14 January 2009

Cool Melbourne

Melbourne’s commonly said to be going (or to have already gone) through a cultural renaissance. The jazz scene here is renowned as the hottest in Australia. The city is lively and liveable, and the arts are bubbling. Certainly it felt like that as we walked around town on an early Thursday evening. There were alleyways closed to traffic, brick paved and filled with tables and bars and restaurants. They were alive with the buzz of music and chatter. Sometimes a cacophony as different styles of music mingled. Megan and I heard strains of South American beats but stopped for a pre-dinner drink at the jazz.

Annemarie Nelson was playing a solo piano/vocal set at the Segafredo bar/restaurant in Hardware Lane. It was tasteful, smooth jazz in the style of Dianna Krall and nicely suited to a bar/restaurant outing. We had a chat. Annemarie is recently (~18 months ago) over from NZ. She’s done some recording with Joe Chindamo and Mark Fitzgibbon but is still working on something that she’s happy to release. Anyway, it was symbolic of the lively local scene, and a pleasant pre-dinner drink companion.

I dropped in again to Hardware Lane a few days later, and caught the quartet Heliboptor. Apparently, they play there four times each week for the restaurant crowd. Again, I had to go off and only heard a few tunes, a Jobim and Bag’s groove. They mentioned a love of the Blue Note era (very apt, given it was the 60th anniversary of Blue Note’s formation just days before) and they were obviously warming up to this style. I was sorry I had to move on. The band seems to play in various combinations. This night it was a sax/guitar quartet. Danny Elhay was on bass. I recognized the name. He’s a relative (nephew?) of Sylvan Elhay (Adelaide tenorist, better known as Schmoe) and had received lessons from an old bass hero of mine, Geoff Kluke. Small world. Interestingly, Heliboptor also includes in its family a contingent of players from the Augie March touring band, although only Matt Habben, the tenor player, was playing that night. Heliboptor was Ron Dann (drums), Danny Elhay (bass), Matt Habben (tenor) and George Stolfo (guitar).

Melbourne’s just such a cultured place, too. I recently enjoyed a visit to that lovely little, Victorian-style art gallery in Adelaide, and I’d been hanging out for some time to get to the National Gallery of Victoria. The Victorian gold rushes of the 1850s made Ballarat the richest metropolis in the world for a few years, and Melbourne became the key city of wealth amongst the colonies. The current collections of the National Gallery are evidence of this wealth. I saw some lovely medieval and ancient collections, and some memorable Australian art at the associated Ian Potter gallery, including a special exhibition of our Braidwood local, Rosalie Gascoigne. Excuse the indulgence of a few pics from these collections.

Melbourne is also noted for graffiti. In fact, it’s renowned worldwide. What a sensible council it is that will convert a nuisance into a stylish underground feature and promote a cult tourist industry in the meantime. Just a little more evidence of a very sophisticated and playful metropolis. Melbourne: I like it. Very cool.

1 comment:

Daniel said...

Thanks for the heliboptor review and you are spot on - I'm Schmoe's nephew. When in Melbourne he is kind enough to sit in with us.