20 July 2018

What a blast

Another Canberra Symphony Orchestra concert but special. The music was accessible and well known and not too challenging, but it was special, at least for me. It was the first time I'd attended a concert where I'd played all the pieces before. I find my appreciation of a piece is immeasurably deeper when I've played it before: the structure becomes more visible; the lines (most prominently the bass lines) are expected and the harmonies and melodic and rhythmic plays with other parts are at front of mind. Nothing too surprising in that, but it's a revelation. The program was Brahms Academic Festival overture, Beethoven Triple concerto for violin cello piano and Elgar Enigma variations which I've played over time with Maruki and NCO. I'd played the Brahms twice, with Maruki and Brindabella. All exciting. And the soloists were Dimity Hall, Julian Smiles and Piers Lane. I'd played with Dimity and Julian at Llewellyn with NCO. All very exciting. The second half was on the program as just Enigma variations, so short, but the CSO encored with that English soul stirrer, Elgar Pomp & circumstance march no.1, also known for its lyricisation as Land of Hope and Glory. I'd played that too, with Maruki, one December. It took all my willpower not to stand and squat in rhythm as the upper class twits do in (London's) Albert Hall for the final night of the Proms (see YouTube). I was beaming and singing as I left. But what of the orchestra? BJ Gilby was missing from her seat and Maria Lindsay took that spot with Pop Thompson to her side. Lots of common faces but a few new and young ones too. Five basses this time, led by Kyle and Dave in the core of the back line. Nicholas Milton up front. I loved the program; I loved the playing. The Brahms is lively and fun; the Beethoven couldn't be by anyone else and Julian's cello playing was a revelation (my take of this was BJ Glby, David Pereira and Edward Neeman but I was too busy playing and too far from the sightlines to appreciate it like this night); the Elgar was really nicely done, dynamics, relaxation, intensity, variation, good all round. Then the final Elgar Pomp&Circ was just nicely played and is such an infectious blast. I just sat nodding time and grinning. So, suffice to say I really enjoyed this concert, not for intellect or adventurousness so much as for affinity and simple pleasure.

The Canberra Symphony Orchestra under Nicholas Milton (conductor) performed Brahms, Beethoven, Elgar and Elgar at Llewellyn with soloists Dimity Hall (violin), Julian Smiles (cello) and Piers Lane (piano).

14 July 2018

Where samba's from

Gary France gave one answer: from a tune on Cal Tjader's album called Soul Sauce, thus Samba. Wikipedia locates it in NYC in the 1960s and mentions Johnny Pacheco, Celia Cruz, Ray Barretto, Rubén Blades, Eddie Palmieri and others, but not Cal Tjader. My trivia session the other day said Brazil and I knew that was wrong. Whatever, it's fabulous music that moves the body and soul and sounds a million and Gary led a CD release concert dedicated to Cal Tjader the other night at the ANU Pop-Up Bar. The band is called Vibellicious and it is delicious, on the CD and live. This was his Canberra version with Perth visitor Daniel Susjnar and our best locals, John and Miro, Hugh and Brendan and Sinuhe. The CD is mostly Gary with Daniel's Perth band but features one track with this Canberra collection. The grooves were to die for, the solos were inventive and modern, the feel was luscious and infectious. That mix of percussion is sensuous: deep complexity made from mixed syncopations. The regularity is also insinuating, like Hugh's montuno or Brendan's solo passage that was just a busy but angular bass clave. But then there were solos that thrilled with variation, again Hugh with right hand rhythms and left hand melodies and floating chords or Brendan's rapturous blow. And the front liners, John and Miro, snapping melodies and responses and passing solo passages or just laying down ecstatic runs and leader Gary comping with two or four mallets on vibes behind or soloing out front with immense authority. Then a percussion solo with swaps from drums to congas, snapping, chatting, and that sense to time and accent from Daniel's splash cymbal. All delightful for some joyful music. Perhaps too loud over that PA and sometimes not too clear and the piano wasn't great, but what a great night! A blow out.

Vibellicious was led by Gary France (vibes) with Daniel Susnjar (drums), Sinuhe Pacheco (congas), Brendan Clarke (bass), Hugh Barrett (piano), John Mackey (tenor) and Miroslav Bukovsky (trumpet).

12 July 2018

Passed time to worry

It's time well passed to worry about Climate Change, although you wouldn't believe it listening to our dreadful politicians. They still don't get it or if they do they suffer internal machinations ones who don't - or they have just sold out. I've been just preparing a session for a discussion group today on "Death of democracy". Attending a discussion like this illuminates much. The Climate Change update 2018 was presented by Professor Mark Howden of the ANU Climate Change Institute. He's also Vice Chair, IPCC Working Group II and it's in this role that he is a Nobel Prize winner (with others). Of course, some say IPCC are the corrupt ones ripping us off for $billions according to the deniers (as I was told by a NZer recently, almost without prompting). But let's look at this summary of recent science: CO2 emissions rising; Methane rising; temperatures rising; Canberra temps rising; sea temps, levels and volumes rising; catastophes rising; Australian greenhouse gases rising; heat stress rising. What's going down? Our time to act; not much else. Some startling factoids? Atmospheric CO2 352ppm(2006)>407(2017); CO2 emissions 1990-99 +1.1%pa>2000-2009 +3.3%pa; Sea level rise +2mmpa(1993)>+3.4mmpa(2017); World-wide climate-related catastrophes (Munich Re 2018) ~250(1980)>~720(2017); Perth's dam flows ~340Gl (1911-1971)>~40gL (2011-) . Mark's response to the denialist meme "It's all happened before" was "Rubbish". Who else is warning about climate? Oh, let's see ... Munich Re (reinsurer); Bank of England; APRA. And a day or so ago, so is the tourist industry on the Great Barrier Reef - finally they've got it - and the NFF. There were questions about ice loss, paralysis by uncertainty, tipping points, Paris agreement, short termism, etc. Fascinating and informed but nothing was a joy. Follow it up. I've linked Prof Howden's overheads below.

Professor Mark Howden of the ANU Climate Change Institute presented on Climate Update 2018.

  • http://climate.anu.edu.au/files/Mark-Howden-ANU-Climate-Update.pdf
  • 8 July 2018


    Sandie White appeared at Eric Ajaye's (and Bucky and Jeffro's) new Jazz Haus venue with Eric and Matt McMahon and Jim Piesse. These are all seasoned performers with long experience. And experience together: Eric has played with Sandie for 7 years. He likes singers. I understand. Words are keys to meaning and singers spell out a performance. There's a hierarchy in performance, and the immediacy and meaning of vocals places it at the top. Then variously sax for its vocal qualities or piano for its orchestral qualities, or depending on context, even bass for its combined rhythmic and harmonic qualities. This was a string of standards, some moderately obscure, from Nice work if you can get it and Night and day, through to Ballad of Thelonious Monk and Mr Paganini. And a touch of the last few decades with Sting Practical arrangement. That's one I hadn't heard before but is touching in its wistful theme and desperate longing. Sandie's been singing for long and it's a tribute to her experience and commitment. There's a YouTube video to watch of her at Sydney Town Hall in the 1980's with Chris Qua and others belting out standards. There's still the lilt in the ballads and the animation in the bop lines and some wonderful scatting, if not with with the energy of the 1980's. And the band was the epitome of quiet professional backing: melding with her patter and reading her charts and, especially Matt and Eric, laying down some exquisite solos. This is not the bleeding edge of modern jazz but the essence of supremely sophisticated entertainment and I can come at that very easily.

    Sandie White (vocals) appeared with Matt McMahon (piano), Eric Ajaye (bass) and Jim Piesse (drums) at Eric and Bucky and Jeffro's new venue, the Jazz Haus, at the Austrian Club.

    5 July 2018

    Touching base

    There's too little jazz in my life these days but I got to the Hauptmann Trio last night and it was stunningly good. It was actually the Trio+1, the 1 being John Mackey. The trio are siblings, big sis Zoe and two brothers Ben and James. Zoe couldn't make it but they still kept it in the family: cus Nick Hoorweg sat in on bass. John had been one of their teachers in the past at the ANUSOM and the whole crew are well known to local jazz aficionados, so it was very much a family affair. How these students mature with time in the workforce! Nick told me of leaving Canberra immediately on finishing his degree to start a 6-month gig with a Motown show. Zoe's now in the big time touring scene and I guess James and Ben are there, too. So they should be. Ben really led the show, offering favourite tunes and being the front man. There were common jazz tunes - Chelsea Bridge, Secret love, Caravan, Willow weep for me, Meditation - and a few outliers, not least the very lovely Mancini Moon River and a gentle Bill Frisell and a Stan Turrentine burner. Ben put some interesting edges to all, eg, a synth tone bookending Chelsea Bridge (?) and a 12/8 groove to introduce Meditation. And some fabulously interesting guitar, well controlled and infrequent out-playing, biting and intriguing solos and some choppy country-like feels reminiscent of Frisell. James was just driving, enjoying the floor tom for his solos, and grabbing wayward drums as he attacked the kit. Nick was neat, sometimes just unobtrusively spelling the chords with tonics and the like, otherwise walking, sometimes soloing, again with a nice freedom. And John up front, quick witted and always inquisitive on both melodies and solos. Because it's an unusual choice and also because it's such a pretty tune, I noticed Moon River. John's simple statement of melody was to die for. But I felt that for multiple tunes on the night. These are guys (in the absence of the gal) who are at the top of their craft and supremely interesting. Just a fabulous outing.

    The Hauptmann Trio + 1 played at the ANU Reunion Pop-Up Village. They comprised Ben Hauptmann (guitar), Nick Hoorweg (bass), James Hauptmann (drums) and John Mackey (tenor).

    3 July 2018


    Every few months I go on tour. This last one was to Gunning. Before, it's been to Cooma and Goulburn. Big time ... not at all, but entertaining if unpaid. Musica da Camera is my string orchestra that plays three of four times each year pairing its concerts with one at Cook on Saturday and a repeat at a local country town on Sunday. Each concert is directed by an invited musical director, perhaps with an invited soloist. If not, by a member of the group. MdC has been around for 40 years and it's been working this way for sometime (well before my time which is only ~18 months back). And this group is good, comprising various teachers and professionals and serious amateurs and inviting some great local guests. This concert was directed by Jonathan McFeat, now of Sydney, with early jazz banjo/guitarist, Liam O'Connell. A possible commission fell through but the program was fascinating none-the-less: Vivaldi, Faure, Warlock, Handel, Mendelssohn, Sibelius. The Vivaldi and Handel were par for the course and always much loved. The Mendelssohn was a blast, his Symphony no.10 that combines three movements into a single whole and drives along at a mighty pace. The Faure was his widely known Pavane, and the Sibelius, his Impromptu no.5&6, was a pairing played as one and the most well received of all from the comments I heard. It was beautiful. But perhaps the Warlock Capriol suite was the most unexpected of all. Harking back to medieaval or old folk with twisted dance sequences, a pavane but also a Bransles and a Tordion and a Mattachins (?), all jumpy and unexpected. I liked it all, partly because it was so tricky. But the prize for the unexpected probably goes to the guitar and strings arrangement of Faure Pavane and even more to the solo banjo rendition of Lionel Belasco Miranda, jazz/calypso from ~1915. Banjo and strings. A strange combination but it's all music. Congratulations and thanks too all: great music all round.

    Musica da Camera performed at Cook and Gunning under Jonathan McFeat (conductor) with Liam O'Connell (guitar, banjo).

    1 July 2018

    Love and other stories

    I enjoy my Harmonia Monday choir for the opportunity to learn to sing (it's a slow process!) but I wouldn't if it weren't for the music. Admittedly we can struggle with it. The Messiah choruses are complex and fast and sometimes get up high. The parallel but temporally moved lines of canon singing can be an worthy challenge. Finding the harmony and not dropping into another part, not least struggling with the soprano melody, is a playful task. I like all that. This last open day featured a string of interesting tunes in 4-or-more part harmony from baroque to modern, many in religious traditions (it seems that's where a lot of choral music comes from). Music from Mozart Missa Brevis, Handel Messiah, Bach B minor mass, Hassler Dixit Maria. Music as far back as Greensleeves in harmony, attributed to that great lover Henry VIII. Through a string of love songs (love has ever been a theme of popular songs): Go lovely rose, My sweetheart's like Venus, She's like the swallow, The shower, and one more seductive, Fine knacks for ladies (their seductions were discrete compared to ours). And a final return to religious singing, but modern: Lauridsen from Lux Aeterna. A fine program directed by our two conductors, Shiela Thompson and Oliver Raymond, with our repetiteur, Jenny Kain.

    Harmonia Monday sang under Shiela Thompson and Oliver Raymond (conductors) and accompanied by Jenny Kain (piano).