15 April 2019

Sharing turf


Always an honour to play on the same turf as such luminaries as John Mackey and Leisa Keen. They had played this gig on Saturday and this was our Sunday arvo duo. The place was the Cork Street Cellars at Gundog Estate in Gundaroo. The place was buzzing this day and we enjoyed our return as the Tilt Duo: James and me. It's nice playing as a duo: you can hear all and there's plenty of space for grooves and solos. We were playing last songs when a final group of women came on the deck announcing one as a jazz singer. Good ... sit-ins. They don't always work but this one did. We decided our key and played Almost like being in love. Great song and nicely done. It turns out Dee Cole had a history of singing in England and a year on the QE2 so no slouch. What a find to end the arvo. Thanks to Dee.

James Woodman (piano) and Eric Pozza (bass) played as Tilt Duo at the Gundong Estate at Gundaroo. Dee Cole (vocals) sat in.

14 April 2019

Sprawl


It's a big sprawling concoction that perhaps only a composer's mother could love. That's the way we'd all been talking of it, from the orchestra and from the choir, but we'd come to love it as we understood it better ... or at least as we recognised its complexities and movements. Someone mentioned that the parts don't obviously fit together. Perhaps that's an explanation: certainly it was hard to play along with a recording; Lenny's role was central. But the outcome could be sublime. This is Vaughan Williams Symphony no.1 that talks of the sea and seafarers. It's turbulent and sea-like and it runs for 4 movements over ~70 minutes. The final movement alone is 30mins. We'll be unlikely to play it again and probably unlikely to hear it but it was great. Again, the ole "she'll be right on the night" came through. I could see it on Lenny's face towards the end, that sense of satisfaction with work done well. And the first half was similarly special: the Australian premiere of On the beach, a suite taken from the film score by Christopher Gordon. Sparse and intriguing and telling a story of tragedy that we are coming to understand in our climate changing days. And not just the premier but also the conductor in the building. Along with 130 players and choral singers and two vocal soloists of note on stage. This was a big show and overwhelmingly satisfying in full flight.

National Capital Orchestra and Canberra Choral Society performed Vaughan Williams Symphony no.1 and Christopher Gordon On the beach suite at Llewellyn Hall. Leonard Weiss (conductor); vocal soloists were Chloe Lankshear (soprano) and David Greco (baritone). Dan Walker (chorus master) prepared the CCS. The bass end was covered by Kate Murphy, Geoff Prime and Eric Pozza (basses).

10 April 2019

Courting


High courting. It was the second recent performance of Musica da Camera in the High Court Foyer and it was a great success. Barbara J Gilby led us and I had Hayley Manning next to me in the bass end. It's strange how a musician can be non-committal about a performance. It's a hard judge. You judge by your own performance on the day and how you felt you fitted with others. I was reasonably happy but not ecstatic. But the comments were overwhelmingly supportive and the attendance was massive. Perhaps the killer test is the donation bowl on the way out and that was overflowing. And it was recorded by ArtSound and me: an undeniable test for the performers. Suffice to say that on listening back, we were very happy with the result. My guess is that within the bubble (to use the current misleading vernacular) we are intimately involved, deeply committed, immensely aware. On the outside, the slight imprecisions meld together in the multiplicity of a group, and with a bit of reverb and visual presence, it becomes a thing of beauty and music. That's certainly what it sounded like to me in the recording: intense, intelligent, deliberate; even tuneful, musical. That's enough for me. That's one to be proud of. A beautie!

Musica da Camera string orchestra performed under the directorship of BJ Gilby (violin) at the High Court. Bottom end was Hayley Manning and Eric Pozza (basses).

  • See a video on YouTube

  • 6 April 2019

    Double album


    Two concerts on a day and the second a double album launch. This was a mixed band of mates from the James Morrison Academy of Music in Mount Gambier. We've seen them before at Smiths. They are recent graduates and they are good. They play as a quintet but this time they were around to launch two albums: those of saxist Lachy Hamilton and trumpeter Mathew Nicholls. Lachy and Matt up front with rhythm section of Harry Morrison, Patrick Danao and Matt Harris. This is a hard-ahead style, somewhere after bop. Mostly originals (and interesting they are) accompanied by the standard jazz repertoire of the style (this night Recordame, Beatrice, I love you and Body and soul). Matthew's originals were varied in theme, perhaps images of events or memories of people: ible ible or Light of the world or Pumpkin fingers. Lachy's theme was the allegorical novel, the Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, so his titles were more obscure: Crystal merchant or Urim and thummim or just the Alchemist. But both provided fascinating structures and musical themes and some seriously hot playing. These guys are good and they are well trained. A great listen.

    Lachy Hamilton (tenor) and Matthew Nicholls (trumpet) variously led quartets and quintets with Matt Harris (piano), Harry Morrison (bass), Patrick Danao (drums).

    5 April 2019

    Morning tea time


    I would think it would have been nerve-wracking. Sally and Brendan and John and Greg are great musicians and I guess they've been through it before. This was a mid-morning concert for a bunch of retirees and later who get together weekly to listen to and discuss jazz. So not a club atmosphere. Four up front and a several rows of seated, peering eyes and often-enough wilted ears. But it was great and it was wonderfully received. They played mostly American songbook with voice and two instrumentals from the standards repertoire. There was a threat (and a request) to play Giant steps, but perhaps too early in the day (John was keen). But none-the-less this was great music with a modern edge and some fabulous playing. Brendan blows me out always; so do Greg and John, of course. Greg was playing a semi-acoustic at virtually acoustic volume, so earthy. John was slithering through whatever he played and with the most detailed and intriguing lines. I've just heard Sally once before, again with this repertoire. What a nice, controlled, firm voice! Fabulous. [Same goes for her pop tunes. Check them out on YouTube or Spotify and share widely. Search Marét Vertigo or Maret Perfectly imperfect. They are catchy, wonderfully confident and with great videos]. The tunes this day were jazz: All the things and Old devil moon, and Paper moon and Little tear and Witchcraft and Body and soul and a few others. Interpreted with personality and emotion; embellished with lithe sax; soloed by all; underlaid with the most firm and swinging and interesting bass. Best morning tea gig I've heard for some time!

    Sally Marett (vocals), John Mackey (tenor), Greg Stott (guitar) and Brendan Clarke (bass) performed a morning tea-time concert for the U3A Jazz Appreciation Society.

    4 April 2019

    Energy and erudition

    To play at a Wesley Music Centre's Wednesday lunchtime concert is an annual outing for Roland Peelman. It's an introduction to each upcoming Canberra International Music Festival, of which he is the Musical Director. It always relates to the CIMF's theme and it's always fascinating and informative and a musical treat. Roland just exudes energy and erudition. There's purpose and history in his performances and vivacity and commitment in his playing. In concert, I've seen it as he leads a group from the keyboard. At Wesley, it's solo piano and this time the theme was Bach, although he played nothing that was on the CIMF program. That's easy enough given Bach's output. This was a study of chromaticism and tonality. First up was Prelude and fugue Bmin BWV869, the final and most extravagant of the 24 works of Well Tempered Clavier. Then an insert, a short impressionistic piece written for Roland by Belgian composer Frank Nuyts. Roland confirmed it was virtually all written tonally, but some intervals were decidedly jarring. Then Chromatic fantasia and fugue Dmin BWV903, apparently with a recitative in the fantasia and an fugal theme using the B-A-C-H letters (in German, for us Bb-A-C-B) but rearranged in ascending order. All fascinating. Mostly played form memory. This is music that is intimate yet challenging for all, audience and Roland, and you feel it with him and explore its intellectual complexities but also its art. A great pleasure to come into Roland's space with such a concert. Many thanks.

    Roland Peelman (piano) played Bach and Nuyts at Wesley.

    1 April 2019

    Smitherines

    The Smiths Sunday Afternoon jam session is a hoot. I don't get to enough sessions, but I got to one today and I was impressed (if not with my playing!). Plenty of musos; a willing although relaxed and easy-going audience; plenty of support for newbies or visitors. We hear of the jamming tradition as inherently competitive. Perhaps it still is in NYC but this felt much more cummunity-minded. Not that there's a lack of pride in a tunes well blowed. There is, and there were a several players who seriously impressed. But all were welcome. Interestingly, the best and the worst were applauded. Only natural, I think. A worthy session that's weekly and rocking. And accepting of charts.

    The Smiths jazz jam session is held every Sunday 1-4.30pm. Sit-ins welcomed and free entry for all.

    30 March 2019

    Pressing


    Great to get back to the standards repertoire and the National Press Club. It's a venerable institution and the end-of-week jazz sessions are longstanding and a great pleasure with some of the best musicians in town. Tonight it was trumpet/flugel and piano with Ben Marston and John Black. Both longstanding musicians of high regard and considerable history. No charts that I noticed. Just comfy heads and varied accompaniments and intriguing solos. And no surprise to catch up with musician friends at this local, in this case my sax mate, Richard.

    Ben Marston (trumpet, flugelhorn) played a duo set at the National Press Club with John Black (piano).

    23 March 2019

    On a swig and a prayer


    It's a worthy undertaking "to introduce a new generation of theatre-goers to the works of the Bard by reviving the raucous, interactive and vibrant nature of Elizabethan theatre with a very modern twist – reminding them as we go to always enjoy Shakespeare responsibly". Thus does Shit-faced Shakespeare. They perform truncated versions of Shakespearean plays with one or more actors "shit-faced" after a few hours of solid alcoholic preparation. This time it was Midsummer Night's Dream after most of a bottle of Smirnoff downed by Lysander. The background is: Demetrius is betrothed to Hernia; Hernia and Lysander love each other; Helena loves Demetrius. Hernia and Lysander elope to a forest. Demetrius and Helena come later. They variously encounter the malevolent sprite, Puck, who has a love flower that has the power to induce immediate and powerful love. There are various misunderstandings, arguments, expressed desires, unfortunate sightings resulting in intense loves, some fights, transformations of Bottoms with ass heads and thus like. All as you like it. It's funny. It's considerably shortened from the original and often improvised. Lysander forgets his lines and at least once hears them echoed from Hernia: that was obviously improvised and funny. Otherwise there were lots of laughs and swearing and sweating. They are moderately funny. One improv was particularly amusing. I'd noticed that Helena's PA feed was lost. Soon after, the host came out to change batteries in a pouch behind her back and the show must go on even with techo in tow. That was nicely done: Helena seemingly oblivious (but obviously not). The end in the original sees lovers together and married preparing for bed. This take sees two lovers too, although a much more contemporary pairing which went down well, as it would. The show was funny and sometimes hard to catch - as Shakespeare mostly is to our ears - and perhaps the audience didn't partake quite as vigourously as the company wished, but much enjoyed.

    Shit-faced Shakespeare presented their take on Midsummer Night's Dream at The Street for the Canberra Comedy Festival.

    Thanks to whoever photographers provided the Google images above

    18 March 2019

    Them changes

    The program had to change close to the event for unpredictable reasons but these are professionals and the replacement was great. From Transfiguration to Quintessence. The replacement may not have been quite so adventurous (Schoenberg + Richard Strauss > Mozart + Mozart), but it was lovely music and it was beautifully played. The group was Canberra Strings led by BJ Gilby with members of the Canberra Symphony Orchestra in the High Court foyer and the music was Mozart. So worthy and immensely attractive. First up was the String quintet Gmin, then a swap of players for the Clarinet quintet Amaj. Barbara introduced it with short hints on the various movements: Allegro; Minuet/trio with 3 dissonant chords to listen for; slow with muted strings (other than cello); the final in Gmaj and "quite jolly". The Clarinet quintet was written by Mozart for a friend and was perhaps the first work for this combination. Movements: fast; slow; minuet and two trios (MTMT); slow to upbeat. That one was particularly recognisable in through various movements. I imagine it's an absolute standard of the clarinet repertoire. I missed taking notice of the dissonant chords, but for my jazz ears they may seem fairly tame. I did notice the firm and satisfying cello tone and especially its prominence when the other strings were muted. I loved the clarinet in its attractive lines. To my ears, it was particularly suited to this space, perhaps because it was quite loud and the echo/reverb was significant and enhancing. But a lovely and formidably performed concert in the resonant space of the High Court. Much enjoyed.

    Canberra Strings performed in the High Court Foyer. CS comprised BJ Gilby (violin, leader), Pip Thompson (violin), Jack Chenoweth and Lucy Carrigy-Ryan (viola), Samuel Payne (cello) and Eloise Fisher (clarinet).

    This is CJBlog post no. 2,100

    17 March 2019

    Mouths of babes

    There was a better quote but I can't recall it and they were no tiny tots but leaders. To my eyes, more purposeful leadership there than in the COALition (cute concurrence there!). And given their response of the science of it all, more education. Plenty of posters wittily saying just that, too. We went to Canberra's School Strike 4 Climate. It was a successful affair, led by kids. We greyhairs supported from the back. Happily I encountered several friends. Our generation isn't all a source of despair. Our pollies are failures though. I had this discussion with someone and I reckon it's from a string of reasons: a limited, ideological media; sadly pugnacious politics; influence and money and secrecy about it all; perhaps straight out corruption; bubble-thinking; influenced and self-serving advice; perhaps more reasons. We'll see if Labor will make changes required, but LNP's history of Abbott's Carbon Tax crusade, ScoMo's lump of coal in Parliament, Taylor's "underwritten" coal power, the Nationals' Qld latest coal fired power station call, let alone the Darling and irrigation and the rest, renders them unworthy of election in my book. Very much wrong side of history on an issue of existential importance. Has the routing of the moderates left the LNP on the road to oblivion? Are they doomed by the next generation of voters? I wonder. But it was a good march, the kids are OK and they done good. We need some hope in climate. A skerrick. As McKellar's drought and flooding rains intensify. I wish the kids well.

    The Canberra School Strike for Climate was held in Civic. And thanks to Greta Thunberg who started it all: telling it like it is









  • Greta Thurberg telling it like it is
  • 14 March 2019

    Glory in restraint


    Jonathan Zwartz was in town for Geoff Page at Smiths and the room was full with Geoff's coterie and the music was to die for. Jonathan is renowned for his writing: three albums to date, superbly written, intriguing, rich and complex, nicely grooving and touching on real social concerns. But it's not just the writing, for the band was also to die for. Was it Geoff or Jonathan who introduced them as amongst the best in Australia? Doesn't matter: they were. So unforced, relaxed, tight, never an accent out of place, every embellishment a pleasure, a fabulous bass tone (a personal interest, but relevant), excellent solos nicely merged into heads. Some amusing banter between tracks, and that's worthy, too: "Being a bass player, you always do everything with one hand. It's a ... drag" (another thing I understand) or "It's kinda that vibe ... singalong it you want". Not that there was any singing to singalong with, but the groove was light and bluesy for that last tune. And generally the styles were varied. Emily was the one swinger, played medium tempo with walking bass, and dedicated to a friend's new child. Dollar Brand was a reference to Abdullah Ibrahim using his early name as the tune was originally called Dollar and "it's kinda that vibe". Milton was a bossa for Nascimento. Julien Wilson's sound of love was in the style of Ellington/Strayhorn and genuinely sounded that way, not least for one lovely, classic repeated turnaround. The tunes were mostly from JZ's latest/third album, Animarum. Phil took most lead and solo roles and blared in classic chordally-enunciated style. Hamish was varied in style and studio-sharp in interpretation. Carl was devastating from rapid runs to blues-rich bending. John joined for the second half: he used to play with these guys in Sydney before coming to Canberra for the ANU. He can be devastating but played fairly restrained and tuneful on this night. Always fabulous, either way. Matt McMahon can take tunes and explore them with rich calculations and investigations although I found him just a little distant on that piano on that night. Jonathan is restrained but big and strong with the greatest of jazz tones and fabulous sense of time and rhythms and grooves and some glorious runs when he lets go. But he remained the overseer and fairly restrained. And the music was just that: purpose before excess; art before skills. One of the best.

    Jonathan Zwartz (bass) led his band at Smiths. The band Jonathan with Phil Slater (trumpet), Matt McMahon (piano), Carl Dewhurst (guitar) and Hamish Stuart (drums) and John Mackey (tenor) joined for the second set.

    9 March 2019

    Before Raphael ... or after Michelangelo

    There were a few of the Pre-Raphaelites who were concerned with moral stories, Biblical scenes, working people and the rights of the lower classes. But they are most remembered for their women, for the femme fatales, for the "stunners" that were their models. For that's what they called their models who they eyed out and picked up on the street. Amusing to be writing this on International Women's Day, but these were young blokes in the prime of their lives and they had urges: the question is how they dealt with them. But the young models were maybe not madly diverse in intent. One wanted to be an artist and became one and was on show in the exhibition; another rejected one suitor and ended up marrying into wealth (was it minor aristocracy?). This was the second half of the 1800s and it was a harsh time to be a worker and a very comfortable time for wealth and power (common story). We took a free tour and that was interesting, then we revisited and saw things in our time. It's a very decent exhibition with some seriously famous works. There are several from Australian collections, notably Adelaide but also Melbourne. Australia was very English and very wealthy then. Adelaide also had direct connections with this movement. I knew one. I went to Adelaide Univ with a granddaughter of JW Waterhouse, one of the major late P-R artists, so I've been aware of his name for some time. And the best of these works are colourful and attractive and realistic and sometimes comely so they are popular. But there are also a string of biblical scenes. Rosetti's Annunciation that had an unusual element of reality - Mary didn't seem immediately taken by the offer she couldn't refuse - but authenticity was one concern of the Pre-Raphaelites. There were work-a-day scenes (Martineau's Kit's writing lesson and Maddox Brown's Work) and hinted seductions one way or the other (Holman Hunt's wakening conscience and Millais' Rescue) and a famous one of a couple departing for the new world (Maddox Brown's Last of England) and even landscapes. And the movement for beautiful housing appeared from William Morris and others, especially in a fabulous tapestry (Burne-Jones' Adoration of the Magi) but also in household pottery and utensils. There were numerous works of mythology and some gloriously statuesque, Michelangelesque paintings from Burne-Jones. But it must be the femme fatales and the renditions of the models themselves that are most inviting and known, especially the famed pair of Waterhouse Lady of Shalott and Millais Ophelia, which apparently almost cost the model her life from lying in a bath all day for weeks. Some of my favourites were Byrne-Jones Wheel of fortune that just felt 3d (very pre-deco) and collected models in Rosetti's Beloved. And Waterhouse for Dolce fa niente and the very active Magic circle (both from the Femme fatale room). And again Waterhouse for his Circe invidiosa which grew familiar to me as a work owned by Adelaide's Art Gallery. There's lots here that's attractive and interesting and it was far more impressive than I'd expected. A wonderful exhibition.

    Love & Desire : Pre-Raphaelite masterpieces from the Tate is on display at the National Gallery of Australia until 28 April 2019.

    List of works