31 July 2006

Missed Jazzabout again...

Jazzabout VIII has just come and gone, and I missed it. If you look back in the annals of CJBlog, you'll see I missed J-VIII too. I missed the promotions until it was too late. It appears to be run out of the pre-tertiary jazz course at Narrabundah College.

J-VIII was held at the Southern Cross Club over the weekend: Fri 28-Sun 30 July. I understand it featured big bands and smaller combos from high school, CIT and jazz preparatory courses around town (perhaps also regionally?).

If anyone has pics, or wants to write a review, please contact CJ. Very welcome.

19 July 2006

Straight Up!

It was a pleasure and a privilege to hear this great Canberra trio last night at the Gods jazz series. Straight Up! have been together for ~18 months. They perform occasionally, especially on the jazz festival circuit, and have recently recorded a CD. Their experience shows. They played with immense energy and a real, close responsiveness between players. The show awed the attentive audience, and the players’ joy in the performance was palpable. It’s hard to describe the pleasure and the deep, searching melodies and interplays and improvisations on the night.

Straight Up! comprise three of the foremost modern jazz players in Canberra at present: Eric Ajaye (bass), Michael Azzopardi (piano) and Chris Thwaite (drums). Eric, of course, is the much admired bass teacher at the jazz school, with a wealth of experience behind him in US jazz (tours, gigs and recordings with the likes of Chaka Khan and Freddie Hubbard). Michael has a history in Sydney with top players, and Chris has long experience around Canberra. Michael and Chris are both products of the CSM Jazz School. Together, they form a powerful and interactive trio in the modern vein, and offer an almost fully original repertoire.

Eric plays an electric double bass most of the time (Steinberger 5-string), although he finished with two tunes on electric (Steinberger headless, but all the sounds produced from a midi pickup feeding a Roland bass unit; the sound was great and seemed responsive to his fingerwork). Eric is always rock solid in whatever style. He uses lots of slides and interprets freely and richly with plenty of solos. He’s a stunning player of the highest performance level (our little bit of New York in Canberra). He also offers a friendly and familial interaction as he talks with the audience between tunes. Michael plays fast and furious, freely changing tonalities from piano to pads and other synths, and voices it all with elegant tone bends as he moves inside and outside of the relevant harmony. Chris displayed great awareness of the tune and to the others’ playing. He has a sharp, strong sound (BTW he uses two snares: one standard and one high pitched) and pushes the rhythm and interprets the melody strongly throughout. His fills are always apt, and his solos are clear in intent. He did several solos against repetitive patterns held by bass and piano (a common modern style), and one interesting drum solo on a ballad – not a common format for a drum solo.

The tunes varied, but all within modern jazz styles. There were latins, hard bops, ballads and more spacey modernist tunes. They related to events or experiences in their lives, eg, 88 keys to happiness (obviously a pianist’s tune), a tune about Michael’s dog, and a tune about St Thomas where Eric’s father had lived. In fact, the personal aspect of the concert was infectious. The trio smiled often and freely. They were gentle and honest in presence, but strong and expansive in playing. They told us of common aspects of their lives - common birthdays, and common wives’ names - but joked about the different personalities of their dogs. I guess I mean their performance was emotionally satisfying. Certainly, that was the impression of the audience after the show.

An intense, infectious and satisfying concert at the highest level. See this band!

ArtSound at work

Here’s Chris Deacon at The Gods Café recording Straight Up! for ArtSound. Keep an ear out for the transmission of this gem of a concert. Chris appears (usually alternate weeks) on Saturday afternoons on ArtSound in Music Works, his jazz/world music show. Keep an ear to Music Works and ArtSound for what’s on the radio, and also news on the arts in Canberra.

Chris has been recording jazz and other music around Canberra for 25 years, so ArtSound holds an immense and valuable resource. BTW, it’s all done with approval of musicians, and rights are strictly respected.

ArtSound is a local gem. It’s a community radio station, run on professional lines with mostly volunteer staff. It provides an intelligent and satisfying coverage of the arts in Canberra and more widely, and records this for posterity. How it can perform such a professional service with limited resources is beyond me. Thanks to sponsors, members, and the ACT Government for support. ArtSound always welcomes new members and volunteers interested in taking part in running the station, so get in touch.

For those who are interested, Chris used 4 direct feeds (stereo piano, bass, PA for stage talk), and 6 mics (bass, stereo on audience, 4 on drums [2 x overheads, snare, bass drum]) and mixed live to stereo. Equipment included Rode and AKG mics, Soundcraft mixer, Sennheiser headphones and Marantz digital flash stereo recorder (PMD671?). He’ll download to a PC, and expects to do minimal processing, perhaps just some compression.

BTW, You'll find ArtSound at FM92.7

  • ArtSound FM92.7
  • 14 July 2006

    First White Eagle jazz session

    Congratulations to the students at the CSM Jazz School who have started this new monthly session. It’s held at the Polish White Eagle Club opposite the O’Connor shops (given the sign on the wall, I infer it’s also the location of the longstanding Canberra folk club, the Merry Muse). Thanks to Ed and Phil who I think organised it; well done.

    The night starts at 8pm, and last night it ran to midnight. The format is a visiting band for two sets, then a jam, mainly featuring students from the jazz school. The band for the inaugural session was Trio Apoplectic (see my other review). Authentic Polish food (interesting and very different) is available earlier in the night. The bar stays open late and beers are cheap. Numbers last night were not too large (there’s plenty of room for more), and it’s pleasing to see they weren’t all just Jazz School students who are naturally in the information loop.

    The jams last night featured 4 groups of players, generally playing 2 tunes each, although the later ones got just one tune as it was approaching closing time. The tunes played were well known standards. If you’re interested in playing, practice tunes like Have you met Miss Jones, Stella by starlight, Nostalgia in Times Square, Straight no chaser – they were all played last night.

    Keep an eye on canberrajazz.net for announcements of future sessions.

    Fist visit includes membership to the Polish Club. $13/$10

    Three apoplectic jazzers

    Trio Apoplectic played last night for the inaugural monthly concert and jam organised by Jazz School students at the Polish White Eagle Club. TA are a young Sydney band, comprising Dave Jackson (alto sax), Abel Cross (acoustic bass) and Alex Masso (drums).

    They played two sets of modern acoustic jazz comprising 50/50 interesting standards and originals. I heard it as post-bop, but perhaps other descriptions are apt. Non-originals included tunes by Mal Waldron, Tony Gorman, Thelonius Monk (BooBoo’s birthday), Ellington (Sonnet for Sister Kate/Coco) and the standard The Blue Room (Rogers & Hart?). The originals included “Details of how to get Apoplectic on your licence plate” (no other band is likely to use that title!) and the hard bop tune Dynamite which finished the night on a high.

    This is a chordless trio, so there’s a open sound, which lets you hear each instrument clearly. It also demands that the harmonies are well defined by the bass and sax, and they were. I love this format, especially because I can so easily make out the bass lines which can be lost in more full orchestrations. I loved Abel’s excellent, lively and communicative bass playing. He was very comfortable when walking and in freer support roles, and he played great solos. He also had a satisfying woody sound, and a beautiful looking bass of a rich mahogany-coloured timber with strong grain patterns; lovely. Dave played thoughtful solos, with lots of clear and well-maintained pattern work and nice structure. He seemed deeply involved when he was playing, and showed a real relationship to the tune at hand. Alex supported, with close interaction with Abel, and increasingly frequent solos (mainly trading 8s, but one or two full solos later in the night).

    I thoroughly enjoyed the playing, and the small crowd obviously did too. It’s great to see more Sydney players coming down, and the opportunity for Canberrans to get to know the products of the venerable jazz course at the Sydney Conservatorium.

    Thanks to TA's press release for the mono pic above.

    13 July 2006

    Triosk tour Canberra

    Triosk played to a full house at Hippo’s last night. How do I know? I was left out in the cold with a changing group of others. Given it was a cold night (predicted -4degC, and it clearly reached it) I didn’t hang around for long. On the other hand, Hippo’s is generous with its sound, and you can clearly hear the band from outside, so I got a good listen for ~30mins, even if not a view.

    Triosk are Adrian Klumpes (keyboards/samples), Ben 'Donny' Waples (bass), Laurence Pike (drums). They are touring to publicise their new album. They have received great reviews in Australia and Europe. They are jazz trained and are talked about in the same breath as The Necks, so I expected a different, although jazz-influenced sound. They have also recorded a CD with Jan Jelinek of Germany (1+3+1), which was interestingly done over the Net, and toured Australia with Jan.

    I heard a gentle, minimalist soundscape. The show started with screeching cymbals from a stick being dragged around a cymbal. Then a slow bass line, with a lovely, biting double bass tone. The other member was piano, playing regular patterns and minimal changes. The drums grew, and over the next few tunes were very busy, with the bass and piano holding steady. There were sounds or effects, I guess from the piano, and later, very high pitched notes bowed on the bass. The drums had lovely loose tones. They seemed to be detuned, so the stick sunk into the skin, and the snare drum was played infrequently, and mostly (at least what I heard) with the snare wires out. I know they perform with laptop/s, and there were some sounds I couldn’t identify – perhaps PC-based digital effects, or sampled sounds interwoven with the performance. Hard to tell without seeing them in performance. And the performance obviously demands a great level of listening between players, as every note counted hugely. What I heard was an intriguing, beautiful and spellbinding performance.

    But it was cold, so I didn’t hang around. I hope they return or I can catch them another time. But for now, a picture of some die-hards outside Hippo’s has to suffice.