30 April 2011

Dirk’s Saturday outings

Dirk has a nice line in weekend auctions and I caught him at one. He just plays a short set, a few standards, then moves on to another sale. It entertains (or more likely relaxes) an audience that’s more interested in real estate investments and dual occupancies or nervously pondering what loan they’ll need to take out - a big one, no doubt. This housing market does little good for ordinary guys, but serves the players well enough. They are the real estate suits with the Mercedes and Jags on show in the driveway (why do they always parade that wealth, I wonder?), the banks with their loans, the governments with their increasing sales taxes and I’m sure there are others. But don’t get me started – it’s not something for this site. At least it’s nice to see that Dirk, Graham and Lachlan get some gigs out of it. Dirk Zeylmans (tenor), Graham Monger (guitar) and Lachlan Coventry (bass) played several short gigs around the home auction circuit. I think I can hear another in the distance as I write this.

29 April 2011


It was intense and brooding music that the Andy Butler group played at the Band Room. Andy led a bass-less quartet playing original music by Andy and also trumpeter Alex Raupach. Given there was no bass, I’d expected Andy to play organ, but this was piano, so in many ways it was a unique outing. But more on the bass later. One friend thought it was Northern European influenced and I asked Andy later, but he said his recent influences were more classical. He’d written most of the charts only in recent days and he’d been playing lots of classical piano especially Australians. He especially mentioned Carl Vine as an influence for a piece with heavy piano arpeggiation (amusingly called Arp arp arp). The piece was all floating arpeggios on piano, cymbals (no snare or toms) on drums and a unison trumpet/tenor melody that diverged for an occasional pure harmony. Another of Andy’s tunes was an off-beat piano feel with a very pretty melodica melody joined by horns and solos from trumpet and tenor. There was a flugelhorn/piano duo from Alex, another arpeggiation from Andy, MB (a Michael Brecker dedication) from Alex, and others. There were times when the solos, especially from Matt Handel on alto or tenor lifted with a new world brashness and energy and abandon, and Aidan on drums responded. But mostly this music remained restrained and low volume: essentially intellectual not physical. I appreciated it and admired it rather than out-and-out enjoyed it. Euro jazz is like that and the classical influence is why that it so. There were some lovely quizzical melodies with unexpected intervals and unfinished lines that mutated into extended passages. There were some wonderfully detailed drum and other solos, and right hand piano solo lines that flowed with dense harmonic invention, even if I felt Andy’s right hand was tempered by accompaniment duties in the left. I sat down the back for a few minutes and noticed the thrumming bass drum. This was really loud and clear. Why? Partly the acoustics, but partly because there was no acoustic bass. There was piano, but it’s more defined (and in this case quieter), not rounded like organ or resonant and billowing like double bass. But probably more importantly, there were not the heavily syncopated tonics that bass provides and that drums bounce from. The music swung often enough, but not raucously. This was serious, intelligent music to ponder. Leave the dancing to the new world.

Andy Butler (piano) led a quartet with Alex Raupach (trumpet, flugelhorn), Matt Handel (alto, tenor saxes) and Aidan Lowe (drums) at the Band Room.

28 April 2011

Delightful standards

Every now and then I attend a standards gig and really, really enjoy it. It was only a short visit, but I really enjoyed hearing Natalie Magee’s Quartet last night at their unlikely (but longstanding) venue of the Dendy Cinema bar. It’s a funny venue with people milling around for tickets and lining up for films and a few people sitting to chat and a few even listening to the band. But it lends itself to a band having a good time with little pressure and this can result in some great music. This gig was like that.

Natalie is singing with such jazz invention these days, taking melodies and singing the harmonies, singing over and behind the beat, syncopating and bending lines into complex arpeggiated structures, scatting with comfort. This is sophisticated and richly embellished singing and I loved it. Luke Sweeting is every bit her match at toying with harmony and structure and throwing in musical witticisms and long flamboyant lines and symmetric patterns that clash then resolve against underlying harmonies. The standards are great for this, of course, and the droll and knowing lyrics just confirm it. But none of this works without a steady but communicative base and Phill Jenkins’ throbby gut tone on steady or lively walks and Namchoon Kim’s easy drumming gives the forward motion. And this is a relaxed outing, so they each take their shares of solos.

I caught tunes including Little girl blue (a new one for me), Lullaby of Birdland, Almost like being in love and I got to sit in for Love, which is a really cute song. (Phill was taking pics and threatening to review me! Damn! What goes around, comes around, I guess). It was only short outing, but quite lovely. Natalie Magee (vocals) led a quartet with Luke Sweeting (piano), Phill Jenkins (bass) and Namchoon Kim (drums) at the Dendy. It’s on every Wednesday, it’s free and it’s very relaxed.

25 April 2011

Not at the Coast, no.1

This was Easter Sunday and unlike 80%of Canberrans, I was not out of town so I had a lovely sunny afternoon for music. The first was wordmadeflesh. There are obvious Christian references here, and what could be more appropriate at Easter. I was just surprised by the music I encountered. wmf was a groove-based sax trio touching on reggae and rock and funk and other pop beats with highly syncopated drums, nicely adventurous saxes (mainly alto, but also soprano and tenor) and a bass that held a mean beat, with slap or finger playing or wah or whatever. I’d heard Demetri before and was well impressed when he was sitting in with Linda Tinney, a very nice local pianist/singer. He told me that wmf dates back over 10-years, but it seems they don’t play too often. That’s sad. This is cool, original music by capable players. Demetri was sidestepping and bending harmonies with abandon while also stating steady bluesy melodies. To me, Andrew played a more pop/rock –oriented style, but he syncopated to hell, right hand against left, triplets and the rest dropped in for very clever and busy, but tasteful, grooves. Andrei held steady grooves with some nicely smooth fills, chords on the octave, slaps and slides and modernised his sounds with effects and especially a cry-baby wah. There were plenty of odd times. I counted 6/4 and a couple of 7/4s along with 4s and 8s, but this was jazz-rock single chord stuff, embellished occasionally with an extra chord of two. And, of course, it was nicely open sounding with no chordal instrument except when the bass fell into double-stops and strums. All originals, cool grooves; loved it. Headhunters of the world, unite.

wordmadeflesh are Demetri Neidorf (saxes), Andrei Lena (bass) and Andrew Mitchell (drums).

Not at the Coast, no.2

From wordmadeflesh, from grooves and funk and reggae, to … ABC FM live from the Llewellyn Hall. It’s quite a discombobulating. This was a concert of fairly recent French music by Alan Vivian on clarinet, Alan Hicks on piano and Christina Wilson, mezzo-soprano. I felt most close to home with the final piece, Sonatina for clarinet and piano by Joseph Horowitz. It’s a modern work with major harmonies that are reminiscent of the jazz age and Gershwin. It’s not at all uncomfortable and the jazz-era likeness even fits the clarinet sounds, but it wasn’t my favourite. My favourite was Malcolm Arnold’s Sonatina for clarinet and piano, Op 29, which started the show and was very alive, punctuated with interesting chords and quite wry in its references. There was a very cute piece introduced as by a minor composer and which was quite lovely, Gabriel Pierné’s Canzonetta for clarinet and piano, Op 19. There were several songs by Charles Gounod, including an alternative Claire de Lune, and Claude Debussy’s Première Rhapsodie for clarinet and piano, which was all airy, arpeggiated chords, watery melodies and mystical dreams of nymphs. All very pretty and very identifiably Debussy. This was a civilised way to wile away an hour on a long, holiday weekend, and this one shared with all of Australia.

Alan Hicks (piano) accompanied Alan Vivian (clarinet) and Christina Wilson (mezzo-soprano) at the Llewellyn Hall for a live broadcast to ABCFM. John Crawford was the compere for Sunday Live.

24 April 2011


I’ve just rediscovered this drawing I did of Don Cherry way back in 1980. It’s taken from a photo I found somewhere or other, perhaps Downbeat.

22 April 2011

Calmer than Shanghai

CJ started when I was rediscovering the jazz scene, this time here in Canberra. Some of my first posts were of the Wayne Kelly Trio. I’d first heard Wayne in the 1980s and he impressed me mightily. I drifted off to other interests, but when I returned, Wayne was there playing around town in a wonderful modern trio with capable players – Ben O’Loghlin and Mark Sutton – and was soon to record a CD. Wayne has since been to Macau and Shanghai for 3 years and recently returned. Last night was the first since his return that I’ve heard him playing his non-commercial side, and it’s as satisfying and impressive as ever.

Last night’s trio comprised Wayne with Phill Jenkins and Col Hoorweg. They played both lovely subtle or stretched out versions of Wayne’s original repertoire, including a few new tunes, like the boppy Shanghai taxi driver and a very lovely love song. The bop is the side of Wayne that I know: sometimes lyrical and hard swinging as in his dedication Mr Hank Jones, boppy for the blood-pressure raisers like Shanghai taxi driver and What’s the number, and strains of McCoy Tyner in his King of kings and others. An interesting addition to his repertoire this time around was a love song performed by Angela Lount and Steve Amosa, with male and female verses and a harmonised verse to finish. It had the presence of a musical: the final tender tune that ends a tragedy, like West Side Story’s Somewhere. Touching and quite beautiful; unexpected but much appreciated. Phill and Col did admirable service. Phill always underplays his volume, but he played some nicely challenging ostinatos and some solos that spoke the chords very nicely. Col played with energy and his characteristic varied percussive sounds. I particularly enjoyed a (metal?) pipe that he hit with a stick and damped with his palm. He expanded his palette further for a percussion solo that I found interstingly varied. There were a few sit-ins for the night: singers Angela Lount and Steve Amosa, who I mentioned above, but also Ben O’Loghlin, bassist from the earlier WK Trio. He’s now in Melbourne, and surprisingly still getting out despite very recent parenthood. Ben sat in for two standards, and the old magic was still there: strong sound, driving swings.

It was a small outing but a chummy local get-together, like a house party. Great to see Wayne back in town and I’m still loving his music. Thanks to Wayne. Wayne Kelly (piano) led a trio with Phill Jenkins (bass) and Col Hoorweg (drums). Ben O’Loghlin (bass) sat in for a few tunes, and Angela Lount (vocals) and Steve Amosa (vocals) sang one touching love song.

  • Cyberhalides Jazz Photos by Brian Stewart
  • The Balkans come to Dickson

    I was at Dickson to attend a gig at the Loft and it was there I caught Alister Gray-Price busking with accordion in Balkan style. I enjoy this style: lively but also anguished. It’s an attractive combination. Perhaps not surprisingly, this mix seems to be very popular amongst singers. In the jazz scene you need just mention Mara! which is led by Llew and Mara Kiek and features such luminaries as Sandy Evans, Andrew Robson and Steve Elphick. The Balkans are a troubled region, on the border of East and West and of Christianity and Islam. Maybe that’s why the music is as seductive as it is. And it is.

    20 April 2011

    Carl's back

    Carl Morgan and his band returned to Canberra and the Loft last night for a reiteration of their gig of last November. I’ve just reread that writeup and it’s mostly relevant to this gig with its very complex, rhythmically varied pieces. Like the sweeping melodies of five note runs that mutated in minimalist style as they crossed triplets in 15/8 bars. All that with written bass lines that were richly syncopated, sometimes sounded in unison by a piano left hand that was otherwise playing charted voicings. This is not easy music to write or to perform and it’s no surprise that the repertoire was much the same as the last visit. There’s a lot of detail here and presumably development over time. I certainly overheard Mike saying he needed to do more work on one, and it was already pretty well scripted.

    But the feel of the band was hotter this time. Partly because they were on tour. Partly because they are readying for a recording over Easter. But I think mostly because they were playing with master drummer Ben Vanderwal. Ben is a fabulously strong player in many styles. In this case, he was nuclear-powered (what a coincidence: Carl’s Jazz school nickname was Nuke), reading charts but also energising them with hard and fast playing that was nonetheless subtle. I’d heard some of those drum effects on record, but this was an eye-opener. I particularly noticed rolling fills across the set that were so smooth and must have taken much practice to perfect. This was easy technique with purpose and endless power.

    The others are no slouches, of course. I heard more of pianist Steve Barry this time. He did plenty of rhythmic accompaniment but that tended to get lost a little amongst drums and amplifiers. But his solos were clearer: lovely exploratory and angular outings in a bop style of right hand solo and left hand chords with a modern sensibility of disjunction and freedom across barlines. Carl was the same. I thought his guitar could have screamed more in the first set (old rock habits die hard), but the second set was louder and the tone was fuller and more sustained. I caught a few glitches but I love the way he plays with melodies that say hectic big-city. Mike was more boppy to my ears, running chords in more scalar style, but again easy and fluent. Alex was fabulous, bent over his bass, syncopating like hell and sitting nice octave fills into a line to hold the band together. He was chatting with audience after the gig and said how he gets simpler when things go out and how he sees his main tasks as to play the tonic and elucidate rhythms with drums and piano.

    This was a great night of sophisticated jazz well on the road to virtuosity. A stunner. Carl Morgan (guitar) played challenging original compositions with Mike Rivett (tenor sax), Steve Barry (piano), Alex Boneham (bass) and Ben Vanderwal (drums). Keep an eye on Carl’s site for the CD.

    19 April 2011

    Busker’s mecca

    Woden Town Square must be the busker’s mecca. Today I saw a double bass busker, Matt Smith. He must be my first double bass busker and it’s great to see and hear those soft tones. It’s a small world. Matt was playing Chris Pound’s bass while he’s overseas. We were both going to hear Carl Morgan that night at the Loft. And to top it off, I mentioned Matt when I returned to work and a workmate, Clare, said she’d gone to school with him. Who needs six degrees of separation?

    A Catholic but not too much

    “A Catholic but not too much” is a line from Astor Piazzolla in 1959, quoted by Geoff Page. It continues “We ourselves are God and Devil”. I was most interested to hear the Geoff’s words as he recited to music of Piazzolla played by Marcela Fiorillo. The words were poetry by Geoff with Piazzolla as theme and they were considered and descriptive. They were a steady point of reference for this emotional music. For this music is emotional, like the tango dancing that it accompanies, and I feel we just touch the edges of its passion. I may believe in the passion and the lives that are spoken by it, but it’s not of my experience. Writing this, I think of films around the time of WW2 that have a similar power: dignified paeans ripe with anguish of damaged and shortened lives. This is nothing like Canberra circa 2011 (except maybe in the PR hives of each of the major parties when weekly polling is released). Geoff’s words help: the mentions of shark fishing, of New York, of music for the ear as much as for the feet, of the hidden subversion at the time of the Generals, of the 11 minutes of the Grand Tango as the walk through one’s life. That’s not my experience but it’s recognisable, as Piazzolla is recognised and the tango is recognised.

    Marcela Fiorillo was playing the music of Piazzolla, variously transcribed or arranged by her. It’s music full of busy, contorted overlays that sit over structures that are often quite simple. I noticed a very common recourse to a cycle that I guessed was the full range of fifths: IV-VII-III-VI-II-V-I. Maybe it’s a movement that fits the bandoneon. This is hard-hitting, unrelenting music that befits and mirrors the passions of the dance. The pieces were mostly fairly short, but the Grand Tango that ended the first set and especially the Tangata that ended the show were richer, longer, more developed pieces. This is the art-cum-folk or serious-cum-popular crossover that Gershwin represented for jazz: a music respected in concert hall and in dance hall.

    Geoff and Marcela bring a mature and literate audience for a show like this and it fits Canberra’s dark Viennese bar, Tilley’s. The ruddy paint and contrasting sharp lights and mirrors are par for the course and did justice to the tango. The piano less so: it’s electric despite the timber casing and its tone disappointed. But the night was magical as a mix of words and thoughts and busy notes that spoke truly to Marcela’s background and Geoff’s interests. This was a homage to Piazzolla and a wise and respectful performance.

    Marcela Fiorillo (piano, transcriptions, arrangements) accompanied Geoff Page (poetry, recitation) in the Grand Tango: a homage to Astor Piazzolla.

    18 April 2011


    Dominique Fillon didn’t actually play Joyspring but he may as well have, because this was a night of great joy in playing. Dominique doesn’t play at the extremes. The style is more latin-influenced mainstream with delicious tonal playing. It’s very attractive jazz and capable of great popularity. We saw it on the night. The two sets went down a treat with a mixed audience. There were smiles all around during and after the show. There was a friendly patter with the audience, even one that started by offering a string of languages. Hands up, who speaks French (plenty), English (most), Spanish (several), Portuguese (a few), Russian (surprising there were several, but this is Canberra). And so it went. Attractive, lively, beautifully played music and open, friendly interaction. Dominique is self-taught, in his bedroom, from an early age, listening to the greats. The result is earthy and personal and perhaps less intellectual. The lines just glowed with melody, not at all hard to decipher or appreciate. This was a performance in which entertainment was important and it was none the worse for it. Jazz was like this through the mid-20th Century when it was a popular art form. It may be still that way in Latin American countries. And it’s no less for it, this lovely fusion of entertainment and art.

    Dominique is on an Asian tour with his Australian Trio: musical mate Nic Cecire and Brett Hirst. They are a sympathetic band. Nic is very understated, listening closely and laying right back; feeling grooves and leaving solos to when he’s called. They were exciting when they came, too, loud and thrashing and obviously well received by an excited audience. (What did your Mum tell you? It’s the quiet ones you have to watch!). Brett got lots more solos and they fitted like gloves to the tunes, sometimes melodic, other times rhythmic, mostly with a twangy, metallic Jazz Bass tone. Dominique played with little atonality but one descent into expressionist tonal playing had me thinking he was classically trained. Presumably it was just more listening. He occasionally sang, too, or more correctly, followed melodies with his voice. They played mostly original tunes from his recent CD. Its title, Americas, may explain the latin impression. A big swinging rhumba was well received, but there was also a dedication to Michel Petrucciani and a lovely ballad for his wife, Song for Ake. There was just one non-original that I remember, a funk-rock take on Wayne Shorter’s Footprints. And a piano tone to die for. The band had borrowed gear locally, but Dom carried his piano tone in a traveller’s laptop. What a tone it was: close your eyes and this was a real piano (very different from my experience the following night). But the memory I will most hold from the show is the ironic but very affectionate groans when he explained how he’d written his romantic Song for Ake. This was an audience in touch with a performer and some really nice blokes. Not many shows speak with such joy and humanity.

    Dominique Fillon (piano, vocal accompaniment) led a trio with Brett Hirst (electric bass) and Nic Cecire (drums) at the Alliance Française. His Australian / Asian tour visits Korea, Brunei, Singapore, Sydney, Perth, Melbourne and perhaps more and is sponsored by the French government and Alliance Française.

    16 April 2011

    Happy Birthday Harry

    The music for Harry’s birthday was jumpy and oblique. Tim Willis was the guitarist and composer for The End and Harry was Tim’s nephew. I’m not sure how this music fitted a sixth birthday (this is not the Wiggles) and also not sure how you contemplate modern jazz that produces these sounds. This is such a different music from Miles or, it seems to me, even one of their cited influences, The Bad Plus. I thought perhaps there was surf music in it or rockabilly and even metal. Tim just called it jazz and I was admonished by a mate for seeking categories. Whatever, I find all this refreshing, and this no less than other new forms. There were solos, especially against long crescendos. There were some very complex unison ostinatos, behind drum solos but also elsewhere. There were passages of immense quietness which surprised me given a quintet lineup with two horns. The music wasn’t really loud, even if there were some spots that were. There were drums that were immensely controlled or alternatively explosive. There were guitar and sax solos that were malleable or even purposely indecisive in pitch and richly changing in perverse harmonies. There were melodies that went with and against harmonies, and ones that responded to rhythm section calls. There was guitar that was woody and echoing and dirty as but also simply melodic, even in keys that clashed dissonantly with underlying chords. There was repetition in the rhythm section, with e-bass clarity on Fender Jazz, yet there was also zestful simultaneous soloing on two horns with guitar. There were lots of odd time signatures and changes despite an unnerving apparent simplicity. There was all this, over entertaining melodies that spoke of simplicity and humour. But this is not simple. Not really like The Wiggles.

    Great show. There’s a huge variety of jazz happening these days with all historical forms existing together in a formless postmodern quantum realm with influences from wherever. This music that embraces the quirkiest to the most serious and the endless combinations they make. What is jazz? Who knows, but ya gotta love it.

    The End comprises Tim Willis (leader, guitarist, composer), John Felstead (tenor), Jack Beeche (alto), Gareth Hill (electric bass), and Nick Martyn (drums).