29 February 2016

Talkin' 'bout the School

There's a new VC at the ANU and a new Community Consultation for the School of Music. The team has been talking to various people, Friends, current staff and ex-. I provided my bibliography of the SOM changes of 2012 and thereafter and highlighted a few posts/letters to various senior parties. Thus I got an invitation to make a submission. Being outside it all, I'm not sure of the value, but here's my submission and below is the page outlining the process. Comments are invited on the Community Consultation page.

  • CJ's submission
  • ANU SOM Community Consultation page

  • Thanks to Wikicommons for the image, Piano mechanism English type.

    24 February 2016


    Glutton for punishment, that is. Never one to relax, I've taken on a third orchestra and it's demanding but satisfying. And not easy. This is National Capital Orchestra. We are playing with guitarist Matt Withers at TheQ on 20 March. The music is Nigel Westlake Antarctica Suite, Rodrigo Concierto de Aranjuez and Cesar Franck Symphony in C minor. Should be good; wish me luck.

    20 February 2016

    Just blown over

    It was just the National Press Club and it was just a Friday evening gig. The players were amongst the best, but I didn't expect this, here, now, an after-work outing. It was Wayne Kelly and Eric Ajaye and Mark Sutton. Even so, I didn't expect what I heard. This was hot: burning blows on just two chords, a world of colours, driving but relaxed grooves, solos of inevitable consequence easily passed between seemingly nonchalant performers. Easy for these guys. The vamps were a marvel - as rich and deep as any I'd heard. I thought of my fave albums of the '70s era. Too much for a chatty club environment? Nope. Not too loud, so the chatter continued, but the music's wealth was noted and applauded. They might not have been quietly attentive, but they were cluey enough to realise the years of skills and the informal virtuosity arrayed before them. As good as it comes; at the NPC lounge, on a Friday. Astounding! Too bad about the piano tuning.

    Wayne Kelly (piano), Eric Ajaye (bass) and Mark Sutton (drums) played at National Press Club for one of their weekly Friday-evening jazz gigs.

    17 February 2016

    37 babies

    As an issue, I find climate change more scientifically decided, more inclusively dangerous than any other issue. I've been a fence-sitter on asylum seekers, uncertainly sited between utilitarianism and human rights. I recognised the nastiness of detention and the proto-fascist nature of language and information control that this (and previous) governments have used (it's all spreading: think metadata retention, ASIO growth, Border Force and more). I don't come at the term illegals: it's a blaringly obvious bit of political spin to manage perceptions. The correct terms are asylum seekers who then mostly become refugees. ("It takes one to know one", I think, as I hear the right endlessly going on about political correctness. If they don't manipulate language, no-one does: this is one obvious example). It was chair, Sophie Singh, who observed that the issue is congealed, with 30% pro and 30% agin, but there are 40% to be convinced. I've been in that 40%. I've been no early adopter. I've been confused over the black and white of "open borders" and "deciding who will come to this country" but the ethics are finally exposed for me. I think of the camps, the government secrecy and spin and lies ("children overboard" even won an election), the hidden faces (no journos, no visits, no photographs, now gaol terms for whistleblowers, no photos for their privacy [as if]), the treatment of raped women and murdered men, the spin of saving others from drowning, the contradiction of international agreements on children and human rights, the thought control of terms like "illegals" (which Scott Morrison has mandated as government terminology), various facts like the $8k non-refundable visa applications for journalists who will be our witness (so much for a fourth estate as a check on government in a democracy) and the blackshirt Border Force uniforms I see daily as I go to swim at Civic pool (I shudder at this) and retrospective change of legislation that passed the High Court recently (as if we don't have core responsibility for, what, Manos or Nauru) and the misleading argument of saving lives at sea and the one journo ever allowed to visit Nauru (?) being from the Australian (even he confirmed another rape), and the 37 babies and the raped woman who seems to have been deceptively denied an abortion and the big-noting and undermining of recent reports of a raped 5-year old (as if we are supposed to know amongst all this secrecy) and the closed air space over Tampa and Ben Doherty's attempted visit and the hidden faces of these people. And the sheer cost of it all. And who are these "illegals" and what are they escaping from? Tamils from Sri Lanka and Rohingya from Myanmar and all manner from a Middle East we had a hand in reigniting. But Abbott was going to let in Christians (paralleling our generosity to white Rhodesians and South Africans, not all bad but also not colour- or culture-blind). We weren't always this way: think Fraser's Vietnamese on boats and Hawke's Chinese students. The ignorance-promotions, like the terrorists on boats (surely they are more likely travel by plane). It reminds me of Howard and his map of Australia showing just how overridden the rest of us were by the blacks, while it's the the blacks who have the social disadvantage, the 10-year shorter lifespan, the third-world conditions and the numbers in gaol. I could go on. I can just see the despair and feel the tragedy of us as a blinkered people. Thinking, or really not thinking, like Germans of the past, not like Germans of the present.

    But what of the words of the speakers? The event was Spin and Secrecy : Refugees and the Media, a forum organised by the Refugee Action Committee and co-hosted by The News & Media Research Centre at the University of Canberra. The chair was Sophie Singh and the speakers were Michelle Dunne Breen (News & Media Research Centre, UC), Paul Bongiorno (Ten News Contributing Editor), Ben Doherty (Immigration Correspondent, Guardian Australia) and our Guardian/ABCRN favourite First Dog on the Moon (Walkley award winning cartoonist, as he chucklingly reminded us). Suffice to say they said much of the above and more. The event was packed. The concern was shimmering. The awareness and knowledge was evident. There was some despair. But the fight continues for an ethical country, and this is at the forefront. Not that we should forget climate change: that's one for all humanity and any possible future. The asylum seeker issue is one for 37 babies or 1,852 detainees or even the 60 million refugees from whatever violence around the world. It's a matter of national conscience and good on those who act on it.

    15 February 2016

    Wayne again

    Great to have another gig with Wayne. This was Adore Tea, Valentine's Day, 50th anniversary of decimal currency in Australia. A propitious day. I thought of playing songs of love (easy enough with the American songbook) and also of money, but I forgot the last. We appeared as Kilt (replacing Tilt; other suggestions were Lilt, Silt, Wilt). Great fun, lots of notes, plenty of solos all round, perhaps too much excitement (and volume) but so be it. Not in it for the money. Money? 50th anniv. Just think. Thanks to Wayne and Dave. Hard work but wouldn't miss it for quids.

    Tilt, renamed Kilt, played at Adore Tea with Wayne Kelly (piano, vocals), Eric Pozza (bass) and Dave McDade (drums).

    12 February 2016

    Valerie and more

    I know Valerie. It's a song from Amy Winehouse and was the last tune of the first set of Movement 9's tribute to Amy. I'd wondered where it would appear. It's a great soft-funky piece with considerable life and deep emotion. I learnt it to play at the Casino and the chords were trivial but the groove was seductive and the response from the audience was surprising and immediate. It's obviously known and loved. So is AW more generally. She had a difficult and short life but her lyrics are her own and the messages are raw and honest.

    Movement 9 came to the Street Theatre fronting Elly Poletti in the role of Amy W. This was their second visit. Both visits were full houses, last time in Street 2, this time in the larger Street 1. Larger and more formal, which was good for sound and space if not so much for intimacy. The music was great and the interpretations were also great. This was capable, careful, educated playing all round. Joe is the arranger and he did real justice. His approach was to respect and interpret rather than just mimic, so it's a tribute in the true sense of the word. This is a work of respect and, talking to Joe afterwards, it was clear he knew his subject and granted that respect. So, his arrangements were unintrusive and clear. But then I don't know the originals particularly well. I loved the curt and decisive drumming matched with bass funky syncopations and often choppy keys. Jordan knew well when to elaborate and he could do it at will but remained nicely restrained. Mostly 5-string electric bass, but double on a few tracks. Then the 6 horns (this is a nine-piece ensemble plus vocals): alto (leader Joe), tenor and bari saxes, two trumpets and trombone. They were discreet but I melted over some sounds: a two part trom/trumpet harmony; the three brass another time, in harmony or in hits; a delightful combination of flute with brass; the rhythmic phap of the bari at various times. And more generally, the intonation which I never noticed faltering. Then Elly over the top. I don't envy her this role: it's always hard to play the key central character, singer or otherwise. I heard some of Amy's desperation at times, her good will amongst distance and self-protection. Never easy, but well done. They all took solos, of course, and they were all good. I particularly noticed trumpet and tenor but that's the jazzer's take, not the essence of this show. As a mark of respect and a memory of a brilliant but troubled musician, this was a great work, and I loved every minute.

    We may never meet again : the music Of Amy Winehouse was a tribute show by Movement 9 with Elly Poletti (vocals). Movement 9 are Joe McEvilly (alto, arrangements), Tom Sly (trumpet), Niran Dasika (trumpet), Patrick Langdon (trombone), Stephen Byth (tenor), Nick McCusker (baritone sax), Joel Trigg (piano), Jordan Tarento (bass) and James Milic (drums).

    08 February 2016

    A golden era

    Brian Stewart launched his latest exhibition of jazz photographs at Smiths on Friday night. I must thank him for asking me to speak. Congrats to Brian. Here is my talk and a few pics of musos before and after the exhibition: a classical pianist outside, and the Collingwood Casanovas who played after.

    Opening speech for launch of Brian Stewart's Golden Era 2009-2012 photo exhibition, Smiths Alternative, 5 Feb 2016

    A Golden age : Canberra jazz 2009-2012

    Thanks to Brian for asking me to launch this exhibition. I'm Eric Pozza, writer the Canberra Jazz blog and maintainer of CanberraJazz.net. I've known Brian through jazz several years, not least as a fellow member of our mature quartet of reliable listeners.

    Brian's exhibition is entitled A Golden era of jazz in Canberra - 2009-2012. I first read the title as The and I was pleased to realise Brian actually called it A golden era.

    Geoff Page spoke to me once of the then current golden era of jazz in Canberra, but I thought he went back further, perhaps 15/20 years. For the last few decades and for Brian's period, local jazz is largely a story of the School of Music, although there was some other jazz outside the school, eg, Hippo, AFATM. Before that jazz history was the Jazz Clubs (2 incarnations), jazz festivals, trad jazz (see John Sharpe. A cool capital: the Canberra jazz scene 1925-2005)

    The Jazz school dates from 1985, think Don Johnson, Col Horweg, Mike Price, Tony Hayes/George Urbaszek, Harold Luebke and students Carl Dewhurst, Brendan Clarke, Nick McBride, Andrew Robson, Catherine Hunter, Kristen Cornwell, Idea of North. Following a review of the ANU SOM in ~2012, jazz suffered markedly and this golden era ended abruptly.

    It's telling that all these photos are of people associated with the Jazz School / School of Music as students, teachers, graduates.

    There are only ~20 pics so they can't record everyone. Who are they? The students are Tate Sheridan, Calum Builder, Luke Sweeting, Joe McEvilly, Victor Rufus, Liam Budge, Rachel Thoms (student at the time), Tom Fell and there are others in the group shots. Some are still here, others are touring (even with Elton John, no less) or practicing further afield or now teaching. The teachers are John Mackey, Eric Ajaye, Miro Bukovsky, who all came to Canberra to work at the School of Music. The others all happen to be Jazz School graduates: Wayne Kelly, James Luke, Greg Stott, Mark Sutton. There are many others who don't make this small collection of photos, from this period and before. ~20 pics can only reveal so much. And most are associated with the SOM as teachers or past students.

    Jazz soloing is an individualist art but there's also a communal aspect - ensemble playing, big bands, harmony, even comping and accompaniment in smaller bands. We see different sizes of ensembles here. Smaller ensembles but also Kaleid vocal trio, Movement 9 (perhaps 10 players), Dan McLean Big Band (16 or so), ACT Jazz Collective. One thing I miss deeply is these big sounds and harmonies and rhythms, and we used to hear plenty. During Brian's period the School of Music had Miro's Recording Ensemble, John's Big Band and Eric's funky Commercial Ensemble.

    I also see in these pics the flowering of venues over this period, so this is era of venues and visitors. The Loft (thanks to Luke Sweeting and Tom Fell), ANU venues, The Gods (thanks, Geoff Page), early Smiths, Street Theatre. Is Calum in the Old Parliament House garden? I see Tate is in front of this very wall hanging here in Smiths.

    And the visitors who came for the School, to perform or teach, or to return home to see family, or to tour Eastern States. There are fewer coming now. Many from JazzGroove, Sydney, Melbourne, Australians on tour, some coming from OS. I remember names like Linda Oh, Jacam Manricks, Eric Mcpherson, Ambrose Akinmusire, Bill Cunliffe, John Riley, Eugene Wright, Eric Harland, Bad Plus, Bennie Maupin, Sean Wayland, Mark Giuliana, often heard in the Band Room at the School.

    Jazz is a small community. Often our best musos are out making a living with weddings, teaching, corporate gigs. That's probably why jazz happens during the week: the musos are working for real money on weekends. We need the musos but we also need the supporters of creative music for it to survive (some of whom are also musos) eg Tom and Schoeb and Geoff to organise gigs, Brian and John Sharpe (and me, I guess) to record, Chris Deacon and ArtSound to broadcast, and perhaps most essential, the listeners: my Gang of 4 (Brian, Keith, Geoff, me@Smiths) and many others who attend

    And what of the photography?

    Brian has maintained an online photography collection for many years, covering jazz since ~2007 but also other themes: landscape, people. This is Cyberhalides, referencing silver halides and the traditional negative, darkroom printing process of black & white photography.

    Cyberhalides / Cyberhalides Jazz

    And the technical matters?

    From Brian, we can expect sharp monochrome, shallow depth of field (common in his jazz photography under low light), plenty of contrast, raw imaging and post-processing, snappy glorious printing. What of his photographic eye? See how he sets off people and locations. The photo of Tate mirroring Larry Sitsky is an opportune work of genius - how lucky is that? But in photography, like in much else in life, you make your luck. Or how he captures the moment. See Liam's vocal engagement, Eric's drive and commitment, Miro observing John's thoughtful tenor investigation, James playing while watching Mark, John musing on Greg's solo. That's a reminder for all musos: to listen, to watch, to stay attentive to the other musicians you are playing with.

    And something I like in a photograph: Brian is discreet. It's a key skill in photographing people generally, and in not annoying listeners. Using a silent camera where required, timing SLR exposures so as not to invade the sound, moving unobtrusively to set up a pic.

    Getting back to the music ...

    This all reminds us of the ANU School of Music, of course. Brian's namesake, ANU VC Brian Schmidt is instituting a community consultation and report process under Andrew Podger (Larry Sitsky is one advisor). We should all consider how we can input and hope for a positive outcome. As an aside, it's interesting that Brian Schmidt first came to Canberra with the Alaska Youth Orchestra and played in Llewellyn, so that's something hopeful. Maybe there will be another golden era to come.

    And another hint of renewal is that we now hear of the return of regular Thursday night jazz to Smiths from February. Good news and thanks to Nigel.

    For those who are in these photos and to Brian who has made this record, thanks for the art and the entertainment, and let's all hope for a resurgent jazz future in Canberra.

    So, with this champagne across the bow, I launch Brian's exhibition ...

    Brian Stewart (photographer) launched A golden era : Canberra Jazz 2009-2014, his exhibition of recent jazz photographs, at Smiths Alternative. Eric Pozza spoke. The Collingwood Casanovas bluegrass band followed.

    06 February 2016

    A new man?

    Sam Dastyari spoke at the Politics in the Pub and I agreed with all he said but I remain unconvinced. It's relevant that the first question was from Ben Oquist, now head of the Australia Institute, referencing how he moved so far from the political warrior of the NSW Labor Right to this almost-Marxian position. Strange, that. Not impossible, of course, but worthy of some reticence. SD is young (now 33?) and has been involved in Labor politics at an organisational level since age 16, so he's had time, and it's a common enough thing for people involved in politics to change ideas, often markedly. They live with it every day; they think it; they should be prepared to honestly reconsider positions. So where is he now? He spoke about "Who really runs Australia". He had thought Parliament, PM, institutions have that power, but PMs change (recently very frequently). His answer is the major companies. He mentioned 10 (four banks, three miners, two grocery, one telco (you can guess the names) but I expect it could expand to the BCA group. He told of being shocked on coming to Canberra, of changing ideas of where power resides, of marketing budgets for political causes and ubiquity of lobbyists. He argued not just that they have influence, but that they drown out all other influence. He reminded us of the richest 7 Australians having the wealth of the bottom 20% and similar stats. Interestingly, he said the answer is in the market, through increased competition (I'd add, for influence, not just profit). He reminded us of bank corruption and lack of action and FOFA, of the mining campaign against the "super-profits tax" (which would actually have helped smaller miners, but at the cost of the biggest players). He mentioned the fightback in support of FOFA, by COTA, Choice, Seniors, victims, Australia Institute. He suggested things are boiling, the public is seeing though the marketing lines, anger and frustration is building as shown by politics outside parties, of left and right: Bernie Sanders, Trump, Jeremy Corbyn, National Front, Golden Dawn.

    Then questions. We need more than a Federal ICAC: he suggested a Serious Fraud Office to investigate public and private fraud (apparently the UK has one). There is always resistance to giving up power; Labor must change or be "part of a shrinking pie". Previous exposure to power is useful to recognise power in Parliament, but his experience didn't prepare him for the Commonwealth Parliament. Tax is "boring shit" but essential for fairness. An example? The largest cleaning company in Australia pays less tax than each of its cleaners (!) [I can only think of Warren Buffett: "There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning". Quoted in "In Class Warfare, Guess Which Class Is Winning" by Ben Stein, in The New York Times, 26 Nov 2006]. He argues the suggestion that multinationals will leave Australia because they are taxed is bunkum: they are here for profit and profit is what is taxed. BTW, he doesn't query tax or making profit - he's actually no Marxist - but he does argue for competition and distribution of influence. He sees the big local corporations as more the problem than multinationals. The solution? The "market-based solution is a competitive environment". ACCC does great work given its "devastating" budget cuts. The "effects test" would have been good for competition. Another example: credit cards, where interest may be 22% while the cost of money is 2%. Surprisingly and interestingly, he argued that the Labor's centre left had been very successful, referencing the timespan post 1960s. Healthcare, education, multiculturalism and finance matters were on the agenda under Whitlam and are essentially in place (an interesting view and impressive evidence: we are different from then). But the centre-left needs to think where to next. He suggests decentralisation of power. There were questions of the decline of institutions, not least Parliament and Public Service, but maybe times have changed and institutions are not natural, but can change (another interesting thought). In response to a question about Murdoch and News Ltd not being in the "Top 10", he spoke of dominance, but shrinking power. Then of employee empowerment in the past by awareness that they kept their jobs with profits; but now managers are measured on an ability to restructure to reduce visible profit and tax. The High Court's latest decision on refugee returns to Nauru and the US 14th Amendment was raised; the debate is "so polarised, so emotional" that conversation is impossible. And a final few words on decentralisation of power and the twisting effect of fund raising (eg, US pollies spend 85% on their time on fundraising, so influence is inevitable, even without corruption). He admitted his major fund-raising role in the NSW Right.

    So, his thoughts, or at least his words were good. I remain skeptical, perhaps too cynically, by this easily spoken pollie, but I'll watch and listen more over time. Certainly, I liked what he said and I was not alone in that.

    Sam Dastyari (Labor, Senate) spoke at Politics in the Pub for the Australia Institute.

    04 February 2016

    Post-bop lives forever

    Jason Bruer introduced his band, Hammerhead, saying "it's the music that turned us all on to jazz". They were playing hard bop, a tribute to Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers, some originals in the style and with a format to suit, piano bass drums as rhythm section and a front line of three horns, trumpet tenor alto. It's somewhere near how I came to jazz (more closely, it was Dizzy and bop, ten years earlier) and it's a style I still love immensely and, from the reaction in the audience, is loved by many. This concert went down a treat. Lovely harmonies up front, big fat tones from the three horns; a driving, unyielding, regularity from the drums and deep groove from bass and some rich harmonic colour and intriguing rhythmic hits from the piano comping. They mostly played walking swing but there was funky fours and six feels and some lovely '70s modern jazz syncopation as well. The first set was all walking fours, at least in the solos. The heads could be sycopated. Wayne Shorter The Summit and later Hammerhead and Jason Bruer's homage, Wayne's world. Bobby Timmons' famous tune Moanin' worked so well with this combination. Then a bittingly fast head on Jason's Breaking bad. The second half had more modern feels, if still in the tradition. An Eddie Harris tune was funky and Joe Henderson Power to the people was a syncopated 8 feel. Pat Metheny Sometimes I see was a lovely ballad. Jason had two more originals. I loved Sixth sense, a 6/8 reminding me of my formative album, Norman Connors Love form the Sun. For Art's sake was another post-bop dedication and a finish on Cedar Walton Mosaic, an up-tempo post-bopper. This was manor from heaven for me and obviously many the in audience. This music is so approachable and attractive: individualist in solo; supportive in coming; satisfying in fat melodies. And the playing was a dream. Post-bop likes a simple, stated phrase for development. Ray was playful in this; Kim was rich and full (someone mentioned good lungs on young players); Jason was more obtuse and abstruse. Nice combination. Duncan on drums was absolutely steady, unwavering, not overly busy with embellishments. Brendan is an unstoppable force and proved it again in accompaniment, as well as laying some detailed and quick solos. Greg's comping was a dream, intriguing and coloured, both leading and responding, and solos were to match. He took one solo passage, unaccompanied, dismantling and reconsidering, before returning to top. Nicely done and quite a change. As my foot tapped and I thought of the variation on unyielding groove, I wondered if this was the dance music of its days. Great stuff and much enjoyed.

    Hammerhead played at the Gods. They comprised Jason Bruer (tenor), Ray Cassar (trumpet), Kim Rawson (alto sax), Greg Coffin (piano), Brendan Clarke (bass) and Duncan Archibald (drums).

    01 February 2016

    Amongst the artz

    Visitors out of town and quiet amongst the institutions. Megan and I took an afternoon for a short visit. Not Tom Roberts or the celestial empire, although they look great and are planned. Just to see the new thematic layout in the National Gallery and the switch of Australian downstairs and International upstairs. I liked it. I especially liked the occasional walls of profusions of artworks. These galleries have lots of painting; I'm not sure why they don't show them off to the max. They do at the AGSO and Palazzo Pitti and the like. They are touching on it here, and those busy spaces are the most inviting judged by the numbers perusing. Maybe the sex and beach theme helped in one gallery. I liked the lower ceilings for Blue poles and Hockney's Grand Canyon was hugely better hung where it now is. Perhaps a busier wall would have helped but it worked. Our local Ex de Medici gets a seriously prominent spot, as does another local, Patricia Piccinini, and there's more poignant humour with a Refugee astronaut. Not everything is moved: Asian, Indian, Aboriginal and such galleries are in place, but this change deserves a few visits. On the way, we dropped in to the National Portrait Gallery to find Dirk, Lachlan and Stewart playing and modelling in the foyer. An amusing concept. Jazz musicians play; amateur artists draw. Nice.

    We visited the National Gallery of Australia. Dirk Zeylmans (tenor), Lachlan Coventry (bass, guitar) and Stewart King (guitar) were playing for live (not life) drawing in the foyer of the NPG.