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 guest 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

Experienced


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.