19 January 2017

Collectives


A contagion of basses sounds about right. Whoever arrives at the weekly OCI jam session is a matter of conjecture. This week it was 4 (four!) bassists, along with 2xdrums and one each of guitar, trom, vocals. I got one tune - fair enough given some dithering over a beer. On the other hand, it was particularly interesting to hear so many bassists in one outing. The bass sound was not so big and fat this night: more edgy and toppy, sharing an amp with the piano, but fun nonetheless. I played Recordame, and others did various songs with Rachel Thorne (a great local singer) and Stella and Blue bossa and others. The imports were Sam Dobson, ex-Sydney Con playing with Geoff Bull, Cope Street Parade and others: nicely relaxed, easy-going, on top of the charts. Paddy Fitzgerald, student at Monash, nicely intoned thumb positions and good choppy solos, playing with fellow student guitarist Harry Tinney. And the locals: Alec Coulson with a nice take on Blue bossa and me, on Recordame. Moving Paths had turned up, too (including Max, bassist #5) but too early to jam; they left to play Hippo. The band this night was Ben, Hugh and Steve.

The Old Canberra Inn jam session was hosted this week by Ben O'Loghlin (bass), Hugh Barrett (piano) and Steve Richards (drums). Sit-ins included Sam Bolton, Alec Coulson, Paddy Fitzgerald and Eric Pozza (basses), Harry Tinny (guitar), Mark Levers (drums) and Rachel Thorne (vocals).

18 January 2017

Passaging


Moving Paths was a gentle, undemonstrative name for a band, suggesting fluidity and perusal. For the first notes, Moving Paths was like this. They are students from the Jazz School pre-darkness. Max went off to the Sydney Con and perhaps Luke did too. Linus studied at ANU then off to the Con. They were on their first tour with the new band playing Smiths then Hippo then Victoria and ultimately MONA. They play a gentle and pensive music, intensely listened, not extravagant except maybe once when Max played impetuously for resonances over open strings. Just one or two walks, several obbligati, some solos of cymbal and brushes. I so much imagined it as recorded, perhaps a soundtrack for a long, relaxed road trip. Everyone writes - one from Luke, 3 from Max, the rest from Linus (keys always have this advantage) - and one tune from a shared admiration, Paul Motion. First up was Max's Rolling with bass obbligato at relaxed tempo and sounding all the world of the '70s. Trajectory was all sizzling cymbals and slow changes and arpeggios. Linus' Slow was a slow sparse melody to start, but developed into a livelier walk. Max followed with another sparse one for Phil Treloar. I was noticing the piano - acoustic but not too tuned. Several more sparse, open wistful tunes, Walks and Dawn, and a few with unison melodies, notably one for Louis, Linus' dog, and somewhat surprisingly, a relaxed latin called Portrait, again by Linus. Like others, it developed into tinkling water drops into river, cymbals and openly timed piano chords. Not anything to dance to, but intense and satisfying and a listener's space. Worthy of trips in the club with closed eyes or as accompaniment for a real, interminable road trip: the name says it all.

Moving Paths is Linus Foley (piano), Max Alduca (bass) and Luke Keenan-Brown (drums) and they played at Smiths.

12 January 2017

Racks


It was a regathering of old friends, fellow students at ANU and old friends of CJ, when Great rack and an empty club reverb played at Hippo: Luke from Sydney; Aidan from Berlin; Reuben and Em from Melbourne; all gigging at Hippo, another old friend. But this was not Just Friends as in jazz standards. The band's title said lots: odd and long and suggestive of electronica. Em's performance was pretty much the title, working as she did at a small desk with mixer and effects. But much more. This was modern, melismatic music, as played in clubs, for dance, I guess (not a scene I know) done by trained jazz professionals. Breakbeats and drum'n'bass and warped reggaes and hugely infectious rhythms and odd times and some contemporary jazz polyrhythms (bliss!) and insistent drum grooves that writhed and mutated but never put an accent in a wrong place and bass lines from Luke's Hammond that would be dense or sparse and move feels inconspicuously or sometimes more obviously. Then solos that didn't spell the fact, trumpet that would echo unobstrusively. Two sets; each without a break. Luke told me after that they had about ten charts but they may not have used them all as the music moved unassumingly from one tune to another. I could pick changes, but it was more joy just to sit back and take all this in. Then voice over, that rack and reverb, Em leading with chatter, or as she said, her dialogue with the audience. "Distance separates us / there ... here ... there .. here". All with impish humour. Words that spelled stories, perhaps improvised, if only to some degree. Words subject to digital effects; words merging into repeats and wordless vocals; vocals in counterpoint or extended harmony with trumpet, sometime like a two-horn frontline (although this was no Blue Note session). Words are conversation and contact: music lovers talk of music as a language but I reckon words add and connect. I strained to hear some stories. Hippo is inherently noisy and continually chatty and the sound wasn't so clear. But the music was infectious and mobile and connecting and done by these trained musicians. Not strictly jazz but jazz training allows this, at this level, stunningly, even when just a get-together. This is not a permanent band. Just old friends, on a night out, playing a rhyming storm in the home town. Fabulous!

Great rack and an empty club reverb comprised Emily Bennett (voice, live signals), Reuben Lewis (trumpet, live signals), Luke Sweeting (organ) and Aidan Lowe (drums).

7 January 2017

Touring


It amused me to think that my school artistic tour was to Melbourne from Adelaide to perform in Henry IV Pt.1 at another Jesuit school. For the richly named Rancho Mirage High School Singing Rattlers Reflections Show Choir and Chamber Singers, the tour was from the Coachella Valley in Southern California to Sydney and Canberra and more including lounging time at Bondi and a performance at our Parliament House. Wow! I looked up the school and it's a unique looking place: modern buildings on the edge of town with a foreboding, flat, sandy desert of saltbush just across the road. Some singers told me the temp reaches 115degF (=46degC). Hot and dry but not unknown in Australia. (To see this is to understand why California is gung-ho on climate change). But to the music. It was a difficult time for audience, being mid-summer holidays with Canberrans down the coast, but there was a decent turnout. But what voices! Youthful and strong, wonderfully harmonised. They came with contact of Woden Valley Youth Choir (locals I have yet to hear) and read one Australian work (was it in an Aboriginal language?) The music was of friendship and positivity, mostly in English but some Italian and Latin, some originally performed with dance. We got a little of that in the encore, but only a little and limited by space. There were two choirs, a show choir with dance and a chamber choir. The performance variously featured the choirs together and each choir separately. Audiamus was by all in Latin; Mad mad mad mad madrigal was from the chamber choir; Pompei featured all (a short reprise at the end had dancing); Black swan was the new Australian composition that they read on the day. There were some featured singers: Georgia Christopherson was reticent at first but then shone with a wonderful voice; some guys had small features, again with impressive voices. The teacher/leader was taken away with a student to hospital and member Vivian Walker sat in as host and conductor and did an admirable job with considerable confidence. There was a shortage of guys in the choir, but nothing unusual there. So, a very well enjoyed concert and a touch of local life in the USA. BTW, check out the school's website for some great recordings of their jazz big band.

Rancho Mirage High School Singing Rattlers Reflections Show Choir and Chamber Singers performed at Wesley, on tour from California.

  • Rancho Mirage HS website
  • 5 January 2017

    Ripping up the place


    I was amused at a comment about deconstructing the place. Someone had taken down a pot plant for better sightlines, then he'd responsibly replaced it at the end of the night. The jazz scene is like this. Likeable people who study complex things that pay little for arts-sake with a relaxed dress sense. Like one player who's in Canberra for his Philosophy PhD at ANU on a topic somewhere in Ethics. It's a quiet time for musos after the rush of Christmas. A few are back home to visit rellies: Aidan Lowe was back from Berlin for a time. Otherwise, it's good times and good beers and some excellent music. Hugh Barrett was filling in for Wayne Kelly; Aidan Lowe for Mark Sutton; Ben O'Loghlin was coordinator, calling in various players for the second, jam set. Ben Marston, Tom Fell, Steve Richards, some others. The tunes for the first set were less the obvious blow numbers - Blue in green, Nica's dream and the like. The jam set was more commonly known tunes, starting with Stella then Blue bossa. I got a go on Alone together then Blue Monk. The playing was excellent all round. Aidan's playing a storm, if lamenting his kit that's sat in a shed the last year (fair enough). Hugh smoothed through various harmony colours with extensions or substitutions or whatever and laid down sweet, unassuming solo lines: all the piano's role and done with great skill. Ben O'L floored me, interesting and varied, right on top of the beat and driving with a firm, full sound. Then the horns, Ben M and Tom, soloing nicely, spelling heads with ease but also harmonising melodies and accompaniments to hint at arrangements. Tom commented it's a great lineup for that (rhythm section plus sax and trumpet), but no surprise there, it's the quntessential bop-modern lineup. The last tune was a raging Rhythm changes: so much for deconstruction, this was ripping up the place in a more positive light. And there were chats and beers as jazz is. Much enjoyed. Thanks to all.

    Ben O'Loghlin (bass), Hugh Barrett (piano) and Aidan Lowe (drums) were the support band for the jazz jam at Old Canberra Inn. Tom Fell (sax), Ben Marston (trumpet), Steve Richards (drums), Eric Pozza (bass) and others sat in. The OCI jazz jam is at Old Canberra Inn, every Wednesday, 6.30-9pm, free entry, good beers on tap.

    29 December 2016

    Blockie II

    (Cont.) Second was Versailles. I hadn't expected to attend, but went with a Christmas visitor. I was surprised and pleased from the first objects in the first room. Plenty of sweet paintings of powdered faces, sturdy marble and lead and porphyry works in 3D, homely (if indulgent) things like lovely floral china servings and a menu that records one lunch for the king, less homely but impressive things like tapestries and huge rugs, a desperately indulgent story of failing to plumb fountains for the ill-located Palace. It all had me welcoming revolution by the end, and sure enough, to my pleasure and the gasp of a woman beside me (her comment was "it's in all the text books"), David's pen-and-ink sketch of the oath at the tennis court (Le serment du Jeu de paume / Jacques-Louis David). Wow! Revolutionary politics in superbly detailed drawing. Fabulous. And a final, lightly despairing painting of Louis XVI awaiting his fate. So goes such indulgence (as I wonder why modern Australia still has a Queen).

    These were two informative and attractive exhibitions worthy of our time and monies. Versailles : Treasures from the palace is at the National Gallery of Australia.

    28 December 2016

    Blockie I

    I know I'm being ridiculously lazy with few posts, but hey it's Christmas. In the meantime, just a short note and some pics of the two blockbuster exhibitions currently in Canberra.

    First is the 100 objects show from the British Museum. A string of important works dating from the earliest days, the stoneage. I remembered some from the BM, not least that stone handaxe from the Olduvai Gorge, which is actually the oldest thing on display (1.2-1.4 million years old). And there were some distinct favourites, not least due to my historical interests: the bronze head of Augustus; the Lewis chessmen and the model of Chinese Liubo players; the pieces of eight; the Peruvian Moche pots and Benin plaques and Iraqi clay tablet and Chinese jade bi and bust of Sophocles and Arabian bronze hand and Hebrew astrolabe and Russian revolutionary plate. And others. It will never be like a visit to the real thing (the British Museum. That's just overwhelming although still not my favourite museum: NYC's Met wins that for me). But this small sampling was a great pleasure and a worthy waste of a few hours. (cont.)

    A History of the world in 100 objects : From the British Museum is at the National Museum of Australia.

    21 December 2016

    Photos all

    When I've attended concerts in Canberra over the years, there's usually been a photographer. For jazz, it was Brian Stewart and I was lucky enough to launch his exhibition at early this year at Smith's. I wrote about it on CJ as a golden era. For classics, it was Peter Hislop and I've just attended his exhibition in the decidedly upmarket location of the High Court Foyer, now a popular classical music venue. Funnily, as I entered a guitar duo, Duo Amythis, was playing the final bars of a yet another concert. I hadn't known. Then Peters pics. Unlike Brian's, these are colour; like Brians's, they are digital. I loved the behind-the-scenes pics, especially when I knew the subjects and occasionally when I remembered the gig. Also the arrays of performers (choirs or orchestras) in black or common colours that is so attractive in this scene: it's great fun to find familiar faces. Peter's earliest pics go back to the first ACO gig in Sydney in 1976, so he's got serious history. These pics were mainly around Canberra, at Llewellyn or CIMF or NGA or the High Court itself, of local or visiting stars like Peter Sculthorpe, Roland Peelman, Chris Latham, AYO. I was amused to see jazz got a shoe in with John Mackey and Miro Bukovsky's shadow. The photos were too few, but interesting. I enjoyed his eye, it's good and eminently professional. The digital colour was just a little edgy in a big print, but it's an unavoidable vestige of the technology. It's good to see performers for the ordinary people they so often are. My mechanic surprised me the other day saying he'd played violin in an orchestra in his school days and had completed several years of AMEB. He went on to talk of the good, even raunchy, times of the students off at camp, and that the fine music types are not much different from the rock stars. There's a window on some of that ordinary humanity here. Nice. Excuse the pics; it was impossible to quote through glass in a bright High Court foyer.

    Peter Hislop displayed a small selection of a very large collection of photos of music making in Canberra.

    PS, I dropped into the National Gallery to waste a few minutes and found a new fave: Ethel Spowers. Here are some pics.

    18 December 2016

    Answers to different questions


    There are answers here, but to totally different questions. We went to hear the latest concert of our mates, the Australian Haydn Ensemble, and it was fabulous. This was a larger ensemble for the night - they do a bigger ensemble every now and then. We've followed AHE since early days and they are seriously getting in their stride now, having released their wonderful first album on ABC records, and with a following and a history, they are developing a sense of presence and real purpose and, from the frequent open smiles, a great pleasure in the whole outing. AHE brings players from around Australia, but also from OS, not least some expat Aussies from London. This program featured a lineup of 21 in various combinations, guest directed by Eric Helyard with leader Skye McIntosh and solo flautist Melissa Farrow. The music was three of CPE Bach - Sinfonia E min Wq.178, Flute concerto D minor Wq.22 and Harpsichord concerto F minor Wq.43/1 - and one of namesake Haydn - Symphony no.49 F minor "La Passione". The whole was played with great dynamics and a fabulous sense to time and togetherness - I was in awe. We were lucky to be up front. Melissa's flute was clearly articulated and massively quick. I was stunned by the fast scalar lines with tack sharp tonguing. Fabulous. Then Erin with his harpsichord concerto part, again fast as, sweeping through phrasings that spelt harmonies that moved at will. Fabulous in playing and in the intellectual feat of the composition. Then Haydn. I'd played this (NCO 20 Aug 2016) so knew it intimately and that's both exciting and engrossing. The score doesn't look too scary, but this baroque era is unrelenting with occasional tripwire rhythms and sudden double-time phrases, so it can be tricky. And what pleasure to hear such experts laying into a tune you know: the easy bowing, nimble fingerings, comfortable reading, all on gut with baroque bows. And of course, the horns and bassoons and flutes and the rest, appearing inexorably but subtly amongst the strings, of the passages passed to seconds or violas, or Skye's lovely, purposeful solo-as-leader melodies. Suffice to say I enjoyed this immensely and it had us driving home, thinking of London, where so many concerts must be like this. A huge pleasure.

    Australian Haydn Ensemble performed CPE Bach and Haydn at the Great Hall at ANU University House under Erin Helyard (conductor, harpsichord soloist) and Skye McIntosh (violin, leader, musical director) with Melissa Farrow (flute soloist) and 18 others.

    15 December 2016

    No answers here


    This was the end of year wrap-up at Politics in the Pub, chaired by Australia Institute director Ben Oquist with journalists Rob Harris (Herald Sun), Daniela Ritorto (SBS News), Matthew Knott (Fairfax) and Alice Workman (Buzzfeed) and I was disappointed. I guess I have to recognise these are all press-pack journos form Parliament House, so that's what busies them and pays their keep and I doubt there's much time for anything else, and they were called to speak for the 2016 Political Wrap. But despite the concerns about 24-hour news cycle and expectations of continual breaks and the sheer speed of Australian politics, this was all "Beltway' stuff. Probably it is all "Beltway" stuff because of that - the journos are just too busy to have time to think. I was interested that they remembered Turnbull's press conference clashing with Usain Bolt and Turnbull speaking at some club or other when the Brexit result was announced and Turnbull's delayed and caustic speech after the election and Shorten's treating it all like a win and the year as the "rise of the deplorables" and that photo of George Christensen. All jokey, and I guess you need this to survive the blistering pace in this bickering place. And it was interesting to hear of threats to Turnbull and likelihood of another PM being rolled and incumbency as the new burden, of Pauline Hansen as the big winner of the year, that she runs a "slick operation" after 20 years in politics and that she avoids the press and publishes videos direct to followers on FB. There were questions about post-truth and what to do about it (MK admitted he'd been fooled by one for a while - so was I): media has a role, but the public must be "skeptical consumers". About the saving Medicare stoush and opinion vs facts; di Natale representing his supporters who allow no deals with government; economic insecurity not being enough to explain Trump, culture is also important; that disdain for politics has always been around, but it's highlighted now, partly by the double dissolution election (One Nation would only have won one quota in a normal election); about incumbency and consistency and policies (ACT cited here, but demographics is also an issue); about sneering at bogans and need for conversation; about SkyNews as an internal broadcast between politicians (interesting). But not a mention that I remember of the end-game issue of climate change, and nothing substantial outside Australia and nothing at all outside US/UK. So we remained in that puddle of inbred concerns and battling that we all rail against. I wanted to ask "how long can they keep blaming Labor" but my question, too, would have been in the local swamp (excuse the borrowing). As the Arctic melts and our kids' future with it, along with 1% and education and poverty and the rest. Things are mighty wrong and Trump/Brexit are not the answer but sadly no answers here. We all just keep getting consumed.

    The Australia Institute staged its Politics in the Pub 2016 Politics wrap-up chaired by director Ben Oquist with journalists Rob Harris (Herald Sun), Daniela Ritorto (SBS News), Matthew Knott (Fairfax) and Alice Workman (Buzzfeed).

    13 December 2016

    Hard one

    Maybe I say this after every concert. This Maruki concert was as hard as anything I've played. It's also the best we've played the pieces (my perennial "she'll be right on the night" optimism). This Maruki concert was the best we've played these pieces. And the pieces were tricky. Saint-Saens Havanaise is a pretty easy read despite frequent changes of time signature and a tricky passage of thirds on the basses. That went nicely with the very capable Georgina Tran playing the violin solo out front. So young, so capable. Then Rossini William Tell overture. Everyone knows this one, especially the stormy, fast, tricky bit, but the work is four parts run in together with several tricky lines (not least chromatic runs at brisk speed and some latin dotted-crochet arpeggio-like phrases that jump into the thumb positions) but to sit on that idyllic pastoral melody or to bounce the two bass parts against each other (one playing on 1,2,3; the other playing an octave up on 1+,2+,3+) was a pleasure. When I got time, I noticed some impressively neat, fast, nicely intoned high strings which were a pleasure. Then John Gould, our leader, taking the solo violin role in Bruch violin concerto no.1. It's always a huge pleasure to play with a true professional (LSO principal viola, retired) and to hear his playing, so well phrased, incisive, intoned. (Mostly we hear his humourous tales of conductors and orchestras at rehearsal instead). Maruki member and ANUSOM graduate Elisha Adams took the baton to lead Bruch (her major was violin performance but she's found a recent interest in conducting). She did nicely with clear leads and I liked when the basses got a big smile for coming in on time after a particularly long count (I guess she was relieved). Then afternoon tea and the big work of the day: Dvorak symphony no.7 D minor. This may be the most difficult work I've played - symphonic in scope, complex with interleaved themes and phrasings, neat but also unpredicted. It's a work you need to know well or read very carefully, and we did it some community orchestra justice. So, another successful and challenging outing for Maruki.

    Maruki Community Orchestra performed Saint-Saens, Bruch, Rossini and Dvorak at Albert Hall under John Gould and Elisha Adams (conductors) with soloists Georgina Chan and John Gould (violin).

    10 December 2016

    Catching up

    It's coming on time to relax for Christmas, so that's my excuse. Here's my catchup on last Thursday, somewhat late and no pics. Morning was two performances, both recorded. Firstly, the Wind Ensemble from Brindabella Orchestra playing one of literally hundreds of Overture/suites by Telemann, this one in D major with four movements comprised of formal dance styles of the era. The Wind Ensemble was a quintet comprising 2xflute, 2xoboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon. Then the U3A Recorder Orchestra led my Margaret Wright. This is a large ensemble with a range of recorders from the descants and tenors down to the boxy, new-styled (and seriously costly) basses. They played a range of music, Mozart, Paisible, Liadov, Bonsor and did it well, but the highlight was an world-premiere, original composition by member Graham Ranft, Requiem Thiepval, a reflection on the Thiepval Cemetery memorial in France, in four parts, apparently recreating the sound of wind through the arch under repair using a dissonant F/F# pair. Then some jazz at night. Tilt played a gig with our mate Richard Manderson sitting in on various saxes. An outdoor gig for primary school kids and their parents, an end-of-year celebration with sizzles and beers. Good fun and an opportunity to let go (for me on EUB and JB) with a beer or two. Always much enjoyed.

    Brindabella Wind Ensemble, U3A Recorder Orchestra and Tilt played at various locations last Thursday. Tilt comprised Richard Manderson (sax), James Woodman (piano), Eric Pozza (bass) and Dave McDade (drums).

    7 December 2016

    Almost the big one

    This was the final concert for the 49th year of the Canberra Youth Orchestra. Next year is CYO's 50th anniversary. That makes 1967/68 its founding year, at the height of hippiedom, the Summer of Love, Sgt Pepper's, before the ecstasy of Woodstock and the descent of Altamont. Then disco. And in jazz, Miles' second great quintet and into his electric years, and the death of Coltrane. But the Western classical stream continued and continues. The CYO is a fine ensemble and the musicians excite beyond their almost-tender years. Last night's theme was Brahms, specifically his Symphony no.1 Cmin, as the main work, but accompanied by Chaminade for flute and orchestra with soloist Lily Bryant and Mendelssohn for violin with soloist Donica Tran and Sibelius Finlandia played by unaccompanied brass. The soloists were both hugely impressive and I guess we can expect even more over time. Finlandia is wonderfully evocative and a demanding play for brass alone, not least standing as they did (especially for the heavy metal tuba), but they did it well and it rings so nicely for brass. The Brahms was big, four movements, complex, sometimes innocent and delicate, other-times lyrical and mellifluous (I borrow some descriptions from the program), later bold and triumphant. Some eye-wateringly fast bass lines had me chuckling. Congrats to six bassists! This orchestra is a great training device but more than that, a huge pleasure to hear and follow. And a great buy to boot: get your generously cheap season tickets soon. 2017 features Idea of North, Claire Edwardes and Gabi Sultana, a concerto competition winner and James Morrison. Sounds like some jazz-age partying will seep into the CYO half-century celebrations.

    Canberra Youth Orchestra played Chaminade, Sibelius, Mendelssohn and Brahms at Llewellyn Hall under Leonard Weiss (conductor) with soloists Lily Bryant (flute) and Donica Tran (violin).