4 October 2015

Travel jazz

Jazz is a great way to travel. In any decent city, there's a findable public venue with like minds and a certain openness. Musos can sit in - improv and a common repertoire supports this; listeners can listen and chat. It's welcoming. Tilt played a gig at the Tradies again and we had a sit-in. Inigo Kilborn, long-time performer in London and now France, is visiting family in Canberra. He had his cornet (little, but effective instrument that it is) and we were a quartet for a few standards, what, Stella, Alone together, Autumn leaves, Beatrice. What a lovely, clear, precise sound; nicely improvised, intelligently controlled and lyrical; nothing showy but musically wonderfully effective. Thanks, Inigo, much enjoyed.

Inigo Kilborn (cornet) sat in with Tilt at the Dickson Tradies. Tilt comprised James Woodman (piano), Eric Pozza (bass) and Dave McDade (drums).

3 October 2015

To two greats

Mingus and (Joni) Mitchell. Both greats of their fields and friends who wrote for each other and recorded together. The ANU Jazz Collective presented a concert to give due recognition to these two. They played a series of tunes from each and two originals influenced by them. Rhythm section, four horns, vocals. The Mingus tunes: Haitian fight song, Fable of Faubus, Goodbye pork pie hat; the Joni Mitchell songs: River, Both sides now, and the lyrics she added to Mingus' Goodbye pork pie hat; the two originals, Collective jazz by Brendan Keller-Tuberg and Fields by Andree Thompson. I could easily feel the relationship to Mingus in Brendan's composition given the switches to double time, the bass features and drum hits and collective improv and blues melodies. Brendan did a good take on Mingus throughout in his playing, too. Fields was more open, odd timed, perhaps more Joni-contemplative. I loved the ensemble sound of the four horns throughout: trumpet, trombone, tenor and alto saxes: nicely intoned and some decent solos. Rose Costi took the vocal role and did the Joni songs with considerable panache and involvement. One listener reported tears (Both sides now, I think) and another said she was close to it. I didn't quite feel this, and I was uncomfortable with the slow pace on River, but the singing was very impressive. I could not but love a concert dedicated to these two masters: bluesy, earthy and true. A great pleasure.

The ANU Jazz Collective presented a program called Mingus meets Joni at the Band Room. Performers were Rose Costi (vocals), Anthony Cotter (trumpet), Jack Schwenke (trombone), Hugo Lee (alto), Andre Thompson (tenor), Ben Forte (guitar), Brendan Keller-Tuberg (bass), Alec Brinsmead (drums) and Johannes Luebbers (piano).

2 October 2015

Kimba returned

I missed Kimba and Ryan Griffith when they were at Smiths a few months ago but not this time at Hippo. The venue suited them - lively, chatty, social. Her music fits: standards although often lesser known ones. She mentioned 1958 as a key year for her. We mulled over that: post bop, hard bop, cool, R&R, youth, good post-war years, LPs, stereo. It was a great era for jazz and US popular culture. Kimba was leading a local Canberra septet for the launch of her CD. Nothing lost here with this band! These were amongst the best in town and the playing was awesome. Mark and James played the steadiest of grooves but let go for solos when on offer or called for. The horns were great. Dan, Tom, Rob read with panache and laid down colour behind vocals. Rob's solos were steady and melodic; Dan's were ecstatic, shredded but with trad growls; Tom was big toned, lyrical but ready to explore outside. Ryan was on guitar (and accompanying vocals for one particularly intimate song), all clean and uneffected and melodious and occasionally chordal. Kimba herself was lively, playful, expressive, rounded and not too high pitched, communicative with the audience. I just caught the first set. The songs were various shades of swing, blues-boogaloo and one intimate song, presumably original, sounding more Australian authenticity than American wit. I liked it and warmed to the personal honesty, of love amongst disappearing charms of youth and a challenging society. "With divorce rates high / we must be bold / Let's stay together / till we grow old". The title was Sickness and in health. All lovely ensemble playing, effective charts and charming interaction.

Kimba Griffith (vocals) led a septet to launch her new CD at Hippo, comprising Ryan Griffith (guitar, vocal), Dan McLean (trumpet), Tom Fell (tenor), Rob Lee (trombone), James Luke (bass) and Mark Sutton (drums).

1 October 2015

Catching the mix

This was another in the lunchtime series featuring School of Music students, and perhaps friends, at the Ainslie Arts Centre. Gen Kinoshita, Eddie Huang and Matt Ventura played an unusual mix of oboe, bassoon and piano. Not common. I didn't catch the names of composers, except a Chopin etude played by Eddie on piano and a Bach partita from Gen on oboe. Otherwise, the performers mixed and matched various instruments, only playing one piece with all three instruments together. Matt mostly played bassoon, but also brought out a flute for a solo piece at one stage. But known or not, this was a capable and pleasant and unexpected mixed outing for too small an audience. Nice one.

Gen Kinoshita (oboe), Eddie Huang (piano) and Matt Ventura (bassoon, flute) performed at the Ainslie Arts Centre.

29 September 2015

Music to watch tulips by

Lovely day for it. In Full Swing was playing at Floriade, Canberra's annual festival of flowers, more specifically, tulips. The band was on the big stage; the swing dancers were off to one side having a ball, looking all the world like the fifties; I recognised a few mates were on stage (I learnt later than had played with IFS but were filling in for this gig). The songs were standards and big numbers and some newer names (Shirley Bassey, Bette Middler, Natalie Cole) and a Sam Nestico chart and funk and shuffle and my favourite was Bacharach's brooding Look of love and the final Zoot suit riot was a blast. This is fun music and the band is big and strident. I drool over the ensemble sounds of big bands but less so for the solos, even from the best players (I think it's something to do with the short windows on offer) but I was blown out by Mitch Preston's urgent fours. Beth Way led the band as conductor and musical director. Singer Jace (?) sang firm and powerful with deep vibrato, perfectly fitting Big spender and the like. The enjoyment and energy was infectious, even at 10am on a bright spring day. What a satisfying band! Enjoyed it lots.

In Full Swing played on Stage 88 for Floriade under Beth Way (conductor, musical director).

27 September 2015

St Martin's alt.

Megan's in London and attending a few concerts. One was at St Martin's in the Field, covering a slew of pop classics. It was not an opportune choice. You can travel through summertime Europe and hear Albinoni and Four Seasons and the like wherever, capably played but very workday performances. The red and black posters give it away; they are everywhere (they have even come to Manuka, if only rarely). It's amusing to see the musos lope out afterwards, non-plussed. Megan observed that the concert was good but we see as good in Canberra, if less frequently. So it was exciting to attend a second challenging performance in two nights, here, at Welsey. First was Australian Haydn Ensemble, all period instruments and classical dignity. Second was Foray Quintet playing Mendelssohn, Shostakovich and Dora Pejacevic in a program called Vatra (Croatian for "heat"). The Croatian reference was to Dora Pejacevic, a woman of leftist leanings who left her noble Croation background to pursue music in Germany. She died in 1923, aged only 37, having written 106 compositions. Foray played her piano quintet in B minor op.40. Interestingly, Kimberley introduced this piece with the quintet playing key themes in each of the four movements. An excellent orientation to a fiery piece written during WW1. The Mendelssohn was the opener, two movements from his piano trio no. 1 in D minor, played to leaven the program a little. The main work, after interval, was Shostakovich piano quintet in G minor op.57. It's a complex piece in five movements written in the Stalinist Russia, in threat of denunciation, in a tumultuous year fur the USSR during WW2. I was enamoured by the music, enjoyed the playing by all, although I particularly took note of Kimberley's piano and watched Annie's bowing and the ring-in violinist Lidia who did a great job at short notice, sharing the first violin seat with Elyane. Foray are brought together from several cities to tour every now and then. This was such a pleasure and such a diverse offering from that of AHE just the night before. A convincing performance that would have been a worthy, and probably more satisfying, alternative to Megan's outing in that London field.

Foray Quintet performed Shostakovich, Pejacevic and Mendelssohn at Welsey. Foray comprised Kimberley Steele (piano), Elyane de Fontenay (violin), Lidia Bara (violin), Sarina Walter (viola) and Anneliese McGee-Collett (cello).

25 September 2015

Opera meets gut

It's always such a joy to catch Australian Haydn Ensemble. Admittedly they are friends and almost like family, but also because their music is intimate and dignified, light and joyous, and played with great ease and refinement. I follow Jacqueline, of course, bassist, quick and bouncy when required (which is often enough with music of this era) or easy and rich. She was paired this day with cellist Anton and the pairing worked a treat. Then our local import, Erin, conducting from the harpsichord chair, and leader Skye and second violin Matthew and viola James. And that period flute tone from Melissa. The whole works as a lovely team but the programs are also something to note. Each performance has a theme, often featuring obscure names, other times inviting guests. This time it was a fully Haydn program, with a Michael Haydn string quartet to start, then a symphony and two arias from Joseph.. Visiting soprano Celeste Lazarenko sat in for the arias and a surprise Mozart song as encore. Celeste replaced Taryn Fiebig and the Haydn/Hasse program at the last minute when Taryn came down sick. Some practices - and presumably some trepidation - later, and the performance was sweet and neat. Celeste's soprano is firm and strong (she's a principal of Opera Australia so sings in big company) and a challenge for the sweet period tones of gut, but it worked a treat. I loved her voice, loved the carefully responding musicians, Erin's casual guidance, the bouncing bows and the just-present plucks of harpsichord and diverse tones of melody from violin and flute. AHE are always a great pleasure and this was there with the best.

Australian Haydn Ensemble played at Wesley Church. AHE comprised Erin Helyard (guest director, harpsichord), Celeste Lazarenko (guest soprano), Skye McIntosh (artistic director, violin), Melissa Farrow (flute), Matthew Greco (violin), James Eccles (viola), Anton Baba (cello), Jacqueline Dossor (bass) Australian Haydn Ens, Erin Helyard, Celeste Lazarenko, Skye McIntosh, Melissa Farrow, Matthew Greco, James Eccles, Anton Baba, Jacqueline Dossor

24 September 2015

Three discourses, authentic occasions

I am enjoying this! My week is punctuated by various musical outing, not least two (2!) orchestral rehearsals on Saturdays. This week was busy with concerts, too. Two little orchestral outings for whoever from Maruki was able to turn up. Both were community events: one for the parish that hosts our practices; the other for a prize-winning teacher at Canberra High School. Canberra High was fun, with a very large, if obligated, audience for their school assembly. But in addition, a jazz outing for Tilt at Albert Hall (of the classical, read live, acoustics) for the Artists Society of Canberra Spring Fair. All fairly low key, none particularly remunerative so justifying a relaxed presentation, but all treated with due seriousness. The Maruki gigs had us reprising Strauss and some Dvorak from the last concert and taking some first bites at Bach Orchestral Suite no.3 which we will play in full (with Beethoven 3rd, Eroica) in early December. The Albert Hall gig was an opportunity to play with effects for a more edgy jazz/pop presence. Much fun. Thanks to all my offsiders. I've included a few snaps of some ASOC art that appealed to me.

Maruki Orchestra is conducted by John Gould. Tilt comprises James Woodman (piano), Eric Pozza (bass) and Dave McDade (drums).

23 September 2015

Strange name

They have a strange, if descriptive, name. And they play strange, if adventurous, takes on Summertime and My favourite things. I was warned for Summertime, but I wasn't for Favourite things and I didn't pick it. Strange, too, that this band won a chamber music competition. But they are young and skilled and searching, so it's appropriate. They are Three Men One Chamber. I'm not sure I particularly get the reference, other than through the competition, but they were good. They play those twisted standards, but also takes on various current pop tunes as well as originals. I think it was the busily virtuosic tune called 13-7 that won them the competition. That was the last tune and it was a standout. Plenty of unison playing in odd times by guitar and bass. I was pleased to find a new and interesting bassist when they covered the tune Daylight, by LA bassist/singer Thundercat. They also took on an Aphex Twin tune, but I show my age by remaining non-plussed by this style. The players are Brendan, Stephen and Hayden. Brendan's bass is upcoming at the School of Music and a player to watch. Stephen and Hayden were less extravagant but I found both very satisfying. Very nice little band. Their success in a chamber competition may be unexpected, but it's obviously valid on the strength of this outing.

Three Men One Chamber are Stephen Read (guitar), Brendan Keller-Tuberg (bass) and Hayden Fritzlaff (drums). They played an "Out to lunch" session at the Ainslie Arts Centre.

21 September 2015

Made for our times

There was just one point when I was taken aback by how sophisticated was this music. Antipodes was playing at the Ainslie Arts Centre. These are a band of Sydney-based musicians, but a collaboration of Australians and New Zealanders. Locally, we know Luke Sweeting and Max Alduca well, having had them studying during the better days of our Music School. But I suddenly realised how perfect were the harmonies of the front liners, how neatly the bass line sat, propelling the music but unhurried and unforced, and the drums that seemed so understated then would come alive for a solo or a responsive fill or the guitar that delved into sequences and the rest but also could just be there, supportive, and Luke's piano, of course, ever present and ever apt. The sound all merging so neatly and correctly and satisfyingly. I thought of the careful, distilled music of CTI in the '70s. It had that air of clarity and refinement. Then to think of the tunes. These were all originals, and in 9 tunes there were four writers: three from Callum, two each from Luke and Simon, one from Jake. And all competent, interesting tunes. Another plus; another mark of sophistication. This is antipodean music of depth and content. I wonder if we still deserve this, in our era of destruction and immediacy. Ocean sounding song reminded Luke of ocean sounds (obviously enough). The Ditch was an apt concern for this antipodean mix. Anthem was the NZ anthem rearranged. Mister Bank was a dedication to a band that has Luke obviously admired in this travels. A few others with less obvious titles. Classy playing with deep intent. Too poorly attended, but like I wrote above, do we deserve such stuff as dreams are made on? Our times seem better suited to Hillary Duff's take than Antipodes'.

Antipodes are Jake Baxendale (alto), Luke Sweeting (piano), Callum Allardice (guitar), Simon Ferenci (trumpet), Max Alduca (bass) and Harry Day (drums). Antipodes played for the Confluence series at Ainslie Arts Centre.

20 September 2015

A daring feat

It's an audacious undertaking, to write a new line for violin to accompany the Bach's Goldburg variations. Zoe Black had asked Joe Chindamo if he could write her a part to play. There are arrangements of Bach and others that take various contrapuntal lines and separate them out for various instruments parts to play, but this is retaining Bach's notes. It's more daring to take Joe's approach: to write accompaniment in the style of Bach but, it seemed to my ears, with the awareness and influence of following periods, not least jazz. But then jazz is often mentioned with Bach. In performance, Joe played the original Bach score on piano; Zoe played Joe's composed counterpoint / response / improv. Joe spoke of this as "akin to introducing another character into one of Shakespeare's plays" and interestingly, that as he worked, it seemed to him as if the "original keyboard part began to posthumously respond to the violin". I could imagine that, given the immense and daring task he had undertaken. So how successful was it? It's a mammoth work of real commitment and love. The violin part is immense and virtuosic. I sometimes lost the mutating harmonies of the baroque amongst some startling violin lines, and this was partly a matter of balance. I wondered if performance on period instruments (I'm pretty sure this was on modern instruments) might have melded the tones more and spelt the era and highlighted the counterpoint. I didn't catch all the counterpoint on the night, but listening to some snippets now on the net, it seems deliciously true and appropriate to JS to my ears. Great playing on both parts and a stunning compositional achievement by Joe. I'm in awe.

Joe Chindamo (piano, composition) and Zoe Black (violin) performed Goldberg Inventions on the stage at Llewellyn Hall. Goldberg Inventions is Bach's original and complete Goldberg variations with a newly composed counterpart for violin.

Listen to snippets of Goldberg inventions

19 September 2015


Great fun had when Tilt played a first gig at the Tradies. Lovely to play with a nice, acoustic, Kawai grand. Plenty of space and a laid back environment. I like a gig like this. People spread over a large area; plenty of space; relaxed; some people responding, others just there or at the pokies or housie. But there's an cool awareness, or at least we can allow ourselves to think it. Perhaps you could say Tilt is tilting at windmills, doing a jazz/pop cross, but I prefer to see it as a continuum rather than Abbottian conflict. Swing is great but not all and it's not in everyone's direct experience. But play something they recognise, and listeners will warm to a band and be open to other tunes and styles. So mix post-bop and modern and swing with grunge and pop and R&B and you please all and enjoy the outing, too. Early days yet, but entertaining. Tilt next plays at Dickson Tradies, 5.30-8.30, Thursday 1 Oct, and hopefully thereafter. Free entry. Tilt (trio) are James Woodman (piano), Eric Pozza (bass) and Dave McDade (drums).

18 September 2015

(Hoping for a) future

I can despair over climate change, the breakout of wars, today's article saying life at sea has halved in the last 25 years, refugees and lots more, but maybe I am too fatalistic. For all's sake, I hope so. I got a little uplift with Turnbull rolling Abbott, and I await with just a little hope the outcome of Paris. So perhaps I am not the best auditor of a session by two new (class of 2013) Labor MPs, launching their new book, Two Futures : Australia at a critical moment, arguing for long-term thinking by imagining two possible visions of Australia at 2040. Ben Oquist introduced Clare O'Neil and Tim Watts. Both young and presumably hopeful and, to my eyes, strangely similar in appearance to the two Green deputy-leaders. Maybe it's a generational thing. Abbott has just been rolled by Turnbull who at least recognises science and climate change, although will have internal disagreements with the right of his party, but this didn't feature much. Instead we heard of the longer term (are things looking up? A session on politics that isn't trumped by today's, admittedly significant, activities?). Ben Oquist succumbed, saying Abbott was really a good communicator (unlike Turnbull's argument). I agree. Abbott's problem was overreach. Repealing the carbon tax was not enough; he had to go to war with environmentalists with led to backlash. (In my book, not one to do things by halves ... or sensibly). But Clare and Tim avoided the daily matters.

Clare started, introducing the first three of the six themes of their book. 1. Equality / egalitarianism. There's a gap between rhetoric and reality. The wealthiest 9 Australians have the same wealth as the bottom 4.5 million. Technology and other forces will increasingly influence wealth by 2040. How can Australia respond? She specifically argued for early childhood education (and I read in today's Canberra Times that 15hours of free early childhood education will be provided to all children in ACT - just what Clare was arguing for, even the 15 hour minimum). BTW, some countries have 100% of 3 year olds in early childhood education; Australia has 175; apparently it's well supported by evidence. 2. Climate change. Old Bar is a coastal NSW town where 1m of sea front is lost per year. Residents want a sea wall; there's argument about who pays; for sale signs proliferate near the water. This is climate change arrived. (For just one more confirmation of our unsustainability, see "We've wiped out half world's marine life in one generation" in Canberra Times 17 Sep 2015, p.6) Clare also spoke of green jobs (1m new green jobs internationally; -2K jobs in Australia; not sure of the measure, perhaps annually under Abbott?). 3. Growth / economy. In 1980, Lee Kwan Yew predicted Australia to be the "poor white trash of Asia". Then Hawke, Keating and Howard, reform and mining, but now Government has little left to reform other than innovation policy, and as for supplying jobs to Asia, our education is dwindling as Asia soars.

Tim did his bit on the next 3 themes. 4. Democracy. "It matters" (sadly appended: "for economic matters". I think yes, and for more). Australian political institutions have responded well in the past, but now? There's now deep dissatisfaction; what major reform has recently survived Parliament? (Perhaps NDIS announced that very day; previously, GST). Talk of bigger ideologies, tailored solutions, possible reforms. (My thought is conventions and goodwill will salve much of this, but they talk of reform). 5. Technology. Connectivity and digitisation has radically reduced transaction costs. There's good and bad; employment becomes atomised. A suggestion is computational thinking. (My thought is increased productivity is good: the problem is how to share the benefits).6. The world. Geopolitical / geostrategic changes are big! Australia previously had external guarantors for security (UK then US). By 2040, several regional nations will be stronger than Australia (he mentioned Sth Korea, Japan, India, Philippines, Vietnam). Commit to joint security, role in ASEAN, develop soft power (eg, Abbott defunded the Australia Network; as I remember, Howard sold off Radio Australia transmitters - bought by the religious right; the Union Jack and the Queen remain as our soft power symbols).

Then questions. A new Australia Network required; new technology needed to aggregate political involvement; business involvement in Asia needs to be developed; learn from NZ (a popular position with the recent flag process); be skeptical with new ideas, reinvigorate the old (I was amused by a related comment of "Labor as road kill"); means of boosting voting enrolments; how many pollies think or are interested in the long term?; dealing with business involvement in the political process (Tim suggested the main issue is direct political campaigning by business [not sure I agree] which is a tall ask to deal with; rather there's a need to broaden political involvement/discussion).

Well, it was just a touch of what is argued in the book. I felt a little alienated; I worried that magic fixes were sought where disrespect of conventions and hard-bitten politics seems the core problem. But things move on. Good to see some pollies are thinking of these things and the 2040 timeframe seems an apt scope for vision.

Clare O'Neil and Tim Watts are newly elected Labor MPs (2013). They discussed their new book, Two futures : Australia at a critical moment, at a Politics in the Pub. Ben Oquist introduced them on behalf of the Australia Institute.

16 September 2015

Hip 15

Congratulations to Hippo for its 15th year of jazz. And jazz goes back further in this spot. I remember it as Dorette's with the SOM students who have since moved to Sydney and JazzGroove and more. Venues move on, but Hippo has a respected, if noisy, long-term relationship with jazz and that's something to celebrate. So they did, last Wednesday, with a string of bands and free entry and masses in house for cocktails and whiskys and whiskeys and more. It's gone through a few interior redecorations, added a balcony, recently provided a stage area with big-city light-filled backdrop (I like it), staged tons of Australian and Canberra bands and a string of internationals. Yes, it's noisy, but that's the business. At least a venue remains with a considerable history. Thanks to Hippo, now HippoCo, and congratulations.

15 September 2015

Product of a longer preparation

There was talk of Robert Schmidli's last concert at Wesley, playing Scriabin. I missed it. That was more obscure and took more preparation. Immediate preparation, that it. This concert comprised two piano sonatas from Mozart and Beethoven. Robert had been playing them for years, so the preparation was there, just not so recent. I liked to hear the very diverse concepts of these two composers. This was late Beethoven (piano sonata no.31 Abmaj op.110) displaying his commitment and passion and that inevitable turn of phrase that always seems predestined. And Mozart (piano sonata no.8 Amin K310) with his earlier, more obvious and classical view, stately and proud and also playful. I enjoyed both. Robert spoke of a section in the last movement of Beethoven with doubled dims and augs held together precariously with syncopations. Robert is a local doctor, but a serious amateur pianist with training. Nice to have around and great to follow.

Robert Schmidli (piano) performed two piano sonatas, Mozart no.8 Amin K310 and Beethoven no.31 Abmaj op.110, at Wesley.