21 November 2015


This was an ANU School of Music showcase. Six outfits: two classical, three contemporary cum improvisational. They were playing for a few Music Ensemble prizes from the Friends of the School. The two classical were all guitars. The rest were a collection of varied jazz cum contemporary with an experimental improv trio which was pretty much unlike everything else. As is this music. There were judges' prizes and also people's choice awards. First up for classical was the Wattle Guitar Quartet playing Piazzola and Bizet. I particularly enjoyed the second Piazzola, La Muerte del Ange, swinging and edgy and with a fairly challenging harmony. They were later followed by the guitar duo of Andrew Blanch and Callum Henshaw performing Nigel Westlake and Paulo Bellinati. The Westlake was particularly gorgeous with changing time and slithery triplets and such groupings. This pair played it was great confidence and professionalism, lovely balance and gentleness and an easy take on the complex time plays. They won the Judges' award and the Wattle Quartet won the People's Choice award. The classicals started off and were intermixed with the other bands.

The others were a varied mix. This award was for "Jazz and Contemporary music, including jazz, contemporary, improvisatory and popular music". So what a mix, especially after a pair of classical guitar ensembles. Sev Quartet started with a jazz set, in improvised piece called Retrospect and a take on Beautiful love. Varied time feels, double bass, clear playing, perhaps my favourite playing I've heard from Eddie Bernasconi on Beautiful love, swing and groove and various changes. Then the ANU Improvisation Ensemble reduced to three players for the day. A cat amongst pigeons. Piano, bass viol, electronica and bows and ancillary noise makers or alterers; no groove, no charts, much ear and tone and sound and colour. It's a different world and the suggestion to "enjoy the sound, don't worry too much about the music" was apt. Then Three Men One Chamber, a jazz trio playing with e-bass and loops and effects and the rest. Floating or busy or processed or with accompanying sampled voice. I liked the feels and the richness of studio-like processed sounds. I asked after about influences: Explosions in the sky and Toe (Jpn). Finally, a '70s funk outfit with heavy 16th grooves and very clear melody, few chords, simple direct grooves. Takes me back and nicely played. This was the Hugo Lee band with two original compositions from their recent CD. HLBand won both the judges' and people's choice prizes, presumably for their obvious clarity and drive. My fave was 3M1C even though they often disappeared over pedals and weren't so sharp, but the processed tones sounded new and rich to my ears. But vintage keeps being new again and HLBand was certainly sharp.

Wattle Guitar Quartet comprised Jeffrey Cheah, Emma-Shay Gallenti-Guilfoyle, Cassandra Low and Alex Clark). Sev Quartet comprised Eddie Bernasconi (trumpet), Ben Forte (guitar), Alec Brinsmead (drums) and Brendan Keller-Tuberg (bass). Andrew Blanch and Callum Henshaw played guitar. The ANU Improvisation Ensemble comprised Amelia Watson (piano), Ben Drury (bass viol, Kaoss pad) and Ben Harb (electronics). Three Men One Chamber were Haydn Fritzlaff (drums), Stephen Read (guitar) and Brendan Keller-Tuberg (e-bass). Hugo Lee Band comprised Hugo Lee (alto, EWI), Ben Forte (guitar), Jack Schwenke (e-bass) and Alec Brinsmead (drums).

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