31 July 2019

To end a week

The end of a truly great week of music: a concert with Michelle Nicolle and Palaver [Quintet]. Michelle is just a stunning master singer, detailed, developmental, improvisatory, wildly flexible in rhythm and richly embroidered. And lovely to boot. She was in Canberra for a few concerts interspersed with other travel. I caught them with Ronny and Geoff, her long-term offsiders in Melbourne, and our locals, Miro, John and Eric. Again, it was the perfection of the long-term rather than something of complex pre-arrangements. This was flexible and jammed, relaxed in style but delicious in performance. First up some tunes from the instrumentalists: Delicatessence and Stella; then Michelle with Green Dolphin Street and Footprints and "something in a major key", There will never be another you; then Miro's gloriously beautiful Peace please and an encore with Michelle on Softly. There are a few throwaway blowing standards in that list, but how well do they appear in this format! So good, so informed, such worthy explorations. I could only melt, what with Michelle's so-intriguing and such-enriching voice fantasies and her obvious engrossment (follow her hands and face) and the respect on stage (John's intent focus and Miro's open smile at one particularly inventive line by Michelle) and the deeply satisfying playing all round. So good and such a pleasure.

Michelle Nicolle (vocals) sang with Palaver [Trio/Quintet?] comprising Miroslav Bukovsky (trumpet, flugelhorn), John Mackey (tenor), Geoff Hughes (guitar), Eric Ajaye (bass) and Ronny Ferella (drums).

30 July 2019


I haven't felt this was about an orchestral concert since the Berlin Phil. But it's a longish story. As we entered Llewellyn, I was amused to find performers in tails chatting in the various foyers at Llewellyn. Max holding shop; various others; probably the women too, but their garb was not so obvious. 15 mins to the event and I ran into one tails wearer and asked his instrument: "double bass". I congratulated the orchestra on their relaxed presence and got a selfie for a joke. This was Timothy Dunin, now Double bass professor in Graz and once of Vienna Phil. I asked how many double basses: 8. I was surprised. So relaxed, this family affair, but so big. We took our seats. The orchestra bulged over the Llewellyn stage. First up was Nigel Westlake and it was a dream: sharp, dynamic, clear, precise intonation and shared phrasing. For once, a sound that filled the cavernous Llewellyn. Desks behind desks of violins; those 8 basses all whipping phrases in parallel. Then Janacek Taras Bulba. There were claps between movements. This was a different crowd: strange, that. Not my favourite music, but we were in raptures. The principals shifted at the interval: Max for Damien Eckerlsey (?); Daniel Dodds for Natalie Chee as concertmaster; perhaps others. Then Sibelius Symphony no.2, Dmaj. We sat back in appreciation and awe. Plenty of applause. Then, before departing, the orchestra hugged (never seen that before and my camera wasn't ready). Then the lower foyer with everyone milling around, performers moving through, admirers and relatives waiting. There was a private function for the orchestra in the ante-room (what's it called? The ex-Library) which you could easily crash but we didn't. Everyone smiling and this seeming to be a great fun homecoming and mates' gathering. Waiting, I had a chat with the Mum of another of the bassists (Andrew Sinclair). How are the bassists so omni-present? Perhaps because they are so essential. Or perhaps because I find them; they seldom carry an instrument and they are late out. It was a whirlwind and an orchestra of such effectiveness that it floored us. Wow! Don't miss the AWO if it returns.

The Australian World Orchestra played Llewellyn Hall under Alexander Briger (conductor). The basses were: Timothy Dunin, Damien Eckersley, Max McBride, Robert Nairn, Phoebe Russell, Andrew Sinclair, Ciro Vigilante and Dusan Walkowicz.

29 July 2019

Melting hot

John Mackey called together his monthly Melting Pot at Makeshift and it was a huge pleasure. Nothing unexpected there. It's a jam, but with the best of our musos and a guest. This month, the guest was Steve Sedergreen gathering with locals John and Miro Bukovsky, James Luke, Greg Stott and Peter Campion. Peter was new to me: apparently a student replacing Mark Sutton for the night. He did a great job with funky firm sometimes challengingly syncopated drumming. Steve was busy as, moving things around with abandon, very prominent and influential although fairly sparing on solos. James is a local hero and easily deserved. I play bass so he'll always catch my awareness, but his space matched with alacrity, tonal variety (the most delicious 6-string tone augmented with various effects) and moving underlay just floored me. He, too, was very influential on the path of the jam. Then John, of course, exhilarating and adventurous from the first notes: a giant. And Miro sounding his synth-best with some harmoniser pedal. And Greg, clear on his first semi-acoustic, then dirty and deep with his e-guitar. I dare say there was little immediate preparation here, other than several lifetimes of listening and practice and experience. Miro played some electric Miles in the breaks and this just mimicked some of this band. They are masters and this was a huge pleasure and no doubt an indulgence for them, too. Perhaps some tunes were fully improvised, some were stock standard blow charts (So what, Footprints) and just one glorious standard (You don't know what love is) which got a firm, rocky treatment from Peter with some suggestions of swing from others. Then another one or two head that I didn't know. Some hugely satisfying playing: hot although not hot as in swing - this was much more funky and contemporary. And some laughs with those harmonised Darth Vader voices. Just a blast from the best. BTW, if you plan to go, pre-book online.

John Mackey led a session at Makeshift bar in New Acton with guest Steve Sedergreen (piano) and locals Miroslav Bukovsky (trumpet), James Luke (bass), Greg Stott (guitar) and Peter Campion (drums).

28 July 2019

A different experience

Our experience of the Choir of Kings College, Cambridge, was different from that of many others, and there were many others at Llewellyn Hall for the concert. It was pretty much packed, upstairs and downstairs. The choir huddled in a square on stage, younger singers in the two first rows; older choristers in another two rows behind. In front were conductor Daniel Hyde, an organist, and accompanists Alice Giles and Umberto Clerici. Alice also performed solo (Cavalli). The choir mostly performed in full, although there were pieces in the first half for the young'uns and for the King's Men, as the seniors are called. The King's Men perform and record separately. The choir consists of 16 boys from age 7 and 15 male Cambridge University students. The boys sing treble; the students sing alto, tenor, bass, split approx 4/6/8. Singers generally remain with the choir for 3 years and it's hard work. They perform evensong 6 nights per week during term, as well as practice and tours. The seniors also perform as the King's Men. This, in addition to a heavy academic workload over short 8-week terms. Not sure how many terms per year. So, how was our experience different? We billeted two students, Trojan and George. Trojan was studying music and sang bass; George was studying classics and sang alto (also bass?). But what of the concert? Canberra got program no.2 covering a range. The early works were from Bach and Byrd, Tallis and Gibbons and Monteverdi. Then through Britten and Vaughan-Williams to contemporary. Ross Edwards provided the Australian relevance with a new commission, Singing the love; Weir and Wallen provided contemporary English compositions. Wallen's Pace (=Peace) was introduced as "hear a pin drop" material and it was true: beautifully soft with unexpected dissonances that resolved (perhaps too early for this jazz lover) then reformed. Lots of harmonic colourations with staggered breathing. Funnily enough, someone did drop something tinkly and needle-like near where we sat during that tune. That was my favourite for the night but I was enamoured by the clarity and also strength of sound of all the works by the choir in that big Llewellyn space. The second half especially had me in raptures. So, a memorable concert of precise and historical voices and an interesting interaction with Cambridge, the university. This visit will just have to suffice until we get to Evensong in the chapel, when next in Cambridge.

The Choir of Kings College, Cambridge, performed in Llewellyn Hall. We billeted George Gibbon (alto) and Trojan Nakade (bass).

27 July 2019

Travelling tales

For an instrument so big and imposing and even clumsy, pipe organs are a strangely well travelled thing. I'm told Canberra has about 30 pipe organs (I guess those in church and of significant size; we may have more small, boxed chamber organs) and I've heard the history of several of them. They were proud possessions of churches that lost congregations and closed so they got passed on or sold, perhaps internationally, mainly from the UK. I just heard Trevor Bunning playing on the 1920 CW Leggo organ at the North Belconnen Uniting Church, Melba. That one was reconstructed and rededicated in 2008 after an earlier life at the Singleton Methodist Church. It has 610 pipes housed in the original cabinet complete with finials and in a church designed to house this very instrument. I'd seen but not heard this organ in the past until it appeared as a monthly concert of the Royal Society of Church Music, ACT Branch. Trevor Bunning was a leader in the restoration of this instrument, so is closely attached to it. He played a program of different cultures and different countries, from Bach and Buxtehude through Zipoli and Couperin and Stanley, renowned for his blindness and in English organ history, reaching the position of Master of the King's Band. Then more modern, with a Mendelssohn massive hit song from the earliest days of acetate recording and a Tuba tune and Amazing Grace complete with passing bagpipes. We did just see him passing by, but we heard him easily enough. So, an interesting contemplation on the pipe organ and a pleasing performance.

Trevor Bunning (organ) performed on the CW Leggo organ at North Belconnen Uniting Church.

26 July 2019

Jazz comes to Wesley

It was an unusual concert at Wesley. This was music of the jazz era sung by a jazz choir with piano accompaniment. I just don't expect rhythmic rhapsodies at Wesley, but there they were. They were short a few sopranos who had come down with colds, but this was a lovely satisfying thing anyway. I was entranced from the top with a fascinating and neatly constructed intermingling medley called Rhapsody in rhythm, featuring Crazy rhythm, Fascinating rhythm, I got rhythm and Rhapsody in blue, not just as a simple run of tunes, but nicely overlaid and interspersed. That was some great arrangement. This one was not by a band member, but others were. Musical director Camilo Gonzales writes and arranges and provided one tune, a version of Cry me a river. And Mike Dooley, piano accompaniment, writes prolifically and featured three songs from a gospel CD he has written and RS is recording. So, quite a range, here: from jazz era to Carole King and Cry me a river which was performed by many but which I first encountered by Joe Cocker, of all singers. There was life and pleasure in this group, some great arrangements and harmonies and nice, tricky rhythms and some excellent accompaniment from Mike, not least some insinuating and perfectly timed ostinatos and a few little opportunities for solos. So a great pleasure with some foot-tapping tunes.

Rhythm Syndicate performed at Wesley under Camilo Gonzales (musical director, conductor) with accompaniment by Mike Dooley (piano).

23 July 2019


Excuse the indulgence, but Tilt Trio finally has a YouTube channel. Search "Tilt Trio Canberra" on YouTube or follow the link below. Check out your host's jazz venture here. Tilt is James Woodman (piano), Eric Pozza (bass) and Dave McDade (drums). And an informal thanks to Luke Sweeting for the introduction.

  • Tilt Trio Canberra on YouTube
  • or shorter, https://bit.ly/2M2Ca6s
  • 22 July 2019


    My visits to the Blues Society jam session are rare these days but they are fun. Plenty of grey hair and historical rockers; memories of Hendrix and BB and Dr John; good gear and decent PA and adored guitars. Stevie Ray is a hero. It's somewhat like the Moon landing, I guess, like Apollo 11, this very day 50 years back. It's aged, but aged well because there's some truth in it. One band played Beatles While my guitar gently weeps then Billy Thorpe Most people I know think that I'm crazy then Hendrix Red House. I must admit I loved that (and sang along with Thorpie), but it's not quite the real thing. The real thing was 12 bars, in C or B (!) and shuffles and sleezy, funky swampy blues. They were the tunes my collection played and it was genuinely fun. Of course, the one band I played in doesn't have a pic, but that's how it is. The others do. There were several other bands, not least the host band, The Drivers (once the Backbeat Drivers), with Mike and Steve and Dean and Doc playing a storm. Some great vocals and thrilling guitar. There are some nice musos through the jams, too. People who've been through a string of bands and still playing this after 30/40 years. I got to play with a mate, Leo Joseph, this time on guitar, and Dan, Dan, Josh and Chris. Known only as names on a board. They do it well and with integrity. And it's a nice, relaxed venue, Harmonie German club, and there are a few dancers (mostly girls, of various ages). Get along. $5 entry and a club bar in the room. And a string of mates, getting down and dirty. Not the intellectualism of jazz or the beauty of classical but down to earth and real and goes well with a beer. The Canberra Jazz Society meets the last Sunday of each month (not Jan?) for a jam session at the Harmonie German Club.

    The Canberra Blues Society holds a jam session last Sunday of each month (not January) at the Harmonie German Club. The Drivers were Steve Hartnett (vocals, guitar, harp), Michael Hardy (guitar), Dean Edgecombe (bass) and Doc Rennie (drums).

    21 July 2019

    Wander at will

    I did just see them passing by - I have a few times - but I was blown out as always. Miro got Wandlerlust together for a gig at the Jazz Haus and it was a stunner. From the first bars of a lengthy, adventurous piano solo from Alister to open up, through the renowned Wanderlust songbook and a few newbies and a delightful standard by Duke Ellington called Wanderlust, no doubt, this was a thing of wonder. Bronte Cafe is famed not just for the band but for its incarnation as a theme on ABCRN a few years back. Dakkar just sits luxuriantly. There a good bit of Africa here, with one from Jeremy (missed the title) and Miro's Pressure makes diamonds (a fabulous title dedicated to Nelson Mandela). And deep grooves with Delicatessence and the latin/New Orleans Mumbo Jumbo. And that deliciously beautiful tune, again by Miro, Peace please, which they played as an encore and profound ending. This was Wanderlust as lustful as I've ever seen them. Gloriously tight and intoned heads that sit over infectious rhythms; James with his ever-gleeful presence and deeply satisfying solos; John and Brendan as the local visitors and insanely effective; Alister as deeply, harmonically investigative, Fabian all infectious latin, Jeremy often unobtrusive then guitar clean and melodic. Megan asked about some of the background, where these overly capable musicians on riffs spelling complex African grooves. Backing solos or backing out completely for solo bass or drums or guitar to play genuinely alone. Just so good. Great players know when to talk and when to sit. And again, those perfect heads. Someone mentioned there's not much ensemble playing. No, not written. These are mostly infectious grooves with gloriously melodic heads and space for improv that they leave to these great players. Did I say I enjoyed it? Hugely enjoyable tunes from the best of players. What's not to like?

    Wanderlust appeared at the Jazz Haus. Wanderlust were Miroslav Bukovsky (trumpet, flueglhorn), John Mackey (tenor), James Greening (trombone), Alister Spence (piano), Jeremy Sawkins (guitar), Brendan Clarke (bass) and Fabian Hevia (drums).

    18 July 2019

    Prep no.2

    And next week came and it was also great. Aaron Chew returned to preview the other half of his PhD recital, die in a few months. This is the warmup: a warmup to virtuosic and beefy music. Aaron is reading on Busoni and presumably some relation to Liszt, as his compositions feature. This concert contained several arrangement by Busoni of Liszt. A student at PhD level is interesting for the intellect as well as the performance, so Aaron introduced each piece with a short but relevant presentation. So, Busoni was more faithful to the original in his Mephisto waltz, but also featured "beefed up: harmonies and more drama and spice. Or the delicate bells of Liszt in La Campanella became harder and more sculptured in Busoni's version. Interesting, especially effective with the colourful and indicative descriptions. Again Aaron's concert gave wonderful renditions and a satisfaction of real musical intimacy. For the record, the program was Liszt-Busoni Mephisto waltz, Liszt Reminiscenes de 'Norma' and Liszt-Busoni Etude no.3 C#min 'La Campanella'. A great pleasure. Now we can all await Aaron's recital sometime in October.

    Aaron Chew (piano) performed more Liszt with reference to the pianism of Busoni at Wesley.

    14 July 2019

    The unexpected

    We had Friday evening off and that's National Press Club jazz evening. The unexpected was that Sally was playing with Lachlan rather than Brendan. Nothing unpleasant, these being consummate players, just unexpected. Somewhat different, too, being vocals&guitar rather than the unusual combination of vocals&bass. Lachlan does a good line in bass, too, so there was bass awareness accompanied by the more evident harmonics of the guitar. [Excuse the digression, but Beethoven himself said: “The guitar is a miniature orchestra in itself”.] The tunes were much the same, deliriously lovely and often-enough somewhat touching. The songs of the American songbook are like that: discrete but straight to the heart and mostly of the heart. Nothing unexpected: Softly, Paper moon, Witchcraft, Our love is here to stay and the like; transposed. Unexpected but no surprise and just lovely.

    Sally Marett (vocals) performed with Lachlan Coventry (guitar) at the National Press Club.