22 November 2014

Celebrating Relativity

The Canberra International Music Festival always has a theme, and this coming year it's the centenary of Einstein and General Relativity. Only in Canberra, although Relativity is more general than may be otherwise recognised. Why only Canberra? Because this is a city of universities (ANU, UC, ADFA/UNSW, ACU, CSU) as well as a city of CSIRO, Mt Stromlo, our Nobel Brian Schmidt, let alone various arms of government (which are not all security related, even if Howard's memorial as the second largest building in Canberra is the still-unoccupied ASIO building, amusingly built in the shape of a parabolic dish aimed at Parliament House! Did no-one see the symbolism on paper? More worrying, perhaps someone did). But we can be proud of our CIMF. The launch was in the Shine Dome, the saucer-shaped headquarters of the Australian Institute of Science (yes, Virginia, they recognise climate change, and yes, Virginia, Quadrant has questioned their integrity). Alex Raupach was improvising as we entered. The speakers were from the Committee but also physicist John Rayner who explained that the intellectual prompt for General relativity is our inability to tell the difference between gravity and acceleration. Then on through maths and spiritual dimensions and the parallel tumult in music and physics in the early C20th and space / time and Newton / Einstein and determinism / probabilistics, and strings and the GUT. Fascinating. Then Emma Rayner with a Bach cello suite, played beautifully and perfectly fitting this formal but intriguing space. Come to think of it, some of the wall is actually string (!) so I guess string theory is doubly apt (and even predicted) here. Then music director Roland Peelman who introduced each work over each day. The program is on the website, but I noted the complete Beethoven piano sonatas in 8 concerts, Bach of course, Brian Schmidt at Stromlo, ANUSM graduate now La Hague resident Kate More as composer in residence, Andrew Ford with Imant Tillers projections in a commission by Barbara Blackman, Sculthorpe and Brahms and kids concerts and Ensemble Offspring playing Philip Glass' Music in Twelve parts (over 3 hours non-stop) and overboarders Deb Conway / Willy Zygier. Plenty more; see the program. Add some wine and cheese and we're looking forward to another exceptional gathering. Canberra International Music Festival; with new MD; 1-10 May; deeply satisfying music with cerebral affinities.

21 November 2014

A summer of musicals

Is this becoming the summer of musicals? Sunset Boulevard, Sound of Music, now La Cage aux Folles. I hadn't tweaked that Canberra had such a strong musicals scene. We won an ArtSound prize ticket to La Cage aux Folles and again, I was stunned by the quality of the outing: great costumes, music, voices, acting and this one had plenty of fun. All done by a local amateur troop: this one by Supa Productions. And a lesson in musicals, too. The program quotes music and lyrics writer Jerry Herman at the Tony awards saying "There's a rumour ... that the simple hummable show tune is dead on Broadway. Well it's alive and well at the Palace" (where Cages aux Folles was playing at the time). Similar to Sound of music; nothing like Sunset Boulevard. La Cage aux Folles is known well enough. La Cage is a drag nightclub in St Tropez. George is MC and drag-queen wife and mother Albin performs as Zaza with the chorus line La Cagelles. George's hetero son, Jean-Michel, comes home to prepare for a visit by his new love's parents. The father-in-law-to-be is a rabid anti-gay politician and JM seeks to put on a straight family face. After various twists, the lovers will marry and the gays win heart-rending approval. It's entertaining, joyous and effective in getting messages of gay love and a parallel theme of living for today across to the masses. So, it's a success as a musical and a political statement and this was a massive success as a performance. Peter Wilkins says that "in a production so carefully conceived, exquisitely staged and superbly performed, the line between amateur and professional becomes blurred". I concur. It's feel good, so lends itself to a good reception. But it's also deserving, even stunning or excellent. The Cagalles were always luscious and it was great fun to try to distinguish males from females. The program helped and it was needed (well, maybe more obvious with some later costumes). George had a great voice. Albin was wonderfully played as touching or outrageous or just plain motherly. Jean-Michel was every bit the straight heartthrob (think Titanic). Jacob was an insanely flamboyant maid. Anne is the love match daughter of politician father Edouard Dindon and mother Marie who is later seduced by the camp joy of it all. There are a few other characters, audience, a fisherman, the local cafe staff, restauranteur Jacqueline who is central to the resolution. It's entertaining theatre, but it's also a political theme and this musical, later film, with its gentle and personable approach, can likely lay considerable claim towards rapid political change. As for the music, it was also so well done. Apparently, the charts are copies of hand-written originals, which I'm told is often the way in the pits. The pit included a quartet of singers, not least to strengthen the voices of six very busy dancers. I was also intrigued by the electronic set, big LED screens that changed with scenes. All in all, a great night out and an excellent production. Peter Wilkins suggests you "save yourself the cost of a ticket to Paris and treat yourself to a night at La Cage Aux Folles". I don't go quite so far (there are other wonders in Paris) but otherwise I'll happily agree with the sentiment. As for discovering musicals in Canberra, how much time does one have after jazz, classical, choral and more? Hello also to drummer Ron Tito, a veteran of local musicals and a relative of Megan's.

Supa Productions presented La Cages aux Folles at the ANU Arts Centre. The central characters were played by Jarrad West (Georges) and Ben O'Reilly (Albin) with Garrick Smith (director) and Rose Shorney (musical director).

  • Peter Wilkins' review in Canberra Times
  • 20 November 2014

    Aficionado II

    This is my second Aficionado launch. The first was at Wang; this one is for the local mates. What pleasure it was to hear Geoff again, but also to hear Eric Ajaye accompanying. I've missed Eric at some recent gigs and otherwise not heard his playing for many months, after the changes at the Jazz School, and this was a rekindling of considerable bass awe. It was particularly pleasant in these surroundings. Just solo bass backing solo voice. Nice, big room; discretely amplified; amongst friends with a few beers and wines. Those gently slurred lines; the comfy sense of latin rhythm; the expressive heads; the dug in pizz and just one passage with dainty cello bow on a tragic poem of Lee Morgan's demise at Slug's Saloon in NYC following a shot from his defacto wife. But Eric didn't just accompany. On the day, Caroline Stacey introduced the event, Eric launched the book, Allison Hasting read on her response to the book (an extended verse on "Why I don't like jazz"; a brave presentation based on Alison's preference for classical and folk)and Geoff recited with Eric's comping. Eric's launch was a recounting of the parallel experiences of Geoff and Eric: the closed-eyes concentration of youth; the commitment and seriousness to jazz as art; the humour and names and the more recent connections in Canberra. Eric described these as perhaps parallel experiences, but also with clear differences: Eric could see these people; wash dishes to get under-age access to venues; question his jazz elders; eventually play with names that Geoff and Australia could only hear on record. Despite many excellent jazzers in Australia, there remains a jazz tyranny of distance. This time I did get to purchase my copy, but I had to rush off and still haven't got Geoff signature on it. That's for another time. But in the meantime, it's great to hear Geoff's poems, Eric's stories and his so-identifiable bass playing again.

    Geoff Page (poetry) recited several of his jazz poems with accompaniment by Eric Ajaye (bass). Eric Ajaye did the Canberra launch of Geoff's latest book, Aficionado : a jazz memoir.

    19 November 2014

    To start a trek

    I've been wanting to hear the organ at Wesley for some time, and I got the chance with one recital that I could attend. Lauren Giddy was performing Bach, Krebs, Brahms and Mendelssohn as a recital for the ANU School of Music and audience was welcomed. Wesley are justly proud of this organ. It originates from an Alfred Hunter 3 manual organ of 1893, and following various additions and rebuilds, is now the "largest and most versatile liturgical and recital instrument in the ACT" boasting 42 pipe ranks and 2,466 pipes. I understand audio better than organ specs, but I enjoy listening to the swelling, delayed tones as pipes form notes and the variety of tones and impressive power that an organ can pour forth. Not for nothing that it's associated with religion and the divine. Lauren played 4 works for a fairly short recital. Bach's Prelude from his Prelude and Fugue in C major was joyous, loud and unrelenting in 3. Krebs was more meditative, slower, in 4. The Brahms featured melody played on the pedals. Lauren played the first movement from Mendelssohn's Sonata no.3 A major and this was the audacious, loud, bold take on the pipe organ that everyone loves. I much enjoyed this visit to one of the pipe organs of Canberra and thanks to Lauren for that. Next task is to explore other locals.

    Lauren Giddy performed a recital on the pipe organ at Wesley Uniting Church (adjacent to the Wesley Music Centre).

    14 November 2014

    Inducted as Pit player

    I am now inducted as a Pit Player after finishing my half of the season of Sound of Music. I'm bass, of course, sharing with Naomi Barber. We were one of about 25 players on any one night, playing the charts for this popular, touching, if sentimental work. It's not hard to read or play, but it is surprisingly effective. SoM is by Rodgers & Hammerstein, so by a well known name in the business. It's not without reason that it's popular. I've been humming the tunes for weeks now and it's one for the kids. The opening night got a good review from our local stalwart, Peter Wilkins, so most nights thereafter were sold out or close to. The pit is partly covered so some instruments (including bass and cello) were dulled. I could just play louder and I needed to as a single bass often playing pizz. I've seen the actors in rehearsal but I could see nothing from my corner of the pit, so, other than the nuns' habits, I have no idea of costumes. What are Maria's dresses like, the ones that caused such consternation for the Captain? And how daggy were those curtains? As for the grown up dance and kiss, I have no idea. [Maybe our mature PM of the grown up government could advise; but then being grown up is not a concern for adults, just for adolescents]. I could chuckle at some quips though, and it's surprising how much extra I caught after hearing the script about a dozen times. And there were some audience comments which were good natured and fun, but some things strangely missed, like the "poverty, obedience and ... chastity" line that found some laughs in rehearsals but not in the shows I played. Cheers to the orchestra and Jennifer Groom who was musical director, and also to a great cast, including two families of children. Maria was the obvious standout, strong in acting and singing. Not for nothing that Peter Wilkins wrote "[Veronica] Thwaites-Brown's performance is a triumph in a production that will move audiences to tears, evoke laughter and remind us that we can all climb mountains to follow our dream". But the cast throughout was impressive and energetic and the singing was good and sometimes surprisingly so. Judith Colquhourn as Mother Abbess could bring you to tears with her feature song, Climb Every Mountain, and the wedding march also tugged heartstrings. It's been considerable work, lots of fun and gives a feeling of achievement. Thanks to Jennifer and orchestra and cast and crew for a great run.

    Sound of Music was presented by the Queanbeyan Players at TheQ. Jennifer Groom (musical director) led the orchestra.

  • Peter Wilkins' review from Canberra Times
  • 13 November 2014

    Such sharp delicacy

    I'm listening to my recording, now, of Stephanie Jones playing guitar at Wesley. It's so delicate and pretty and it's not something I realised at the time. The first take on this music is inevitably "Spanish". Guitar seems to be that. But then to realise the detail and delight in this music and the care and precision with which Stephanie approaches it. It's in her face as she plays. Little smiles, smirks, flitting thoughts. It's music played with involvement and joy and playfulness in the music-making. Any occasional hesitations are greeted with slight frustration, but it's for nothing next to the depth of involvement. I can understand why she'd win prizes for guitar, and she has. This is a deeply pleasurable visit to classical guitar. Stephanie's performing her honours recital tomorrow (as I write this) so she presumably played that recital in preparation. She played without music although these were long and complex pieces ranging over the history of guitar music. First up was baroque, but not like Bach. This was Gasper Sanz Suite Espanola and it was rich in strumming and plucking and earthy as in dance. Next was classical, Fernando Sor Variations on a theme by Mozart, the variation being from the Magic Flute. This music is not guitaristic, too technically guitar-relevant, but nonetheless it's a "testing ground for every aspiring guitarist" (John Duarte). Last were two places from Isaac Albeniz's Suite Espanola, Cadiz and the more meditative Catalunya. Both were lovely excursions in guitar. Guitar seems an unusual instrument in classical music: identified against one culture; sweet and percussive; less common and often alone; very danceable. This was a concert of great delicacy and beauty. Best of luck (or break a leg?) to Stephanie for her reprisal as a recital tomorrow.

    Stephanie Jones (guitar) performed at the Wesley Music Centre.

    12 November 2014

    To commemorate, not to celebrate

    Peter Fitzsimons has a red bandanna and it stands out, even in the Sydney Morning Herald where he has a weekly column on Saturdays. But he stands out also because he's tall, he can talk like hell and it seems he can also write like hell. He's got a string of books to his name and we went to a launch of his most recent one, Gallipoli. It's the 151st (or thereabouts) book written about Gallipoli in the last few years and one historian asked what he had to add. His answer was that he adds his approach, to use fiction techniques to personify the experience (or thereabouts). I could believe it. His chatter is involving and brings out stories of pain and loss and humanity and purpose (or lack of it). He asked why we remember Australia's defeat at Gallipoli as a key moment in our national formation. He ended by recognising it ("not to us to celebrate, but to commemorate") as the key action of the budding nation. Norway has Amundsen reaching the South Pole; Australia has Gallipoli. He quotes Banjo Patterson in confirmation ("We're all Australians now") along with Charles Bean. He queries Gallipoli for the poor strategies and the British empire centrality. He welcomes the involvement of Keith Murdoch, he honours the good will of Australian and Turkish foes, he enjoys some humour and despairs over some tragic matters, like the failed battle at the Neck where bombing ceased 7 minutes early allowing the Turks to ready themselves to cut down waves of bayonet-wielding Anzacs. He recounted that Col. Alex White had said "Men, you have 10 minutes to live" but that was shortened when the bombing stopped early. (The battle of the Neck is the true story behind the film, Gallipoli). He spoke of numbers lost (~8,000 in 9 months for 400 acres), he recognised the deeper losses of the Brits, he pained for stories back home of families. One example was Hugo Throssell, VC, eventually pacifist and communist fellow traveller, finally a suicide case. He mentioned Keating and his wish that something peaceful should be celebrated as the birth of the nation, the fact he'd never attended Gallipoli and his admiration for Australia's success at Kokoda. He mentioned Bob Hawke and his greatest moment, when 50 95-year old diggers embraced 100 living Turk combatants on the 75th anniversary of the campaign. He's also on a committee for a new Australian flag, and told the story of Seinfeld speaking about the Australian flag "I like your flag; Great Britain at night".

    Prof John Maloney thanked Peter and his summation was particularly strong. He welcomed Peter's contribution to understanding of the campaign. He noted that we no longer declare war; we just go to war. He told the story of strategic decisions on Australians at Gallipoli being taken in Britain. He told of a communication by the then Governor-General that an expeditionary force of 20,000 would be available for the British PM to use as Britain deemed fit. Apparently the Australian PM (remember, this is well after the Australian constitution was approved, although as an act of the British Parliament) was not, at the time, to communicate directly with the British PM. This in the context of Menzies' WW2 advice to Australians "Fellow Australians, it is my melancholy duty to inform you officially, that in consequence of a persistence by Germany in her invasion of Poland, Great Britain has declared war upon her and that, as a result, Australia is also at war. No harder task can fall to the lot of a democratic leader than to make such an announcement." [From speech made by Prime Minister Robert Gordon Menzies, 3 September 1939: Screensound Australia, National Screen and Sound Collection, Screensound Title No: 387919] (listen at: http://aso.gov.au/titles/radio/menzies-speech-declaration-war/clip1/). The similarities to our recent wars are evident even if we now follow a different leader.

    WW1 and Gallipoli was a failure of British Empire and European nationalism and Australia was a willing factotum but we can respect the loss if not its political use. These words from both Peter Fitzsimons and Prof John Maloney were touching and informed and continue to be relevant today. We should learn something from this and other history, but that's been said often enough before. In the meantime, Peter's words ring true to me: "not to us to celebrate, but to commemorate". Peter Fitzsimons launched his new book Gallipoli, at ANU. Prof John Maloney gave thanks and a few concluding words.

    10 November 2014

    Beethoven and other

    It's ages since I've heard Robert Schmidli playing. He's a busy man in his outside life but obviously his piano is a serious commitment and maybe a relaxation. This time, again, he played Beethoven and this time, again, I enjoyed the dissonance in the other piece he played.

    The Beethoven was his Sonata no.5 in C minor. Three movements, 3/4 then 2/4 then 2/2, brimming with nervous energy, an early period sonata apparently anticipating Pathetique and the 5th Symphony. (Thanks to Wikipedia). Robert is not a professional but this is serious playing nonetheless. He played at a fairly leisurely pace, with considerable dynamics, light touch on some lines, nicely impassive on some other sections. The second piece was Kabalevsky's Sonata no.3 in F major. Kabalevsky was apparently less challenging to the Soviet state; he'd joined the Communist Party and embraced socialist realism. The fount of wisdom (Wikipedia) says he "preferred a more conventional diatonicism, interlaced with chromaticism and major-minor interplay ". Yes, the sonata didn't sound so dramatic, but it remains modern with impressionistic hesitations and develops some interesting harmonic colours. Robert seemed surprised when mentioning it was the favourite of many in the audience. I wasn't surprised. It was not a major challenge, our ears are atuned to this era and it's a welcome change from the core repertoire. To finish, Robert played an encore of now-Australian composer Stephen Hough, On Falla, an obvious dedication to Manual de Falla punningly titled to rhyme with "on fire". This was different again, Spanish, descending chords reminiscent of bull fights, romantic dance scenes and Corea-like melodic snippets. Nice piece and nice concert: a worthy outing.

    Robert Schmidli (piano) performed Beethoven, Kabalevsky and Hough at Wesley Music Centre.

    9 November 2014

    Wrap up

    Just a few pics to finish with Wang 2014. I caught these outfits in passing - one tune if that. No comments, although I heard good things about all these outings. The Wangaratta Jazz Festival 2014 was a string of interest. There were a few issues. Many bands played once only. The main WPAC theatre is nice but doesn't hold all so some miss out on major acts: that's a problem. The program has conflicts that are irresolvable, especially between WPAC theatre and hall but presumably for St Pat's and the Gateway. But the town is pleasant and they all come out for the free jazz on two stages on local streets and it's nice to sit there amongst the chatter with a local wine in hand. The local art gallery, right next to WPAC, was displaying the National Photographic Portrait prize shortlist and that was an added benefit. I didn't make the jam session but there's goss that it had had its excitements. So ended Wang JF 2014.

    8 November 2014

    Mythic travels

    I remember being taken by Allan Browne when he presented The Drunken Boat, a dedication to Rimbaud at Wang in 2007. He did it again and I realise now that he did it with the same band. This time, the piece was on Homer's Odyssey. Allan had given a Penguin copy to each of the band and they proceeded to write tunes to relevant myths and a year or so later they recorded and performed it at Wang. I found it deeply satisfying, profound even. It was mostly done with no chatter, although there was a stop or two. There was also some reading form Homer by Allan towards the end. I was a bit surprised by some chatter on stage, but these guys know it and treat it as an old mate, I guess. Some great playing, too. Allan is the senior, herding his crew of adepts through swamps and adventures with the lightest of drums and guidance. Geoff's guitar is deft and speedy; Eugene and Phil up front were one voice or skilled soloists, serious but merry; bassist Geoff was light in line with Allan's lead. There were a ream of written notes here, lots of counterpoint, lots of dots, space for solos all beautifully integrated into the whole, some deeply settled grooves. There was life, deep thought, musical purpose, construction and response to a formative work of Western thought. I guess the word is profound. Allan said they'd make no money from it, like the previous albums of a similar style, but it's an erudite work. I left feeling enlightened. Impressed!

    The Quintet was led by Allan Browne (drums) with Eugene Ball (trumpet), Phil Noy (alto), Geoff Hughes (guitar) and Nick Haywood (bass).

    7 November 2014

    When in Brooklyn, do as

    Spoke were totally unexpected and a pleasure and my favourite for Wang 2014. Why? Not for virtuosity, although they had this but carried it lightly. More for the clear work that had gone into the compositions, the ethereal chordless sound, the obvious enjoyment of the band and the pleasure they gave, the irony and contemporary nature of it all, the choice of some great covers, perhaps also the Brooklyn vibe of bicycle spills and pleasant street life they exuded. Like Roger Manins and his Hip Flask, this is a jazz band that entertains beyond the cognoscenti. Megan might enjoy it, and this is good. None of this is to say they were not serious or experienced or skilled. There was some great, forward bass playing and the trombone solos especially grabbed me. The alto was no slouch, either; nor was our Aussie contributor, drummer Danny Fischer. This was his band during his stay in NYC. Good enough that I bought their CD and subsequently the previous two as downloads. Their tunes were of real, ordinary things: Adriana (someone's girlfriend, I think, or maybe a new baby?) and Over the bars (about a bike spill) and Shanghai salsa (about renovations in the Shanghai apartment above waking the late night muso) and Melting (more serious, this, about water). And the covers were lovely things, or maybe they just appealed to me: Beatles' Blackbird (everyone has done it; this was nicely understated and undeformed) and Chaka Khan's Tell me something good (great tune, this) and Mingus' Invisible lady (not one I remembered; listening now, I realise it's a take on Sophisticated lady). This was some great playing, expansive but never flashy despite New Orleans references and a touch of free, but it's more a matter of sum of parts. There was lots of obvious work here, arrangements almost big-bandish, playing tight but light. Open feeling and infectiously joyous. No need to talk of individual strengths. This is communal and skillful but primarily a sheer pleasure. Put this one down to the joy of discovery.

    Spoke were Andy Hunter (trombone), Justin Wood (alto, flute), Dan Loomis (bass) and Danny Fischer (drums).

    6 November 2014

    Tain tours

    I carelessly missed his workshop, but apparently Jeff 'Tain' Watts talked about some tunes that had me confused on timing. His concert on Saturday night was not just unrelenting and virtuosic, but was a mass of odd times. Tain advised that one tune was in 13 so he counts 6 1/2 twice. A joke, no doubt, but it's indicative of the complexity of playing odd and changing times and the concentration required. Tain was the other major international at Wang 2014, but unlike Enrico Rava, he had his own band in residence. And his family; more on that later. Suffice to say I was enamoured by the first concert and hammered by the second. He's obviously a driving, busy, skillful drummer in a long-established style. His is not a sparse, punctuated style, but an avalanche of colours and rhythms and intensity that has you pushed into your seat. Same with his band. I sat with new Wollongong mate and drummer Glenn at both concerts. His description was "unrelenting". I had this feeling for the first concert, but intensely so for the second. There was little letup here. Skills, chops, power, speed, excitement with changing times and arrangements. Day 2 was much more simple in terms of tunes and structures, or maybe I was just more atuned. Day 1 was all over the place in time and composition and arrangements and with several feature solos from Tain and many from tenorist Troy Roberts (from Perth) and pianist Osmany Paredes. Tain introduced a final encore on Day 2 (this was a 90 minute concert to end Sunday night and the main festival) saying bassist Chris Smith likes this one. I'm a bassist and I picked up straight away that it's a killer with incessant and very fast walk; something most bassists dread. Probably another of Tain's jokes. Troy did a great job, provided some excellent solos including a hugely extended one at the end on Day 2, and always amazed me by walking back to his mic at the last minute following piano or other solos. Osmany played plenty of fast runs peppered with bop left hand comping - all fast and wonderfully easygoing - but what most impressed me was his tone - strong and loud. Someone mentioned the latin players play hard and this was certainly strongly played. Great. And the quiet but tall Chris down the back was everpesent and up to some ostinato and walking work at the extremes. Plenty of communication, too. Tain would look to space or to the others, Osmany and Troy looked over at apt moments. A wonderful example of the intense pressure cooker of the top level professional US jazz players (I think back to very long and energetic concerts by Corea, Mahavishnu and others). Take no prisoners.

    But Tain was at Wang with family, too. Laura Watts performed her own concert first up, with Tain and Chris in support. Laura was born Laura Kahle in the US, raised in Queensland, friend of James Sherlock and Zac Hurren (who sat in for this concert along with Troy), now wife of Tain and mother of two daughters in Harlem. Small world: Brissie to Brooklyn. Laura is also a significant composer, having works performed in the Lincoln Centre and arranging for Danish Radio Big Band, Wynton Marsalis, Orrin Evans and others. This gig had Laura leading a series of complex compositions from her recording Illicit Inquest playing pocket trumpet with a series of visitors sitting in for various tunes. I felt the gig was a bit unsettled, but there was some impressive playing and rich compositions. I'm listening to the free download of Illicit Inquest as I write this and it's impressive.

    Jeff 'Tain' Watts (drums) led his quartet comprising Troy Roberts (tenor), Osmany Paredes (piano) and Chris Smith (bass). Laura Watts (pocket trumpet, compositions) led a band with James Sherlock (guitar), Chris Smith (bass) and Jeff 'Tain' Watts (drums) with visitors Zac Hurren (tenor) and Troy Roberts (tenor).

    5 November 2014

    Mike and the awards

    I caught Mike Nock as a performer but he's also the chair of the judging panel for the National Jazz Awards. The awards were for guitar this year and the judges were Mike with James Muller and Steve Magnusson.

    Mike Nock is a senior Sydney figure noted for his support for a new generation. At Wang, his band was called Trio+2, the extra two being younger sit-ins Carl Morgan and Karl Laskowski: younger maybe but not unknown. This was unrushed, well developed modern jazz with a feel of rock grooves, often developing some power, with plenty of space for solo development: Outcast, Brett Hirst's Changeling, Perspectives, even This dude abides (written by Mike to a quip in the movie, The Big Lebowski). The rest of the trio was Brett Hirst and James Waples.

    I was at Wang for the last guitar awards, and Carl Morgan, ex-ANU Jazz School and well known locally at the time, was on the shortlist. He didn't make the final that time, but he returned victorious. I only attended the final (given program clashes; I would love to have attended the heats). The final contestants were Hugh Stuckey (Adelaide, now Melbourne), Peter Koopman (NZ, now Sydney) and Carl Morgan (South Coast, as I remember, then Canberra, now Sydney). Carl played last and was a clear winner: confident, communicating, interesting and thrilling. He played Scofield's You bet,m Joe Henderson's Isotope and Coltrane's Naima (in a heavy rock-influenced take that worked). Hugh played first with a clear, traditional sounding guitar. His tunes were You're changed, Schofiled's Don't shoot the messenger and Rollin's Tenor madness. Peter played second, more driving and modern. His tunes were Larry Young Backup, Isfahan form Ellington's Far East suite and Scofield's Loose canon. Backing was from Des White and Ben Vanderwal. It's always a game to pick the winners. I've only listened to the finals a few times but never exactly matched the 1-2-3 order. This is art with subjectivity and personal preferences. Congrats to all; they are all worthy players.

    Mike Nock (piano) led his trio with Brett Hirst (bass) and James Waples (drums) with visitors Carl Morgan (guitar) and Karl Laskowski (tenor). The National Jazz Awards 2014 final was for guitar and contended by Carl Morgan, Hugh Stuckey and Peter Koopman with accompaniment by Des White (bass) and Ben Vanderwal (drdums).