21 April 2021


For some reason I was thinking of Smalls through this show. Smalls is a jazz bar in NYC that has a daily video feed. I watch it every so often and I’ve been there. The upstairs bar at Paris Cat was similarly smallish, brick clad and industrial, so some similarity. And the band that was playing had mostly gone to record these very songs in NYC with a few local luminaries sitting in. I doubt they needed it other than for the name recognition. This band was stunning. It was a sextet brought together by saxist/leader/composer Rob Burke with 3 rhythm and three front line and their first gig together in a Covid year. Mostly the tunes were twisted heads opening to free soloing. I struggled to find chords for the first half, if perhaps I could hear them more obviously with later tunes and the Albert Ayler which I remember as twisted rhythm changes with plenty of chromatics. Plenty of chromatics throughout with some devastating solos from Phil Rex and Paul Grabowski and basic-kit power-drive from James McLean on drums. The front line of sax, trumpet and trom passed solos, but not expectedly if perhaps planned. Some great outings there too, and wondrous interfaces with all the back line, and often enough harmonies with the other horns. I wonder if the front line was less chromatic than the rhythm section in solos, but not sure, and more playing on melody and sequences. Whatever, the regular switch of solos through players was not at all obvious and the ideas were rampant and that bass just dumbfounding in its intensity and unrelentingness. My POV, of course, as a bassist, but Phil was overwhelming and the rhythm section was inspiring. And that front line, they were no slouches. So why the thought of Smalls? It was a similar structure of a night and a similar presence that occurred to me. The way they all perused the music to remind themselves before opening and the comments “Do you remember that? / Nope” and the side chatter with some near audience. Perhaps a similar tune structure for open improvisations, too. But this lost nothing to Smalls. This was just a stunner and as good as I can imagine. And that bass.

Rob Burke (tenor, soprano, compositions) led his sextet at Paris Cat, Melbourne, comprising Paul Williamson (trumpet), Jordan Murray (trombone), Paul Grabowski (piano), Phil Rex (bass) and James McLean (drums).

20 April 2021


Now this is a bit of local colour. I met Phaedra and Dave at NGV when they were doing some performance art for the Triennial. They were performing a mirror activity, but were largely ignored as people milled about and looked at much more static art on walls. We chatted and they invited us to their single launch a few days later, and voila. Local colour in Fitzroy at InCube8r gallery. This was synth-pop, simple rhythms, straight changes and 1-3-5 arpeggios. As this should be and very catchy. Add extravagant make-up, staunch Dave with dancing Phaedra, a suite of bouncy pop tunes telling of Covid experiences, kisses and returns to work and such-like, and some spoken word to ensconce it all. With lights and even smoke. Intimate, fun, impish. We enjoyed it lots; my feet bounced along. What’s pop got to do with it? Given that MN describe themselves as Post-genre, probably very little.

Madame Nightingale performed at InCube8r at Fitzroy. MN are Phaedra Gunn (vocals) and Dave O’Toole (keys).

19 April 2021

New scene


Well, it was a new scene and one I’m not familiar with: punk, metal and the like. I heard music from across the road from the Victoria Markets. The pub was a run down deco pub called the Public Bar, AKA Last Chance Rock'n'Roll Bar, surrounded with scaffolding, but it seemed to have an entrance. So it did. Inside was small with not too many people, a pool table, a bar, stamped metal walls and band stickers, Star Trek on TV and a noisy trio. I liked this one. No bass; just vocals, guitar, drums. Two kick pedals of course, so driving, some interesting chordal movements and endless commitment and a sometime pogo singer with a wry smile and raspy lyrics that got lost without comprehension. All as I expected and lively and loud and the beer was good. The style was metal/grindcore. The sort of afternoon I could take while my ears allowed. This pub stages free bands each Sat/Sun, perhaps 3 per afternoon. There must be lots of metal outfits around. Like many of these scenes, they are friendlier than they look at first. I chatted with vocalist Frank after and that was a pleasure. Also met a fellow bassist (we are not uncommon although not wanting in Frank’s band) from Forklift Assassins. They had played there the week before. I caught a female bassist/singer and her trio before I left realising it was a little loud for these drained ears. I didn't catch their name.  Frank’s band was Tongue Scum, with Frank (vocals), Den (guitar) and Ben (drums). I didn’t get the other names, but I did get a decent beer. A good find all round.

Tongue Scum played at the Public Bar, north Melbourne. Forklift Assassins had played there the previous week.

18 April 2021


Film is not my favourite art form. Nonetheless, I went to one, Nomadland. It seemed fairly obvious if touching. We’ve read of such inequality and desperation in the US before (Nickel and dimed : undercover in low-wage America / Barbara Ehrenreich). We’ve hoped it wouldn’t happen here but of course it is in train right now. I just wondered what it says about modern film art that a fairly known theme would get such plaudits. Maybe with Covid, it’s time. Just my musings. But more relevant to this site, we also visited the ACMI, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, a museum of “screen culture”. Mostly it was about techniques and technical developments: how the first moving pictures were made, some snippets, how movies are now made, film and TV and games, technical roles (costumes and storyboarding and props and special effects and more). Some thing on the role of moving images in politics (interesting) including a spot on SS4C (School Strike for Climate; next demo due 21 May). Something else on private film matters, as film/video became cheaper and home movies became common. Not the most interesting museum for me but for some or many, their favourite artform.  BTW, the pic is Don Bank's early synth used for film work, perhaps Dr Who? 

The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) is in Fed Square, Melbourne.

17 April 2021

Always the gallery

Any visit to Melbourne for me includes the National Gallery of Victoria. It’s a fave. This time, for the Triennial but also just to revisit old friends, the three Rembrandts and the early Italian and German religious works and some favourite Pre-Raphaellites. We mainly checked out the Triennial and that was impressive: some modern indigenous art in cerulians and aquamarines and the like using oils and acrylics; a video of a possible future post-climate city of 10 billion people; some incredibly high-resolution oozing video that played with our sense of framing and depth; some huge woolly cubby-house toys that a mum just made have made for her kids (and that you just longed to jump into); that busy C18th/19th European room (would love to know its name) featured with intense and sharp lighting and sound; photos of religious sites with the homeless. More, too, of course. It was school holidays and busy like Bourke street in the Gallery. These people are seriously cultured! And walk the streets and experience high rise that works, gargantuan sizes with historical bluestone features. Melbourne seems to have worked itself out. No wander this place is so prized. It was a rushed visit and so busy, but I got to see a few faves and some intriguing art to chase up later. Maybe.

The National Gallery of Victoria was busy with its Triennial and more.

5 April 2021

A phenomenon around town

Early morning (moderately early) and a last minute run was my experience of Skywhale and Skywhalepapa.  Skywhale appeared in this blog years back and the recent arrival of hubby Skywhalepapa with his caring responsibilities has caused quite a stir.  I didn't bother to book tickets, but listening to the radio in bed, I heard a report from the Parliamentary Triangle of the good weather and the last flight before a 2-year tour of Australia and the possible takeoff time.  I had 45 minutes and it was just a 5 minute drive, so I went.  The dark was lifting.  The sky was glorious and the weather still.  When I arrived, the pair of Skywhales were jovial and inviting.  They are a strange pair, but that's their attraction.  Just look at Patricia Piccinini's other hyper-real unrealities and you know what to expect.  They are all diverse and deeply touching.  It's a strange encounter but positive and heartening.  Anyway, the sun gradually rose and the balloons were readied and the crowds waited calmly and ABC666 invited the artist to make a welcome and then Jess Green's Pheno performed their piece, We are the Skywhales, with a children's chorus and the pair departed, off to the west and then off to Australia.  Like kids leaving home.  This is emotionally satisfying art that says something to us; I'm not sure quite what, other than to be open and generous and welcoming and honest.  The skywhales have such lovely eyes, even if they are branded with a flight registration number.  It was a lovely morning.

Patricia Piccinini (artist) created Skywhale and Skywhalepapa.  Jess Green (guitar, vocals, composer) wrote the associated tune and her band, Pheno, played it with a children's choir.  Pheno comprised Jess Green (guitar, vocals), James Hauptmann (drums), Alyx Dennison (synths, vocals) and Lachlan Coventry (bass, guitar).

4 April 2021


I don't write about all my jazz gigs, just when there's something notable or when we play with someone new.  Now this last gig had a few items of note.  First up was playing in a park with no power.  So I was working hard as bassist with no amp, and we couldn't play with piano, being unwilling to cart an acoustic piano.  So, this was the Tilt Sax Trio with Justin Buckingham.  It was interesting as a chordless trio, just bass line and melody/solo above.  And drums of course.  I liked the effect.  Just working our way through standards charts, starting at A; sounding open and clear, contrapuntal rather than harmonic.  It was hard work playing outside with now power, but the air was still so we heard pretty well (you can lose sound with a breeze) with the band adjusted to a lower volume.  But it was certainly a workout for this bassist's fingers/arms and it demanded some simplification.  That was nice, too.  The outcome was evident in my favourite solo for the day, slower, more clear in chordal statements, more mobile over the neck and through octaves.  Suffice to say, we enjoyed the gig and hope to do it again sometime.  Thanks Justin, great playing.  Oh, and one more thing to note.  We performed for a Commitment Ceremony.  That was also something new to me.  How the world changes!  So congratulations to Patrick and partner.

 Tilt sax trio were Justin Buckingham (alto), Dave McDade (drums) and Eric Pozza (bass).

2 April 2021

For posterity, or at least for radio

I've recorded literally hundreds of jazz and classical performers but these have all been live shows.  It was something a bit special to track original compositions and to be asked to do it by the composer.  Alan Hinde recently provided a piece for Maruki Orchestra that we played as its world premiere.  A few weeks later I recorded Stuart Long playing four of his piano compositions.  The titles mean little and there was some discussion over apt titles (other than Nocturne or Prelude no.x).  These were seriously interesting tunes.  At one time, Stuart spoke of Alan as our Canberra Chopin.  Megan mentioned Satie when she heard some takes.  Alan himself spoke of the influence of jazz harmonies.  I enjoyed that the three of us could talk jazz as much as classical, with Alan and Stuart having a jazz background along with their classical present.  It's all music and each has its fortes.  We recorded on a new Yamaha grand at Wesley Music Centre, in that acoustically correct space.  What a pleasure and a privilege.  Let's now see what comes of it.

Stuart Long (piano) played and recorded four pieces by Alan Hinde (composer) at Wesley.  Eric Pozza tracked.

31 March 2021


Partly jokingly, the Crivelli was the one I went to see.  We went to the National Gallery today for its latest blockbuster, Botticelli to Van Gogh.  It's a selection of 61 paintings from the National Gallery in London.  It had been in Japan for the Olympics-or-not and now in Canberra for several months.  See it.  Yes, it's a blockbuster and has lots of famous names and those sunflowers.  But they really are famous names and many are works that get into books and it wasn't really so busy.  It's a wonder to have a renowned Rembrandt self-portrait to yourself, even if they pop up all over the place (including Melbourne) but this was a particularly special one.  I was entranced.  Then the Botticelli: too many people around that and my eyes weren't really op to the smaller details, so it got cursory treatment.  We were rushing anyway, to some degree, given the RAAF "Spectacular Aircraft Flypast" over the lake.  Plenty of people there, too, and some expensive machinery, if only in passing.  But people didn't seem so overwhelmed by that one, despite the noisy FA-18s F35s and even the precision piloting of the Roulettes.  Not something you see often but strangely mundane for what must have been such an expensive performance.  But the art was also spectacularly expensive, no doubt, even if some guidance was done by London over Zoom or other.  I missed that there were no earlier works, pre Renaissance, Mediaeval.  The earliest was probably Crivelli with its themed gherkin and apple.  Then on through Dutch and English homely paintings and the Grand tour.  For my amusement there was a Canaletto of Eton Collage (!), all huge chapel in field surrounded by towers and low rise.  Then Castel Sant'Angelo with vista we know but with river banks.  It was only 1760: not that long ago.  And similarly clothes hanging in Piazza San Marco.  There are none there now; only hugely expensive cafes.  Then on through Spanish works and to Impressionists and the end.  With some seriously big names and just a few I didn't recognise.  Not always their most known works, but significant and intriguing.  Not quite London (Virgin of the rocks, Arnolfini portrait, Venus and Mars) but it's here.  Concerning Crivelli, I think I could see more detail in a high res download on the Net, but it's not the same.  It was big and that surprised me.  And that that Rembrandt that took my breathe away.  And a few others too.  See it before you go blind!

Botticelli to Van Gogh: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London, is a worthy blockbuster exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia.   The RAAF Centenary Flypast occured over Lake Burley Griffin.

28 March 2021

Another weekend

This weekend it was a concert with Musica da Camera, my string orchestra.  You may expect Bach and Mozart from a string orchestra and that's great (I love playing them) but this was a rather different outing for players and for audience.  The most comfortable (in musical, if not in social terms) was La Calinda, a song sung by slaves at the wedding of Koanga and Palmyra in Florida in Delius' opera Koanga.  This was informed by Delius' time in 1884/5 in an orange plantation where he was much influenced by African American music.  Next was Bridge Suite for string orchestra, a neo-classical piece in four movements.  This was written in 1908 before the pacifist Bridge's trauma from WW1.  Third up was by Yasushi Akutagawa Triptyque for string orchestra.  YA was Japanese, strongly influenced by the Russians, especially Prokofiev, and was involved the then musical exchange between then USSR and Japan.  And to end, a driving minimalist piece Wojciech Kilar Orawa.  Orawa is a river and region between Poland and Slovakia.  The piece pictures the river flowing over rocks and through landscapes.  This one was fun, with four-to-the-floor 8s against 7s in two movements and a final "Hey" shouted by the orchestra.  Hip and modern.  Now this was a challenge for various ears, not least Rosemary who arranged at least one piece from a piano score.  There were some tricky spots and lines that were quite perverse and unexpected (counting is de rigeur in this world) but great fun and well received from a fairly limited Covid audience.  Thanks to Rosemary and all for an intriguing program and some satisfying playing.

 Musica da Camera performed Delius, Bridge, Akutagawa and Kilar in Cook.  Rosemary McPhail (conductor) directed and Jocelyn James (violin) led the firsts.

22 March 2021

Music is a hard task-master

But it can be fun!  Tilt was in the studio again.  It's entertaining but demanding.  We last recorded for a Friday Night Live session and it felt a little more comfortable this time around.  It was the same ArtSound studio but this time we didn't need to think of an audience, at least not immediate.  Here we could have a few gos, chat between, be a little adventurous, even indulgent, for a few hours.  Our tunes were all originals by James, other than a few individual and group improvs.  We'll see if something comes out of it.  BTW, for any muso who wants a recording outing, there's a recently tuned Yamaha grand just waiting with some nice gear in a nice space.  Thanks to Chris and Liam for doing their parts.

Tilt recorded at ArtSound FM's studio.  Tilt are James Woodman (piano), Dave McDade (drums) and Eric Pozza (bass).  Managing mics and decks were variously Chris Deacon and Liam O'Connell.

21 March 2021

Tasks mastered

The old Trident Jazz Trio was resident at Trident Bar in Dickson for years, from 2000 or thereabouts.  It was nice that Chris had checked out CJ to determine when they started the residency, but it predated my site (b.2005) by several years.  Whatever, it was a wonderful Tuesday night scene with some excellent sets and renowned visitors.  We heard that core group again at the Austrian Club the other night and they were a revelation.  I could only gasp at James' bass playing, on 5 string JB fretless: melodic, fast but only when called for, otherwise wonderfully relaxed and searching.  Lots of finger work, as in harmonics and chords and long intervallic pairs, thirteenths and the like, and edgy attacks.  And plenty of effects, deep octavers and the rest.  Just a lesson for a bassist.  And Lachlan with his clear guitar, blistering lines and especially his intriguing and leading chords.  He also provided the one original for the night, but said he tends not to play them even though he writes plenty.  Interesting.  And Chris with a most edgy polyrythmic experiments, solos that a sparse and astute, then mixed with African shakers and soft noise.  His kick drum, too, was deep, not fluffy but loose.  And that tom that sat above, thin as.  Fascinating.  These are the choices we make that make our musical character.  They played a string of jazz tunes but you wouldn't know it until a snippet of melody appeared from amongst the grooves or beats or colours.  This is jazz brought to the nightclub-now satisfying both art and night out.  Just an awesome outing and a muse for this muso.

Trident Jazz Trio are Lachlan Coventry (guitar), James Luke (bass) and Chris Thwaite (drums).  They played at the Austrian Club.

17 March 2021

Demo muso

Well, there was some music to report.  It preceded the Women's march as a lead in.  First up was a set with grunge rock band Matriarch.  I was mightily amused by their byline and couldn't resist the listen "...four 'mature' women who should know better. Matriarch have arcane knowledge on living a life of regrets, ageing disgracefully and not giving a f***. Come get enlightened."  They played nicely rocky numbers with social themes and not always too softly spoken.  Titles like: Sucks to be a girl; Messy house; Mansplain; Four mature women who should know better; Too much oil.  A band with themes and attitude; rock guitars and pushy vox and thumpy drums.  Great.  I liked it.  And just before the women's march, Monica Moore singing the feminist classic, Helen Reddy's I am woman, with guitar accompaniment.  That got some cheers!  And one last song, a solo Aboriginal voice singing a short but haunting piece passed down through generations of women.  Sadly, I missed her name.

Matriarch are Ana Key (vocals, guitar), Glenda Harvey (guitar), Lee Grunwald (bass) and Leanne Thompson (drums).  Monica Moore (vocals) sang I am woman accompanied by acoustic guitar.  They sang outside Parliament House for the Women's March4Justice.

16 March 2021

Again a demo duo

You have to hand it to the LNP Howard and post- that they offer plenty of opportunities to protest.  It's strange when they actively do so little (think ScoMo's winning but scant policies for the last election).  Hopefully our voting public is putting 2-and-2 together but I don't have great faith.  How do they do it?  Stay stubborn, refuse to budge; let issues pass over with a 24-hour news turnover; blame others, training the public to see both sides as the same.  With a little help to and from various friends.  Issues?  Women and secret trials are those today, meaning this 24-hour cycle, but there are others: climate-coal-gas, refugees, reconciliation, water.  Or the sheer incompetence despite claims of superior economic management: NBN, subs, EVs, renewables.  Or wayward ways which are increasingly frequent and ignored: sports rorts; water rights, GBRF; Manila; the Clover Moore fake doc; $2k per month Internet; French and Italian Au pairs.  And the endless secrecy: on-water matters; national security; Commercial in confidence.  Even non-legality: Robodebt.  The list goes on.  And everything a tax, or every job needs saving, except when it's not what their mates want, then they can be mashed.  Oh, I get angry, so I need to do something, so I go to demos, FWIW.  Two this day: Assange and Women.  It can be satisfying, if frustrating; hope-laden, if unlikely to bring change.  I despair on climate, anyway, so I fully expect existential dangers just around the corner.  No not next week (if you ignore fires or drought or floods or storms or lost GBR that are with us now, but those we can, partly, recover from ... for now) but unrecoverable within decades or a few centuries.  You don't win an argument with physics, but our stubborn government is doing its darndest.  Silly, short-termist and woefully unethical.  Even exporting our climate heroes (?) to the OECD (oh, what of his new words of climate commitment?  I say "know them by their actions, not by their words").  But at least with a day of demos we can gather in hope for a while, sometimes, and this government offers us many reasons to demonstrate.

The Assange demo was small and grey and much the same crew spoke as last time, and as cogently as last time.  Bernard Collaery (himself subject to a questionable and largely secret trial) touched me with a lament on a country changed since his youth asking "what country will Julian return to?".  As for the Women's March4 Justice, it was big and impressive and black (people were asked to wear black) and angry and had some great posters.  ScoMo may ignore Collaery/Assange but I feel this is a much closer and bigger danger for him.  The question is, will his deceptive lightweight PR-spin still work.  My guess is the public is starting to see through it.  But maybe I'm wrong.  We'll see.

HomeRun4JulianAssange and Women's March4Justice were staged at Parliament House, for the first day of the new session of Parliament.

15 March 2021

Finding the lost year

Finding the lost year was the theme, and title, of the Maruki Covid-return concert of last Sunday.  Still Albert Hall.  Still much the same repertoire as we expected to play before the arrival of Covid scotched music in Canberra.  Strangely, despite the time we've had it, it was a difficult concert.  The concerto was changed (the other to reappear in a few months) due to lack of a ready pair of clarinets.  It was replaced by Sibelius Violin concerto played by our ex-LSO master and musical director, John Gould, but it was a strange and fluid thing which challenged us no end.  It's described as a concerto for violin and orchestra, so presumably orchestral parts have their own expression.  Whatever, it's strangely indefinite at times and the parts are oddly unrelatable at other times.  Not that it's unpleasant, but it's willowy or liquid and thus a challenge.  Otherwise, we played a world premier from Alan Hinde, a symphonic poem called In search of lost land which portrays an ocean voyage of discovery with considerable wave-like clarity.  Nice one!  Also Beethoven Egmont overture.  Beethoven is always a winner.  And Schumann Symphony no4 Dmin, the earlier version from 1841.  This had its demands, but ended hugely with exhilaration so a great pleasure to play.  From a jazz POV, I was amused by a pizz bass line that drove the orchestra, in every way a walking bass line.  I could only feel at home in that part.  Even if we are returned, it remains Covid time with a limitation on numbers (thus an easy full house!) and various other demands and no afternoon tea.  But it was fun and demanding, as Maruki outings are.  Maruki doesn't shirk on its programs and this is just one clear example.  Next concert is Beethoven Symphony no.7 (!) and that missing Krommer Double clarinet concerto and Mussorgsky Pictures at an exhibition.  Just a another normal program for this community orchestra! 

Maruki Orchestra performed Beethoven, Hinde, Sibelius and Schumann at Albert Hall under John Gould (conductor).  For the violin concerto, Jennifer Groom (conductor) led and  John Gould (violin) soloed.  Alan Hinde (composer) provided the world premiere.