem and it was sharp as. Tight as. Clinically sharp. Jamal may be the primary source for this as he's restrained but tack sharp. Tate sounded more laid back to my ears this evening with influences of pop and blues amongst some jazz harmonies and more complex chords. He has a lyrical presence that shines through. I hadn't heard Brendan for a year-or-so and I was stunned with his current virtuosity, and not just fleeting playing but also interesting concepts, fills, structures, counterpoints. He fairly recently finished his degree and I can feel some extensive woodshedding in his playing these days. As I've seen in one or two other serious players over the years. Stunning. And Victor, professional and affable as a leader and melodically clear as a guitarist and soloist, nicely toned and avoiding the too-common guitar excesses. I like his compositions, too: he excels here. I listened to the channelled Aaron Parks album after and was surprised by the effectiveness of the performance I'd heard. Sharp, clear, with intent and sympathy for the original. Interestingly, they also played a tune by Harry Rasmussen, another drummer of recent years at the ANU. Victor's tunes were perfectly in synch with the evening: Truth be told, Intermittent schmitz, Song of sonnenblumen. All telling his own stories. This was a tack sharp evening of art but also of comfortable professionalism.

    Victor Rufus (guitar) led a band comprising Tate Sheridan (piano), Brendan Keller-Tuberg (bass) and Jamal Salem (drums) at Smiths playing the music of Aaron Parks, Victor Rufus and others.

    28 November 2017


    Miro told me it was the sound of magpies that he'd heard just that morning. He'd been jotting down some fairly open musical notation as I came in before the concert, a few lines with melody snippets and chords and some indicative harmonies and colours through associated chords. When the concert started, it was Col on drums in the centre of the space with circular rows of seating around him. He played various percussion for several minutes before tones of trumpet, two tenors and bass clarinet appeared, first sparse but heavily wettened in this very reverberent space at the Drill Hall Gallery. The players were away, behind panels. The moving harmonies interested me. A drone on G then colours of Bb, Eb, F, D, various others, came and went. Over time, the sound moved behind more partitioning and musicians appeared in four corners behind the audience. The slow colour changes had gradually been augmented with flighty, fast runs, Miro's trumpet and John's tenor especially conversing, and the drums had developed into a groove with sticks and mallets. I was interested to note the kit was kick free: snare, tom, hi-hat, cymbals. It all came to a head and dropped back to solo percussion like the start and a final drop of metal plates to finish it all. The whole was improvised but guided over 30-minutes or so: intriguing and involving so the time had passed unnoticed. Structured in some way, but lots of room for freedom. Like the birds it portrayed, I guess. Miro and I talked of the magpies in our gardens. They are characters and this was a fascinating and satisfying recitation.

    Miroslav Bukovsky (trumpet, composer) gathered John Mackey (tenor), Tom Fell (tenor), Richard Johnson (bass clarinet) and Col Hoorweg (drums, percussion) for a concert at Drill Hall Gallery to mark the exhibition Active seeing by Liz Coats.

    27 November 2017

    An advent custom

    It's an advent event most years. It's Handel Messiah performed by Canberra Choral Society and friends under chorus master Peter Young conducted by Leonard Weiss with soloists Greta Claringbould, Tobias Cole, Paul McMahon and Jeremy Tatchell. All locals or thereabouts and an array of recognised faces on stage. That's part of the fun, of course, to recognise faces. And the music, which I am coming to understand and follow and appreciate: how and when soloists appear and the Christian Christmas story of joy and despair and the busyness of the orchestra because the soloists and even the choir appear on and off, but the orchestra is at it throughout, at least the strings and keys. I missed the woodwinds playing and the percussion and brass are impressive and essential but infrequent. What a thrill to stand for the Hallelujah chorus, it being so big and rousing that it involves you even if just by standing - sitting for classical concerts is satisfying but also staid. And there were a few singalongs from the audience for this chorus. I also felt like singing some other choruses but was responsible (or elbowed by Megan) when I felt the sing-along urge coming on. No it's not kosher. Sad that I can't get to the real open singalong of the Messiah next week (Wesley, 6-8pm, Sat 23 Nov, $10/5, singers must register). Good feelings abounded in the audience, too, this being a great favourite, and played so capably. I loved the high sops when set free and the complexity of the fugue choruses and the strength of the mid-range tenors and also tenor Paul's voice which filled Llewellyn so easily. And the bouncing baroque music that's so endearing. The orchestra was busy and often flightingly quick. They were perhaps too loud under Greta (they may have just played first desk behind some soloists, restraining the ppps to strengthen the fffs) but small matters. They did an excellent job under Pip Thompson. As for our standing, a man in front of me was a refusenik and it's probably an upper-class-twit custom, but it's fun and involving and all part of Christmas celebrations. As is the Messiah itself. Very well done and very much enjoyed.

    Canberra Choral Society performed Handel Messiah at Llewellyn Hall under Peter Young (chorus master) and Leonard Weiss (conductor) with soloists Greta Claringbould (soprano), Tobias Cole (counter tenor), Paul McMahon (tenor), Jeremy Tatchell (bass) and the Canberra Choral Society orchestra under Pip Thompson (leader)

    25 November 2017

    Night shopping

    Tilt was playing for a local department store for its annual card holders' sale and it was quieter than previous years, but the music and the caterers were there and it was open to the public (if some sale prices were limited to card holders) and we had competition. Brioso String Ensemble was there in a trio format playing at the bottom of the escalator opposite us. The violins were surprisingly loud, so we heard them often enough in quiet passages, but mostly it caused no problems. I wonder if my change to e-bass guitar for a funkier (read, louder) final set interfered with their Haydn and Mozart. Hope not. Perhaps it did. But nice to meet our sisters in music. Brioso comprises members of the CSO, so able and experienced, although I didn't catch individual names. Nice to meet you all.

    Brioso string ensemble performed as a trio with leader Claire Phillips (violin). Tilt Trio comprises James Woodman (piano), Eric Pozza (bass) and Dave McDade (drums).

    24 November 2017

    Our own force of nature

    Wayne Kelly appeared at the U3A JAG (Jazz Appreciation Group) last week. He's a master, of course. It was just in a recent email to me that a visiting professional player from the UK called him a "force of nature" after playing at one OCI jam session. He was at JAG to perform, and present a history of jazz piano. The history and talking and CD listening may have taken a little too long (it's surprising how much time public speaking actually takes when you get on the dais). But his playing was the expected revelation. He was demonstrating early jazz piano. Gottschalk as a mid-1800s NOLA promoter, then Scott Joplin, Eubie Blake, Jelly Roll and the boogie woogie players. Wayne gave us little personal background, talking of the influence of shuffle, then Graeme Bell and jazz radio and his time at Narrabundah College. He talked of the rhythmic essence of jazz, of the blues scale, of challenge of coordination two hands in otherwise fairly regular sounding music. Perhaps just regular to us after 100+ years of this music. His demos were of Satin doll as interpreted by Hank Jones, a blues shuffle, various stride patterns and boogie-woogie piano blues as by Jimmy Yancey and Fats Domino (Blueberry Hill, with vocals). Then a final Fats Waller Ain't misbehavin' (also with vocals) and a short stab at the Entertainer. I'll join with our visitor in claiming Wayne as a local jazz force of nature. See the CJCalendar for his regular gigs: OCI Wed, Hyatt Fri and Tilley's Sat.

    Wayne Kelly (piano) presented and performed an early history of jazz piano for the U3A JAG.