30 November 2017

A community that jams together...

It seems the local jamming community is gathering. Partly it's down to the committed jazzers - many of whom once satisfied their desires through the School of Music - seeking other outlets, so it's a function of deinstitutionalisation. This deinstitutionalisation is nothing to be lauded - it's actually a great loss to the community - but it has a corollary of a more informal community development. I've been impressed by the opening of jazz jam sessions around Canberra over recent years. Firstly, for a few months at Smiths (after the move from the Loft) then at Old Canberra Inn, then a rekindling at Smiths, now Wig & Pen is being spoken of as another jam session. Jams are a mainstay of the blues community, too, and they have been doing it around Canberra in various locations for yonks. It's interesting sociologically, I guess, but also musically. Get along to whatever time and place suits. They are all free and good beer and cheer on tap.

Canberra jazz jam sessions are at Old Canberra Inn (Wayne Kelly, 6.30-9.30pm Wednesday), Smiths (Hugh Barrett, 2-4pm Sundays) and starting up at Wig & Pen (John Mackey and Leisa Keen, 2-5pm Saturdays).

  • Thanks to Wikicommons for the image, Charles Demuth, Jazz Singer (1916)
  • 29 November 2017

    Honouring Aaron

    Concert 2 for the day was Victor Rufus' band playing at Smiths. Victor has recently returned from several (5?) months in NYC. Does it show that he (and the others in the band) chose to play the music of Aaron Parks, along with some originals, mostly by Victor. Victor writes some very decent tunes. The band was Tate Sheridan, Brendan Keller-Tuberg and Jamal Salem and it was sharp as. Tight as. Clinically sharp. Jamal may be the primary source for this as he's restrained but tack sharp. Tate sounded more laid back to my ears this evening with influences of pop and blues amongst some jazz harmonies and more complex chords. He has a lyrical presence that shines through. I hadn't heard Brendan for a year-or-so and I was stunned with his current virtuosity, and not just fleeting playing but also interesting concepts, fills, structures, counterpoints. He fairly recently finished his degree and I can feel some extensive woodshedding in his playing these days. As I've seen in one or two other serious players over the years. Stunning. And Victor, professional and affable as a leader and melodically clear as a guitarist and soloist, nicely toned and avoiding the too-common guitar excesses. I like his compositions, too: he excels here. I listened to the channelled Aaron Parks album after and was surprised by the effectiveness of the performance I'd heard. Sharp, clear, with intent and sympathy for the original. Interestingly, they also played a tune by Harry Rasmussen, another drummer of recent years at the ANU. Victor's tunes were perfectly in synch with the evening: Truth be told, Intermittent schmitz, Song of sonnenblumen. All telling his own stories. This was a tack sharp evening of art but also of comfortable professionalism.

    Victor Rufus (guitar) led a band comprising Tate Sheridan (piano), Brendan Keller-Tuberg (bass) and Jamal Salem (drums) at Smiths playing the music of Aaron Parks, Victor Rufus and others.

    28 November 2017


    Miro told me it was the sound of magpies that he'd heard just that morning. He'd been jotting down some fairly open musical notation as I came in before the concert, a few lines with melody snippets and chords and some indicative harmonies and colours through associated chords. When the concert started, it was Col on drums in the centre of the space with circular rows of seating around him. He played various percussion for several minutes before tones of trumpet, two tenors and bass clarinet appeared, first sparse but heavily wettened in this very reverberent space at the Drill Hall Gallery. The players were away, behind panels. The moving harmonies interested me. A drone on G then colours of Bb, Eb, F, D, various others, came and went. Over time, the sound moved behind more partitioning and musicians appeared in four corners behind the audience. The slow colour changes had gradually been augmented with flighty, fast runs, Miro's trumpet and John's tenor especially conversing, and the drums had developed into a groove with sticks and mallets. I was interested to note the kit was kick free: snare, tom, hi-hat, cymbals. It all came to a head and dropped back to solo percussion like the start and a final drop of metal plates to finish it all. The whole was improvised but guided over 30-minutes or so: intriguing and involving so the time had passed unnoticed. Structured in some way, but lots of room for freedom. Like the birds it portrayed, I guess. Miro and I talked of the magpies in our gardens. They are characters and this was a fascinating and satisfying recitation.

    Miroslav Bukovsky (trumpet, composer) gathered John Mackey (tenor), Tom Fell (tenor), Richard Johnson (bass clarinet) and Col Hoorweg (drums, percussion) for a concert at Drill Hall Gallery to mark the exhibition Active seeing by Liz Coats.

    27 November 2017

    An advent custom

    It's an advent event most years. It's Handel Messiah performed by Canberra Choral Society and friends under chorus master Peter Young conducted by Leonard Weiss with soloists Greta Claringbould, Tobias Cole, Paul McMahon and Jeremy Tatchell. All locals or thereabouts and an array of recognised faces on stage. That's part of the fun, of course, to recognise faces. And the music, which I am coming to understand and follow and appreciate: how and when soloists appear and the Christian Christmas story of joy and despair and the busyness of the orchestra because the soloists and even the choir appear on and off, but the orchestra is at it throughout, at least the strings and keys. I missed the woodwinds playing and the percussion and brass are impressive and essential but infrequent. What a thrill to stand for the Hallelujah chorus, it being so big and rousing that it involves you even if just by standing - sitting for classical concerts is satisfying but also staid. And there were a few singalongs from the audience for this chorus. I also felt like singing some other choruses but was responsible (or elbowed by Megan) when I felt the sing-along urge coming on. No it's not kosher. Sad that I can't get to the real open singalong of the Messiah next week (Wesley, 6-8pm, Sat 23 Nov, $10/5, singers must register). Good feelings abounded in the audience, too, this being a great favourite, and played so capably. I loved the high sops when set free and the complexity of the fugue choruses and the strength of the mid-range tenors and also tenor Paul's voice which filled Llewellyn so easily. And the bouncing baroque music that's so endearing. The orchestra was busy and often flightingly quick. They were perhaps too loud under Greta (they may have just played first desk behind some soloists, restraining the ppps to strengthen the fffs) but small matters. They did an excellent job under Pip Thompson. As for our standing, a man in front of me was a refusenik and it's probably an upper-class-twit custom, but it's fun and involving and all part of Christmas celebrations. As is the Messiah itself. Very well done and very much enjoyed.

    Canberra Choral Society performed Handel Messiah at Llewellyn Hall under Peter Young (chorus master) and Leonard Weiss (conductor) with soloists Greta Claringbould (soprano), Tobias Cole (counter tenor), Paul McMahon (tenor), Jeremy Tatchell (bass) and the Canberra Choral Society orchestra under Pip Thompson (leader)

    25 November 2017

    Night shopping

    Tilt was playing for a local department store for its annual card holders' sale and it was quieter than previous years, but the music and the caterers were there and it was open to the public (if some sale prices were limited to card holders) and we had competition. Brioso String Ensemble was there in a trio format playing at the bottom of the escalator opposite us. The violins were surprisingly loud, so we heard them often enough in quiet passages, but mostly it caused no problems. I wonder if my change to e-bass guitar for a funkier (read, louder) final set interfered with their Haydn and Mozart. Hope not. Perhaps it did. But nice to meet our sisters in music. Brioso comprises members of the CSO, so able and experienced, although I didn't catch individual names. Nice to meet you all.

    Brioso string ensemble performed as a trio with leader Claire Phillips (violin). Tilt Trio comprises James Woodman (piano), Eric Pozza (bass) and Dave McDade (drums).

    24 November 2017

    Our own force of nature

    Wayne Kelly appeared at the U3A JAG (Jazz Appreciation Group) last week. He's a master, of course. It was just in a recent email to me that a visiting professional player from the UK called him a "force of nature" after playing at one OCI jam session. He was at JAG to perform, and present a history of jazz piano. The history and talking and CD listening may have taken a little too long (it's surprising how much time public speaking actually takes when you get on the dais). But his playing was the expected revelation. He was demonstrating early jazz piano. Gottschalk as a mid-1800s NOLA promoter, then Scott Joplin, Eubie Blake, Jelly Roll and the boogie woogie players. Wayne gave us little personal background, talking of the influence of shuffle, then Graeme Bell and jazz radio and his time at Narrabundah College. He talked of the rhythmic essence of jazz, of the blues scale, of challenge of coordination two hands in otherwise fairly regular sounding music. Perhaps just regular to us after 100+ years of this music. His demos were of Satin doll as interpreted by Hank Jones, a blues shuffle, various stride patterns and boogie-woogie piano blues as by Jimmy Yancey and Fats Domino (Blueberry Hill, with vocals). Then a final Fats Waller Ain't misbehavin' (also with vocals) and a short stab at the Entertainer. I'll join with our visitor in claiming Wayne as a local jazz force of nature. See the CJCalendar for his regular gigs: OCI Wed, Hyatt Fri and Tilley's Sat.

    Wayne Kelly (piano) presented and performed an early history of jazz piano for the U3A JAG.

    18 November 2017

    Like the Berliners

    From the first phrase I knew this was fabulous. It was the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment playing for Musica Viva in Llewellyn Hall. I don't usually attend Musica Viva although I know they are very good, but this was OAE and they are renowned and it's something I do. And some great seats were surprisingly reasonable for a renowned group of 20 touring from London. But back to that first phrase. It just sat so nicely and its internal movements were just so unified. That's dynamics and playing together, as well as all the obvious things like intonation and chops. It was like the whole just breathed; not that they breathed together but the group breathed as one. In the end, I decided it was relaxation and quiet. They relaxed, so the group could sit then attack together, or wait for a lead, so the conversation was open and obvious. I just once felt one instrument anticipate. Lesser mortals do it all the time - it's a nasty habit to speed up when you're less comfortable. And they played the quiets, so pps had you in your seat, and p was common and mf augured and ff blasted and Llewellyn was full with no excessive volume. As for the chops, they were just assumed. The quavers doubled to semiquavers in a wink with no hint of hesitation; the intonation just sat, sweetly. The leadership was often subtle, often just obvious, tips and bows and smiles and frowns. Rachel Podger was director and soloist for two Mozart concerti (vln conc no.1 Bbmaj K207; von conc no.5 Amaj K219), most obviously wearing white to the others' black. She stood centrally to others' sitting for the concerti, but stood as concertmaster with the others for the symphonies (Haydn symph no.26 Dmin; JCBach symph Gmin op.6 no.6). And she was playful. Nodding and smiling, looking openly to the audience and often glancing or prompting or swinging with the others. They had music on stands, but they were reasonably free from it. The horns were baroque and they had hooks on music stands for different insert tuning tubes. The celli, bass and bassoon sat throughout. The bass was 4-string and the cellos were pegless. The oboes and bassoon were baroque and the strings were gut and the bows were period. What else? There was a joy in milking notes and phrases, with delightful intent. There was an odd dissonance somewhere in mvt.3 Mozart K219 (I'm sure it was written) and what only seemed like slap bass bow (?!?) also in that movement. The horns could be luscious; I hardly noticed the bassoon except when I listened for it; I was amused to see one baroque oboe player looking to the gods with a reed in his mouth. Just fabulous. Going out after was just confirmation. Fellow musos claiming it's the best or unbelievable. I just thought back to Berlin Phil and how it seemed not so much great as just so right. This is the other time I've experienced that. Music that flowed with feeling and joy and purpose and had you leaning in your seat for more, for detail, for joy and conversation. Not Berlin this time, but London, here in Canberra sadly for just one night. Just fabulous.

    The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment performed at Llewellyn Hall for Musica Viva. The OAE was led by Rachel Podger (violin) with Daniel Bates, Leo Duarte (oboes), Sally Jackson (bassoon), Roger Montgomery, Martin Lawrence (horns), Rodolfo Richter, Iona Davies, Roy Mowatt, Claire Holden, Daniel Edgar, Alice Evans, Kinga Ujszaszi, Stephen Rouse (violins), Max Mandel, Nicholas Logie, Martin Kelly (violas), Sarah McMahon, Catherine Rimer (cellos), Cecilia Bruggemeyer (bass).

    17 November 2017

    Exploring our eon

    Canberrans consider the South Coast their backyard, so I guess I can at least jot this down here. Megan and I have just returned from three days at the coast to visit rocks and fossils: a geological field trip from Ulladulla to Bermagui. Geophysicist Doug and Carol led a group of 30-or-so to the various rocky, storm-eroded beachside outcrops that expose the underlying geology. And incredibly, over that short distance, we saw three exposed layers of rocks: the southern tip of the Sydney basin (~250mya, sedimentary, rich in fossils) through the Batemans Bay Melange (~500mya, metamorphic) to igneous (~50mya, basalts, cherts, pillow lavas, etc) at the southern end. We'd walked over much of this before, but it's different with some knowledge. Our mate Nancy is interested in Aboriginal women's matters so we got a parallel course in stone tools, fish traps, middens and the like. What a great combination of social, physical and educational: clambering over rocks, chatting any manner of things, learning of rocks and fossils, photographing too much, getting an early dose of Vitamin D and tan for summer, meeting for coffees or dinner. Memorable. Just some of very many pics.

    16 November 2017

    Warring the sexes

    How incorrect can you get? It's massively out of era, but I loved it. It was Guys and Dolls, the musical from 1950, performed by the Queanbeyan Players. Amateurs, perhaps, but with some seriously good singing, some decent dancing, a capable band, huge commitment and lots and lots of performers. It's not something you'll see with the profs these days because they can't pay for it and keep the ticket prices reasonable, but the amateurs can have 40 performers on stage, plus a band of 25 musicians, also on stage, and everyone's loving it. This was the final performance of the season, so the preparation was evident and the enjoyment was rife. And the music and book, all great. I'd listened to the sound track before and it didn't particularly click, but with the story and characters presented live, it all worked. G&D was released in 1950 and would have won the 1951 Pulitzer prize for drama but for writer Abe Burrows having troubles with the House Un-American Activities Committee and Columbia University vetoing the selection. In the end, there was no Pulitzer for Drama for that year. G&D is the story of Nathan Detroit, local Craps promoter, and his lover of 14-years, always soon-to-be-married, Miss Adelaide, bar singer. And in parallel, Sarah Brown, Broadway Salvation Army sergeant and her to-be beau, Sky Masterton, superior gambler. It's a story of its time with dark shades to feminism, but it's got essential truths amongst the period romanticism. The music is great; the characters and the story work. Perhaps except that it ends so suddenly and strangely unsatisfactorily, when Sky, in a totally unlikely, sudden and unexplained twist, joins the church. But there's a certain humanity here and that's important. I loved it. The players performed with gusto and plenty of serious capability. And it's not a lightweight outing: including interval, it lasted 3 hours. A fabulous outing that I'll remember. Just another example of the very capable and productive local non-professional theatre around here in Canberra.

    Guys and Dolls was presented by the Queanbeyan Players at TheQ. Key performers were Kitty McGarry (Sarah Brown), Tina Robinson (Miss Adelaide), Steve Galenic (Sky Masterton) and Anthony Swadling (Nathan Detroit). The Production team included Jude Colquhoun (director) and Jenna Hinton (musical director).

  • The main pic is my photo of a publicity pic on show in the foyer. I guess that's kosher for copyright purposes.
  • 14 November 2017

    Jazzy youf

    Jazz meets classics. It's not the first time this year for the Canberra Youth Orchestra. There's much to say about this outing. It's the last concert of their 50th year season and the orchestra was big, partly from ~20 CYO alumni who were sitting in. So the bass section was 6 not 5 and the orchestra was seriously big. The audience was also generous: Llewellyn Hall was virtually full. And the featured guests, James Morrison and his quartet, were a blast. So what to make of all this? The orchestra introduced each set with a piece. First set, this was Gershwin American in Paris; second set was Copland Appalachian Spring concert suite. All well performed but I had a clear preference. The Gershwin was a busy, street-wise piece, challenging and alive; the Copland is well-recognised and features some recognisable themes, but seemed relatively tame. Obviously, I preferred the Gershwin. Then, Morrison came on for a few tunes each set. James Morrison is a superb instrumentalist, fabulously adept at multiple instruments, clearly world-class in his field. And he's an entertainer, jokey and personable, as you need to be to make a living in this business. And he has a great little band with him: two sons, on guitar and bass, and a drummer. I'd seen most of the band (without papa) at Smiths and been mightily impressed by their dynamics, their cleverness and chops, their melodicism and the rest. They are seriously good players and papa is world-class. No doubt. And he's an entertainer, so those non-jazzy types were putty in his hands. We got a powerful blast of post-swing jazz and we knew it was good. JM does it throughout the world; that mix of hot jazz and luscious orchestration. He did it for us here, too, and I loved it. It sells, it's popular, it's supremely capable and very inviting entertainment. Local Zach Raffan came on too, to jam with the master. He did well, although James was obviously being gentle. JM is seriously a master of very many instruments. His ease of melodicism, his embellishments, his beauteous tone, especially on the various brass instruments, trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone, were a thing to admire. His flugelhorn was the strangest look, vertical with rotary valves, but had the sweetest tone I've heard. His trombone came with polyphonics (perhaps courtesy of his chops??). His piano was impressive. His chatter was polished. They played All blues, Enchanted (an original by JM), Round midnight, Caravan, Mood indigo, Love is a many splendoured thing, My funny valentine, El gato (Ellington) and a blues encore. All hot as or emotional as. I could only dream of playing like this. Dynamics, melodies, ease. Not too much challenge but always right and richly inventive within its world. Not the current state of the art, but hugely capable and I loved it. And the added orchestral richness was a huge pleasure.

    The Canberra Youth Orchestra performed at Llewellyn Hall with the James Morrison Quartet comprising James Morrison (trumpet, flugelhorn, soprano sax, trombone, piano), William Morrison (guitar), Harry Morrison (bass) and Patrick Danao (drums).