31 December 2012

Blonde on blonde

It’s is a romantic comedy, I guess, and it’s definitely musical theatre, but I got to Legally Blonde in Sydney and enjoyed it lots. Not for the plot – boy leaves girl for Harvard Law School; girl follows and finds love and success in her own quirky Californian way. Perhaps it was the themes - there were plenty that got touched on: be positive and be true to yourself and be honest and trustworthy, all enmeshed in a goodhearted mix of pink feminism and collegial sisterhood.
There were strange hints at higher concerns, like the Greek chorus and Thomas Hobbes and the Polonius quote (even if it’s frequently ridiculed in the original): “to thine own self be true, / And it must follow, as the night the day, / Thou canst not then be false to any man” (Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 1, scene 3, 78–81). There’s pride in a chip on the shoulder and a resulting commitment to hard work. There are frequent Americanisms, like the cheerleaders and the sorority chumminess of Delta Nu, which is also the source of the Greek chorus. There’s jovial lust and earthy characters - the hairdresser and delivery man - to match the patricians and professionals. There’s some groan-worthy humour: is the too-good looking guy Gay or European; what’s the import of the TTP (=Totally Terrible Perm). As you can imagine, it’s silly, but I found this also energetic and exuberant, busily arranged and well played and strongly sung, exhaustingly danced and joyously presented. The sets were good and the lights were decent and the proscenium arch was strangely but effectively highlighted. The music was punctuated and not too repetitive (my thinking is that some degree of repetitiveness is needed in this form) and sometimes touched on rap and funk and soul. And it was a genuinely nice story, as romcoms are. If that’s all it is, then so be it. I enjoyed it and this was a decent night out. After all, I’m on holidays with my Mum.

Legally Blonde: the Musical was performed at the Lyric Theatre at the Star Casino in Sydney and featured Lucy Durack (as the central character Elle Woods), Rob Mills, David Harris, Helen Dallimore, Erika Heynatz and Cameron Daddo and two cute dogs who stole the show whenever they came on. For interest, the band was Kellie Dickerson (Musical director, keys), David Piper and Dave Skelton (keys), Tim Oran and Mark Taylor (reeds 2), Simon Sweeney and Tim Crow (trumpets), Colin Philpott (trombone, heather Burnley (violin), Chris Wright (guitar, etc), David Stratton (basses), Jamie Castrisos (drums) and Richard Gleeson (percussion).

Production pics by Jeff Busby; used with permission

  • More pics of Legally Blonde, while they remain available
  • 28 December 2012

    Almost family

    We’re in Sydney for a few days and near Hyde Park and the Australian Museum and its Alexander the Great blockbuster exhibition. Nothing planned, but it was fortuitous. We love our antiquities and go some distance to see them, and these were from the Hermitage in St Petersburg. We’d never been there, so this is a double dip. But then, a touring exhibition is never like being there. We liked the outing and learned something of this famed, young general taught by no less than Aristotle, and his brilliant (although standard) tactics, and the breadth of his journeys and conquests. We enjoyed a range of artistic and archaeological exhibits that covered the last 3 millennia and more (the earliest item I noticed was a papyrus dated 3,000BCE). What interested me most was the range of exhibits: jewellery and weaponry and sculptures from Alexander’s time and then a range of exhibits in memory of this most famed of historical personages, like paintings from the renaissance, incunabula and manuscripts, some delicious works from the courts of Catherine the Great and Louis XIV. I drooled over the gold. I am always amazed by how modern jewellery is so frequently influenced by ancient jewellery and I love the details of leaves or flowers or ships or whatever is portrayed. I particularly love the vibrant colour of gold that remains so undiminished over the centuries. But I will remember the exhibition for its cameos. I like cameos although they are hardly a very fashionable thing. I associate them with the ‘60s and Italian realism, but maybe that’s just a family thing. I’ve seen them in museums in Italy and on sale at Pompei. My favourite work on display was a massive cameo of exquisite detail with a pedigree that included Queen Christina of Sweden, the Vatican, Napoleon’s Josephine and Alexander I of Russia: the Gonzaga portrait of Ptolemy II Philadelphus and Arsinoe II. And, as for family connection, we saw a range of cameos copied at the request of Catherine the Great from originals by James Tassie, who happens to be the brother of one of Megan’s ancestors. We joked that we should claim free entry given the family connection and that virtually everyone could claim free entrance to a blockbuster for Genghis Khan. Taking in a blockbuster is not like a visit to a great collection but it’s still an education and a pleasure. I’ll claim this one as a family event although Alexander himself is not quite on the family tree. (Pics not allowed, so see the link below).

  • Pictures from an exhibition
  • 26 December 2012

    Alt. autopsy

    It’s an annual event and it’s another way to view this bleak year in Australian politics. At least this time with a laugh. It’s the exhibition, Behind the lines: the year’s best political cartoons. I first attended this annual event several years back at the National Museum. It’s now (aptly) downstairs at MOAD (Museum of Australia Democracy, or better, Old Parliament House).
    To me, MOAD seems an aspirational, Howard-era name. From the time when we honoured the Magna Carta with its own park then casually ignored habeas corpus. (I need a better segue, but it reminds me that I heard serious talk of Aussie exceptionalism on the radio the other day. It’s such an insular and self-congratulatory term. I hope it makes it as a topic for a cartoon next year). There’s always a good deal of mirth at this exhibition, although the tenor of Australia federal politics has been disheartening this year, so it was harder to raise a chuckle for some of the topics. But there were some goodies. I’m trying to decide a favourite between the car sticker showing Gillard’s depressing Parliamentary family (My disfunctional family / Mark Knight, Herald Sun, 21 Feb 2012) or the CEOs and Gillard as the kings with no clothes (Cheap Asian imports / Peter Nicholson, The Australian, 28 Mar 2012) or the journos hanging out for a leadership spill (What the media wants / Fiona Katauskas, Eureka Street, 22 Feb 2012) or a few on the carbon tax (The gold tax / Jon Kudelka, The Australian, 31 Jul 2012 and Sausages / Michael Leunig, The Age, 8 Nov 2011) or a primer on becoming a billionaire (How to become a billionaire / Jon Kudelka, The Australian, 6 Sep 2012) or plain packaging (SuperBaccysFragiLegalTacticalSclerosis / David Pope, Canberra Times, 16 Aug 2012) or political fairy-tale-telling (The Magnate of La Mancha / David Pope, Canberra Times, 12 Mar 2012) or a pair by perhaps my favourite cartoonist (excluding my other favourites) First Dog on the Moon, from Crickey (Eat the children of the rich / First Dog on the Moon, Crikey, 21 Feb 2012 and My last day on Earth / First Dog on the Moon, Crikey, 29 Jun 2012). Oh, and I forgot, there are others… If you can’t get to OPH, it’s all online. An annual Christmas release valve for Australian political junkies. The annual Behind the Lines exhibition of Australian political cartoons was held at the Museum of Australian Democracy in the Old Parliament House.

  • Behind the lines online
  • 23 December 2012

    Echoes of Christmas

    It was on a notice board at work that I saw the announcement for this choral concert. The choir was Echo Voices. I’d never heard of them, but it was local and we were free so we dropped in. It turned out to be a lovely and quite unexpected interlude.
    Leonard Weiss led the choir. He’s a current ANU student of composition with long experience in choirs. Echo voices are a community choir. They’d first met in July and this was their first public outing. I was pleasantly surprised by the first songs, with several notable voices, both male and female, and some decent harmonies and decisive dynamics. Some more complex counterpoint was less settled, but nothing that time and experience won’t iron out. The repertoire was also a pleasant surprise. From traditional Scottish bordering on shanties, through some well knowns, like Silent night and Lock Lomond, and Icelandic and English and olde French. I recognised Coventry carol, lovely with its tragic story and moving parts. Also interesting, and well sung, was a tune volunteered to the choir by local notable Judith Clingan. To my ears it combined simple harmony with a satisfying melody with one chromatic move. We were invited to sing along with the final song, We wish you a Merry Christmas, and I saw but didn’t hear mouths moving. But the good will and joy at the end of the first concert was evident and families and friends settled in for chockies and cherries and Christmas cakes. Interestingly, Leonard mentioned that the ANU School of Music had supported the choir in purchasing some charts. I wonder if this is indicative of the new role of the Music School as a catalyst in the community. We’ll have to wait and watch, but it would win back some of the ill-will that was so evident following last year’s blitzkrieg. Also thanks to Canberra Grammar who provided the rehearsal and performance space. They are doing some very good things in music outreach these days.

    The Echo Voices choir was Leonard Weiss (director, conductor, pianist) with Ada Goldsmith, Belinda Weiss, Karen Dahl (sopranos), Amanda Mahhony, Carmen Longbottom, Carolyn Keegan, Clare Smith (altos), Crystal Muller, John Curmi, Peter Himmelreich (tenors), Lachlan Bayliss, Rob Bearlin (bass). Crystal Muller relieved as conductor for two songs.

    21 December 2012

    Autopsy before onslaught

    It’s been a draining and disappointing year in politics. I attended the last Politics in the Pub session, with Richard Denniss, and it was not happy or optimistic but at least it was realistic. Political observers and operators can be like this. There’s openness and truth telling in these groups, at least in private, that you don’t get in spin-managed public statements. I find it intellectually satisfying although often disheartening. This was somewhat disheartening, but at least a commitment to politics remains.

    Richard started by defending politics, which may surprise some, and identifying our problem as an absence of competent politics. Competent politics is required for good policy and public support. With bad politics, the public is just interested enough to tune in and be disappointed. Richard discussed this in the context of several broken policies. Form 2007 to now, how did we come from endorsement for action on climate change, by the public and both sides of politics, to rising denialism, a loss of support for action, a limited pricing scheme and point scoring on the issue. The message here is do it quickly, make it good enough then improve it, don’t waste time finding the perfect fix. There are less salubrious messages, too, like manage and use groups to your advantage, even divide and conquer. The mining tax was another example. It was initially well supported by the public and other businesses which would benefit from reduced corporate tax. The Government argued business needs certainty but then changed everything, so undermining its certainty message. And it collapsed under a (relatively cheap) marketing campaign, so showing one path to influencing government decisions. Think pokies. Another example was Rudd at the 2007 election and thereafter. He claimed to be more economically conservative than Howard, so Labor then couldn’t claim success from the classic Keynesian policies that were a world-breaking success with the GFC. He sees this as a bureaucratic approach to government, measuring success by legislation passed, rather than by influencing and convincing the public on big issues. Richard turned to Howard and his daily runs and cricket-tragic image and the subliminal message that politics is boring and trust your reps, but who radically moved Australia towards his image under the guise of conservative wariness of change. This is the point of delegated authority of Parliament. Rudd’s hyperactive spin just lined up work (we’ll revolutionise health; we just need to agree with state ministers first). And interestingly, Gillard is still busily legislating to implement Rudd’s agenda, scoring herself with legislation passed while politics burns and the public turns away. Why did the government seem reluctant for the Royal Commission on Child Abuse, and why are there so few subsequent announcements? It had 95% support but Labor seemed dragged to it and is squandering ownership. The message is that the main players (on both sides) are smart and sincere people, but they are just not good at their jobs. He didn’t question the political roles: governments have the advantage of setting the agenda; oppositions have the role of attacking government and promising the world. But both sides are just talking to our worst nature, playing the people and losing the issues. He likened the battle to two retired boxers: back in the ring, an ugly battle with lots of blood and no winner.

    There were some questions. One on the sham that is the word “sustainable” as in sustainable growth. It pleases both sides of the argument but is uncertain so doesn’t support good policy. He discussed the responsibility and self-interest of the media as businesses. They used to take a balanced role as umpire to so as not to offend any groups and to maintain big readership. The new approach is to appeal to, so speak to and for, smaller groups in order to sell niche markets to advertisers. He noted that online news has shown unpalatable truths, that sex and trivia get the hits, so the job of pollies is to make people interested in things they might not otherwise follow. Also that we can’t always blame the media, given there are about 10 PR persons for every journo in Parliament House. He argued to be strategic in picking fights with the example that only 950 people work in forestry in Tassie, but highlighting the argument makes the group look more significant. In discussing small parties, he interested me by arguing that MPs, not party members, should choose their leaders because they are not bosses but leaders, so must be respected by their fellows. Not surprisingly, he commented on that dastardly phrase, “working families”, as cheap politics that creates “us and them” groupings and plays to dog whistles while sounding more positive than obvious old-school attack lines like “dole bludger”. So “working families” may be more polite but it’s pernicious. Talk about proving a point. Another proof appeared just the day after this event when Treasurer Swan discarded his promised surplus. I remember the good PR advice to never promise more than you can deliver. Delivering more than you promise is always well received, but delivering less isn’t, and the result is on show.

    The event finished with end of year cheer: informed and opinionated political chatter and some goodies and beers. It was a pleasant respite before what we all expect will be an unedifying election year. Richard Denniss spoke at the Australia Institute’s Politics in the Pub end of year roundup session.

    18 December 2012

    Idling before Christmas

    It’s a quiet time for jazz, but the sounds of Christmas are out with the warm weather, shoppers and buskers. Mick Elderfield is back in town for a few days and I caught him at his spot collecting the public servants as they walk up to the Woden mall. His sparse, exploratory notes with big battered Selmer tone are a signature. He’s mostly ignored by the passing crowd, but I’m sure the sound of commitment to a profound craft subtly insinuates itself into harried citizens. It’s not all that’s new on this walk. Canberra’s newest work of public art (or work of public outrage for many complainants) is now in place after several weeks of installation: Culture fragment by David Jensz. I like it, certainly more than Woden’s classically simple teardrop. This is heavy copper piping, woven into a fabric square with tattered edges and tentacles trailing to the ground. I’m amused how it’s studiously ignored by the passers-by, except by one interested guy who I saw questioning the artist and assemblers one morning. I’m also amused by the backdrop of blank walls and graffiti tags. I just hope it’s not nicked for the value of its content, but it should be safe given the copper elbows are filled with cement grout.
    This day was warm and sunny and I finished my idyll with a few girls playing violin and recorder and singing carols. Christmas is a relaxed time, especially in lucky, sunny Australia. I can feel the year unwinding now. Merry Christmas from Eric.

    13 December 2012

    A thesis in dots?

    I was interested to hear that Steve Barry is reading for his doctorate in music. His thesis concerns classical music and improvisation. It’s not a common association although I’ve written of it several times here recently. I was chatting to Alex in the break and he was talking of classical bassists and hand shapes and fingerboard technique. Jazz, and perhaps all creative music, is a magpie art (“Good artists borrow, great artists steal", supposedly Picasso) so I shouldn’t be surprised. So what of Steve’s take?

    Someone mentioned classical influences but I felt this was clearly out of a jazz tradition. I thought of Brad Mehldau with his truncated lines and current sensibility but I heard just a spot of Chick Corea’s harmonic sense and unison melodies and perhaps some longer Keith Jarrett lines. Steve’s compositions were strong on chords, there were latin and rock rhythms, there were unexpected fillips of time or missing beats. I also felt his playing defined left and right hand roles of chords and melody, although there was an easy modal freedom in that melody and the lines easily played around the underlying bar structures. Classic contemporary jazz, not bop styled and seldom swung. I was interested in how a changing chordal structure is relegated to feel almost unchanging, but I expect this is the end result of 50+ years of modal jazz. And I was intrigued by the very busy but unharried playing of the whole band. There were lots of ideas, lots of commitment and un-affected variation here, but it felt settled with like long crescendos and occasional change. And long tunes, up to 30 minutes.

    I’ve heard all these guys in Canberra in recent days and it’s been a pleasure. Steve with Jess Pollard; Alex with Mark Lockett; Tim with Liam Budge. How different can these outings be? Alex was again clear in thought, adventurous in intent and accurate in technique. I marvel at his big well-intoned interval jumps. I found his sound a bit podgier on this night, perhaps a bigger low-mid, but what expansive inventiveness and entrenched groove in these solos! Quite stunning. Tim excited me, again with an ease of presence, but with perfectly accurate and sharply rendered fills and embellishments and rudiments. Steve led with his own compositions and the lyrical freedom I mentioned above. I liked that they played a single, long set, ~90 minutes: more involving, more relaxed for after-gig chatter, and shorter for a workday evening. I reckon that’s something jazz could learn from rock showbiz: play long and hard, don’t rest too soon. There’s a lot of understated change here: piano to bass solo to drums against ostinato and the rest, but malleable and undemonstrative although clearly planned. The tunes were originals, and Wayne Shorter’s Taru. One was entitled Parks and dedicated to pianist Aaron Parks. Changes was a love song from a distance. Vintage was a right hand melody with syncopated left hand chords and contrapuntal bass. Listening to the CD as I write, it seems strong and forceful. On the night, I heard it as more internal, busy and outspoken but complex, conversational and inner directed. Whatever, it was complex and satisfying and virtuosic. How I like it. Great stuff. Steve Barry (piano) led a trio with Alex Boneham (bass) and Tim Firth (drums) at the Loft’s last gig for the year.

    10 December 2012

    Christmas as in schooner

    Christmas is a time for choral concerts (any other time, too). This year’s was SCUNA with a program called Celestial harmonies : music for contemplation and celebration.

    There were some strange but intriguing associations in this concert. Three versions of O magnum Mysterium, from de Victoria (~1600), de Cristo (~1600) and Lauriden (1974). There were several Schubert songs, one by a small sub-choir of women (SSAA), another by soprano accompanied by clarinet and piano. Then Rachmaninoff. The Vespers (or better, All night vigil Op.39, no.1-7) was performed by the full choir with organ and soprano voice. The Vespers were choral and predictable, but the two piano pieces, splitting each set into two parts, was an unexpected bit of programming. They were Prelude in D flat major and Etude-Tableau in C minor. Just the thing to challenge the jaded Christmas carol ear: not particularly celestial but riveting and an awakener. Then a few final tunes to end a generous concert, an encore and a rendition of Laudate nomen Domini (Christopher Tye, ~1550), apparently the theme song of SCUNA. I found the choir gelled better with some simpler harmonies. These were relatively complex charts: not just SATB, but SSAATTBBP, where my P is Basso Profundo (apparently down to D). I fancied the extremes of sopranos and basso profundo when they clearly rang out. I enjoyed the interplay of voices passing through harmonies. I really enjoyed the firm, confident solo soprano of Sarahlouise Owens in combination with choir for the Vespers and clarinet and piano for a Schubert. Despite its odd presence and slightly wonky upright, I relished Anthony Smith playing Rachmaninoff. This was a turn-of-the-century Russian romantic blast of huge handfulls of notes. It’s a surprise to see Anthony outside his continuo, subsidiary role for a change. The whole was led by Andrew Kroll with casual seriousness.

    Finally, I enjoyed visiting St Andrew’s, which I pass by regularly. I expect this is our grandest church, even in its unfinished state. Canberra has a batch of post-religious brick constructions that lack the solemnity and magnificence that’s due to churches. This one is still awaiting its dome, but it’s sandstone in a stubby Greek cross design, high and spacious, nicely detailed with quotations inscribed in Art Deco script and furnishings with swirly gothic decoration, and with a heaven-seeking tower and gargoyles. Too bad about the British desire to hang flags in churches (I only noticed one), but for 99-year old Canberra, this is magnificence. And as for that name: SCUNA as in schooner; a perfectly lame university pun. Ya gotta love it. SCUNA (ANU Choral Society) was conducted by Andrew Kroll in large mixed and small female formations, accompanied by Anthony Smith (continuo, piano) and featured Sarahlouise Owens (soprano) and Hannah Freedman-Smith (clarinet) at the Church of St Andrew, Forrest.

    09 December 2012

    Relatively the underworld

    I just managed part of the second set by the Mark Lockett Trio at the Loft. I’d been at Christian Howes and that was a lengthy concert. The contrast was educative. Both had great skills but these were wildly different styles, different audiences, different presentations. Mark is the underground. He’s been studying in NYC with Ari Hoenig; Ornette’s a favourite. His drumming was sparse; the band’s sound was open, being a sax trio; his accompanists were amongst Australia’s best: Julien Wilson and Alex Boneham. This is contemporary music, open and searching, unrushed as notes are sought, beauteous in tone and intimate in context. The Loft and the limited audience just added to the intimacy. I noticed some technical mannerisms in Mark (probably a function of contemporary drumming – things are different now, not all swing and filling the spaces) and his playing was intimate and always purposed. I thought of Paul Motion, although Mark’s not so free. Also the perfect, nuggetty tone of Alex’s bass and long but well-intoned intervals and individually formed notes and his contorted, bodily playing. And sinuous, personal tenor from Julien. I haven’t heard him nearly enough: his reputation is well deserved. This was variously sustained steams of eighth notes of varied dissonance or simple but apt phrasings of sure lyricism. I came in on a first tune that had me elated with these streams of tenor notes then a bass solo of searching melody and perfect tonality. Then a recognition of simple beauty, a ballad My little brown book, which was devoid of solos. Then Bernie McGann’s Brownsville. Then an syncopated original, Sneaking out after midnight. That’s all I heard; damn the clashes. This is beauty. Again, recorded by ArtSound for a Friday Night Live broadcast in coming weeks. I’ll be keeping my ears open for what I missed. Mark Lockett (drums) is touring with Julien Wilson (tenor) and Alex Boneham (bass).

    07 December 2012

    Paganini’s chook

    Christian Howes was one I’d been looking forward to. He’s a jazz violinist. It’s an unusual instrument in jazz, so that’s something to explore. And he had a great local band, and it was at Canberra Grammar, so intimate. The gig was moved to a theatre to allow for a larger audience, but there were still beanbags and we could mingle.

    Christian came from NYC with accolades. We were not disappointed, of course. He mentioned sitting in weekly with Les Paul, and this comes as no surprise. Pauline had heard him performing at 55 Bar in Greenwich, and that was only 100 metres from where we stayed in NYC, so I felt he was a local. It was Pauline’s invitation that got him to Canberra after his Asian tour. For all the great skills and classical/jazz cross, Christian is a jovial and friendly bloke, and terrifically well received. This was skills plus and unconventionally disparate in styles. It’s the only concert where I’ve heard Paganini (his virtuosic 24th caprice, with flabbergasting melodies in harmonics and heterogeneous bowing techniques) and Wichita linesman (no, not joking) and Jaco’s The chicken played solo on violin (Jaco’s looped bassline overlaid with a guitar chords and wah, then violin fills, all supporting the melody and solo played live; I could only chuckle at this) and a few standards and some originals. He showed us an electric violin (I held it later and it’s a diminutive and surprisingly light instrument) but he played a standard instrument with pickup through a multieffects into a little amp (violinists can travel light) and a borrowed loop pedal for The Chicken (his had blown up in China). So this was entertaining and pleasant and some great, hot play. Violin sounds different, of course: strong, sustained, vibratoed, stratospheric harmonics and big intervals in a very small space. Christian had it all, plus nice jazz feel for time and dissonance and solo structure.

    This was a wondrous display of modern mainstream playing with a very decent band in support, to which Christian offered several respectful grins. Michael was his normal explosive self, bashing into the tunes, going hard and then taking it higher still. I marvel at his excitability. None of this was particularly exploratory (this is mainstream) but it’s gloriously skilled and enthralling. Michael’s a blowout every time. Bass is an essential instrument, meaning of the essence of the music. It’s harmonic though not chordal, and it’s relatively clumsy, but Eric was fluent and busy and laid malleable but always driving and embroidered accompaniments and lyrical solos. And Mark, despite some obvious discomfort from his flu, was busy and colourful on brushes and laid into some inexorable but easily syncopated rock and jazz rhythms and solos that famed rockstars could probably not even hear in their dreams. (What is it with this inversion of skill and popularity in our era? Too many people listen with their eyes.) The standards included Nardis and Monk’s Rhythm-a-ning and Tenderly and they played Dave Holland’s The Oracle. There were a few originals with demanding reading, especially one dedicated to an influence of Christian’s, Bobby Floyd, with killer syncopations that must have been a learner. And then a funky tune to end with heavy effects and synth-sounds of portamento and drive.

    This was hot playing, friendly and entertaining, for an audience that was all smiles and flabbergast. It’s mainstream and not the arty extremes, but so hot and so well done (after only meeting at 3pm that day, but then that’s jazz). I could only imagine how the jazz violinists in the audience (Pauline and Anna and El and maybe others) would have found it. Expect to hear the concert on ArtSound’s Friday Night Live in coming weeks. Christian Howes (violin) played with Michael Azzopardi (piano), Eric Ajaye (acoustic, electric basses) and Mark Sutton (drums) at Canberra Grammar School.

    03 December 2012


    Liam Budge launched his CD last night. We were at the Abbey, with its earthy timber and imposing organ and arrayed PA and an impressive audience for a Sunday night. But still this was intimate.
    Liam’s voice is plaintive and neatly controlled and often improvisational and here it was wonderfully close and present. The balance suited; voice and emotions and words matter here. The tense rhythm section under Liam was melodically restrained, but vehement like a compressed spring. This was powerful and emotive stuff, and it’s just the thing for a jazz vocalist. There’s been a reflowering of jazz vocalists in recent years, including several who are huge commercial successes. Most are female, but there are males too. The difficulty must be to retain authenticity in the commercial scene. Liam is certainly doing that. This is entertaining and intimate and thus sellable, but it’s more. There’s meaning is his words and originality in his arrangements and improvisations. He sang scat and it worked and not just as a period piece. This was effective, dissolving into echo and other effects – particularly impressive at a live concert. This was tradition and jazz chops but it was moulded with a Gen-Y ear. The tunes were a mix of originals and covers. The feels just sat ready to explode. I’m listening to his Bye bye blackbird on CD now. It’s a great song but not usually one for modern ears, but I’d heard it before at the Loft and it’s a killer. It sits, aroused but with a restrained surface, Chris’ bass holding things, Tim’s drums full of energy and sharps taps and rolls, Luke’s piano bouncy in chords and lithe in solos. This was the feel of the band. Not loud; controlled and careful but tense under the skin. This is black and white, film noir, suspense and longing. There will never be another you was similarly rearranged by Liam and Luke. Here’s it’s all medium-up swing and smooth trumpet but head and tailed with an accented, interrupted melody that retells the original then drops into a canny, hip vamp. These are common standards but manicured for an audience of lounge or tea room or grand stage. Liam’s intro to Stop this Trane was amusing. It’s his response to a John Mackey class in Giant steps and it’s well clear of Coltrane changes. Farewell was a slow ballad, bass solo, unison voice and flugelhorn; “we will begin, for you, to turn to”. San Diego serenade was a Tom Waits cover and an unexpected touch of light Californian rock with a pleasing jazz structure. Bettina was for his girlfriend, a ballad of touch and candlelight, intimate and quiet, accompanied by just bass and flugelhorn. They didn’t play This could be the start of something big, although it’s a jazz standard, but this concert may have been. Luke’s got amiability and feel and jazz chops and for singer’s it’s a world of opportunity. I’ll be watching and I’ve got a signed copy of his first CD. Break a leg, Liam. Liam Budge (vocals) led a band with Luke Sweeting (Rhodes, piano, organ), Ken Allars (trumpet), Chris Pound (bass) and Tim Firth (drums). Tom Sly (flugelhorn, trumpet) sat in for two songs.

    We only caught two final songs from the opening act, Jess Pollard and Steve Barry. This is a Sydney pair, singer and keys, with some witty lyrics, curt phrasing and a delicious tremolo that wheedles its way into the high notes. Not enough to report on but I wish we’d heard more. Jess Pollard (vocals) paired with Steve Barry (Rhodes).