26 June 2008

Introducing MFO

MFO is the Mace Francis Orchestra who will soon be visiting Canberra on tour from their distant home, Perth. Introducing the MFO is the title of one of the CDs Mace sent me. And it’s good. It’s exciting to see that ensembles like this are booming around Australia. Sadly, they are expensive to tour, so we tend not to have too many as visitors, especially from as far away as Perth. This opportunity is coming thanks to various government sponsorships (including from “soundtravellers”, a project of the Australia Council).

Mace Francis is Lecturer in Arranging and Composition at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA). He also composes, arranges and leads the MFO, a jazz orchestra of 12+1 players in the style of Maria Schnieder and the like. This is capable playing, and the charts are richly arranged and so sound sweet. The music is variously pensive or dramatic, sometimes explosive (Where’s his sepcin?) or even threatening (I thought horror movies in Lemon Water). The orchestration is complex and rich, and Mace obviously enjoys the sounds of the various parts interwoven or moving in sheets of textures and colours. There’s also comfort with time, with a few odd time signatures from the rhythm section and frequent difficult syncopations amongst the various horn parts. And the band does its bit with good tight, well-intoned ensemble playing.

Mace also sent me a live recording made at Bennett’s Lane in 2006 when they toured the Wangaratta Festival and the eastern states. This included several tunes by alto player Dan Thorne, so the band’s not limited to Mace’s writing, as well as tunes by Thad Jones and Mingus. Moanin’ by Mingus was typically ecstatic and featured that lovely baritone sax sound along with shouts of encouragement and hand claps as befits Mingus. Apparently, the band has extended its repertoire to play charts of key big bands in jazz history, so perhaps we can expect a bit of a history lesson when they visit.

Looking forward to the opportunity of hearing another Jazz Orchestra, especially from such distant shores. MFO appear at the Folkus Room 8pm, Thurs 10 July. $15/12. Recommended.

  • Mace Francis' website
  • Soundtravellers website
  • No comments: