24 October 2007

Your editor at Moruya (Moruya 6)

  • Moruya 5

  • Moruya was a big event for your editor. And for CJ’s new writers, who played with the editor as Trio Toucan. I organised two bands for the event, then got asked shortly before to sit in with another, and also got a unexpected invitation on the Saturday for another two sets. So I was busy. I enjoyed the playing, but sadly missed a few events I would have liked to attend.

    Pics by Rita and Brenton

    Parlay Parlan was my first outing. It was a tribute to the pianist Horace Parlan. We played Horace Parlan’s most notable post-bop album, Happy frame of mind. It wasn’t a note-for-note replay, but the tunes were in order and there was some some reference to the style of the original. Parlan is most known as a pianist on two Mingus albums, Mingus Ah Um and Root and Blues in the late ‘50s, as well as some later duo recordings with Archie Shepp. He’d suffered polio as a child, so had a clustered right hand style along with a heavy R&B influence. He recorded about 15 albums for Blue Note; this is his best known. We finished with Fables of Faubus, an infectious and renowned Mingus tune from Mingus Ah Um. The gig went off nicely, with some lovely front line work, although my leadership was a bit sus and our communication was not the best. But overall it was fun, and very pleasing when it clicked. And it was nice to play my fretless Maton again after years in a cupboard. Thanks to a band of great players: Michael Cleaver (saxes), Alistair Clarke (trombone), Daniel Hunter (guitar), Liam Wilson (piano) Yen Nguyen (drums), Eric Pozza (bass).

    Trio Toucan was my other band. TT is a contemporary cum modern piano trio We played a fake book set. First was Elvin Jones’ Mr Jones, which is a minor blues that I’ve wanted to play for many years. Ballads by Wayne Shorter (Ana Maria) and Miles (Blue and green). Some obvious choices like Footprints and All the things you are. And there was a Coltrane theme in there too, with Invitation and enough cockiness to attempt Giant steps, although at a gentle pace. We had virtually no audience (Recording Ensemble, Mike Hallam, Psycho Zydeco and Spectrum Big Band were playing at the time), but it was a good outing, and we enjoyed it immensely. Lots of space and the opportunity for solos to fill it. Daniel’s classical training and Evans ear make for interesting harmonies. Brenton’s also got classical training from way back, and an energetic push to his playing, and I like the open space for bass to take both a creatively rhythmic and soloistic role. This is the first band I’ve played with where discussion is more on WB Yeats and Rachmaninov than beer and jazz (but not to say we’re wowsers). I’m looking forward to more gigs with this crew. Trio Toucan are Daniel Wild (piano), Brenton Holmes (drums) and Eric Pozza (bass).

    Moruya 7

    More of your editor at Moruya (Moruya 7)

    Moruya 6

    Pics by Sue and Rita

    Mother’s Ruin was departure for me. It’s also quite a mix: a ragtime band which also plays several traditional South American charts. It’s led by Oliver Hague and has a following on the local festival scene. Lots of reading arrangements and Scott Joplin, and some pretty odd and challenging time signatures in the Peruvian tunes. Ragtime is part of our jazz history, so it’s interesting in that aspect, and I enjoyed playing the role of a tuba cum sousaphone. This was good fun, and I found real pleasure in the styles. Mother’s Ruin were Oliver Hague (saxes), Margaret Hancocks (flute), Leonie-Ruth Acland (viola), Dave Gibson (guitar), Brenton Holmes (drums), Eric Pozza (bass).

    This was unexpected, but Pierre Kammacher was short a bass player, so I got to sit in with Pierre’s Hot 5. Pierre is a past teacher in jazz at Canberra College, and he regularly finds capable players for his outings. The Hot 5 are a mainstream band, playing a range of standards with an early-style (swing era?) approach and sound. There’s clarity in his playing and he’s got great tone on an array of excellent instruments (only Selmer, I think). I always learn something from his accuracy, and I enjoy the exercise in sight reading the charts. Pierre still owes me a beer; I mustn’t forget. On the day, Pierre’s Hot 5 were Pierre Kammacher (saxes), Rod Harding (trombone), Mark Bolsius (piano), Daniel Hunter (guitar, first set), John Marshall (drums), Eric Pozza (bass).

    That’s a total of 6 sets, with 5 on Saturday. It cost me most of Catherine Hunter, most of John Mackey, the Big Band and more, but it was fun. When travelling, I’m convinced you can’t see it all; you have to save something to come back to. It’s the same with festivals.

    23 October 2007

    And ends (Moruya 5)

    Moruya 4

    Another faculty band ended the festival on a high note. Jamirocol is James Greening (trombone), Miroslav Bukovsky (trumpet), Eric Ajaye (bass) and Col Hoorweg (drums). It’s the same band I reported on at the Gods a few months ago, and playing the same repertoire: this night it was Dedication to Thomas Mafune, Don Cherry’s Roland Alfonso, Ornette Coleman (Blues walk, When will the blues leave, Latin genetics) and a Greening original (Second wind). Col and Eric set up strong, fluid rhythms, and Miro and James perform lovely, melodies and melodic solos over them. As a bassist I have to praise Eric’s clear bass lines, with rich improvisations, brash slides and growls that never abandon the underlying beat. The others are all masters, too, of course, but I’ve written that before today! They only played 5 tunes, after a loss of power had delayed performance, but these were lovely, intense, joyous pieces.

    So how was Moruya 2007? Lots of fun, lots of good music, lots of pleasurable company and friendly musical chatting. A last fling for students before the end of year exams and recitals. Mostly a last fling for the larger ensembles. A chance for the stayers like me to get their time on stage. A pleasant town, and a great little festival. Thanks to the organisers. Much appreciated; keep it up.

    BTW, This post is broken into multiple pieces because Blogger only allows 200 characters for labels. To include all these names, I broke it up.

    Coming up ... Moruya 6

    And on (Moruya 4)

    Moruya 3

    There are still some players, usually older, who survive outside the Jazz school. Turner’s Antidote is a regular at the Moruya Festival. I’d seen them another year, but this year they were a particular blowout. They are a funk outfit, with a 3 part front line and four part rhythm section. Leigh Miller, as ex-Jazz School player, is on bass. I noticed him with some great performances with the Comms a year or so ago. TA were led by Peter Henderson (tenor), with Rod Harding (trombone), Reuben Lewis (trumpet), Wayne Millar (drums), Leigh Miller (bass), Leanne Ballard (piano) and Richard Manning (guitar). This line-up was quite different from that in the program and Peter told me they’d had only one rehearsal, but you wouldn’t know it. It was great, forceful, funk. Lots of fun; lots of volume. And music obviously runs in the family: Olivia Henderson (from No Standing) is Peter’s daughter.

    I only caught two tunes from John Mackey’s performance on the Saturday night, but these were hugely impressive, as was to be expected. John Mackey (tenor) was playing with Miroslav Bukovsky (trumpet), Carl Morgan (guitar), Chris Pound (bass) and Mark Sutton (drums). The first tune was a first outing: Tilba by Miro, written in dedication to Carl’s home town. This was a powerful and extended tune. Tilba was followed by a supremely beautiful ballad, with John playing full tone on melody and a tonal solo; a work of beauty. Performances by the Jazz School staff, and especially by John M, are looked forward to with anticipation by the students, and you can see why. This is the pinnacle of jazz in Canberra, and truly international in quality and approach.

    Moruya 5

    And on (Moruya 3)

    Moruya 2

    I just caught the end of Madeleine Hawke’s set, and it was fabulous. Attitude is the word for this woman, with her powerful, very edgy but hugely expressive voice. I was sorry I missed the whole set. Madeleine Hawke (vocals) was accompanied by Wayne Kelly (piano), Hannah James (bass) and Mark Sutton (drums). I believe this was the line-up for a CD she recorded recently, so presumably it was well rehearsed. These were just standards, but so beautifully done. Maddy’s voice is powerful and sharp, but she’s also got huge presence, beautifully correct and restrained improvised vocal lines, and huge emotional strength in her interpretations. Wow! The accompaniment was equally stunning. Wayne’s clear, understated solos, Mark’s similarly clear statements, and Hannah playing at her best, with a lovely tone and true note choices. I only caught Comes love and I wish you love, but they were stunners. Catch Madeleine Hawke if you can; doubly so with this backing.

    Wayne Kelly appeared several times in different band incarnations. Next was the WK Trio: Wayne Kelly (piano), James Luke (bass) and Mark Sutton (drums). What to say? A blowout! There were standards and originals from Wayne’s CD: some beautifully clear, deceptively simple playing by Wayne; strong, straight-ahead bass and solos by James; sharp, crisp drums from Mark. This is a master outfit; my mates were floored with their performance. He played one standard (I’m old fashioned) but mostly originals: Mr Hank Jones, What’s the number, Mt Condor, Dr Kirkland Blues. From this performance, it’s clear why Wayne is one of our local piano stars. It’s also interesting to hear the change from Wayne’s old trio. The trio with Ben O’Loghlin was cerebral; that with James more lively. Not a change in quality, but in style: interesting. Wayne is regularly out and about, although in various formats. His playing is always a pleasure.

    No Standing was the next generation of the Jazz school. Less experienced, but the performance bodes well. NS are Rafael Jerjen (bass), Mark Body (drums), Olivia Henderson (piano), Reuben Lewis (trumpet), Max Williams (tenor). Reuben appeared in several bands during the weekend. Max is brother to the excellent bassist, Bill Williams. He played well expressed solos with real expression. Both Reuben and Max will be players to note. Raf also impressed with real rhythmic strength and involvement. Watch out for these players over coming years. Some are only in high school, so have considerable time to develop, although Reuben is already playing with a range of bands. I heard them a second time on Sunday, although with slightly different members. My impression then was of impressive performance of written parts (accurate timing and intonation on Chick Corea’s Spain and the Brecker Brothers’ Skunk Funk, no less) although leaving some room to improve on the improvisation. But that’s from school kids! It bodes well for the future.

    Moruya 4

    The beat goes on (Moruya 2)

    Moruya 1

    James LeFevre followed Red Barron with a down-to-earth jazz set heavily influenced by down South, New Orleans gumbo. Organ, keyboard effects, bluesy riffs and funky rhythms. Lots of fun, and very impressive. Again, there were originals, at least one by Rob on trom. I particularly liked a Gary Bartz tune, Eastern blues. This was salty music; right for getting the audience moving, and well played. James is organising a tour for this band, so good luck and have fun. James was his entertaining self, both for his patter, and has sax playing. He’s one of few who play the baritone sax, which is always good for a touch of humour with its earthy bottom end. Kane played capably on both instruments, but had the unenviable job of frequent changes. Rob is a stalwart, playing heads and soloing with some panache. Ben is a fabulously clean and capable. This gig featured keyboards and organ, uniquely different keyboard skills and he did the job wonderfully. I loved his ring modulated solo later in the night. It was that type of gig. Evan Dorrian is another upcomer. His drumming is strongly driving and richly interesting. He’s another one to watch. The JLeF Quintet was James LeFevre (saxes), Rob Lee (trombone), Ben Foster (keyboards), Evan Dorrian (drums), Kane Watters (acoustic and electric bass).

    I just managed a few minutes each for the Catherine Hunter Quintet at the Golf Club and Fionna Tamin’s band. Catherine H was supremely professional but pretty mainstream. Not unexpected for these professional outfits: they need to entertain to eat, after all. I heard the gig at the Air Raid Tavern the next night was great, but I missed that one. I didn't hear much of Fionna’s band, but it included some original tunes by Fionna herself, and capable singing.

    I missed the ANU Big Band this weekend, but I did hear the Recording Ensemble twice, and in surprisingly unusual circumstances. They’re playing a treat, in preparation for the Wangaratta Festival and the end of this year’s band. There was a power blackout for one performance (as Australia sinks to third world, resource dependent status), so we had the unusual opportunity to hear the Rec Ens unplugged. The harmonies were sweet, but it lost a good deal of the verve and vigour, with guitar reduced to chank-chank and the bass struggling to be heard above naturally loud horns. When the power came back on, there was an unruly rush to get Carl Morgan on the job, and play this the way it’s meant to be. I reported on a recent Rec Ens performance, and the charts were largely similar, except a new one by Nick Combes called Portrait of the artist as an angry (young) man. It’s a dedication to James Joyce (obviously) and Charles Mingus (obvious enough when you hear it). I heard it twice in two concerts and loved it. An intro bass solo by Bill Williams is followed by a rhythm set up by the baritone sax, then layered over by various horns. All in blues scales reminiscent of Mingus. Lovely stuff. Congrats to Nick; well done.

    I also caught the Commercial Band. This was their final performance in this incarnation and perhaps that’s why they played with such verve. I had heard of a great performance the night before that I had missed, but this last one excelled. The intro was an extended (60sec+) cacophony of all instruments, leading into Footprints and Sophie Leslie singing her original lyrics. Hot from the top. Thereafter came Tower of Power funk, power guitar, trumpet and sax solos, a fabulously hot rhythm section from Evan Dorrian, Stu McKnown and Ben Foster (let’s face it guys, a rhythm section like this makes it so easy for the rest of you). Eric Ajaye was lounging in the corner proudly surveying his handwork. The day was warm, the band was hot, and the sun was out. This was bliss. Like all things, it had to end, but the next version of the Comms will have quite a reputation to match after this performance.

    I did just catch one traditional big band: Spectrum Showband. This is a long-standing group of amateur players around Canberra, and a great training ensemble. I only heard a tune, so not enough to comment, but they were sweet and capable and I’ve got a pic.

    Moruya 3

    Hot and cold (Moruya 1)

    A cold front came in on Friday afternoon. Short sleeves and t-shirts were in abundance and lots of musos were chilled out. Then Sunday morning was hot and the Canberra inlanders disappeared to the beach for a spot of sand and sunstroke. Changeable weather perhaps, but inside was pleasant, and the music was hot, or at least warm, so the weather havoc was easily forgotten.

    There were a few name bands at Moruya, but this is really an outing for the Jazz School, and somewhat like a family get-together. Especially given that, for some, it was the final fling for the year, or even for the degree. So there was chatter and commitment throughout.

    As for the featured acts, Mike Hallam is a regular and he was back, but perhaps the most notable name was Catherine Hunter. She’s an ex-Canberran and Jazz School graduate who’s made a name for herself in Sydney. In her band were two Hauptmans (Zoe on bass, and James on drums) who have a similar history, so this just continued the Jazz School theme. And there were the Jazz School faculty, who are names in their own right: Eric Ajaye, John Mackey, Miroslav Bukovsky, James Greening, Col Hoorweg.

    As always, the Jazz School’s large ensembles were there. For some, it was the last performance in the current line-up. These bands are reformed annually with auditions early in the new year. The Recording Ensemble is playing Wangaratta, but the Commercial and Big Band were perhaps doing their last performances. I missed the Big Band, but the Commercial played a great last set to see off several of the front line from their studies.

    I heard lots of music, but also missed lots, because of conflicts, especially as I played 6 sets over the weekend, and 5 on Saturday, which was the major day of the festival, but here are some of my recollections.

    How could you not be interested in a band called Erogenous Tones? ET are a piano trio with several stalwarts of the Jazz students: Ben Foster (piano), Hannah James (bass), Ed Rodrigues (drums). Ben’s a lovely player, with a rich, calm approach, and very satisfying chordal work and long, richly textured solo lines. Hannah is playing better than ever, with a sweet tone and thoughtful, true solos. Ed is always busy but subtle, and richly interpretive. These are students who play together frequently rather than a standing band. The set included some known standards (Miles’ Solar and Nardis, How deep is the ocean, even C-Jam blues), but also some lesser known ones (at least for me: Elsa as played by Bill Evans and Lullaby of the leaves) and some originals. This was the first band I caught and it set a high standard. Congrats for an excellent set, and congrats to Ed for a very appealing name!

    Ivory Hunter is Daniel Hunter’s outfit for presenting original music. IH is Daniel Hunter (guitar), Yen Nguyen (drums), Kane Watters (bass). The program includes Ben Foster, so maybe this is not the normal, full band. This was largely guitar-instrumental, in a US West Coast style, perhaps reminiscent of Pat Metheny with an Eagles influence? The Eagles? There seemed to be a country twang, with fully strummed chords merged with sophisticated, effected guitar lines. Nice to hear some original music. It seems to have been a theme recently, with several people talking to me of making new music. It’s a good development. On this theme, Miroslav Bukovsky highlighted that pieces don’t need to be permanent. They can be experiments that work or not, but it’s important to originate. He’s a good example, having recently written a piece called Tilba for Carl Morgan’s home town. The message seems to be: just do it, and if you don’t like it, just do another.

    Red Barron was comprised of some of the next generation of students, along with some older stalwarts. RB were Matt Sykes (drums), Matt Lustri (guitar), Chris Pound (bass), James LeFevre (sax), Jonno Apps (trumpet). They played a psychedelic style: soundscapes, heavy and successful guitar effects, mesmerically rhythmic. It seems like the ‘60s are fashionable again, for this was music with references to that era, and two of the three musicians even sported afro haircuts. (Obviously it’s a time to revisit, with Iraq as our new Vietnam). Again, this was original music and it was impressively played. Chris is obviously a new bassist to note. I praised him with the Recording Ensemble recently. He was equally impressive here, and also got the gig with John Mackey on Saturday night. Matt S impressed me with several good compositions, including one that James Greening played at a concert at the Gods a few months back, as well as a great feeling for overlaying complex rhythms with subtly moving colours. Matt L was reliable and believable with pedals. Jazz players go light on effects; they can corrupt otherwise good solos. But Matt’s use was apposite and effective. Nice work. James and Jonno are strong, mature players and added complexity to the ‘60s theme.

    Moruya 2

    22 October 2007

    Open mic: Your Moruya

    Give us your comments on Moruya 2007. Click on the “Post a comment” link at the bottom of this post to give us your thoughts. You can write as anonymous, but I’d prefer your first name. CJ’s report coming soon. Over to you.

    12 October 2007

    Kurrajong suits

    Megan and I caught the Mike Price Trio - Mike Price (guitar), Eric Ajaye (bass) and Col Hoorweg (drums) - for a few tunes before dinner tonight. Mike, Eric and Col are faculty members at the Jazz School, so we can expect capable playing. We got it: superbly relaxed and so confident. They’ve been doing it for years and it shows. The Kurrajong is an old Canberra hotel (at least old for Canberra) set amongst the key departments of state, and just next to the Liberal Party Headquarters. Perhaps that’s why it was a fairly quiet night, with the Liberal Party close to an election and potential oblivion. Normally, it’s all suits and cocktails at this hour. Get along for quiet, restrained and satisfying standards. A well kept secret of Canberra: the Kurrajong from 5.30pm Fridays.

    11 October 2007

    Monk to funk

    Text & pics by Daniel Wild. Alister Spence Trio at the Jazz School: Alister Spence (piano), Lloyd Swanton (bass), Toby Hall (drums). Miroslav Bukovsky (trumpet) and John Mackey (tenor sax) sitting in.

    In the rarefied confines of the Canberra Jazz School a select audience lounged on chairs, elbows resting thoughtfully on tables, heads contentedly on chests. They were select because they were students or teachers fortunate enough to be aware that Alister Spence and his trio performed on Tuesday night. Those who turned up were treated to wistful melody and impressionistic harmony coasting on the waves of an ambient muse. But that wasn't all.

    After lulling the audience into sense of dreamland security, the Alister Spence Trio let fly with spin-offs of Monk, atonal conflagrations and funky grooves provided courtesy of the ever imaginative Lloyd Swanton on bass and the versatile Toby Hall on drums. Hall doesn’t treat the drum-kit as a kit – it is a set of percussive instruments placed strategically to allow maximum use of all percussive effects. His intense playing can be studied by drummers and instrumentalists of all persuasions looking to enhance their repertoire of sound and syncopation.

    The reference to Monk was an inverted interpretation of In Walked Bud, ingeniously layered and stretched to have the listener wondering “where have I heard that before?” Spence’s influences are classical as well as jazz. He commenced formal jazz training aged 30, and as a late developer, confirms Bill Evans’ assertion that those who mature later have more profound things to say.

    Spence has mastered the genre of the barcarolle, the image of the eternal traveller celebrated by Mendelssohn, Chopin and the poet Coleridge, further developed by Debussy and reaching its apotheosis in Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage. That’s not to say Spence has nothing new to add to this sublime tradition. Knowledge of his predecessors gives him a platform to enlarge the harmonic vocabulary. Only by acknowledging debts owed to the past can one bring an individual contribution to the prow.

    Australia is lucky to have Alister Spence continue this visionary journey inspired by the sea. His suspensions flow and build upon each other, he reaches down into the muddy registers of the piano then unfolds a gnarly motif in the middle range, followed by upper crystalline structures. All this while building suspense with careful attention to dynamics.

    Spence enhanced the tone pallet by using samples to commence some of the numbers. He also explored prepared piano techniques where the harp inside the piano is plucked or the strings scraped with fingernails. These methods were not overused, but demonstrated the versatility and origins of the piano and the possible directions of modern sound.

    It is almost unnecessary for this band to employ singular techniques: they need only rely on their ability and musical knowledge to call forth a torrent of free jazz (which remains accessible and exciting) or meditative lapses into subconscious realms. Hall sometimes uses the sides of his sticks for a more plaintive sound on the edge of the drum, or shorter decay on the cymbals. He even conjured the will o’ the wisp with brushes on a glockenspiel.

    Does anything need be said about Swanton’s bass? Comparisons with Paul Chambers, Eddie Gomez or Christian McBride only work insofar as Swanton is an individualist. He can make his instrument sound like a human voice or he can play it like a guitar. As the foundation of trio music the bass must remain solid yet driving: in the frame, but adventurous in order to inspire flights of fancy from the other musicians. Whoever Swanton plays with, he lifts the standard of performance.

    Miroslav Bukovsky and John Mackey joined the trio for the second set. Both were a little tentative at the beginning, but got into stride after the first few notes of their solos. Mackey impressed with some firm and energetic playing and also showed he has command of the mellower sound available to tenors. Bukovsky responded well to Spence’s playing, citing some Hubbard-like drills and punctuations and soaring cadences.

    The musicians deserved a larger audience but didn’t seem to mind. However, the Australian public are doing themselves a disservice by not turning up to such good gigs. Perhaps late-notice prevented suitable promotion of this concert. Maybe lack of university resources means there are not enough funds to put into advertising. It’s fine to say that Europe, Canada and the US have an illustrious heritage of artists who inspire the promotion of fine music, but Australian artists will never attain the respect they deserve, nor have more peers to measure themselves against unless governments get off their veritable backsides and do something about it.

    That said, this was a most enjoyable evening. The half-empty hall was soon forgotten, subsumed under an ocean of great music making.

    03 October 2007

    Tour no.5 to the Gods

    Trio Apoplectic are on their 5th tour. Recent outings were to White Eagle, but this one was to the Gods for Geoff Page’s annual series. Trio Apoplectic are Dave Jackson (alto sax), Abel Cross (bass) and Alex Masso (drums). I know them as a demanding but satisfying outfit, with the open, minimal, chordless sound of a sax trio. The chordless trio format allows considerable leeway for all players and flexibility in statements of harmonies and counterpoint. Their music is modern and often difficult, and their statements of harmonies are not always too obvious, so I was surprised when they opened with a favourite standard, There will never be another you, played with a fairly mainsteam approach. But it segued into free playing, strummed bass and the like, and we were in familiar territory. There were some original tunes I recognised: Dynamite, Saturday arvo, Details of how to get APOPLECTIC on your number plate. They seem to like Monk (they also play Boo Boo’s Birthday on their album and live) so Rhythmaning was no surprise. There was also a tune dedicated to Bernie McGann: The last postman, by Tony Gorman. The audience was small and subdued and the band was only at the start of its tour. But we always expect an interesting and challenging night with this modern outfit, and it was. Click on the labels below for earlier TA reports.