15 December 2018


To me, jazz is fine music with groove; "classical" is fine music without that Afro-American inspiration; popular music is less fine, usually. But to say that it's all a melange these days is unexceptional. The music of Ben and Hugh's latest album is played on ABC jazz radio but it shares much with electronica and dance music. It's accompanied by electronics and tangles of cables, heavily processed, happens live through computers and Ableton, features loops and drones and pitch shifts and the like, and mixes it with jazz trumpet, easily reminiscent of Miles at times, and Rhodes and piano tones and lines and sequences that speak jazz languages. Do I need to say, I loved it? This sounds modern and relevant, fresh, contemporary as in the NPR Best 50 albums for 2018 that dropped in my email the other day. To some degree it's standard electronics but jazzers make it sparkle by adding that level of instrumental dexterity and harmonic knowledge. Ben and Hugh both have that in spades: Ben's fabulous, rich, tempered trumpet tone and melodic intelligence; Hugh's superb Rhodes and other tones (much fed from a laptop he had by his side) and his unerring and inquisitive harmonies and extended chops. These are two masters playing contemporary, sometimes minimalist, on occasion austere or exposed or flourished. The loops provide a bed for some stunning releases at times, long lines or consistent and insistent sequences. Manual sequences over computer sequencing. The concert was at CMAG (Canberra Museum and Gallery) as an event in the EuroVisions exhibition and it fitted perfectly with the colour and contemporary European art collected by the Sydney Goldbergs. Great music in and fitting an intriguing space.

Ben Marston and Hugh Barrett performed at the Canberra Museum and Gallery.

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