25 September 2020

Maintaining history

The Wadsworth organ seemed out of place in this modern church space, all stage upfront with lectern and no altar, but with resident band gear in the corner.  The organ, though, had history, birthing in 1908 in Manchester and finding its way through a number of moves to Marist College here in Canberra, then finally to the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Cook.  Linus Lee played it for this RSCM (Royal Society of Church Music, Australia, ACT Branch) concert.  I'm working my way around the organs in Canberra through this lovely group that presents monthly lunchtime concerts around town.  It's a pleasant interlude with these unique and complex instruments. They are mostly not the grand organs of European cathedrals, but satisfying none-the-less, even if their spaces here in Canberra can lack requisite stone to share their profundity. Whatever...  This concert featured Linus Lee playing a range from Buxtehude through Bach and Beethoven to Franck, Ketelbey and Lefebre-Wely.  There was a pleasant mix of stateliness and lighter contrasts, right from the Buxtehude on, and counterpoint and renowned melody - the Beethoven was his piano sonata no.8 Cmin put to organ so less percussive and fuller.  And a string of organ grinder-like joviality and joy to finish.  That was a little unexpected but clearly welcomed.  There were some low notes that felt weak and some clunks and knocks but that is all part of this mechanically complex instrument that demands such maintenance.  The cost of that, the age of the instruments, the lack of expertise militate against that these days.  But the sounds can be blissful and there were some lovely passages in this.  Thanks to RSCM(ACT) and Linus Lee for the concert and Westminister Presbyterian for the opportunity.

Linus Lee (organ) played Buxtehude, Bach, Beethoven, Franck, Ketelbey and Lefebre-Wely on the Wadsworth Organ at the Westminister Presbyterian Church for the Royal Society of Church Music monthly concert.

23 September 2020

Best eva

Megan says that I report every gig as the "best eva".  I don't think I do, quite, but this one really was.  Maybe it was getting up again on stage.  With Covid, it's relatively rare for all players.  This was only my third jazz gig since March.  But it all just seemed to gel.  Sometime it does.  I remember reading Leonard Cohen's novel decades back and he said that about performing.  I have always thought it's not particularly professional - we should we able to play decently whenever called - but there's some truth in it.  Sometimes your hands are just not in, or it's cold or the sound doesn't work, and that's particularly an issue with double bass.  But last night I could hear myself so well with my mammoth, heavy Eden amp, relax into the tone and the tunes and interactions with James and Dave.  So I was enjoying it, my hands were supple and quick, and I found it a great night.  But then last time on this stage in a duo with James was good too.  Was that the best eva?  Well, it's difficult to say...

Tilt Trio comprises James Woodman (piano), Dave McDade (drums) and Eric Pozza (bass).  They played at Molly.

20 September 2020

Concert in the time of Covid

It's a strange experience.  This was my first concert since the Covid close-down six months ago.  The group was much the same - twenty or so string players in Musica da Camera with guess guitar soloist and director.  The location was the same, but instead of 100+ audience, there were just 30 seats sparsely strewn in front of us.  Better than nothing.  Someone mentioned the sound was different but I didn't particularly notice, being too busy trying to play the parts.  Because that's another thing: the parts were not too challenging, but my practice hasn't been so established for several months.  Covid has done strange things to our mental states.  And another thing, I couldn't play the Sunday concert.  I have to confirm 14-days staying in the ACT in a bit less than 2 weeks and the Sunday concert was close, but in NSW.  Strange, really, given that ACT is so small, and so many NSW residents come to Canberra for work or pleasure anyway.  But they have to set some rules and this is a little oddity.  So I thought we were just a little rusty but the music was surprisingly satisfying - Grieg, Vivaldi, Whitacre, Boccherini and Piazzolla Libertango.  The soloist was Canberra-trained guitarist Andrew Blanch and the conductor was local music educator and bassist Lizzie Collier.  Both were impressive.  I expected it would be too much guitar, too Spanish, but I came to enjoy the performance immensely: the passionate, driving rhythms and growling bass parts.  Lizzy advised that tango should be played virtually 100% with down-bows on bass and cello.  Interesting and strange but it gave a drive and growl that I loved. The Grieg was lovely folk song as Nordic melody; the Whitacre was colours of autumn interpreted with all manner of time signatures (3/4,5/4,4/4,6/4) and harmonic colour.  The Vivaldi and Boccherini were with guitar, one a guitar concerto and the other including a fandango.  Libertango is just a fabulous, hugely covered passionate tango (from Grace Jones on).  So, I'm sorry I'm not playing the Sunday concert (it's being played as I write this) because the rehash is always more comfortable and committed, but I enjoyed that which I could and I remain Covid-correct.  Thanks to all and hope it's going well right now.

Musica da Camera string orchestra performed Vivaldi, Whitacre, Boccherini and Piazzolla under Lizzy Collier (director) with soloist Andrew Blanch (guitar).

13 September 2020


FWIW, a note of consternation for readers.  Blogger has changed its publishing interface and I can no longer publish multiple images to display as I always have.  So, just one pic per post until they fix this.  I'm not alone: there's a discussion happening with lots of disgruntled bloggers.  How often do updates reduce effectiveness in computing?  Too often.  So, sadly, just one pic posts from now on.

It's the mark of a seasoned professional that they've played all manner of musics and they can pull different styles off with some conviction.  I knew Wayne Kelly was seasoned and professional from seeing him around town over the years but this was particularly obvious this night.  He wasn't playing a jazz bar, but the Lone Wolf blues-rockabilly venue of Jeffro and fondly remembered Bucky (vale Bucky).  So we got a mix of musics but with the conviction and wit and jazz-tutored chops of Wayne.  Not that he did it all alone.  He had James Luke and Chris Thwaite on side.  James has been everywhere over the years and Chris has been around for a similarly long time, although I haven't seen him for years.  Amusingly, the name suggested the styles, Wayne Kelly Experience, although the pop was the Polics (Walking on the Moon) and Beatles (Strawberry Fields forever).  Perhaps the bluesier numbers with Jeffro sitting in on blues harp were more Hendrixy, but they included some.  Or the Trane-ish  original, King of Kings.   Then there were a few songs, both ballads, with Wayne doubling on vocals, When I fall in love and Crazy, both immensely popular and clever tunes.  And the intro on Nardis, the first bars, had me floored with jazz subtlety and harmonic invention.  Wow.  Then another Bill Evans tune I'd never even noticed, Very early.  But then, after interval, was something different again, solo Wayne on Maple Leaf rag and, oddly but intiguingly, some classical solo piano, Chopin nocturne F#maj op.15 no.2 and two Bach Two part inventions, no. 14 Bb and no.8 (F?) that everyone knows.  Wow; and intriguing playlist.  Quite and experience.  And the most fabulously substitutioned Doctor Kirkland Blues (after Kenny Kirkland): so, so clever.  But this is not to say his offsiders weren't worthy.James blew us out with a string of solos.  He's quick and expansive and melodic, although we couldn't alwasy hear his that well.  That's a problem with amplifed double bass, here over a bluesy PA.  And an interesting looped take on Strawberry Fields, starting with pizz then through a number of bowed harmonies under the melodoy.  Verr cool.  And Chris, solid and steady, intriguing with a djembe-styled solo on King of Kings, and intriguing with some very satisfying, determined solos otherwise.  And not to forget Jeffro, more blues than jazz, sitting in on a few tunes that suited him and giving that plaintive edge of authentic blues.  Takes you back to early jazz, I guess.  Before The Police or Beatles, before Coltrane or Oliver Nelson, before Ellington (oh, Caravan was in there too) although not before Bach.  So, some great playing and an expansive vision.  I guess that's an experience to savour.

Wayne Kelly Experience comprised Wayne Kelly (piano, vocals), James Luke (bass) and Chris Thwaite (drums) with Jeffro Martin (blues harp) sitting in on a few tunes.  They played at the Lone Wolf sessions at the Austrian-Australian Club.

1 September 2020

Journaling the plague year

There's little music and particularly little jazz that I know of these days, this being the time of the pandemic.  But a last minute advice on FB about our star young local bassist, Brendan Keller-Tuberg playing at Molly with his quartet was enticing.  The band was Brendan with Wilbur Whitta (piano), Steve Read (guitar) and Rhys Lintern (drums) playing variously over 3 sets.  I hoped to catch the middle set and more, with the non-jazz arrangements and interpretations (Radiohead and the like) going into standards to finish.  I arrived to instruments laid on stage and the band in a break and a decent buzz and a girl who didn't offer me a beer, but informed me they'd reached their limit (51).  So that's that.  And so little more jazz!  That was sad: they would have made a worthy outing.  In a related vein, that afternoon I offered to record a classical group in a few weeks time.  To allow them a full paying audience, I offered to sit in the Green room.  No choice anyway: it was already sold out.  I've always enjoyed that we needn't book for jazz.  If this is our new entertainment world, I can only hope dearly for an early vaccine.  And no pic.

26 August 2020

My indulgence


There's a line from Sting on the 1980 album Zenyatta Mondatta by The Police that has always stuck on my brain.  It's a great melody with a hypnotic endless rhythm and with considerable depth: When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around.  It's in this light that I released my third home-studio album by The Pots, called Pumpkin discomforts.  The first two albums had themes of climate then Covid-19.  Pumpkin has the theme of broken politics.  Plenty of anger with disillusion and despair and some Catholic guilt for being comfortable amongst it all.  I'm getting better with various tech things and perhaps with conception and implementation with  more experience, but that's for you to judge.  I invite you to have a listen.

Have a listen to Pumpkin discomforts / The Pots on Spotify, YouTube Music or some other streaming site.

24 August 2020

Singing art

Art song is a style. I'd heard of it, but looked it up: mostly solo voice with piano, excluding arias and chamber music with song and the like. I think of mainly romantic styles and sopranos on stage, but no doubt other voices do it too. So I went to an ArtSound Canberra session, invited to record. Sarahlouise Owens sang soprano with Natalia Tkachenko accompanying on piano. Like much that I do these days, it had crossovers in style and more. Mike Dooley was page turning for Natalia. He was also the main composer for the session with a lengthy and intriguing collection called truth and bearty which put four poems of John Keats to music. They were renowned poems that kids of my days read as school and the source of many quotes: Endymion ("A thing of beauty is a joy forever"), To Autumn, Ode on a Grecian urn ("Beauty is truth, truth beauty - that is all / Ye know on Earth, and all ye need to know") and Ode to a nightingale. Mike did a great job, all rolling arpeggios and complex interpretations of iambic pentameters; even the sound of nightingales between stanzas. Then a strings of lesser known composers, often women: Linda Phillips with two Hebrew songs, Phyllis Batchelor with some love songs and more (love songs just have to be a staple of art song, as much other song to our days), Carl Vine and Horace Keats, two romantic males for this outing. It much have been a huge task to get this together, presumably for one concert. Sarahlouise was strong and firm, lively and entertaining. Natalia was more delicate, soft and responsive. So a lovely outing with my jazz mate Mike presenting yet another classical composition, this a song cycle and some wonderful performances. Just one last thing to note, not least on the subject of love. Mike's song cycle, his Keats poems put to music, were a commission by a man to his wife for their anniversary. More romance in song. We all liked that.

Sarahlouise Owens (soprano) sang artsong with accompaniment by Natalia Tkatchenko (piano) at Wesley. Mike Dooley composed the core song cycle to the words of Keats.

24 July 2020


I expect there are a lot of musicians out there in Covid-land who are a little rusty With the best intentions, we mostly don't manage to practice all day even when we have the time. We miss those upcoming gigs that prompt the preparation. So it was, to some degree, when I got to a return Royal Society of Church Music (RSCM) organ recital. The planned organist pulled out due to lack of preparation. Bill Fraser, a stalwart of the local organ scene, filled in. He told me he was missing the normal preparation himself, but he did a worthy job on a string of interesting pieces from Baroque through to last C19th. The concert was in St Peter's Lutheran Church, Reid, with a German-made baroque organ that sounded great to me and filled the A-frame church nicely. Interestingly, Bill told me this is a mechanical organ, so keys are linked with bars to pipes. The more common current style is electro-mechanical with actuators controlling airflow; presumably cheaper and easier but not always preferred. just closed my eyes and enjoyed it immensely. Organ is so satisfying, big and full and sweetly toned, and this concert had a series of apt tunes, a Corelli violin sonata transcribed and an early Bach Prelude and Fugue and two choral preludes by Merkel and Brahms. We heard a Mendelssohn allegro taken from a manuscript, called the Berlin-Krakow, of uncertain ownership like various other removals from Germany after WW2. I remember seeing a few remaining pieces of the plunder of Troy in Berlin, with reference to the rest of the collection being held in Russia. Again, conflicts over ownership. Of course, there could also be some query over Germany's ownership in the first place. At least they are not lost to humanity. And a few late C19th Australian works, religious and very satisfying. So the gigs are up again, perhaps only while they last. Let's catch what we can, within the limits of social distancing, of course.

Bill Fraser performed for the RSCM (ACT Branch) at St Peter's Lutheran Church, Reid.

20 July 2020

Cautiously in concert

The return of live music is now judicious, especially with the second wave of CV19 in Melbourne and, as I write this, Bateman's Bay. That's Canberra playground territory, so we are all a little apprehensive. But this Limestone Consort concert was planned a month or more back and it went ahead. With sparse seating and limited numbers, as planned. And without the cello we expected, but that was due to a slip in the kitchen; not at all to do with the pandemic. So just Lauren on violin with James on harpsichord. Clara could just turn the pages (I don't envy Clara: finger skin injuries may be temporary but they stop your playing and they can be very painful). The program was Schmelzer for two numbers and Handel, Biber and Bach. Lauren noted that Schmelzer was appropriate for the program, given he died in a Plague. Certainly apt. Lauren always gives informative background introductions, social or musical. Another comment was on the Biber piece, Mystery (Rosary) sonata no.5 (Jesus in the temple). Apparently Biber was hugely inventive, even predating atonal composition. Here it was scoradatura, so the violin (a new and powerful-sounding baroque violin on loan from Hugh Withycombe) was tuned to an A major chord. Apparently the notation was for standard finger positions so the tones surprised the ear. Otherwise, there were two solo harpsichord pieces (Handel Voluntaries and fugues no. 3, 8 and Bach Toccata in Dminor (not that renowned Toccata and fugue - BWV913 not 565). In all, a lovely outing, small and sadly missing the cello, not least in the Schmelzer Cucu sonata, but a welcome return to live classical gigs.

On the day, Limestone Consort appeared as a duo comprising Lauren Davis (violin) and James Porteous (harpsichord), playing Schmelter, Handel, Biber and Bach.

16 July 2020

Ellingtonia, Strayhornia

Once again back at Molly for another Covid gig, this time with three of our local heroes playing music of another pair of heroes, Ellington and Strayhorn. The local heroes were Tom Fell, Wayne Kelly and James Luke. I chatted for some of it, but was floored by some understated then immensely melodic bari sax and a similar melodicity on bass and Wayne's lovely bluesy response. Floored is an apt word. James is so lithe in his playing, but also relaxed and diverse and satisfyingly lyrical. And with a lovely, rounded tone. Tom spelled the tunes so effectively then the solos with clear reference to the originals. I guess there was a good bit of transcription in his history, but if not, a good ear and some solid listening. Wayne plays piano, so chordal, so bunches of notes in his raunchy style that contrasted to some degree, but complemented with ease. These guys know each other well and it shows. This was easy and wonderfully effective. The pics weren't so good, they had turned the stage lights off. Well, it is jazz in a speakeasy. A wonderfully satisfying evening with superb playing and a deep knowledge and respect for the classic tunes they were portraying. Fabulous. Not sure what the musicologists would make of my title, though.

Tom Fell (baritone sax) led a trio with Wayne Kelly (piano) and James Luke (bass) playing the music of Ellington and Strayhorn at Molly.

15 July 2020

The other side of the stream

We've been stuck inside and doing streams and webinars. Here's something that's a little more active and quite fun: playing together by streams. You can do this as a jam session or live performance, but that has issues of internet lag and I am yet to achieve that. But I have done a few home recordings that are assembled later as a performance. One was with Bernard Duc, a composer in Switzerland, who put out a call for bassists to support a choral performance of Amazing grace on FB. The other followed an invitation emailed around Canberra, for community musicians to play a few tunes with Canberra Symphony Orchestra and Canberra School of Music students. Both provided an audio download to listen to while reading a part. It's much easier to play with the volume and excitement of an orchestra around you, but I managed them. I also tried to record a tenor part for a huge choir with Eric Whitacre (2,000+ singers) but I wasn't comfortable with my solo voice so that one bit the dust. All amusing pastimes. Links below; perhaps more coming.

  • Amazing grace / Bernard Duc
  • CSO Community special
  • 13 July 2020

    Ragtiming Paris

    There's not too much international travel these days, but Heather and Leigh got back from Paris just at the start of the pandemic and they've been down the coast and dropped in to Smiths for a gig. Leigh is Leigh Barker, once local bassist trained here in Canberra. It's a story of a small world, but I know Leigh and his folks through multiple connections. Heather is from rural NSW but I first heard her in Melbourne. They have kids now and have lived in Paris for several years. But back here for the duration, I guess. Their gig was classic early jazz, perhaps the latest tune was from Irving Berlin in 1932. Glorious beauteous melodies, cute and nicely played on violin with guitar or bass, and sung by Heather with a firm and tailored voice intervening with her neat violin melodies with a lovely, understated vibrato and considerable body. There was one ragtime, this being a family-version of Heather's Dirty Ragtimer Duo, along with Maple leaf rag and Carter Family and Louis' Hot 5 and a string of lovely but often sad songs, like Old fashioned love and Lover come back to me and Say it isn't so (that's the Irving Berlin tune from a time when he'd lost much). So, a lovely, touching, period concert (it's arguable that much jazz is that these days) that had me tapping my toes with 2-feels. And some decent guitar and wonderful bass, not least with French bow, spelling 2-feels and early walks and beautifully self-evident and understated solos. It was a change to go to Smiths again, although sadly now sparse, separated listeners, but a pleasure none-the-less. For the audience, some returns; for Leigh and Heather, maybe some more returns, to Paris. Not sure when. But so nice while it lasted.

    Heather Stewart (vocals, violin) performed with Leigh Barker (guitar, bass) as the Dirty Ragtimer Duo at Smiths.

    12 July 2020

    Forever streaming

    Well, here's a change. Not for the streaming, which is common to my daily life these days, but for the event. The International Online Bass Summit. Five days of various seminars, master classes, concerts and the like, various concurrent sessions, international with names I just read about or hear of. Not all good, though. It ran on NYC time, so started ~2am and ran to early morning. Not optimal for we Australians, although we made up a good portion of attendees. I'm still working my way through recordings, but it's not the same. While live, you can flip between sessions and ask questions and thus interact. The recordings are more like YouTube views, private but distant. I've enjoyed orchestral masterclasses, regularly floored when the leader picks up his bass. I particularly enjoyed Derek Jones, a multi-talented studio musician with awareness of getting and keeping the gig, and Kristin Korb who presented various exercises and demonstrations on singing with the double bass. That one was unexpected and little considered. Kieron Hanlon presented some arrangements for Bach cello suites in different keys to suit the double bass. Danny Ziemann presented his crawl, walk, run approach to jazz bass (2-feel, walk, solos) and David Allen Moore presented his fractal fingering approach which I didn't find so convincing, me the traditionalist. And the concerts, Francois Rabbath smiling deeply throughout, and John Clayton with son Gerald, Gary Karr with Christian McBride and more. Some sessions were interesting but not so relevant for me, but I may watch them in coming weeks, and some dealt with technical issues that I'm hanging out to view, like spiccato bowing or Simandl-plus fingering or thumb position. All matters of fascination for the double bassist but unknown otherwise. And Australian Rob Nairn on early music. How could I have missed that till now? It's a strange experience but nice that I could take part. Thanks to Covid-19, I guess, for the opportunity.

    The International Online Bass Summit was held by videoconference on 24-28 June 2020.

    10 July 2020


    Streams are the core of our recent experience. I would find it hard to count the Webinars I've taken part in. A few invited guests speaking of whatever (one webinar included Nobel-prize winner, Stiglitz, no less). But the key, for me, is twofold: people from outside our local area, so a meeting could feature Stiglitz or the like, perhaps from their bedrooms, and the interactivity of the associated chat. That's important in a webinar. You take part in a parallel discussion that can be picked up in the core discussion or can give commentary on that core. So this is an active experience. I don't so much enjoy streamed gigs. Early on, I viewed a few Berlin Phil concerts, ACO, Smalls jazz. But it's passive. So it was good to get out and play that gig at Molly recently and feel the live experience again. We may be waiting a while for a full return to that! Given limited attendance numbers and lack of income for the arts for several months, I notice gigs are dearer, perhaps payment per set, as is the NYC way. But I did see a recent gig that I enjoyed.

    Pheno. I'd missed Jess playing the previous week but caught her solo pop set as Pheno. Loops and guitar and harmonies and synths and repetition and pop simplicity. Her experience shows in the calm simple poppy lines and grooves. And in the song structures. And in the catchy melodies and her capable hands on guitar. The tunes are poppy and immensely attractive. The lyrics suggest depth and personality, but I'm yet to follow them too closely. And interestingly, this was somewhat interactive. She was playing alone on stage at the Canberra Theatre so the experience must have been telling for her, but she did respond to a few comments in her chat screen and got several hearts and cheers for the gig. Not much interaction but maybe all we can expect these days. Whatever, I enjoyed it lots. Check out Pheno on the streaming sites. She's on Spotify, perhaps elsewhere, but expect a search. Much enjoyed Jess!

    Jess Green is Pheno. She performed a live streamed set from the stage of the Canberra Theatre.

    3 July 2020

    The Pots too

    It's about time was a product of climate-induced bushfires before Christmas. Yes, I know, "sunburnt country ... Of droughts and flooding rains" but that's just an excuse for inaction and that's all forgotten now with Covid-19 so The Pots has been active on another CD with another theme and it's called Going viral. This one has the description: "Instrumental and spoken word impressions from within the international COVID-19 pandemic of 2020". Well, Australia is lucky enough to be fairly well outside of the global pandemic, through luck and following science for a change. My cousins in Italy haven't felt quite so relaxed about things. Between the last album and this I've learnt such things as midi (early stage producer here) and more. So it's all a bit rough but this one is better and anyway it's the ideas - and the politics - that count and there's a bit of each here, as in the last album. So I welcome you to have a listen.

    Have a listen to Going viral / The Pots at Youtube Music, Spotify, TripleJ unearthed and more.

    2 July 2020

    The Pots

    Many of the locals and quite a few visitors will know of my recordings on location. They are just live stereo recordings with a good mic and some decent mastering and they work quite well. But in recent months I've been playing with home studio recording, so multiple tracks, midi and the like. Lots of time spent viewing YouTube videos, especially of one very good source on mixing techniques, Musician on a Mission. Here be secrets: The Pots. The Pots is a home studio project of "Bassist EP of Canberra" (sound familiar?). Here's the first album with the theme of climate. Now available on all the streaming services, and even as a signed CD if you particularly wish. It's about time is described as "a mix of electronics, double bass, minimalism and spoken words of despair about climate and more". Mmm, sounds about right and suits the times.

    Have a listen to It's about time / The Pots at Youtube Music, Spotify, TripleJ unearthed and more.

    1 July 2020

    Welcome return

    It's great to be back playing in public again. Tilt played its first post-Covid-19 gig last night. Let's hope that we remain in post-Covid times. Nothing certain there. Molly had a decent turnout, but it can only allow a smaller number to enter. But the stage was good, there's a PA so the lug was reasonable and we played well, so all was well with the world. Strangely, my last pre-Covid report was a Friday night jam on this very stage. I didn't even manage a pic, so I'll pull out an oldie. But nice to be back.  And nice to play a lot of James' tunes and a few fave standards.

    Tilt Trio are James Woodman (piano), Dave McDade (drums) and Eric Pozza (bass)

    21 March 2020

    Last chance saloon

    It was something of an act of en-couragement and succour to attend the Molly jam. I hadn't got there before and it's an impressive outing and a bit intimidating for a local player who might be expected to sit in. The room was packed and I didn't expect that. I had a few words to the band and got a beer and sat with decent separation, not being there to party and aware of virus guidelines. The band was fabulous, not unexpectedly. Like the previous night, driving from the top, clear in intent, aware and inventive, fabulous solos. Not sure I've quite felt this before, but host Con spoke through his tenor in wonderful expressive lines but also with a body and internal dynamics like speech. Wayne was a blowout as always; Mark was intelligent and snappy and always unpretentious; James spelt solos with such clarity and vibrancy that I was in awe, nicely constructed super-evident lines and quick chromatically moving frills and fills. Quite awe-inspiring. And with a great sound: fat and omnipresent in support and beautifully woody and clear when unaccompanied. There's a list for players who want to sit in; I was no.2. I got up with the band for Alone together and Caravan and then through various sit-ins, drums and flute and vocals and Lisa Keen taking over from Wayne on piano and sometimes vocals. James wiped/disinfected his bass before and after I played (sensible in these times but I've never seen that before!). Then a few final tunes by the core band to a shrinking audience to end. It can amaze me that we have such players here. They are not just in NYC or Berlin, but I've found that's the nature of jazz: it's truly international and great players are everywhere. Even if they go into remission for the occasional virus.

    Con Campbell (tenor) led the band with Wayne Kelly (piano), James Luke (bass) and Mark Levers (drums) for the Molly friday night jam. Various musicians sat in including Lisa Keen (piano, vocals).

    20 March 2020

    Bop in the time of contagion

    It was so quiet at home that I relented for a distance-aware gig. Justin Buckingham with Wayne and Phil and Mark. It had to be good. It was: a local lesson in take-no-prisoners bop and driving modern styles. Great fun: loud and strong and demanding from the top. There were a couple of tunes from Bird, Ornithology and Billie's Bounce, and a few standards, There is no greater love and Moonglow, which was perhaps the quietest of the lot, and I'll remember April. Great tune and again, unrelenting, solos all round, most tunes with fours or a solo from drums. All pretty standard in structure but demanding in implementation and hot in presence. I particularly like Justin veering off into diminished territory at one stage, all adventurous and somewhere off contratonal (my neologism of the day), and Phil and Mark were always strong and some great solos and Wayne: he's just a local gem, always spelling tunes and embroidering them with delicious solos, then, in the break, talking of playing Rachmaninov piano concerto no.2 . I must hold him to that. If it's anything like Rach symph 2 it will be a shocker to play. Yeah, it's the time of coronavirus and the bar was pretty quiet and one professional muso I spoke to had only one confirmed gig left on his books, but all kept their distance and alcohol sanitisers appeared beside the beers. The music was nice, while it lasts.

    Justin Buckingham (alto) led a quartet with Wayne Kelly (piano), Philip Dick (bass) and Mark Levers (drums) at Blackbird.

    18 March 2020

    Last drinks ... for now

    Tilt played a private gig on Saturday night and I imagine it might be my last gig for some months. My orchestras (NCO, Musica da Camera, Maruki) have all closed, indefinitely or temporarily while they assess the situation. That was painful: I was particularly looking forward to revisiting Beethoven 5 and to playing a Bach keyboard concerto with Katherine Day. That's on top of my daytime activities which were also halted suddenly on Friday night. It was just Monday that events of 500 or more (outside) were banned by government and already (I write on Wednesday) we are down to 100 (inside). Things are moving quickly. How soon will the bans on restaurants and bars seen overseas come into play? Music is a just pleasure and pastime for me, but I am pained for those professional players who need the gigs and those in the industry, the sound people and the people who own and serve in the venues. Presumably Llewellyn in shut. I get emails hourly telling me of another event that's cancelled. I read that SSO is doubly hit by moving from the Opera House during restoration and MSO has instituted a Melbourne Digital Concert Hall, like the Berlin Phil's. [BTW, I read that the Berlin Phil is free online for a while with registration]. Not sure there's so much money in it though. We can all retreat inside and write or record or just practice and listen, and that's worthy but again not immediate cash. So it's a difficult time for musicians. And a difficult time for their supporters. Online is good (I've discovered Kate Tempest and watching her concert at Glastonbury on YouTube right now) but it's nothing like being there. Like the talk of online dinner parties where you eat alone at home but chat by video conference. Again, better than nothing, but not the same. So, I may as well suggest you check out my couple of albums and possibly more coming from ePea Studio (including my unrefined solo effort as The Pots) and there are tons of Canberra jazz and other recordings on Youtube and Bandcamp and elsewhere. At least we can keep some positivity in relation to Coronavirus by recognising it's just a blip next to Climate change. Or is that not such a joyous observation?

    Tilt played a private gig. Tilt comprises James Woodman (piano), Eric Pozza (bass) and Dave McDade (drums). ePea is a home studio in Canberra.

  • ePea Studio
  • 15 March 2020

    Tears and fears

    We were back at Smiths for another Ockham's Razor recording. OR is the famed principle of parsimony but it's also an ABC RN series where invitees speak for ~10 mins on science-related topics of their choice. This session was less well attended than the previous one we attended, presumably given this time of Coronavirus. (I write within the incubation period of that event, but at least I am alone at my desk). There were six speakers in two sets of three, introduced by host Bernie Hobbs. Bec Colvin (ANU) spoke of binaries in the discussion of climate change and the related dysfunctional conflicts. She posited three causes/considerations: ideological bundling, importance of the messenger and importance of framing. Yep, I can see all this and they are all relevant to good discussion, but I thought further of issues of truth and its accepted sources, the obstinate commitment of Tea Party right wing, media and think tanks and funding for climate denial. But fair enough: we agreed on these further issues when we chatted and she only had 10 minutes! Meredith Hope (ANU) spoke about water and the Murray and specifically a project to combine photos, videos and "sonification" of riverine sounds into a public display. The Music School in involved in this. Sadjad Soltanzadeh (UNSW) talked of the power of teams in sports. A classic example is the "Miracle on Ice" where a US team of college-level amateurs with a fitting tactical plan beat a Russian team of professional sporties. The themes were: there's no such thing as a perfect team, numbers are overrated and team cohesion if more important that star players. Michelle McCann (Solarshare and ex-ANU) spoke on the expansion of solar farms offering some hope on climate. Her visit to a huge solar farm led her to call it a "massive array of hope". Michelle has twice held the world record for most efficient solar cells, so she knows something. And a final call: keep anger and have hope (essentially Gramsci's "Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will"). Clint Therakam (UNSW Space) spoke on satellites, their capabilities, design and build and future, reminding us of small amateur groups who have built satellites. BTW, the requirements are power, comms, computers (from Raspberry Pi up, from $66), sensors, guidance and housing. Not easy but not impossible. Kate Grarock (ANBG) spoke of nature as her "happy place" and retreat, of hiking and species discovery and the sorrows of our recent fires and smoke and hailstorm and the deflation of her environmentally aware friends. This is "just a taste" of our climate future but nature is "incredible at recovery". Of course there's only so much one can impart in 10 minutes and, if you are interested in science, you may be aware of all these matters. Nonetheless, these are fascinating insights and welcoming encounters. For me, the most intriguing aspects were a discussion with Bec at interval where she expanded on issues of climate communications (and promised me a copy of her recent paper) and the intensely touching and revealing fact that two speakers were on the verge of tears while speaking of climate: this in the context of warnings of civilisational collapse. This is telling. Let no-one say we weren't warned.

    ABC Radio National recorded six sessions of Ockham's Razor at Smiths. Bernie Hobbs (host) introduced Bec Colvin, Meredith Hope, Sadjad Soltanzadeh, Michelle McCann, Clint Therakam and Kate Grarock

    14 March 2020

    In one pocket

    It was only a quick listen on the way to something else, but I was really glad that we caught up with Pocket Trio at the National Press Club. They are from Sydney. They'd played Smiths and BentSpoke earlier in the week in Canberra but I was busy. Just a little piano trio with a delightfully joyful take on standards: swinging, capable, light and vibrant. Their playing was a dream but their presence was low key, joyous. Nicely sharp but unobtrusive drums, clear piano spelling tunes, tons of lithe bass solos. Max was once a student at ANU so back home. It's interesting to see people as they grow into the art: he's playing now with great chops and finesse and intelligence. I've only caught Andrew on piano once before; Tim has visited often over the years. Hope to hear them again. Intellectually satisfying and just plain nice music.

    Pocket Trio are Andrew Scott (piano) Maximilian Alduca (bass) and Tim Geldens (drums). They played at the National Press Club.

    11 March 2020

    Blue eyed

    They say that Miles perused each Frank Sinatra record when it was released, especially for his phrasing, so I've been interested in the man and his music. Otherwise, I felt he was a rather unappealing character and the show Sinatra:Raw hasn't really changed my thoughts on that count. But life for a working class man of Italian origin form Hoboken NJ who reaches such stardom is never going to be mild and mannered. Just the name of his mates in performance, the Rat Pack, suggests something of that. But he was an interesting character and a fighter, presumably a function of his upbringing, and a lover, not least of Ava Gardner for whom he left his first wife Nancy (yes, another Nancy Sinatra). He had two more wives. We heard of these stories and they were interesting. The performance was supposedly his final somewhere for friends and others. We heard otherwise of some decency in his politics, of his gloom, perhaps anger, with the arrival of rock and roll, of his comebacks, especially with the film From here to eternity, of his mates, not least the Rat Pack (and how it was named), a touch on alleged clime links and of his break with Capitol records and his creation of Reprise (thus "Chairman of the Board"). But most revealing was his voice, his phrasing, his expression of the tunes. I'd heard of this, but it took a real meaning in some of live event. So we listened after to Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. SDJr was close; DM much simpler and on the beat. Nothing was mentioned on the ruckus around his last Australian visit. It was the subject of an ABC radio story that I heard once while driving to Adelaide. But maybe not even known to this pair from West End London and Edinburgh Fringe. The performers were Richard Shelton as Frank accompanied by Mark Ferguson as FS's pianist, Bill Miller. The playing and singing really was good, convincing, authentic at least to my ear, and the storytelling seemed similarly believable. The attendant quotes from various reviews supported that. So what were the songs? All or nothing at all; I've got you under my skin; It was a very good year; My foolish heart (dedicated to Ava Gardner, as a string of songs were); I need you; Angel eyes; That's life; Summer wind; Strangers in the night; SOme fly with me; My way. One was a cappella and very nicely sung; the last ones were by request; New York New York didn't make the grade, as it was released after this mythical intimate last concert. So a fascinating show. No pics, so this bare stage setting must suffice.

    Richard Shelton (vocals, acting) played Frank Sinatra accompanied by Mark Ferguson (piano) as his accompanist Bill Miller in the show Sinatra:Raw in Spiegel Zelt, one of four Spiegeltents at the Adelaide Fringe Festival.

    6 March 2020

    For Greta

    I'd known Andrew Glikson for some time but I hadn't realised he's an authority on asteroid collisions. I found this out when he was introduced. It's relevant to his current theme of climate change and tipping points given historical strikes and related climate change. Asteroid collisions are a branch of geology, so Andrew has that understanding of time that is non-human, so changes that we see in a lifetime are instantaneous. In fact changes over hundreds of years or thousands are still instantaneous to a geologist (given Earth's age of 4.5b years). It's relevant to climate, for the changes we are now seeing are instantaneous and, when compared to various events in our planet's past, the K-T boundary or PETM 1 or 2, the changes are not just fast but immense. He showed us estimates of rates of change of CO2 in the atmosphere: K-T +0.18ppm pa or PETM 1 +0.1 and PETM 2 +0.12. Now it's 1750-2018 was +0.48ppm pa (ave.) and still quickening: +2.69ppm CO2 pa (2018-29) (gasp!). I wrote something just a few years back and we had just reached 400ppm. We are now at 413.4ppm. It was then commonly estimated that we'd hit tipping points (non-linear, out of human control) at 450ppm (~+2degC). At +2.69ppm pa that's 14 years, ~2033. Mmm. That's with no change, essentially like LNP's Australia. So time to worry? Past it, I reckon. Andrew's a scientist so he's wary of claims and aware of the literature and evidence, and he still said things like: "so fast, now an abrupt event" and "rate of change ... [is] virtually instantaneous"; although there's still uncertainty of tipping points (there are many and they tip at different temperatures and temperatures vary over the globe) "[some] tipping points are already triggered". He also introduced topics like extreme weather as an amplifying feedback and weakened boundaries and migration of climate zones (eg, Jet Stream and the intense cold experienced in recent years in North America) and Stadial cold, where temporary cold spells (in geological time) follow quick temperature rises from CO2 levels. He provided charts showing sunspots matching global temperatures, at least until our Anthropocene, when they diverge, and another chart of used, known and possible (?) reserves of fossil fuels and the implications if they are burnt. It's not something to ponder and avoid despair, but suffice to say, there's enough to promote Venusian temperatures (+10s of degrees C). Apparently we are already committed to +10m sea level rise (from evidence of sea levels in the Eamian era at +1degC) and the emergence of the next ice age is delayed by 50K years with a possible 750ppm CO2 level before then. Andrew noted that the Holocene has been good for us, but we are the one species that has mastered fire and look what it's got us (not all bad, but all now threatened). Then some questions on civilisation, abrupt events and the Methane time bomb, possibilities of returning CO2 to the earth (big job, there!), individual and government responses. Hopefully, my understandings here are correct, but, regardless, the message was clear. And a final dedication to Greta Thunberg. I can only share that. Good luck to us all.

    Andrew Glikson (geologist, climate research, ANU) spoke at ANU on "Beyond tipping points : Fire and the changing face of Planet Earth".

    4 March 2020

    Hear words

    I forget often enough, but it comes back with an avalanche when I hear standards sung, especially when they are sung well. Standards are mostly songs of a era of great wit and informed songwriting and they speak truth although none too directly. They are clever and immensely satisfying. They can be that often enough with a bop take that explores their harmonic structure and perhaps, but not necessarily, their melodies. That is good and clever and can be satisfying, if in an intellectual way. Nothing wrong with that, but the intellectual whimsy and emotional depth of one of these songs sung is something else, even something more. I caught Sally Marett and Lachlan Coventry performing at Fenway Public House, a new venue for jazz on Tuesday nights, in the heart of Woden shops. It's a modern venue, with big screens and complex arrangements of drinking and eating areas. My beer was good. I could even watch Sally and Lachlan on a big screen, perhaps seeing the better that way than on a contrastily lit stage. These two are always committed and expert in their delivery, guitar and voice and solo guitar in between. Sally tells me that Hugh Barrett appears with her on alternate weeks. He's a deeply satisfying pianist, so another opportunity. The tunes were variously known and slightly lesser know, from Love for sale and Our love is here to stay, through Cheek to cheek and Just the two of us to Spring can really hang you up the most and Miss Celie's blues. All known to the ear but not necessarily first-called tunes. They were gloriously performed to experience their contrasting deep and playful purposes. I could only melt to this stuff. Hear words.

    Sally Marett (vocals) and Lachlan Coventry (guitar) performed at Fenway Public House.

    1 March 2020

    Getting out

    I've had a quiet few weeks but it was a lovely day and the jam was on a Smiths. It's a nice time, Sunday afternoon, for a beer and a relaxed chat. This time I got in a few good chats and a few tunes, not least a few ballads with a female singer (name unknown) including the Nearness of you. Also truly lovely. Anthony and Peter were on bass. I met Jay Lee and spoke to him on his Brazilian Choro and his drawings. I've watched a string of people drawing jazz players so it's good to see the craft in Canberra too. His pen pics appear often enough on FB. So, a wonderful way to wile away and warm afternoon post-smoke

    Smiths Jazz jam is held weekly on Sunday afternoons, 1-3.30pm. Jay Lee (guitar, pins) portrayed.

    19 February 2020

    Filling in for James

    Canberra is full of jazz bassists I admire, not least the local seniors of our craft including James and Eric A and Brendan. It was truly a buzz to sit in for James Luke who was unavailable for a gig with pianist James W and Mark Levers. I play with James W at other times, as Tilt Trio, but he's running through musicians with gig invitations in place of the more standard jam attendances. It a good idea made obvious by the understanding I got from playing with Mark ... and it pays. I've played with Mark often enough at jam sessions, but a gig is longer (3 sets over 3.5 hours) with a bigger and somewhat more demanding string of tunes; mostly standards but including a few of James' originals. It makes for a more intimate and certainly more dynamic music as you get in synch and chat between sets over a beer beer and find time to harmonise. Mark did a great job, picking up new and obscure tunes, spelling melodies through solos, playing the most delicate of brushes and sticks. So it was a wonderful night, playing a full gig with Mark and sitting in for a much admired James L. And thanks to James W for the call.

    James Woodman (piano) led a trio with Mark Levers (drums) and Eric Pozza (bass) at Molly.

    12 February 2020

    Varieties of collectivities

    The Phoenix Collective appears in different incarnations and this was just a duo: violin and piano; Dan Russell and Edward Neeman. Thus a collective rather than a string quartet, which seems to be a more common incarnation. Regardless, this was a wonderful concert with excellent performances for a large audience for a High Court lunchtime concert. They were playing English under the concert title "Ye Olde English". It wasn't so old, really. The opening number was by Delius, commenced in 1905 and completed after WW1. That was my favourite. The Lark ascending, Vaughan Williams' mega-hit, and an Elgar sonata followed. They squeezed in a short Elgar for an encore, too, Chanson de matin, although they were over time. Generous. But these are great local musicians, both well blooded overseas but now settled back here. It showed. Dan is the epitome of the involved violinist, moving freely and sensitively with the melody. Edward sits more steadily, but is similarly deeply involved. This is emotive music but with a strong-upper-lipped intelligence and melodies that speak of rolling hills and countryside. Really quite beautiful and deliciously played. BTW, the program was Delius Sonata for violin and piano no.1, Vaughan Williams Lark ascending, Elgar Sonata for violin and piano Emin Op.83 and Elgar Chanson de matin as encore. Another excellent gig for the High Court.

    Phoenix Collective performed an English program in the High Court foyer. On the day they were a duo comprising Dan Russell(violin) and Edward Neeman (piano).

    11 February 2020


    It's Beethoven's year, the 250th anniversary of his birth, so he's out and about in the concert scene. This incarnation was all Beethoven: Symphonies 1,2,3 in one concert by the Australian Chamber Orchestra in a larger format with various invited players, tympany and 3 basses and winds. The strings were expanded with ANAM students to 3 basses (2 additional), 7 additional violins, and larger throughout the orchestra. It was the biggest ACO I've seen and maybe it was required for Beethoven. It was a wonderful concert but I had some reservations. This was the first of the series so it may change by Sydney (5 concerts are planned!). I found the sound not so detailed with the extra instruments, but to be expected and probably quite apt for Beethoven symphonies, but not as clear and light. It was fascinating to hear the 3 together and Beethoven's development from 1 to 3. Nothing I can add but that it was fascinating and the change was evident. From the Mozartian elements of the first, through the developing, fevered forces to the accomplished third. Lovely and educative. We had cheaper seats so limited sightlines so I just closed my eyes and listened: that was a revelation, but tends to be rare when you can see well. Sight is just so much stronger a sense than sound. So a great outfit playing fascinating music from a genius and well attended as Beethoven and the big namers tend to be. A concert-going friend noted attendance with the implication that they/all should play the popular repertoire. But ACO seems to get good attendance regardless. They are worth it: good and sexy to boot. The epitome of the modern classical chamber orchestra. Nice.

    Australian Chamber Orchestra played Beethoven 1,2,3 at Llewellyn.

    10 February 2020

    Not at all military

    It's no secret that the world was a different place in the past. The past we are talking of is not so far back, just 250 years or so, the time of Mozart and Haydn, but still it was different. Music was still written for or dedicated to or performed for heads of various courts and often took a related name. I thought this listening to the Australia Haydn Ensemble, in quintet format, playing Mozart and Haydn nominated as The Emperor, First Prussian and The Military. The program had a comely pic of James sporting a revolutionary-styled poster amongst rubbish and a gilt frames. (AHE's 2020 catalogue is a beauty: gloriously presented, deliciously dressed and with a generous touch of whimsy). I missed the opening number by Boccherini (Los Parejas=The Couples, about horse parades). But the Mozart and two Haydns were lovely, attractive baroque pieces, to my ear not at all militaristic, although maybe uniform dress-coded and frolicksomely paradic. And played so nicely by our AHE mates with that baroque sensibility and genial sound in a nicely fitting space of the Wesley Church in Forrest. Just a lovely concert with no bloodshed and little discomfort (other than hard pews). A pleasure enjoyed by AHE's many Canberra followers.

    The Australian Haydn Ensemble performed Boccherini, Mozart and Haydn at Wesley Church Forrest. On the night, they played as a quintet comprising Skye McIntosh and Matthew Greco (violins), James Eccles (viola), Anton Baba (cello) and Melissa Farrow (flute).

    9 February 2020

    We are blessed

    It was a family evening so Sandy Evans and Andrew Robson was out. What a loss; they are such a capable and inspiring group. But I managed an hour at the National Press Club for Greg's band, and I was blessed. Really, we are all blessed. I've travelled the world and found great musicians scattered throughout. We have our own and Greg and Lachlan and Mark are amongst them. They are not our only ones so we are doubly blessed. I just caught a few tunes (and a cheap beer at the happy hour). I recognised but can't name them, but I was inspired by the playing. Mark just dropped the slightest of solos, but it was bliss: first up polyrhythmic plays, then straighter and sharp as. Greg is out front, being guitar, and slithering through fast, crisp, intriguing solos and, of course, spelling out melodies. And somewhat the same for Lachlan. He plays bass on a Fender 6 and shreds it like a guitar and it's a blissful experience, again also with references to melodies and passing dissonant harmonies. So all round, I was just dumbfounded. These are not our visitors, not troubadours visiting from NYC or Berlin. These are just our locals in the NPC bar on a Friday evening and they are seriously capable and intriguing players. My God, how lucky we are. On the other hand, our pollies are ratshit, so not all is right in the world...

    Greg Stott (guitar) led a trio with Lachlan Coventry (bass) and Mark Sutton (drums) at the National Press Club.

    8 February 2020

    Avoiding the smoke

    The Climate Rally was enveloped in smoke, probably unnoticed by the pollies within, given their arrivals by car to underground parks and into air-conditioned comfort. Thus is the way of decision makers. But those outside noticed. I eventually escaped to the High Court, hoping to catch the full bench considering a case of particular interest to me: Jenny Hocking's bid to release the letters between Kerr and the Queen, which have been classified as Private and not released to the public. Given this relates to perhaps the major event in Australian constitutional history, I'm interested and I expect they should be released. So I went in. Jenny Hocking was there (I think that was her) and a spattering of visitors and the full bench of 7 judges. I only heard an hour-or-so of presentation. They retired at 4.15 and were to reconvene the following day at 10am. Now it's two days later and I am awaiting further news. I guess a decision will take time. But the air was cleaner inside.

    I had a few moments so caught the Face to Face exhibition in another nicely comfy space, the National Portrait Gallery, knowing that I would miss it otherwise. It was interesting, but to some degree disappointing. Lots of performers (admittedly admired ones) who perhaps make eye connections well, and if not, are of common interest. A few writers and artists. Not sure I saw one politician or judge or scientist or whatever. There was at least one sportswoman. It was just a cursory visit but I'm wondering if it says anything about a celebrity-infused culture. Dunno. I'd need more time and thought and I'm unlikely to revisit before it closes in just a week or so. But one other thing I read while there struck me like a hammer: "Only seventeen of Australia's thirty prime ministers to date are represented in the National Portrait Gallery's collection, with their portraits acquired mostly according to unexpected opportunity". Yes, it's a new collection and Parliament House is unlikely to hand over their portraits (they essentially purloined the National Library's Magna Carta for their spaces) but this is worrying none-the-less. A national portrait gallery without portraits of all PMs? Is nothing sacred? Nonetheless, best of luck to the NPG in gathering this part of its collection.

    Jenny Hocking's bid to release the Palace letters was condiered by the High Court of Australia. Face to Face was an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.

  • High Court to hear bid to release the Queen’s secret Whitlam dismissal letters / Jenny Hocking (29 Jan 2020)
  • High Court to determine whether 'Palace letters' written during the Whitlam dismissal should be released / Elizabeth Byrne (upd. 4 Feb 2020)
  • Hocking v. Director-General of the National Archives of Australia [HCA] Case S262/2019