28 January 2017


Ah, la Música Brasileira. What a great pleasure it is, for the senses and the intellect, for the whole body. Al Kerr was in town with his band Panorama Brasil and with Alda Rezende up front. Alda is Brazilian, chanteuse, trained in music and journalism, once a newsreader and still a musician. There's a deep, earthy voice, lively with energy, touching with emotion, at least in Portuguese. She amusingly commented that lyrics are always romantic in Portuguese, sometimes cheesy in English. Not wrong. I have wondered how does the love song, that often inane lyric, work? But it does. Three sets, one for the seated, tender, songs of the locality, songs for listening, considering, but it didn't take long in the second set for the dancers to pop up - very quickly, I noticed - a pair, then another pair, then a dance floor, then rhythms infecting the bodies, then through to a final set of sambas and occasional solos and intense grooves and almost delirious joy and movement. This was a sponsored gig, by the Embassy and others, and the ambassador was there, but relaxed with the atmosphere. At the White Eagle, with its staid tables but that red velvet surrounding an enveloping black stage with lighting and band and decent sound. All inviting to the excitement of the event. I didn't catch names of tunes, they were mostly in Portuguese and many were local or lesser-known. But there was also Jobim and a series of Afro-Samba and later some of the standards of Brazilian jazz: Desafinado was one amongst several. Alda commented on the authenticity of the band. You could feel it. Al with some unique rhythms, often deadened snare, sometimes with some percussion in one hand, or joined by Asha with other small percussion when she wasn't playing flute. The flute defined many tunes, melodies or starts and ends, several unisons with piano or bass. She played two flutes, a concert flute and a longer, deeper alto (?). Bass was electric, 5-string, wonderfully solid toned, sometimes sharper, sometimes slapped, rhythmically flexible but always firmly in the pocket and setting the changes. Very nice. And Matt on piano, reading a good bit, colouring with lots of subtle and pretty jazz chords, rich with extensions and harmonies, quite a few solos and always part of a very together band. This band was very together and enjoying it. Tight and pleasurable and rhythmic - the essence of Brazil. Satisfying in so many ways; great night.

Panorama Brasil comprised Alastair Kerr (drums, percussion, musical director), Asha Henfry (flute, percussion), Matt Boden (piano), Jorge Albuquerque (bass) with special guest Alza Rezende (vocals).

26 January 2017

Farewell Cam

It was Australia Day and maybe we shouldn't have been at a band having a good time, on a hot day, being Indigenous aware as we are. There's politics here, just ask cantankerous, reactionary ole Barnaby J, but Cam Smith was having his last gig with Brass Knuckle Brass Band before he returned to his place of origin, Qld, and I wanted to say goodbye. It was at Smiths, outside, hot, shaded for some, decently loud, delightfully cosmopolitan, tats or business shirts, all manner, and beers, coffees and a general jovial good will. It's a pleasantly diverse collection that gathers at Smiths (thanks to Nigel and Beth for such a nice venue) and a joyous and welcoming atmosphere and the band was nothing less than chugging and noisily inviting. Good and tight; perfect for dancing; drums and percussion; charts for harmonies of horns; that lovely lumbering and enveloping sousaphone bass and all so nicely played. Some march tunes with New Orleans references, some two feels and pop tunes arranged for the band. I recognised the pop as Careless whisper (with help), Sweet dreams, Sexual healing. That was just the first set. How much fun is this, rollicking and joyous, musically capable and an irresistible invitation to dance. Was Trump right about art being just for entertainment? He was wrong about that (there's lots he's not right about) but sometimes it can be for fun and this was and it was a great outing. I guess the BNBB will continue, but farewell Cam, thanks for so much local music and, thinking back, for your help with a few festivals. Congrats also to Xavier Kim for the piano interlude before the gig.

Brass Knuckle Brass Band played a farewell gig for Cameron Smith (trumpet). If I have all the names, right, the rest of the band is Tim Bowyer (trumpet), Michael Bailey and Josh Hart (trombones), David Abkiewicz (sousaphone), Nathan Sciberras (baritone sax), Josh Buckler (tenor sax), Steve Fitzgerald (drums) and Damon Counahan (percussion). Xavier Kim (piano) preceded.

21 January 2017

Images and formulas

Hannah James's back in town - it's been a while. There was a last minute hitch and a change of band, but nothing lost (the original band, Energetic Zen Quartet, will be at Smiths in Feb). This was still Hannah with Casey Golden, but in a drummerless trio with Eamon Dilworth. They've all played together in various incarnations over the years and here they've coalesced into this unusual format. They are all such impressive players, all competent, all setting and holding rhythms independently, so drums are a luxury but not necessary. The tunes were written by Hannah, with just two from Eamon, and they were substantial pieces: lengthy, intricate with varied parts, telling stories that were sometimes very obviously closely felt and listened. Slip, Number one, Last letter and Portrait; Snowfall, Three different kinds of light. These were all from Hannah, pensive, careful tunes, sometimes obviously deeply felt, observant. Three different kinds described the thoughts of a poet, and clearly spelt out, as music can spell out light. They were all deliciously developed by Eamon on trumpet or flugelhorn or Hannah herself with a few solos or very inventively by Casey on a real upright piano, even if the tuning was problematic. And Eamon's two tunes. Hannah invited Eamon to introduce them and we got a decent intro to Havelock Gardens (modelled after the Fibonacci sequence and music theorist Greg Sheehan who he'd spoken with in Singapore, presumably the location of the gardens). We didn't get an answer on his other tune (what did The hiding signify? Hiding as in hide and seek, or, hiding as in spanking) so Hannah had to play that tune uninformed. These tunes were a little more driven, especially Havelock Gardens with an odd melody, I think spelling 1,1,2,3,5,8. At least the solos were in a more usual time (in 6/8 if I remember correctly). The concert was all open and clear and nicely spelt out with deliciously capable playing. A lesson in jazz richness for some musos arriving for the next set. Wonderful. And we have another opportunity with Hannah and Casey back in late Feb with their Energetic Zen band, this time with drums.

James Golden Dilworth was Hannah James (bass), Casey Golden (piano) and Eamon Dilworth (trumpet, flugelhorn) and they played at Smiths.

19 January 2017


A contagion of basses sounds about right. Whoever arrives at the weekly OCI jam session is a matter of conjecture. This week it was 4 (four!) bassists, along with 2xdrums and one each of guitar, trom, vocals. I got one tune - fair enough given some dithering over a beer. On the other hand, it was particularly interesting to hear so many bassists in one outing. The bass sound was not so big and fat this night: more edgy and toppy, sharing an amp with the piano, but fun nonetheless. I played Recordame, and others did various songs with Rachel Thorne (a great local singer) and Stella and Blue bossa and others. The imports were Sam Dobson, ex-Sydney Con playing with Geoff Bull, Cope Street Parade and others: nicely relaxed, easy-going, on top of the charts. Paddy Fitzgerald, student at Monash, nicely intoned thumb positions and good choppy solos, playing with fellow student guitarist Harry Tinney. And the locals: Alec Coulson with a nice take on Blue bossa and me, on Recordame. Moving Paths had turned up, too (including Max, bassist #5) but too early to jam; they left to play Hippo. The band this night was Ben, Hugh and Steve.

The Old Canberra Inn jam session was hosted this week by Ben O'Loghlin (bass), Hugh Barrett (piano) and Steve Richards (drums). Sit-ins included Sam Bolton, Alec Coulson, Paddy Fitzgerald and Eric Pozza (basses), Harry Tinny (guitar), Mark Levers (drums) and Rachel Thorne (vocals).

18 January 2017


Moving Paths was a gentle, undemonstrative name for a band, suggesting fluidity and perusal. For the first notes, Moving Paths was like this. They are students from the Jazz School pre-darkness. Max went off to the Sydney Con and perhaps Luke did too. Linus studied at ANU then off to the Con. They were on their first tour with the new band playing Smiths then Hippo then Victoria and ultimately MONA. They play a gentle and pensive music, intensely listened, not extravagant except maybe once when Max played impetuously for resonances over open strings. Just one or two walks, several obbligati, some solos of cymbal and brushes. I so much imagined it as recorded, perhaps a soundtrack for a long, relaxed road trip. Everyone writes - one from Luke, 3 from Max, the rest from Linus (keys always have this advantage) - and one tune from a shared admiration, Paul Motion. First up was Max's Rolling with bass obbligato at relaxed tempo and sounding all the world of the '70s. Trajectory was all sizzling cymbals and slow changes and arpeggios. Linus' Slow was a slow sparse melody to start, but developed into a livelier walk. Max followed with another sparse one for Phil Treloar. I was noticing the piano - acoustic but not too tuned. Several more sparse, open wistful tunes, Walks and Dawn, and a few with unison melodies, notably one for Louis, Linus' dog, and somewhat surprisingly, a relaxed latin called Portrait, again by Linus. Like others, it developed into tinkling water drops into river, cymbals and openly timed piano chords. Not anything to dance to, but intense and satisfying and a listener's space. Worthy of trips in the club with closed eyes or as accompaniment for a real, interminable road trip: the name says it all.

Moving Paths is Linus Foley (piano), Max Alduca (bass) and Luke Keenan-Brown (drums) and they played at Smiths.

12 January 2017


It was a regathering of old friends, fellow students at ANU and old friends of CJ, when Great rack and an empty club reverb played at Hippo: Luke from Sydney; Aidan from Berlin; Reuben and Em from Melbourne; all gigging at Hippo, another old friend. But this was not Just Friends as in jazz standards. The band's title said lots: odd and long and suggestive of electronica. Em's performance was pretty much the title, working as she did at a small desk with mixer and effects. But much more. This was modern, melismatic music, as played in clubs, for dance, I guess (not a scene I know) done by trained jazz professionals. Breakbeats and drum'n'bass and warped reggaes and hugely infectious rhythms and odd times and some contemporary jazz polyrhythms (bliss!) and insistent drum grooves that writhed and mutated but never put an accent in a wrong place and bass lines from Luke's Hammond that would be dense or sparse and move feels inconspicuously or sometimes more obviously. Then solos that didn't spell the fact, trumpet that would echo unobstrusively. Two sets; each without a break. Luke told me after that they had about ten charts but they may not have used them all as the music moved unassumingly from one tune to another. I could pick changes, but it was more joy just to sit back and take all this in. Then voice over, that rack and reverb, Em leading with chatter, or as she said, her dialogue with the audience. "Distance separates us / there ... here ... there .. here". All with impish humour. Words that spelled stories, perhaps improvised, if only to some degree. Words subject to digital effects; words merging into repeats and wordless vocals; vocals in counterpoint or extended harmony with trumpet, sometime like a two-horn frontline (although this was no Blue Note session). Words are conversation and contact: music lovers talk of music as a language but I reckon words add and connect. I strained to hear some stories. Hippo is inherently noisy and continually chatty and the sound wasn't so clear. But the music was infectious and mobile and connecting and done by these trained musicians. Not strictly jazz but jazz training allows this, at this level, stunningly, even when just a get-together. This is not a permanent band. Just old friends, on a night out, playing a rhyming storm in the home town. Fabulous!

Great rack and an empty club reverb comprised Emily Bennett (voice, live signals), Reuben Lewis (trumpet, live signals), Luke Sweeting (organ) and Aidan Lowe (drums).

07 January 2017


It amused me to think that my school artistic tour was to Melbourne from Adelaide to perform in Henry IV Pt.1 at another Jesuit school. For the richly named Rancho Mirage High School Singing Rattlers Reflections Show Choir and Chamber Singers, the tour was from the Coachella Valley in Southern California to Sydney and Canberra and more including lounging time at Bondi and a performance at our Parliament House. Wow! I looked up the school and it's a unique looking place: modern buildings on the edge of town with a foreboding, flat, sandy desert of saltbush just across the road. Some singers told me the temp reaches 115degF (=46degC). Hot and dry but not unknown in Australia. (To see this is to understand why California is gung-ho on climate change). But to the music. It was a difficult time for audience, being mid-summer holidays with Canberrans down the coast, but there was a decent turnout. But what voices! Youthful and strong, wonderfully harmonised. They came with contact of Woden Valley Youth Choir (locals I have yet to hear) and read one Australian work (was it in an Aboriginal language?) The music was of friendship and positivity, mostly in English but some Italian and Latin, some originally performed with dance. We got a little of that in the encore, but only a little and limited by space. There were two choirs, a show choir with dance and a chamber choir. The performance variously featured the choirs together and each choir separately. Audiamus was by all in Latin; Mad mad mad mad madrigal was from the chamber choir; Pompei featured all (a short reprise at the end had dancing); Black swan was the new Australian composition that they read on the day. There were some featured singers: Georgia Christopherson was reticent at first but then shone with a wonderful voice; some guys had small features, again with impressive voices. The teacher/leader was taken away with a student to hospital and member Vivian Walker sat in as host and conductor and did an admirable job with considerable confidence. There was a shortage of guys in the choir, but nothing unusual there. So, a very well enjoyed concert and a touch of local life in the USA. BTW, check out the school's website for some great recordings of their jazz big band.

Rancho Mirage High School Singing Rattlers Reflections Show Choir and Chamber Singers performed at Wesley, on tour from California.

  • Rancho Mirage HS website
  • 05 January 2017

    Ripping up the place

    I was amused at a comment about deconstructing the place. Someone had taken down a pot plant for better sightlines, then he'd responsibly replaced it at the end of the night. The jazz scene is like this. Likeable people who study complex things that pay little for arts-sake with a relaxed dress sense. Like one player who's in Canberra for his Philosophy PhD at ANU on a topic somewhere in Ethics. It's a quiet time for musos after the rush of Christmas. A few are back home to visit rellies: Aidan Lowe was back from Berlin for a time. Otherwise, it's good times and good beers and some excellent music. Hugh Barrett was filling in for Wayne Kelly; Aidan Lowe for Mark Sutton; Ben O'Loghlin was coordinator, calling in various players for the second, jam set. Ben Marston, Tom Fell, Steve Richards, some others. The tunes for the first set were less the obvious blow numbers - Blue in green, Nica's dream and the like. The jam set was more commonly known tunes, starting with Stella then Blue bossa. I got a go on Alone together then Blue Monk. The playing was excellent all round. Aidan's playing a storm, if lamenting his kit that's sat in a shed the last year (fair enough). Hugh smoothed through various harmony colours with extensions or substitutions or whatever and laid down sweet, unassuming solo lines: all the piano's role and done with great skill. Ben O'L floored me, interesting and varied, right on top of the beat and driving with a firm, full sound. Then the horns, Ben M and Tom, soloing nicely, spelling heads with ease but also harmonising melodies and accompaniments to hint at arrangements. Tom commented it's a great lineup for that (rhythm section plus sax and trumpet), but no surprise there, it's the quntessential bop-modern lineup. The last tune was a raging Rhythm changes: so much for deconstruction, this was ripping up the place in a more positive light. And there were chats and beers as jazz is. Much enjoyed. Thanks to all.

    Ben O'Loghlin (bass), Hugh Barrett (piano) and Aidan Lowe (drums) were the support band for the jazz jam at Old Canberra Inn. Tom Fell (sax), Ben Marston (trumpet), Steve Richards (drums), Eric Pozza (bass) and others sat in. The OCI jazz jam is at Old Canberra Inn, every Wednesday, 6.30-9pm, free entry, good beers on tap.