24 January 2021

On the street

It was pretty formal and family and dance-school oriented but it was fun.  I took to Civic on a hot day to visit the Canberra Street Dance Festival.  There was competitive (but very friendly) street dance routines, some rap singing, some too bassy hiphop music (~100bpm), a few street artists and the like.  It was approved so there were Covid checkins.  And it was fun.  A few really young kids got up for a quick lesson and appearance.  Plenty of parental and family and friend supporters whooped for their mates.  A few big numbers had a dozen or so on stage for demos of choreographic works.  There were plenty of smiles and not at all the edgy, intimidating thing of movies and myth.  And on the way out, I chatted to Kurt, steadily developing a mural in a local lane.  All approved and even supported by government.  How forward thinking are we! But great fun and no doubt great exercise, all this popping and locking and krumping and all.


The Canberra Street Dance Festival was in Garema Place and Kurt was painting a mural nearby.

22 January 2021

Converted by Covid

I guess it was Covid that caused Sydney drummer Dave Goodman to be off the program at NPC.  It's the standard way in these pandemic times.  But the guy who walked by me, I guess seeing me alone and listening, the guy who said "excellent music", said it all.  This was a blast regardless and with no drums!  Just jazz blowing on standards and latins and bop with tenderness to curb exhuberance.  Brendan and Greg were on the bill; Con replaced sticks with a tenor reed.  This was truly a thing of beauty.  Not too loud or insistent but gloriously expressive from all three.  Greg works hard taking both solo and accompanist parts, but never a hesitation.  Brendan was just a smooth speedster playing soft but deadly lines throughout his solos, then nonchalant accompaniment with equal finesse.  Dave's ring-in was Con, on tenor.  The role was different but mellifluous, sometimes, explosive, always melodically satisfying.  I could hear the lyrics and lines of many players, from bop to latin, presumably a measure of his transcriptions, or maybe just listening.  Transcriptions is my guess.  Lovely.  So a different experience but a deeply satisfying one.  Just locals, but just excellent, in the words of my passing mate. 

Con Campbell (tenor), Greg Stott (guitar) and Brendan Clarke (bass) played at the National Press Club.

18 January 2021

Classical jazz

The classical equivalent of a jam session is a play through, I guess.  I was asked to cover for a session playing the Trout last Thursday evening in someone's house with just family and dog as audience.  The request just came on Thursday morning so I had a sight read at home with a recording and revisited a few of the harder passages that weren't such easy reads (not least a lovely jazz-like diminished run).  Then the run through that evening.  The musos were very capable.  We got pulled up a few times, repeated a few other times (I was responsible for some of each) but mostly it worked well (perhaps only in my "good enough for jazz" hat).  I was happy because I should know the Trout.  It's one of a popular few chamber pieces with double bass.  Two similar others were mentioned: a Beethoven septet and a Schubert octet.  I've played each of them, as I had the Trout, but a regular run through wouldn't hurt.  And then a chat and a drink.  First bowing for the new year and with such a capable crew.  What a treat.  Thanks for the invitation.

The lineup for the Trout was by George Chan (piano), Georgina Tran (violin), John Gould (viola), Rita Woolhouse (cello) and Eric Pozza (bass).

14 January 2021

Visiting an old friend

Coming to know an art gallery is a love of my life so while I was in Melbourne I had to get to the NGV.  Not so much the modern wing or even the Triennial, which was on at the time, but the old masters and the like.  We can't expect collections as in Europe, but Victoria probably has the best collection in Australia.  Three Rembrandt oils, no less, and a string of Dutch/Flemish works.  A touch of various eras otherwise, and some decorative arts.  It's naff, but I like the figurines.  I didn't find The Music Lesson this time which I've seen here before, but I did find McKennal's Circe in life size (don't we have a little one at the NGA?  I know AGSA does).  This visit I discovered some big renaissance names, Gaddi and Correggio, and decided the Memling was my fave for this visit.  Or possibly the "Carved retable of the Passion of Christ" from Antwerp with its 3d polychrome timber panels and surrounding painted panels in oil.  And Burne-Jones from his Garden of Pan, of course.  There's some lovely stuff there and it's free to see.  Always a highlight of my Melbourne sojourns.












The National Gallery of Victoria is in Melbourne (!)

11 January 2021

Not Bourke

This was in front of the Town Hall in Swanston Street.  Quieter but just as small a world.  One busker playing tuned percussion.  We chatted.  I mentioned Canberra.  He’d studied with Gary France and taught Chris Latham in universities in the USA and played at a few CIMFs.  He’s now settled in Melbourne.  He finds it’s improving from when he arrived early this year (somewhat with the arrival of Covid and lockdowns!)  He comes back to Canberra every now and then with his wife who tunes pianos.  He was playing a Pearl Malletstation that he’d bought from Gary.  I liked what he was playing.  Professionally understated and relaxed and richly coloured with key changes.  Nice.  It was from a musical he wrote in the States.  All a great pleasure.  Cheers to JB Smith.  Nice to meet, and hear, you.

JB Smith busked tuned percussion in Swanston Street, Melbourne.

10 January 2021

Bourke

You needn’t go to a gig to hear some pretty smart players in Melbourne.  Victor Wooten for one.  I was chatting with Wylie J Miller, a pretty stylish slapper himself, sporting a 5-string Stanley Clarke signature Alembic.  He was surprised someone recognised the Alembic. Apparently, VW had sat in with him one day when here in tour.  These are those wonderful stories that are true but become mythical.  I was a little dumbfounded to hear it, but not surprised.  He was doing a wonderful job with deep grooves, natty singing to accompany it and a wonderfully entertaining presence.  And he had a nicely worn Alembic to share.  But I’d seen a few others over the days and they were all impressive.  Bianca Ivorie was a singer songwriter with a decently strong voice and convincing songs.  One song she noted was Ex’s and Oh’s by Elle King, once a hit and an in-your-face feminist statement in one.  Nice one.  But she writes, too.  There were a few violins another day.  Cam Nicholson looping a modern set with various effects.  There’s a nice one of him on YouTube playing the whole of Pachelbel’s Canon with looped parts.  Loops really are the stuff of modern busking.  I think it was Dario Zhang standing by.  I saw Dario later playing against recorded or digital accompaniment.  Not sure if it’s just for Covid, but they all perform in taped off boxes, obviously approved by city authorities.  Busking ain’t what it used to be (it’s actually often much better).  They are all on YouTube if you wish to follow up.



Wylie J Miller (bass, vocals), Bianca Ivorie (guitar, vocals), Cam Nicholson (violin) and Dario Zhang (violin) busked in Bourke Street, Melbourne.

9 January 2021

Returns

There was a time when Miles had to justify that he played funk.  So I guess on a jazz site I don’t have to do that anymore.  I went to hear a great little funky soul band last night called Fulton Street, in Melbourne, at Cherry Bar.  Fulton Street is a sextet: tight, inventive, deeply funky and virtually all original.  They dropped into Midnight Oil for a little interlude (The power and the passion) but otherwise this was all theirs.  But that was not what got me; after all funk is mostly a few chords and I couldn’t catch most of the words anyway.  But these guys are trained and it shows.  The grooves are deep and authentic; the players look to each other, perhaps playing minimally and repetitively, but the parts fit together key-in-lock into a satisfying whole.  That’s how funk works, of course.  The players just play, and the singer, bless her soul, is soulful, as in singing but also dancing, moving, grooving.  So the torso bends and the arms raise and the fingers flit.  All as it should be and wonderfully satisfying.  It’s not jazz, but the knowledge is clear enough (they are all trained, at least several completed music degrees and some advanced studies here): the awareness of interaction and the trained accuracy of interpretation are obvious.  The bass was finger happy and lock tight.  The keys playful and expressive.  The percussion aurally present and enlivening, playing with drums as a locked pairing, often sparse, always decisive.  The guitar light and choppy and responsive, as this interplay of parts in 16th note syncopations should be.  Spacious and relaxed but also taut and tight; insistent, then suddenly quiet to await a delightfully precise return.  They liked that and so did I.  I bopped with the others on the floor, standing, listening, intrigued and whooping often enough.  Great fun, great grooves; nice stuff.  This was Fulton Street’s return from nine months of Covid interruptions and it was a blast.

They sometimes expand with horns, but this night Fulton Street were Shannen Wick (vocals), Nate Scott (guitar), Jamie Stroud (bass), Andreas Miculcic (organ), Laura Kirkwood (percussion) and Daniel McKoy (drums).  They played at the Cherry Bar in Melbourne.  And, BTW, the instrumentalists have recorded as Dive Team 5.  Have a listen on Bandcamp.

31 December 2020

Some like it hot

Obviously Con Campbell does.  At least that's how I hear him and it was no different last night.  It's a quiet week but I wandered into Molly and there was Con's band, with Greg and Brendan and Mark.  Playing bebop.  It mostly stayed that way for the night, or if not bop, treated that way.  Not that Brendan would slow it down.  He's a machine gunner with delightful melodicism so raring and ready for the quick stuff and he plays with the application and effort that the big bass needs and sounds great for it.  Greg is more restrained: blindingly quick but clean, not the bluesy dirt that the others were indulging in.  I tapped one time on my metronome: 274.  Quick but not into the stratosphere.  Brendan had worried that he'd maybe settled the time, but I doubt it.  There was reliable drive here and his double timed phrases didn't lag a millisecond.  Con led with the tunes and heads and walked through the fours and the rest.  Lovely, expressive solos and a big earthy tone.  The alto player I was sitting with commented on that.  Mark was bright in the lights and delightfully steady and unintrusive but took the feature when the fours came around and they were inventive and easy.  Such a lovely outing, if "outing" is the right word for the bebop and uptempo swingers and latins that we were hearing.  Maybe stunner is a better word.  I got into chatter with Brendan's family (cheers, Mel) and that was interesting, if necessarily shouty given the volume, so I missed a good bit of the music.  But every peek at the band was another stunning line from someone.  This was still the quiet week after Christmas, not yet New Year's Eve, but this was alive.  Great stuff.

Con Campbell (tenor) led a band at Molly with Greg Stott (guitar), Brendan Keller-Tuberg (bass) and Mark Levers (drums).

30 December 2020

Women too

This was Part one of Know my name: Australian women artists 1900 to now at the National Gallery.  In the words of the NGA, "Know My Name celebrates the work of all women artists with an aim to enhance understanding of their contribution to Australia’s cultural life ... that addresses historical gender bias".  There's more with Part two later this year.  I got to a first view, then a quick revisit to catch some details and themes and especially a quote that impressed me.  It's in words, so more obvious than the visual art "use your culture in your own defence".  The full quote was "female culture is in the minds, hearts and secret dialogues of women. use your culture in your own defense. use soft aggression".  I was struck by the line about using your culture, meaning influence from a place of your own strength.  This was from Lip magazine (1976) from the Lip Collective, published in Victoria, initially with some government monies which were later denied due to its perceived suggestiveness.  See the original on display and you'll understand.  It's clever, amusingly described as "a delightful play on the pornographic centrefold (art historian Louise Mayhew).  There were many works that dealt with feminist issues, but not only.  One room stunned with three huge feminist works that I'd seen before whole or in part: Tracey Moffat, Anne Ferran, Julie Rrap.  Our own eX de Medici had a fabulous piece called The Wreckers, on civilisational destruction and perhaps hinting at a natural recovery.  In another room I was intrigued by Jenny Watson Self portrait as narcotic and somewhat perplexed by one commentary by Marie Hagerty, fascinated by just how Marie Hagerty managed her Flight research photos.  Once again I enjoyed pics by Carol Jerrems.  I noticed some challenging music accompanying a video and it was by Roger Frampton.  I liked the early works with their traditional skills: portraits, self-portraits, nudes, too.  I do enjoy those skills.  As for up-to-date, there was a museum-like presentation by Janet Laurence called Requiem made in the wake of the 2019/2020 bushfires and hail storms.  She notes in her piece that "Australia is on the WWF's list of global deforestation hotspots - the only one in the developed world".  I dare say it's because we just got to the destruction later than others, but that's no excuse.  There were numerous other names of interest, some known, many less so and various other themes and artists: Indigenous, posters, dissenters.  I liked the bedraggled, disintegrating Aussie flag commenting on Howard's core and non-core promises.  And Barbara Campbell's Dubious letters (likely fake) used to implicate Mary Queen of Scots in the death of her husband in the form of a skirt.  I chatted with some knowledgeable women who said it had originally been worn by the artist.  And there was feminist fashion and associated exhibitions on Patricia Piccinini and Tjanpi desert weavers and the Body electric ("includes works with adult content").  Some great stuff there.  Well worth a visit or several.

Part 1 of the exhibition Know my name: Australian women artists 1900+ runs at the National Gallery to mid-2021.  Part 2 follows in July.

  • The pic is detail from eX de Medici The Wreckers (2018-2019), now in the collection of the NGA
  • 23 December 2020

    Rellies at Christmas

    Great that Melbourne is open again because Richard M could have his distant family in town and with them came partner Jules Pascoe.  He's a professional player in Melbourne, playing in a band called The Conglomerate which includes two members of Cat Empire.  So decent players.  I'd lent my bass no.2 for a jam with Jules, Richard and Mike Dooley and in the end, I could get over for a short visit.  Jules was playing a storm and especially in his solo.  Lovely; very impressive.  Mike and Richard were doing admirably too.  It's a wondrous thing about jazz, that people can just name a tune they know or pull up a chart and play with anyone.  That's jazz training.  Nice to meet you, Jules.

    Jules Pascoe (bass) jammed with Richard Manderson (tenor) and Mike Dooley (piano).

    22 December 2020

    Mates

    Mike and Rachel are mates who I played with in bands in the past, so it was both a duty and a pleasure to attend their third album launch.  It was a smallish event, Covid-limited, I guess, in a church but not at all small in application to performance.  This was 13 players - Mike, Rachel and rhythm and horn sections and strings, all being recorded for later ArtSound broadcast by Chris Deacon.  And that musical aggregation had plenty of friends in it, too: Richard and Miro and Steve and Phil and Con and I got chummy with Ilsa.  A gaggle of lovely, capable players performing Mike's joyous, purposeful, often witty music.  Mike's styles are not so much of today, but Michael Bublé made it big, so why not this clever music?  There were love songs, songbook-styled AABA standards, sambas and bossas and some funkier tunes.  Rachel's singing is always a huge pleasure and Mike and Rach harmonise as a lovely pair.  There's considerable piety, too, amongst the passions.  There's a market for that, but it's not for the market that it's felt, perhaps unlike some adherents.  One thing that I hadn't been aware of was Mike's writing of a musical, apparently themed around a scientist who discovers purpose beyond rationality when he meets a singer on a cruise liner.  It was a revelation as I listened and realised the inherent style of musical theatre and the different musical outcome.  It was lovely.   This is a music I recognise: turnarounds, grooves, melodies.  Same too with the solos, and there were some beauties there from some significant local players, although not given the chance to let go as in bop or jams.  And that cute old '20s two-feel.  All there, amazingly diverse if not particularly like the rap that's on the radio.  And done so well.  I was happy as Larry to buy my copy and get Mike's and Rach's signatures.  There's joy and love here, and they are both open to it.  We need a world more like this! 

    Mike Dooley (composer, piano) and Rachel McNally (prev. Thorne) released their third album as In2Deep.  Accompanying musicians were Camillo Gonzales (guitar), Steve Richards (drums), Phil Dick (bass), Anthony Dooley (bongos), Miroslav Bukovsky (trumpet, flugelhorn), Darren Ormsby (trombone), Con Campbell (tenor), Richard Manderson (alto), Tim Wickham and William Dooley (violins),  Iska Sampson (viola), Alex Voorhoeve (cello).

    21 December 2020

    Reaquaintances

    At the moment, I feel like I'm reacquainting myself with the scene after the Covid shutdowns.  If the Sydney outbreak blows up, I might need to be be doing that again in several months time, but in the meantime, I'm enjoying it.  This next gig was with I Progetti, Charis Messalina de Valence's mediaeval-influenced choir, this time in the vibrant-sounding foyer of the National Portrait Gallery.  And it was a huge pleasure.  This is an SATB choir of 8, so a pairing for each voice, so small and clear and beautifully intoned, even through some more chromatic lines.  Anthony Smith was there as keyboard accompanist (variously harpsichords, organs and more) but he sometimes just introduced with a pitch, so the singers were a capella.  Small can be less thrilling but also more precise and clear.  I found myself with closed eyes shortly into the concert, and sat like that for most of it.  They arrived with an initial joke of arm-length social distancing.  Then into a circle for four short brackets of 4/5 songs each.  I said mediaeval, but not just.  The composers ranged from the likes of Josquin de Pres and Pretorius and Lodovico Grossi da Viadana through Anon. and Trad. to Howard Blake and Dominic Fox and Eric Whitacre.  The choir also has a resident composer, Mark Chapman, who provided the opening song "Welcome, Yule!".  I loved the variation, adored the clarity and precision, drooled over a high soprano (hard to identify, but I'm told it was Charis) and then, to finish off, the Christmas carol singalong.  I immensely enjoyed finding my recently unused voice (generously the pitch was comfy).  We sang First nowell (I have just learned that "nowell" is the Cornish original; "noel" is an Americanisation [source: Wikipedia]), Come all ye faithful and Hark! the Herald angels sing.  My recordings of the event weren't so successful, but the concert was.  So lovely; such clarity in such an apt space.  A great pleasure.

    Charis Messalina de Valence (director, soprano) led I Progetti chamber choir at the National Portrait Gallery.  Anthony Smith (keyboard) accompanied.  Singers were Charis and Ngaire Breen (soprano), Mary Woodhouse and Susannah Bishop (alto), Steven Harris (tenor, occasional alto), Tristan Struve (tenor, baritone), Mark Chapman (bass, occasional composer) and Steven Strach (bass).

    20 December 2020

    Hitting the streets

    My rush off was to Civic and a political meeting.  It was held in King O'Malley's, out back, above the bar, in the Snug Room.  Noisy as, but the beers were good.  That's apt for a centre-leftie get together.  Just a few people from the Canberra branch of the Australian Fabians.  The Fabians have a long history as a democratic socialist (~=Labor) grouping in England with members including the likes of George Bernard Shaw, HG Wells, Annie Besant, Ramsay MacDonald, Emmeline Pankhurst, Bertrand Russell, Sidney and Beatrice Webb and Havelock Ellis.  It was a disappointingly small turnout but an intellectually astute one, with economist and convener Lachlan presenting on 2020 as the year that (nearly) killed neo-liberalism.  We'll see, I guess.  There may not be much belief anymore, but there are influential parties that benefit from it, so I expect all bets are off.  Given attendance and our current government (and maybe Aussie voting habits), change doesn't look too imminent.  Outside, it was different.  Lots of people, for Covid-free ACT times, Christmas, Friday night, lust and the rest.  Lots of noise and partying.  Some music from guitar/singer Matt Dent singing and strumming against a recorded accompaniment.  Nice for the beery hot circumstances.  Suffice to say it's the busiest I've seen all year, if not in the Snug Room.

    Matt Dent (singer, guitarist) entertained at King O'Malley's.  The Canberra Chapter of the Australia Fabians cogitated in the Snug Room.

    19 December 2020

    A too quick interlude

    I saw so little and to some degree I heard so little of Briana Cowlishaw and that was disappointing.  I was booked for something else to 7pm so I only managed 4 tunes, and even though I was relatively close, the chatter was loud (that's good, but...).  I heard perhaps more of Greg as his guitar was sharp with attack and cut through, but voice is more smooth.  But what I heard was lovely and I could feel it getting earthier and firmer even by the fourth song.  I would have liked to follow that, as she settled in, but I couldn't.  Already there was a neat, well controlled alto voice, gentle but with occasional power, a nice awareness of timing so the melodies got subtle jazz inflections and delays and anticipations.  And she sang several scat improvs with lines that showed clear listening to sax lines and other jazz instruments.  This, too, was getting firmer and more adventurous and earthier. It helped that the last song I caught was the relatively raunchy Honeysuckle rose.  Her bossa was far more restrained and romantic and I liked to hear some language (Portuguese? Again I couldn't hear well) in the bossa.  So, nice but a short outing.  Greg was great too, of course.  His solo guitar role was totally convincing moving through accompaniment into soloing, chordal and single note lines, with no hesitation or feel of undue sparseness.  Not busy, but comfortable and present.  Too short but sweet.

    Briana Cowlishaw (vocals) was accompanied by Greg Stott (guitar) at the National Press Club.

    18 December 2020

    Difference

    My God, what styles there are in jazz!  Styles over eras.  I got to the National Press Club for John Mackie's band, with Greg and Brendan and Mark.  Anyone who knows these names will know these are superlative players.  Just a thrill to hear such ease and richness.  So different from just days back, at Molly.  Was it Messaien that Bird studied and held in reverence?  And what of Hendrix who died young, shortly before he was to play with Miles.  Different worlds but all music, just mightily diverse, or as Newton said, "standing on the shoulders of giants".  Like Hildegard von Bingen to Fanny Mendelssohn.  Difference but also all one.  John played some Bird Parker and it was stunning.  The whole band: sharp, relevant, correct, devastatingly quick.  As a bassist, I was especially awed by Brendan's alacrity, but also the lines that were so melodically true.  Much the same from the others, of course.  All referencing the source, a standard or bop or whatever, but giving it personal relevance and currency in interpretation, so John's lines started by spelling some unexpected intervals then developed with harmony and flurries to floor the listener.  More modern, perhaps, but referential.  Then a bossa that sat like a rock, sturdy but pretty and devastatingly emotional.  Not sure what else to say, but I was enthralled.  Years of practice distilled into a few sets in a bar, National Press Club, for some birthday guests, I guess, and others.  And they noticed.  It's hard not to notice such ability, unpretentious, there, in a modest setting.  Really quite a stunner, actually.

    John Mackey (tenor) led a quartet with Greg Stott (guitar), Brendan Clarke (bass) and Mark Sutton (drums) at the National Press Club.