24 November 2007

Real estate jazz

Some friends of mine were selling a house up the road, so Dirk and his crew appeared for the third time in recent years in my street. Dirk has a busy little sideline of playing in the lead up to house auctions around town, presumably most Saturdays. I guess it relaxes the bidders. It’s certainly a civilised twist to the event. Anyway, it was a short set of standards (rhythm changes in Bb, St Thomas and the like) and very nicely played. Solid, stable rhythms, some lovely, twisted sax lines, and an idiosyncratic, black-hatted presence amongst the house-buying bourgeoisie. Short but sweet. That is, until the guys had to pack up and rush off to the next auction. Who’d have thought Saturday mornings would be such a busy time for jazz players? Dirk Zeylmans (tenor sax) played with Graham Monger (guitar) and Phill Jenkins (bass).

18 November 2007

Zoe’s quirky Buttercups

Zoe & the Buttercups CD review. I don't usually do reviews, but just for this once. Zoe's Buttercups are playing at Hippo's on 12 Dec. Guaranteed to be a quirky po-mo musical experience. Recommended.

Listen to the last track and you’ll immediately recognise the humanity in this album. It’s alternately sweet and heavy, but it’s a Beatles heaviness. Not metal-heavy: this is joy and humanity talking. And it’s talking with the language of jazz, even if not in its dialect. The language of jazz because there’s the capability and sensibility of the player trained in improvisation and grooves. But the dialect is rockabilly, sometimes rock, sometimes country, only sometimes jazz, and then mainly in the solos. This is a challenge for the ears of the jazz lover, but bliss for the appreciator of the post-modern and indulgence. This is the Buttercups, and Zoe is our host.

Mum told me of Dad’s advice to Zoe: “If you want to play music professionally, play country”. Well, Zoe has indulged the sense of beauty and intellect which is jazz, but here she has done the turnaround and taken Dad's advice. She’s now released a heavily country-influenced CD with support of various brothers and friends. All trained; all capable; so much more than just country. This is a challenge to all ears. Indulge; you’ll love it. But don’t ask: is it jazz. Whatever, it’s music, and from the heart and the intellect.

But I have one note of concern. The one song on the otherwise instrumental album worries me: The creeps and the weezles. I can’t quite work out the philosophy and I’m not sure if I feel comfortable with it. Does it hint at nihilism and grunge superiority, or perhaps a tilt at an infestation of eco-rats? If it’s a chorus of us-and-them, I feel uncomfortable. We’ve had too much of that in recent years. I remain a little confused. Sad, as it’s so pretty in a ‘30s gothic cabaret style.

But otherwise, this is fun, with solid rockabilly grooves, and style-bending but capable solos on guitar, sax, trom, and occasionally on bass by Zoe. I have various impressions. Pigly wigly hoe down is soooo well named. Sludge bucket is a genuine launch pad for duelling guitars. Boom is a cool '70s funk with trom counterpoint and solos. Miscellaneous madness is edgy (detective Clouseau gets serious) featuring Zoe’s bass soloing against horn lines. There’s a train may have an Ellington reference, but the beat on the 1-3 and the banjo picking make for a very hick swing. The swapped and collective solos make for a satisfying although quirky tune. Buttercupin’ is the name Dad suggested, presumably so long back. It’s a hot, lazy, Sunday-arvo cut-time with sax melody and banjo response (who would have dreamed that up?) then a heavy, slow swing on the bridge. Feral and bed (where does she get these titles?) is Woodstock riffs and degraded, AM audio, then an 11/4 riff with great solos on guitar (obviously brother Ben) and sax. I’m thinking: this album has complex and rich grooves, always interleaved and multilayered. Nice stuff! Belly full o’ whiskey is a very short but lovely duo of sax and trom: cute and rollicking. Then comes The creeps and weezles. I’ve told you of my concerns here: a perfectly good song, but dubious philosophy. Sinchl (what is that title?) is a heavy boogie beat that you could hear at the local blues club when the hottest players get on stage, but with a nice twist in the turnaround and melody. Bill Frisell is a serene acoustic guitar ballad in trio format, with a countrified bridge and an acoustic bass solo by Zoe. Wednesday is a final ballad but with another Beatles-heavy interlude. It’s a humane finish to the album.

So is it jazz? It’s been asked, but is it an issue? How do we define jazz? Improvised music with a beat? Well trained musos who can play rhythm? Either way, Zoe and her Buttercups perfectly satisfy the bill. These are capable and groovy players who convince me, even if the beat is often on the 1-3 instead of the 2-4. I like it!

Zoe’s Buttercups are: Zoe Hauptmann (acoustic bass, vocals), Ben Hauptmann (guitar, banjo), Aaron Flowers (guitar), John Hibbard (trombones), Dan Waples (sax), James Hauptmann (drums) with guest Steve Appel of King Curly (vocals on The creeps and the weezles).
  • Zoe Hauptmann on MySpace; listen to some tracks from this CD
  • Keith Penhallow's review for NJWC
  • 13 November 2007

    More from ArtSound (AS2)

  • Continued from…

  • After hearing the hot players from the school, Kooky Fandango are a more staid outfit, but entertaining and capable none the less. This is a bigger band, or at least slightly bigger and with the feeling and arrangements of a swing big band. There were harmony horns on heads and discrete solos from various band members. I liked the background horn lines and echoed melodies, and they were tight. The style mostly reminded me of 60s detective shows on TV with a heavy blues influence, but there was a latin in there too. They also had a singer, but she sang on only a few tunes in this short performance. Good to see that busy people with day jobs are prepared to invest the time required to maintain their chops and play in bands like this. Kooky Fandango also play around. They were at Moruya and performed coastal winery gig that weekend. My wife also heard them at Kingston markets the day after the Open Day. KF are Courtney Stark (vocals), Cameron Smith (trumpet), Tom Fell (alto sax), Nathan Sciberras (baritone sax), Peter Barta (bass), Donovan Gall (drums).

    Quantum Theory are a vehicle for original music composed by another batch of senior students from the Jazz School. This is a very different style from the earlier outfit: more cool and tempered, and the players are more restrained. These were stately melodies and gentle and subdued soloing. Dave plays lyrically on his solid-sounding (I’d guess heavily-strung) semi-acoustic guitar. Sebastian was new to me in a small group format. He played some tasteful melodies and solos, dissolving into some cascading tenor flourishes which were apt and expressive. Nice. The rhythm section is the local stalwart of Bill and Ed. As always, they swung with solid grooves and walks or played tenderly in a more free style with close responsiveness. They are a wonderfully satisfying pairing. Quantum Theory are Dave Rodriguez (guitar), Sebastian McIntosh (tenor sax), Bill Williams (bass) and Ed Rodrigues (drums).

    Open at ArtSound (AS1)

    ArtSound ran its annual radiothon over the weekend. This year, the radiothon was dubbed “88 keys to happiness”. 88 keys; sounds familiar. ArtSound was collecting to fund its recent purchase of a new Yamaha grand piano (C6?) for its recording studio. I hear the sound of the Yamaha grand through $15,000 of Neumann mics is superb, so the studio just gets more attractive. Keep it in mind if you are seeking a moderately priced, professional studio with top mics and 48 channel digital tracking, pleasant surroundings and capable engineering. On the day, it was nice to see a solid level of support for the radiothon during the morning. And you can put your name to a piano key if you wish to be remembered.

    The radiothon featured an open day at ArtSound’s studios at the Manuka Arts Centre studios on Saturday. There was coffee, grog, snags, politician visits (it being an election campaign), and 5 bands playing live to air from the courtyard amongst switches back to the studio. As always, this was an interesting and very professional day run by the mostly volunteer staff of the station. We are lucky to have such a resource, especially as it’s so knowledgeable and supportive of the jazz scene in Canberra.

    I caught three bands of the five: James LeFevre Quintet and Quantum Theory, both from the Jazz School, and Kooky Fandango, made up of amateur players around town.

    James LeFevre played a similar set to that at Moruya. Well played, bluesy, entertaining, with a fine collection of players. They play a wonderful arrangement of a piece from Gary Bartz, Eastern Blues. This locates the music: rootsy 70s jazz-funk. Great stuff. It’s a style I love, and one that I reckon is eminently sellable. And the players do it so well. They set up and sustain grooves, but more involving is the way the develop intensity, from quiet and searching to raging solos, then sudden decays to almost subliminal. There’s a drum solo in Eastern Blues which says it all: instruments playing a unison line (common enough) supporting the solo, but arranged so the unison line changes time signatures and intensifies over the solo. The front line of tenor (sometimes baritone) and trom is a nice one, and the rhythm unit of acoustic/electric bass (Kane has a job with frequent changes), Evan’s excellent drums and Ben’s wonderful keyboard fills and choppy funky styles works a treat. A very entertaining and capable band with original arrangements and charts. James LeFevre (tenor, baritone sax) plays with Rob Lee (trombone), Kane Watters (electric, acoustic basses), Ben Foster (keyboard) and Evan Dorrian (drums).
  • ArtSound FM 92.7

  • More…
  • 11 November 2007

    Gently does it

    The members of the Julien Wilson trio performed recently at Wang, with and without Elana Stone, and then moved on up to Canberra and the Gods for a local performance. Julien Wilson (tenor) and Stephen Grant (accordion) were playing with Geoff Hughes (guitar). Geoff replaced Steve Magnussen, who popped off to Europe after his Wang gigs. Geoff had played at Wang on the Drunken Boat with Allan Browne.

    This was another drum- and bass-less gig at the Gods. The sax was airy and subtle. The accordion provided bass and melody lines as well as chordal washes. The sharp-sounding Spanish guitar provided solos, accompaniment and sometimes unison melody. The music was mostly original, but with a few latin-tinged versions of known tunes; their first tune was It might as well be spring. The aural atmosphere was more reminiscent of South American piazzas than French streets, which is the usual connotation of accordians and classical guitars. This was textured, soft, thoughtful music, and very well received by an audience which was larger than expected given this was the night of the Melbourne Cup. But I don’t imagine these types would have spent the afternoon grogging on at the racecourse.

    ArtSound was recording, so expect to hear snippets on radio.

    10 November 2007

    Sylvie's sidekicks (NJWC3)

    The third of CJ's three reviews for the National Jazz Writing Competition

    Gig review
    Sylvia Mitchell Trio
    Sylvia Mitchell (alto sax), Jess Green (guitar), Zoe Hauptmann (bass)
    Jazz at the Gods Café, ANU, Canberra
    7 August 2007
    537 words

    Canberra is a hidden gem in jazz in Australia. This was a night to savour the influence of the national capital, and especially of Canberra’s Jazz School, on the life of jazz in Australia. For these were three significant women of Australian jazz who played for a homecoming crowd at Geoff Page’s annual Jazz at the Gods series. They were billed as the Sylvia Mitchell Trio, but appeared on the night as Sylvie & the Sidekicks: Sylvia Mitchell (alto sax), Jess Green (guitar) and Zoe Hauptmann (bass). They are from slightly different eras in the life of the Jazz School: Sylvia followed her sidekicks by a few years. They are dispersed now: Jess and Zoe to Sydney; Sylvia moving from Melbourne to Sydney. Two (Jess and Zoe) have already released CDs of mirth and considerable compositional originality on the JazzGroove label, and now Sylvia is planning a release. So these are competent players, with educational connections and female pride to boot.

    From the top, it was smooth, melodically rich, harmonically complex and always rooted in the groove. Zoe’s the essence of the bassist: harmonically clear, driving grooves, fitting fills and falls. There were some solos, but her strength is in laying down that beat. In this, she’s a master. But the rhythm was greatly enriched by counterpoint from Jess’ guitar: small dissonant chords and note clumps, syncopated across Zoe’s backbeats. A rich tapestry of rhythm, and a full harmonic underlay for solos. So full and interpretive with just two players. On this bedrock was Sylvia’s horn. She’s younger than Zoe or Jess, and the lesser experience is evident, but there’s a full range, considerable chops to take on Bird bop, a good ear for musos like Dave Holland, wide experience, and compositional skills as well. In addition, Jess’ solos were wonderful, restrained explorations of consonant and frequently dissonant melody: truly beautiful and thoughtful. And she added the pleasure of a surprisingly satisfying voice: unexpected but gladly received. Voice is truly a messenger of the gods.

    The performance ranged widely. There were standards. Jess sang “What is this thing called love”. There was a guitar/bass duet on “Willow weep for me” featuring a Mingus-inspired gliss-full bass solo, and hard swing and fast unison lines on Monk’s “I mean you”. Sylvia selected Bird’s “Au privave” and “Confirmation”, but also “Four winds” and “African Lullaby” from Dave Holland. And there were some wonderfully capable original compositions. Jess provided several from her CD, “Singing fish”. Zoe gave us a riff-based tune called “Guts for garters” (“think of pirates and ghost ships”) with a dissonant, chromatic, Djangoesque cut time accompaniment by Jess. There were several tunes by Sylvia from her music to Geoff Page’s poetic theatre piece, “Drumming on water”.

    But perhaps the sound was the surprise for me for the night. Without drums, Zoe’s bass displayed its clear, sharp attack, and soft decay. Jess’ Fender thinline seduced with its woody throated tone filtered through Fender valve distortion. A perfect match for her Scofield sensibility. And Sylvia’s tone and range was equally discernable above the understory.

    Like their respectful presentation, this was not a manifest display of virtuosity. There was far more sincerity than that. That’s why it was so, so satisfying.
  • Previous photo-essay for this concert

  • BTW, the second place winner in the NJWC, Keith Penhallow, is a Canberran and also reviewed this concert. Read it on the NJWC site

    Impossibly simple (NJWC2)

    The second of CJ's three reviews for the National Jazz Writing Competition

    CD review
    Niels Rosendahl
    Impossibly simple
    Independent release by Niels Rosendahl, NCR001, February 2007
    323 words

    It’s wonderfully exciting to watch a young muso developing. Their first CD is an early statement of intent, and an opening to the wider world. Niels Rosendahl’s first CD is just this. But surprisingly mature. He’s a capable and well trained player, and one of the star students at the local Jazz School in Canberra. But he’s also got recent time in London and Edinburgh under his belt, and a great pack of graduates and staff to support him.

    Niels Rosendahl (tenor, soprano saxes) teams with the local trio of note, Straight Up!, comprising Eric Ajaye (bass), Michael Azzopardi (piano) and Chris Thwaite (drums). Joining them on some tracks are Jonathon and Luke Apps (trumpets) and Anna Thompson (violin).

    Niels is perfectly capable of screaming, Coltranesque extravaganzas. A Jazz School exercise was to learn Trane’s Giant Steps solo in all keys. He’s renowned for playing it on request in F#. Impressive. But his post-graduate, scholarship year in the UK has calmed the student mania, so we now have a composed approach of gentleness and honesty although still with considerable energy. The support trio is known to be hot, but is also apt for this outing. Eric Ajaye has an LA background of recording and touring. We expect and get outstanding, expressive bass reminiscent of Buster Williams: all growling low action, fast fingers and frequent slides. Michael Azzopardi is a student in name, but a master in performance, and impresses here as always: ample harmonic fluidity, great technical proficiency and huge passion. Chris Thwaite accompanies with relative quiet, but true responsiveness.

    The compositions are all by Niels, and there’s a rich range, from the neo-bop “Penguins”, through modal, modern and latin to a ballad dedicated to soulmate “Carrie”. Not all tunes flow equally freely, but nonetheless they signal a capable composer. The sound of the CD is not spectacular, but it’s an impressive first album, and an omen of a young player to watch.

    Apoplexia (NJWC1)

    The first of CJ's three reviews for the National Jazz Writing Competition

    CD review
    Trio Apoplectic (CD title and band name)
    Dave Jackson (alto sax), Abel Cross (bass), Alex Masso (drums)
    JazzGroove, JGR036, (mastered) November 2006
    600 words

    Macquarie defines apoplexy as a “marked loss of bodily function due to cerebral haemorrhage”. A band that lays claim to such a title is obviously saying something to us. I’ve seen TA several times live, and I can confirm that the title fits. But their selftitled album is a much clearer and more understandable statement of this claim. Why a loss of bodily function? For me, it’s the indefinite nature of tonality and harmony that’s inherent in this stream of modern jazz. Trio Apoplectic are not the only ones doing this. Similar sounds come from people like Steve Coleman and Greg Osby and the history of this style dates at least from free and avantguard forms of the 60s. To hear it live is ecstatic and disorienting and an intellectual challenge. To hear it in a studio incarnation is clearer, more defined and usually more restrained. But also more comprehensible.

    Trio Apoplectic are Dave Jackson (alto sax), Abel Cross (bass) and Alex Masso (drums). The chordless trio is a key component of their style. It opens the harmonic structure, frees to the counterpoint of bass and sax, allows ambiguity in chordal movements. So the experience is not of an underlying chordal structure with superimposed melody and improvisations. This is far more malleable. Every note defines a relationship to each other note, and, with only two pitched parts, is open to multiple implied harmonies. It also frees each player for a front line role. There’s no longer a defined leader, or a clear player of heads, or someone who at any one time is soloing or supporting. Everyone takes the role, and pretty much all the time. If this is sounding like bodily malfunction to you, we’re on a common path. But in the style of the post-modern, in this malfunction hides beauty.

    The tunes are mostly original and confirm this appeal to our most investigative senses. They’re penned by Abel and Alex (bass and drums) but the compositions are varied and valid; not all riff or rhythm based as you may expect. “Dynamite” sets the scene for the album. It’s is a hard bop from the top, with sax lines stretching over bar lines, intriguing bass lines laying down harmony, but none too obviously, and capable and very pleasant sounding drums interpreting. This band can swing hard, always rhythmically obvious, but never chordally too evident. “Details of how to get APOPLECTIC on your licence plate” moves into the freer sphere: unison lines in the head, short hard swing segments and drum/sax and bass/percussion solos. “Windy” is more a bassist’s composition, with starter bass solo and a riff basis. “Firewaltz” is a Mal Waldron post-bop. “Skyblocks” is air and space and soundscape. “Boo Boo’s birthday” is a lesser-played Monk tune. It’s a basis for drum and bass solos, but otherwise relatively standard in these surroundings. “Cann River” is authentic free. Finishing, “Sunday arvo” is melancholic and sounds true to quiet, thoughtful times.

    Dave’s sax is mobile in extent and tuneful in expression. Overt, but never obvious. Abel’s bass is gloriously rich and searching in spelling the chords; again never predictable but always satisfying. Alex’s drumming as an object lesson in communicating with other players. And the openness of the chordless trio format allows beautiful, ringing sounds from all instruments. The recording is particularly satisfying for the sensuous clarity which highlights the serious purpose of the music.

    So, apoplectic? Loss of bodily functions? Yeah, at first sight it’s unclear, undefined, challenging. But listen with an open mind, and there’s a world of intent and a deeply thoughtful interplay: wonderful, modern, beauteous sounds.

    Watching the watchers (Wang 6)

  • Wang 5

  • Obviously CJ’s reports have featured the performers: it is a jazz festival, after all. Wangaratta is a festival for the top players, so it’s a passive event for many musos who would play at lesser events, and also for those who just love the art and attend to listen. The Festival Office told me there were 25,000 attendees at this festival. I wouldn’t have guessed that number, although Saturday was a busy day in town. Good to see so many people attending jazz, but it did have its down side. The obvious corollary were the queues. They were long for many of the key performances, and sometimes late comers didn’t get in.

    The prereserved seats were one answer. The festival pass cost $135, and you could prebook seats for certain high profile concerts for an additional $10 each. I found it was definitely worth it for Dave Holland, but not necessary for anything else. But it does avoid the queues and gives you prime, front- or second-row seats, where you can hear the stage sound, and take pics up close. But then, most of the reserved seats remained unfilled even after the gig started.

    The public event was in Ross Street which was closed off for a session of food and wine and free entertainment, and there were loads in attendance there. Good food & grog too, this being a famed region for wineries. The ANU Recording Ensemble played in this space, as did various school bands and other performers. I just caught one band playing popular big band jazz, but very capably.

    The late nighters congregated at the Hotel Pinsent for the jam sessions. I attended one night, but found it pretty predictable (all the standard blues and bop tunes) and too loud. But it was lively, and the beer went down easily at the end of the day. I heard plenty of people complaining of lack of sleep.

    ABC broadcasted several sessions from the Town Hall, so we got to put faces to several presenters we hear regularly on FM or RN. The print journos were there too. I met Peter Nelson (Advertiser, Australian), Roger Mitchell (Herald Sun), Jessica Nicholas (Age) and John Shand (Sydney Morning Herald). Amusingly, they were to review the festival in 450, 600 or 1,200 words. 450? Impossible, but that’s the editor’s limit. At least it’s good to see the Festival getting written up.

    As for the social side, I found it very friendly. Most people on the streets were there for jazz, and they were open and friendly, and you always had a topic for conversation: the latest gig or whatever. There was a considerable Canberra contingent, too. Given CJ’s Canberra-centricity, one thing I liked was the opportunity to hear Melbourne musos. We tend to get the Sydney contingent visiting Canberra, but Melbourne also has an active jazz scene to catch up on.

    The venues were huddled together within a few paces, which was good given the rain. But there will be a major change next year. The Town Hall is due to be demolished, and a new cultural centre should be under construction. Perhaps the sound will be better, but I dread the formality of a concert-hall-like venue. And just what will be the main venue for the 2008 festival, while construction is underway, is not advised. Perhaps a marquee.

    Accomodation is the other factor. The hotels and motels are booked out well ahead, and many stay in local towns and drive in. There’s also a home-stay on offer through the Festival Office. I took that, and got breakfast and a cumfy caravan within walking distance of the venues, at a cost well below that of a motel room. Also, it gives you an entrée to the locals, so it’s a sociable option, especially if the family doesn’t quite share your passions and decided to stay at home!

    09 November 2007

    And more (Wang 5)

  • Wang 4

  • You hear loads of music at a festival. I didn’t take notes so all I can give is some remaining impressions rekindled by looking at pics of the various outfits. Here are some of those favourite pics, and perhaps some short comments on the various outfits. Apologies to the worthy bands I missed, but you have to leave some for next time.

    Sean Wayland (piano) played a quartet set with James Muller (guitar), Matt Penman (bass) and Jochen Ruckert (drums). Sean is much respected, and I’ve heard at least one tune dedicated to him by other players. He’s now based in New York. This gig presented his NY trio with the addition of James Muller. Always a pleasure to hear guys like this. James is never a disappointment. Matt was a common sight on stage at this festival. It’s interesting watching players at this level, especially bassists. They don’t necessarily impress with chops, but more with style and substance. This was deceptively simple playing with real class.

    Dan Rader presented straight bop and post-bop using very competent players and led by a performer with a long history. The Quintet was Dan Rader (trumpet), Willow Neilson (tenor), Gerard Masters (piano), Brendan Clarke (bass) and Tim Firth (drums). I was particularly taken by some more modern, out soloing by Gerard. Obviously, so was Don as he looked on with respect. Some originals and plenty of known tunes.

    Judy Bailey is a blast from my vinyl past. I’m sure I have an album from the 70s by JB. Capable, post bop playing in a trio with equally competent Craig Scott (bass) and Tim Firth (drums).

    Jex Saarelaht (piano) led a quartet with Julien Wilson (saxes), Sam Anning (bass) and Danny Fischer (drums).

    Julien Wilson (tenor sax) reappeared with Stephen Grant (accordion) and Steve Magnussen (guitar) in the Elana Stone (vocals) Quartet playing sea shanties and similar songs.

    Doug DeVries (classical guitar) played a solo session on nylon strung guitar in the local Holy Trinity Cathedral, and benefitted from the acoustics.

    At the more challenging end of the scale, Ren Walters (guitar), Chris Bekker (bass guitar), Niko Schauble (drums) appeared as Tip with guest Tony Hicks (sax). Tip is a improvisational trio for frameworks provided by Ren. Challenging, yes, and very addictive as complex emotions and interplay grow before your eyes. And the first electric bass I saw for the event. Good, solid, middy tone which matched the music well.

    The Pascal Schumacher Quartet featured all-Euro players: Pascal Schumacher (vibes), Jef Neve (piano), Christophe Devisscher (EUB=bass) and Jens Duppe (drums). This was a competent outfit playing original music, as I remember, with considerable variations in time signatures and grooves and quite a deal of arrangement. The grooves were in the Euro style, which always seems to me to be softer and less frantic than the US counterpart. I put it down to the influences of folk and classical music that are often so strong in Euro jazzers.

    Another Euro band was actually an international collaboration between Melbourne and Denmark: Jakob Dinesen-Eugene Ball Quartet. This one displayed more raunchy US-style rhythms and harmonies. Danes Jakob Dinesen (tenor) and Guffi Pallesen (bass) and Melbournites Eugene Ball (trumpet) and Rajiv Jayaweera (drums) have played together several times in recent years. I liked this more anglo style, with good hard swings and attractive ballads.

    Mark Isaacs (piano, composer) performed with James Muller (guitar), Matt Keegan (sax), Brett Hirst (bass) and Tim Firth (drums) as Resurgence. Mark is a significant Australian musician with considerable classical/jazz crossovers to his credit, having composed works for orchestra as well as playing with major jazz artists including Dave Holland and Roy Haynes. I found the music interesting in a fairly soft, arranged, Deodato style. Solos were mainly on one or two chord structures, and it was all done superbly professionally with excellent players.

    Gest8 (as in gestate): only a woman could lead a band with this name. And so it was. Gest8 played the final concert of the festival program on the Sunday night. Gest8 is a musical vehicle of Sandy Evans and Tony Gorman, with Sandy up front leading on stage. It involves some interesting, new, experimental sounds and approaches. As well as more traditional jazz instruments, there’s a koto player and a computerist cum programmer on stage. The computer (Mac, not PC) was obviously processing sounds with echo and the like in real time. Interesting, but only obvious to me on one trumpet solo passage. I was amused by the tune Kaleidoscope, which is more in a straight modern jazz style. It’s a melody overlay over the chords of Giant Steps, so now it seems we have Giant Steps changes to match Rhythm changes. Gest8 comprises Sandy Evans (tenor, sporano saxes), Paul Cutlan (saxes, bass clarinet), Phil Slater (trumpet), Satsuki Odamura (koto), Carl Dewhurst (guitar), Steve Elphick (bass), Simon Barker (drums), Greg White (computers), with compositions and shared leadership by Sandy and Tony Gorman. Interesting, often gentle, always fascinating, frequently experimental jazz.

  • Wang 6
  • JazzGroovin' (Wang 4)

  • Wang 3

  • I love the sound of interweaving harmonies and varying tonalities that you get with large ensembles. So the JazzGroove Orchestra and composer/arranger/pianist Florian Ross were highlights for me. But JazzGroovers also appeared in a number of smaller band performances.

    The JazzGroove Mothership Orchestra is a collection of musos from the JazzGroove stable in Sydney. They have realeased two albums: one comprising music of Mike Nock, arranged by members of the band and Mike Nock himself, and another performing the music of the German composer/arranger/pianist, Florian Ross. They have toured these sets in the past, and I’ve heard both of them in Canberra. This time, I got to hear both sets performed at one festival.

    These are very capable, professional, working musos so the solos are authentic and effective, but what most impresses is the beauty of the collective work. The smooth tones of saxes, the blattering honks of troms and trumpets, the cascading patterns and textures, not to forget the driving rhythm section. James Muller is always a stunner when he plays, and it was no different here, but there were great solos all round by the likes of Roger Manins, David Theak (proud leader of the pack), Phil Slater, Matt Keagan and Jeremy Borthwick. The rhythm section was particularly satisfying, both in support or when featuring. Brendon Clarke and Evan Mannell were solid and sustained and driving. Evan’s drums fills were greatly satisfyingly driving despite occasionally having to fiddle with large charts. Guitar and piano comping was all apt and subtle. The band was largely unchanged between tunes and sets except for the pianist (Sean Wayland played the Mike Nock set, and Florian Ross played his set), and the swapping of a sax for a flute for one tune. These guys are always a knockout, and I wasn’t diappointed by either set. The Mothership are: David Theak, Murray Jackson, Matt Keagan, Roger Manins, Nick Bowd (saxes), Darryl Carthew, Phil Slater, Simon Ferenczi, Tim Crow (trumpets), Jeremy Borthwick, Danny Carmichael, John Hibbard, Colin Burrows (trombones), James Muller (guitar), Brendan Clarke (bass), Evan Mannell (drums), Florian Ross or Sean Wayland (piano).

    Perhaps my favourite session for the whole festival was Florian Ross’s 8 Ball. This was a smaller ensemble playing arranged music for 5 saxes and rhythm section of 3: eight players. The complexity and interactions of Florian’s music were still there, but the sax section gave a different, smoother and more languid sound. The performers were taken from the JazzGroove Orchestra, with Florian Ross himself on piano. Lovely. David Theak, Roger Manins, Richard Maegreith, Nick Bowd (saxes), Brendan Clarke (bass), Evan Mannell (drums), Florian Ross (piano).

    Alcohotlicks were an odd combination (drums and two guitars) playing a pretty odd set for a jazz festival (somewhere amongst rockabilly, blues and fusion). Strange lineup too (no bassist): Zoe Hauptman lost the gig when she went off to China for a few months, and they (respectfully I’m sure, as only a brother can do) discovered they didn’t need her. But this was a little bunfight of a gig. Loud, fun, different, and much enjoyed. Alcohotlicks are James Hauptman (guitar), Aaron Flower (guitar) and Evan Mannell (drums). There was at least one other alt-jazz outfit (one with a turntablist) but I sadly missed it.

    Slightly less challenging for the audience, but plenty challenging for the bassist, was 20th Century Dog. This is Cameron Undy’s compositional vehicle, but his place was taken on the day by Zoe Hauptman, as Cameron’s wife was giving birth any day. (Best of luck from CJ). Anyway, Zoe had one rehearsal, and they carried it off. These players are perfectly capable, so it’s not unexpected. Zoe seemed a little reticent but also enjoying the ride. I like these players. These were solid grooves and sharp soloing in a more rocky vein. On the day, 20th CD were Matt Keegan (tenor), Carl Dewhurst (guitar), Gerard Masters (piano), Simon Barker (drums) and Zoe Hauptman (electric bass). Just to highlight the Canberra connection, Zoe, Cameron and Carl are all Canberra born, bred and trained, although now resident in Sydney.

  • JazzGroove's website

  • Wang 5
  • 07 November 2007

    Trombones a close second (Wang 3)

  • Wang 2

  • It seems trombones are having their place in the sun at the moment. I’ve noted that in several CJ articles recently. Wang also provided its share: Robin Eubanks from Dave Holland’s Quintet; a pleasant surprise in Root 70 with Nils Wogram; and the busy young female trombonist, Shannon Barnett.

    Dave Holland was the star international import and much awaited. He played on the Friday evening at the very start of the Festival. It was a high point of the festival, but thankfully didn’t end in an unhappy denouement. Robin Eubanks (trombone) was stunning and along with Chris Potter (tenor, soprano sax) were a formidable front line. Robin was stunning with clear, accurately intoned melody, solo and contrapuntal lines with minimal movement of the slide. His technique interested me. Apparently you can play full scales using high harmonics on a trom without moving the slide. Presumably it’s possible on every brass instrument. Robin was a master, with melody pouring out at speed with only occasional slide movements. The normally clumsy trom became a thing of unusual celerity. Stunning playing; and all so musical. I especially loved his counterpoint with Chris Potter. Chris is another renowned player. I found him intellectually satisfying, but less so emotionally. This was harsh and challenging playing, but so capable. Again, great counterpoint: this return to collective improvisation seems to be a theme in today’s modern jazz. Nate Smith (drums) is the newby in the band, but is a key member, and was much raved about. Steve Nelson (vibes, marimba) provided a wash of harmony with these relatively soft chordal instruments. Dave Holland (bass) played his deceptively simple, syncopated style on that stubby bass, and smiled as the proud father throughout the gig. Mostly Robin and Chris were stony-faced. I was sitting in the front row and just caught Chris ask “Twice?”. Robin replied with a nod and a smile. So these guys also play it just a bit roughly at times – not that you’d notice otherwise. Another thing to note was the fabulous mix on this gig. I hear Dave brought his own mixer. The sound was crisp at adequate volume, and every instrument was clearly defined, so the PA itself just disappeared from consciousness. Truly a lesson in how jazz should be mixed.

    An unexpected surprise by most listeners was Nils Wogram’s Root 70. The band is made up of two Germans: Nils Wogram (trombone) and Jochen Rueckert (drums), and two New Zealanders: Hayden Chisholm (alto sax, bass clarinet) and Matt Penman (bass). This was light, airy, perfectly articulated music, harking back to swing and pre-bop styles, with collective and solo improvisation and some humour. It was lovely, sweet stuff which enchanted an unexpecting audience.

    The other notable trombonist was Shannon Barnett. She seemed to pop up in several places, and played with considerable confidence and audacity. I heard her in two sets with Barney McAll’s septet. She was reading complex charts and burning through solos. She’s a notable player and apparently young to boot, so she’ll be worth watching over time. She also appeared with Barnett-Saarlaht-Browne, but I missed that set. Mostly Barney McAll’s complex, composed, latin-based was lost amongst poor sound engineering, along with Kurt Rosenwinkel. Barney McAll’s Septet comprised Barney McAll (piano, leader, composer), Jurt Rosenwinkel (guitar), Sam Lipman (tenor), Danny Fischer (drums), Shannon Barnett (trombone), Philip Rex (bass) and Javier Fredes (percussion).

    I didn’t miss the Allan Browne Quintet performing his suite modelled on, and dedicated, to the poet Arthur Rimbaud, The Drunken Boat. This was a complex and rich thematic piece made up of short snippets of varied time signatures and tonalities, with final haunting singing by Stella Browne. I found it memorable and satisfying, but a mate thought it was inconsistent. Definitely it was varied. The band was Allan Browne (drums), Eugene Ball (trumpet), Phil Noy (alto), Geoff Hughes (guitar), Nick Haywood (bass).

  • Wang 4