31 December 2020

Some like it hot

Obviously Con Campbell does.  At least that's how I hear him and it was no different last night.  It's a quiet week but I wandered into Molly and there was Con's band, with Greg and Brendan and Mark.  Playing bebop.  It mostly stayed that way for the night, or if not bop, treated that way.  Not that Brendan would slow it down.  He's a machine gunner with delightful melodicism so raring and ready for the quick stuff and he plays with the application and effort that the big bass needs and sounds great for it.  Greg is more restrained: blindingly quick but clean, not the bluesy dirt that the others were indulging in.  I tapped one time on my metronome: 274.  Quick but not into the stratosphere.  Brendan had worried that he'd maybe settled the time, but I doubt it.  There was reliable drive here and his double timed phrases didn't lag a millisecond.  Con led with the tunes and heads and walked through the fours and the rest.  Lovely, expressive solos and a big earthy tone.  The alto player I was sitting with commented on that.  Mark was bright in the lights and delightfully steady and unintrusive but took the feature when the fours came around and they were inventive and easy.  Such a lovely outing, if "outing" is the right word for the bebop and uptempo swingers and latins that we were hearing.  Maybe stunner is a better word.  I got into chatter with Brendan's family (cheers, Mel) and that was interesting, if necessarily shouty given the volume, so I missed a good bit of the music.  But every peek at the band was another stunning line from someone.  This was still the quiet week after Christmas, not yet New Year's Eve, but this was alive.  Great stuff.

Con Campbell (tenor) led a band at Molly with Greg Stott (guitar), Brendan Keller-Tuberg (bass) and Mark Levers (drums).

30 December 2020

Women too

This was Part one of Know my name: Australian women artists 1900 to now at the National Gallery.  In the words of the NGA, "Know My Name celebrates the work of all women artists with an aim to enhance understanding of their contribution to Australia’s cultural life ... that addresses historical gender bias".  There's more with Part two later this year.  I got to a first view, then a quick revisit to catch some details and themes and especially a quote that impressed me.  It's in words, so more obvious than the visual art "use your culture in your own defence".  The full quote was "female culture is in the minds, hearts and secret dialogues of women. use your culture in your own defense. use soft aggression".  I was struck by the line about using your culture, meaning influence from a place of your own strength.  This was from Lip magazine (1976) from the Lip Collective, published in Victoria, initially with some government monies which were later denied due to its perceived suggestiveness.  See the original on display and you'll understand.  It's clever, amusingly described as "a delightful play on the pornographic centrefold (art historian Louise Mayhew).  There were many works that dealt with feminist issues, but not only.  One room stunned with three huge feminist works that I'd seen before whole or in part: Tracey Moffat, Anne Ferran, Julie Rrap.  Our own eX de Medici had a fabulous piece called The Wreckers, on civilisational destruction and perhaps hinting at a natural recovery.  In another room I was intrigued by Jenny Watson Self portrait as narcotic and somewhat perplexed by one commentary by Marie Hagerty, fascinated by just how Marie Hagerty managed her Flight research photos.  Once again I enjoyed pics by Carol Jerrems.  I noticed some challenging music accompanying a video and it was by Roger Frampton.  I liked the early works with their traditional skills: portraits, self-portraits, nudes, too.  I do enjoy those skills.  As for up-to-date, there was a museum-like presentation by Janet Laurence called Requiem made in the wake of the 2019/2020 bushfires and hail storms.  She notes in her piece that "Australia is on the WWF's list of global deforestation hotspots - the only one in the developed world".  I dare say it's because we just got to the destruction later than others, but that's no excuse.  There were numerous other names of interest, some known, many less so and various other themes and artists: Indigenous, posters, dissenters.  I liked the bedraggled, disintegrating Aussie flag commenting on Howard's core and non-core promises.  And Barbara Campbell's Dubious letters (likely fake) used to implicate Mary Queen of Scots in the death of her husband in the form of a skirt.  I chatted with some knowledgeable women who said it had originally been worn by the artist.  And there was feminist fashion and associated exhibitions on Patricia Piccinini and Tjanpi desert weavers and the Body electric ("includes works with adult content").  Some great stuff there.  Well worth a visit or several.

Part 1 of the exhibition Know my name: Australian women artists 1900+ runs at the National Gallery to mid-2021.  Part 2 follows in July.

  • The pic is detail from eX de Medici The Wreckers (2018-2019), now in the collection of the NGA
  • 23 December 2020

    Rellies at Christmas

    Great that Melbourne is open again because Richard M could have his distant family in town and with them came partner Jules Pascoe.  He's a professional player in Melbourne, playing in a band called The Conglomerate which includes two members of Cat Empire.  So decent players.  I'd lent my bass no.2 for a jam with Jules, Richard and Mike Dooley and in the end, I could get over for a short visit.  Jules was playing a storm and especially in his solo.  Lovely; very impressive.  Mike and Richard were doing admirably too.  It's a wondrous thing about jazz, that people can just name a tune they know or pull up a chart and play with anyone.  That's jazz training.  Nice to meet you, Jules.

    Jules Pascoe (bass) jammed with Richard Manderson (tenor) and Mike Dooley (piano).

    22 December 2020


    Mike and Rachel are mates who I played with in bands in the past, so it was both a duty and a pleasure to attend their third album launch.  It was a smallish event, Covid-limited, I guess, in a church but not at all small in application to performance.  This was 13 players - Mike, Rachel and rhythm and horn sections and strings, all being recorded for later ArtSound broadcast by Chris Deacon.  And that musical aggregation had plenty of friends in it, too: Richard and Miro and Steve and Phil and Con and I got chummy with Ilsa.  A gaggle of lovely, capable players performing Mike's joyous, purposeful, often witty music.  Mike's styles are not so much of today, but Michael Bublé made it big, so why not this clever music?  There were love songs, songbook-styled AABA standards, sambas and bossas and some funkier tunes.  Rachel's singing is always a huge pleasure and Mike and Rach harmonise as a lovely pair.  There's considerable piety, too, amongst the passions.  There's a market for that, but it's not for the market that it's felt, perhaps unlike some adherents.  One thing that I hadn't been aware of was Mike's writing of a musical, apparently themed around a scientist who discovers purpose beyond rationality when he meets a singer on a cruise liner.  It was a revelation as I listened and realised the inherent style of musical theatre and the different musical outcome.  It was lovely.   This is a music I recognise: turnarounds, grooves, melodies.  Same too with the solos, and there were some beauties there from some significant local players, although not given the chance to let go as in bop or jams.  And that cute old '20s two-feel.  All there, amazingly diverse if not particularly like the rap that's on the radio.  And done so well.  I was happy as Larry to buy my copy and get Mike's and Rach's signatures.  There's joy and love here, and they are both open to it.  We need a world more like this! 

    Mike Dooley (composer, piano) and Rachel McNally (prev. Thorne) released their third album as In2Deep.  Accompanying musicians were Camillo Gonzales (guitar), Steve Richards (drums), Phil Dick (bass), Anthony Dooley (bongos), Miroslav Bukovsky (trumpet, flugelhorn), Darren Ormsby (trombone), Con Campbell (tenor), Richard Manderson (alto), Tim Wickham and William Dooley (violins),  Iska Sampson (viola), Alex Voorhoeve (cello).

    21 December 2020


    At the moment, I feel like I'm reacquainting myself with the scene after the Covid shutdowns.  If the Sydney outbreak blows up, I might need to be be doing that again in several months time, but in the meantime, I'm enjoying it.  This next gig was with I Progetti, Charis Messalina de Valence's mediaeval-influenced choir, this time in the vibrant-sounding foyer of the National Portrait Gallery.  And it was a huge pleasure.  This is an SATB choir of 8, so a pairing for each voice, so small and clear and beautifully intoned, even through some more chromatic lines.  Anthony Smith was there as keyboard accompanist (variously harpsichords, organs and more) but he sometimes just introduced with a pitch, so the singers were a capella.  Small can be less thrilling but also more precise and clear.  I found myself with closed eyes shortly into the concert, and sat like that for most of it.  They arrived with an initial joke of arm-length social distancing.  Then into a circle for four short brackets of 4/5 songs each.  I said mediaeval, but not just.  The composers ranged from the likes of Josquin de Pres and Pretorius and Lodovico Grossi da Viadana through Anon. and Trad. to Howard Blake and Dominic Fox and Eric Whitacre.  The choir also has a resident composer, Mark Chapman, who provided the opening song "Welcome, Yule!".  I loved the variation, adored the clarity and precision, drooled over a high soprano (hard to identify, but I'm told it was Charis) and then, to finish off, the Christmas carol singalong.  I immensely enjoyed finding my recently unused voice (generously the pitch was comfy).  We sang First nowell (I have just learned that "nowell" is the Cornish original; "noel" is an Americanisation [source: Wikipedia]), Come all ye faithful and Hark! the Herald angels sing.  My recordings of the event weren't so successful, but the concert was.  So lovely; such clarity in such an apt space.  A great pleasure.

    Charis Messalina de Valence (director, soprano) led I Progetti chamber choir at the National Portrait Gallery.  Anthony Smith (keyboard) accompanied.  Singers were Charis and Ngaire Breen (soprano), Mary Woodhouse and Susannah Bishop (alto), Steven Harris (tenor, occasional alto), Tristan Struve (tenor, baritone), Mark Chapman (bass, occasional composer) and Steven Strach (bass).

    20 December 2020

    Hitting the streets

    My rush off was to Civic and a political meeting.  It was held in King O'Malley's, out back, above the bar, in the Snug Room.  Noisy as, but the beers were good.  That's apt for a centre-leftie get together.  Just a few people from the Canberra branch of the Australian Fabians.  The Fabians have a long history as a democratic socialist (~=Labor) grouping in England with members including the likes of George Bernard Shaw, HG Wells, Annie Besant, Ramsay MacDonald, Emmeline Pankhurst, Bertrand Russell, Sidney and Beatrice Webb and Havelock Ellis.  It was a disappointingly small turnout but an intellectually astute one, with economist and convener Lachlan presenting on 2020 as the year that (nearly) killed neo-liberalism.  We'll see, I guess.  There may not be much belief anymore, but there are influential parties that benefit from it, so I expect all bets are off.  Given attendance and our current government (and maybe Aussie voting habits), change doesn't look too imminent.  Outside, it was different.  Lots of people, for Covid-free ACT times, Christmas, Friday night, lust and the rest.  Lots of noise and partying.  Some music from guitar/singer Matt Dent singing and strumming against a recorded accompaniment.  Nice for the beery hot circumstances.  Suffice to say it's the busiest I've seen all year, if not in the Snug Room.

    Matt Dent (singer, guitarist) entertained at King O'Malley's.  The Canberra Chapter of the Australia Fabians cogitated in the Snug Room.

    19 December 2020

    A too quick interlude

    I saw so little and to some degree I heard so little of Briana Cowlishaw and that was disappointing.  I was booked for something else to 7pm so I only managed 4 tunes, and even though I was relatively close, the chatter was loud (that's good, but...).  I heard perhaps more of Greg as his guitar was sharp with attack and cut through, but voice is more smooth.  But what I heard was lovely and I could feel it getting earthier and firmer even by the fourth song.  I would have liked to follow that, as she settled in, but I couldn't.  Already there was a neat, well controlled alto voice, gentle but with occasional power, a nice awareness of timing so the melodies got subtle jazz inflections and delays and anticipations.  And she sang several scat improvs with lines that showed clear listening to sax lines and other jazz instruments.  This, too, was getting firmer and more adventurous and earthier. It helped that the last song I caught was the relatively raunchy Honeysuckle rose.  Her bossa was far more restrained and romantic and I liked to hear some language (Portuguese? Again I couldn't hear well) in the bossa.  So, nice but a short outing.  Greg was great too, of course.  His solo guitar role was totally convincing moving through accompaniment into soloing, chordal and single note lines, with no hesitation or feel of undue sparseness.  Not busy, but comfortable and present.  Too short but sweet.

    Briana Cowlishaw (vocals) was accompanied by Greg Stott (guitar) at the National Press Club.

    18 December 2020


    My God, what styles there are in jazz!  Styles over eras.  I got to the National Press Club for John Mackie's band, with Greg and Brendan and Mark.  Anyone who knows these names will know these are superlative players.  Just a thrill to hear such ease and richness.  So different from just days back, at Molly.  Was it Messaien that Bird studied and held in reverence?  And what of Hendrix who died young, shortly before he was to play with Miles.  Different worlds but all music, just mightily diverse, or as Newton said, "standing on the shoulders of giants".  Like Hildegard von Bingen to Fanny Mendelssohn.  Difference but also all one.  John played some Bird Parker and it was stunning.  The whole band: sharp, relevant, correct, devastatingly quick.  As a bassist, I was especially awed by Brendan's alacrity, but also the lines that were so melodically true.  Much the same from the others, of course.  All referencing the source, a standard or bop or whatever, but giving it personal relevance and currency in interpretation, so John's lines started by spelling some unexpected intervals then developed with harmony and flurries to floor the listener.  More modern, perhaps, but referential.  Then a bossa that sat like a rock, sturdy but pretty and devastatingly emotional.  Not sure what else to say, but I was enthralled.  Years of practice distilled into a few sets in a bar, National Press Club, for some birthday guests, I guess, and others.  And they noticed.  It's hard not to notice such ability, unpretentious, there, in a modest setting.  Really quite a stunner, actually.

    John Mackey (tenor) led a quartet with Greg Stott (guitar), Brendan Clarke (bass) and Mark Sutton (drums) at the National Press Club.

    16 December 2020


    NYC or other, these guys play that way and have all travelled to hear those modern styles.  We are lucky to have such a trio as this, here, in Canberra, down the track from studies here and abroad, playing with a hugely satisfying modern complexity.  It was Brendan's trio, so his part first: the bassist leads.  This is fast, fluent, expressive playing through solos and accompaniment.  Playing with time, busy across the fingerboard, machine gun lines at times, but also melodic, sometimes spelling out the melody plainly enough, perhaps with altered notes, or exploring both melody and harmonic substitutions with sequences that move through various keys but talk back to the initiating phrase.  Rich and busy playing and absolutely convincing.  Solid and fat.  And with this, Victor on guitar, again rich with chordal accompaniment, often enough chordal solos, twisting the harmony for new paths and new visions of a tune.  That contemporary tone: a batch of effects at his feet, of course, but not too obvious, perhaps middy, but clear and bell-like, strongly present but strangely unintrusive and always guiding to new directions.  I hear NYC clubs in his playing.  And Rhys on drums, quieter in this context of firmly amplified strings, filling often unobtrusively, perhaps taking solos, cymbals clear and present, toms filling and bouncing amongst it all, kick underlying this all.  This was the most complex and satisfying set -  sometimes standards, sometimes jazz tunes - flamboyant or complex or extravagant (the bass solos were, often enough!).  Always purposeful and telling modern stories in modern idioms.  Their time overseas was actually Indiana, NYC and Canada.  There are echoes here, strong and imbibed.  We are lucky to hear this, here, live, in the flesh.  Get it while you can.  A blast.

    Brendan Keller-Tuberg (bass) led a trio with Victor Rufus (guitar) and Rhys Lintern (drums) at Molly.

    14 December 2020

    British weather

    Excuse the indulgence, but this is such a pretty picture of my bass that I had to include it here.  It's Tilt at the launch party for the British Film Festival at Palace Electric.   We had a great night there and it led to a gig for the British High Commissioner at her residence, called Westminster House, no less!  Westminster House is on a huge block on the crest of a hill in Deakin next to Grammar Girls.  I'd gone reminding myself not to mention Brexit.  We were playing at the edge of a wall-less marquis, the wind was coming in over the tops of local housing, but we managed to play a decent gig with fingerless gloves.  The chatter was going well and we were enjoying things.  There were speeches and Brexit was mentioned(!)  Then, in the last minutes, the rain came in.  We stopped and the guests moved inside.  Our host uttered an obvious comment but in context it amused me no end: "British weather".  Nice way to finish a very difficult and very interrupted gigging year.  Merry Christmas from Tilt and Canberra Jazz. 

    Tilt Trio are James Woodman (piano), Davd McDade (drums) and Eric Pozza (bass).

    10 December 2020

    Wonders never cease

    As the national capital, Canberra has various oddities or special things, often gifts of other nations, or in a major collecting institution.  It's not quite Rome with its own immense history or Berlin or Paris that display a mix of local and others', or London that's full of imports.  Or Washington DC with plenty of purchases from the old countries given its immense personal wealth over the last century or two.  That said, I prefer our Blue Poles over a similarly large Jackson Pollock in MOMA without the poles.  Just shows.  But then their waterlillies was immensely larger and their Picassos were very significant and at least one Modigliani was a key work.  Do we have a Modigliani?  We probably have a print or two.  But I could go on like this.  Those great collections are a major pleasure of my travels.  But today I went off in search of one local oddity.  I'd heard of our two bricks from London's Waterloo Bridge: built 1817; dismantled for a new bridge 1942.  The stones were distributed through the Commonwealth.  ours are two large granite stones (~1mx1mx2m) between the two arches of the Commonwealth Ave Bridge at the Parliament House end.  I walked on to the National Library, an old haunt.  Firstly, to see our Henry Moore sculpture (Two piece reclining figure, no.9), but primarily to see again our brick from the ancient Library of Athens, a gift from the Greek government: "a piece  of white marble from an Athenian library that was razed by invaders about AD 267 This stone, along with the rest of the ruins of the Library of Pantainos, was largely hidden from sight from AD 267 until 1933, when it was uncovered in an archaeological dig by the American School of Classical Studies in Athens. It made its journey across the world to Australia in 1968 when the stone was donated by the Greek Government to the Australian Government for the new National Library building".  It's located in the foyer of the National Library.  Then walking on to Albert Hall, I see a sundial set on several bricks from the Houses of Parliament, Westminster, no less.  Do these wonders never cease?

  • Athens stone quote, viewed 10 Dec 2020
  • 07 December 2020


    I finally got to our historical Rose Cottage Inn after having driven by it a million times.  The weather was good and I got 5 (?) FB invitations from Keith.  Good on him; it's not something I have the heart to do but his invites worked with me.  It's a lovely down-to-earth family hangout on a Sunday arvo.  It felt good.  And listening to a range of covers is also a pleasure.  If I had a better memory, I'd have another go at covers, but you need to know so many.  7 Shots play 15 per set for several hours.  I recognised many tunes, not all.  From Burning love and Day tripper and Chisel's wonderful Flame trees through Animals/Angels and Pretenders and Creedence and several insistent, chatty, heart-felt Paul Kelly tunes, and some rockabilly and that unavoidable Moondance (never liked that one!) and Crazy thing called love and for something more modern, Tones and I Dance monkey.  Catchy; great fun with a beer in a garden on a sunny arvo and lots of kids to assist the band with entertainment.  With Covid in check.  Some convincing singing, occasional harmonies, even 3 part at times, steady time and insistent presence.  And I could chat classical with drummer Libby who played orchestral percussion sometime in the past.  Nice all round.  A beer, a bar, a band; what could be better?  I'm still grooving to Tones and I...

    7 Shots played at Rose Cottage Inn.  The band comprises Keli Robinson (vocals), Bill Dunn (lead guitar), Rod McIntyre (rhythm guitar), Keith Joliffe (bass) and Libby Hampton (drums).

    06 December 2020

    St Paul

    It was St Paul who had a road to Damascus moment of conversion.  It wasn't like that for me at St Paul's Manuka but it was a great pleasure to play in this space for the first time.  I'd attended lots of concerts here and it's a favourite venue.  On stage, the sound was a great pleasure with my bass strong and present.  Looking up to the high ceiling and the distant organ and surrounded by this large string orchestra playing a wonderful program, I was deeply satisfied.  Perhaps less so with my playing (one's playing always determines one's view of a concert, I find).  Gillian had asked me to play only two weeks before and this was a challenging program and I was busy with other gigs.  But the pleasure remained mine.  Bach's rollicking Brandenburg no.3 at a good pace; the first movement of the Mendelssohn octet op.20 with bass playing the cello 2 part.  I am flabbergasted to learn Mendelssohn wrote this sophisticated piece at age 17.  Also a delightful Rossini Sonata no.6 (written when he was 12) and Beethoven Romance in F with violin solo and Sibelius Andante Festivo to top it off.  The playing around me was great, not least the cellos down my end.  Those parts were demanding and so sturdily played.  We had a decent crowd, too, given that Covid distancing had halved from 4sqmpp to 2sqmpp only two days before.  Strangely, the recording was not so generous with the instruments more distant in this deep altar space - the sound may be a little obstructed by that altar arch or maybe they were just so much more distant from the mic - but the effect was lovely, nonetheless, and the space was a delight.  And there were banks of strings here - the octet required violins 1,2,3,4, violas 1,2 and cellos 1,2; thus an octet.  So a fabulous outing with some wonderful musicians and a deeply satisfying program.  Thanks especially to Gillian for the invitation.

     The Forrest National Chamber Orchestra performed its Festivo concert at St Paul's Anglican Church Manuka under Gillian Bailey-Graham (conductor, director) and Rodney Clancy (asst conductor) with Rebecca Lovett (concertmaster) and Natalie Neshev (violin solo).

    02 December 2020

    Hitting it

    Great gig last night at Molly.  We were booked as James Woodman trio, I guess, but given two are Tilt, I'll consider it that. Dave couldn't do it so a ring around came up with Micah Heathwood, currently a student at ANU.  What a great outcome.  Perhaps a bit loud, primarily from my kicker amp but Micah went along with it.  Driving jazz, but with a rock presence and commitment.  Plenty of willing drum solos (thanks, Micah!) Great fun.  Micah suggested some tunes and we introduced him to a few he didn't know, including some cute waltzes, not least Bluesette, and one original from James.  The crowd was good and responded at least to a few tunes, perhaps later in the night.  My family and friends were there looking all the world like Leonardo's Last supper.  Not that bad, guys.  Whatever, a great night.  Thanks to Micah.

    James Woodman (piano) joined Eric Pozza (bass) and Micah Heathwood (drums) at Molly, nominally as Tilt Trio or James Woodman trio or other.

    Thanks to Annabel for the band pic and to Wikimedia Commons for the Giampietrino copy of Leonardo's Last supper (ca 1520).

    23 November 2020


    There's a big push for local tourism with the waning of Covid in Australia but I'm not sure this can be called tourism.  Not sure it can even be called "on tour" because we just drove out for the day but it sounds cool.  Not that being on tour is such a comfy existence in the real world, but Musica da Camera's Sunday concert jaunt after each Saturday Cook concert is a pleasure.  And this was our 10th anniversary in Gunning; in the richly reverberant Shire Hall.  These out-of-town gigs are fun and, given it's a rehash of the program, they tends to be our best performances.  With Covid, the programs are shorter and we are doing two iterations in Canberra, so this was particularly satisfying as the third try.  Those missed repeats and poor counts and the like were fixed, and Rosemary took it slower and the works seemed to grow in intensity.  That surprised me.  So a pleasure it was.  The program was quite obscure, at least to me.  Rossini Viva Rossini was cute. Then Respighi Ancient arias and dances suite 3, the major ensemble work of the day, was somewhat odd and quite challenging.  Then Vivaldi Winter featuring a 15-yo violin powerhouse, a student of Rosemary, Fumiyo Yamamoto.  She also played the drastic dynamics of Sarasate Zigeunerweisen to finish up, with Alex Rowley Christmas suite for strings interspersed with its disguised carol quotes as a reminder that this unfortunate year of fires and hail and pandemics and Trump and more is coming to an end.  Good riddance.  But nice to do our little tour and to play with Fumiyo and just to neaten things up for this, the third and final iteration of this concert.  Until next year...

    Musica da Camera performed Rossini, Reshigi, Vivaldi, Rowley and Sarasate under Rosemary Macphail (director) with soloist Fumiyo Yamamoto (violin) in two concerts at Cook and one in Gunning.

    This is CJBlog post no. 2,300.

    20 November 2020

    When commitment shows

    It wasn't a program I particularly recognised and not even a format I particularly know, although I have heard four-handed piano before.  But rarely and I don't remember it being like this.  The playing here was intense, unbending, busy, complex, deeply felt by players rocking backwards and forwards ont heir stool.  They were both products of the Russian/Ukrainian systems, one a Masters from Donetsk State Conservatorium; the other Honours from the Moscow State Institute of Music.  Now both in Canberra, teaching, accompanying and the like.  I remember a story told by Elena Katz-Chernin, also a product of that education, that indicated the demands placed on students compared to Australia's.  It was an eye-opener (Look for the story somewhere here on CJ under EKC).  Suffice to say, these were impressive and they played wonderfully together.  They had even had classes in four-handed piano in their studies.  They played Rosenblatt (including one well-known Russian theme) and Gluck and Piazzola Libertango, (obviously one I knew well) and Rachmaninov Vocalise and a nicely structured modern Christmas medley (is it that time already, in this strangest year 2020) by Jonathan Scott.  All was obviously arranged for four-hands, so the lines and sounds were different.  I couldn't easily separate the players/hands by ear, although seeing a video afterwards with hands showing made it obvious.  But whatever, this was a virtuosic effort with absolute commitment.  Few words, short breaks, some smiles form Natalia and quiet determination from treble-ended Elena.  Just wonderful.

    Elena Nikulina and Natalia Tkachenko played four-handed piano on the Yamaha grand at Wesley Music Centre.

    16 November 2020

    Getting to normal?

    It seems just a little normal to be seeing the second concert of a local ensemble since Covid-19.  This is Limestone Consort and they performed again at All Saints.  Last time was a little turnout next to St Christopher's in Manuka.  This time it was back to All Saints, our superb little church with carved angels and even gargoyles and with a more generous attendance.  All Saints is our touch of the mediaeval, literally here in Ainslie.  A local gem.  So is this group.  Lauren leads with some regular players, Clara, James, Michelle and Iska.  That forms the basis of Limestone, a gut-strung string quartet with harpsichord accompaniment.  Then adding Jennifer on baroque flute for a few tunes and Greta to sing another.  Limestone's music is baroque or early classical: Handel, Quantz, Telemann, Brescianello, Vivaldi, and this time two new names, at least to me, Fasch and Leonarda.  Interestingly, Leonarda was a Mother Superior, so a female composer in early times, apparently composing in her spare time.  The music was various sonfonias (sinfonie?), sonatas and a concerto.  Guest Jennifer's baroque flute was a delight on several pieces,  changing the tonality and effect and bouncing lines with Lauren's violin.  But perhaps the feature was the final piece, Vivaldi Nulla in mondo pax sincera, with Greta singing the soprano part.  She's such a lovely voice and this was such a fabulous piece, not least the elaborations on Alleluia at the end.  Greta carried it out with great effect, although talking after of being concerned she couldn't do a last minute warm-up.  Understandable given the virtuosity of the piece, but she's too hard on herself.  It was wonderful.  Such a lovely repertoire, a lovely, joyous, happy outfit and a second appearance for them in this haggard year.  In case it's not obvious, Limestone are a fave of mine.

    Limestone Consort comprised Lauren Davis and Michelle Higgs (violins), Iska Sampson (viola), Clara Teniswood (cello), James Porteous (harpsichord) with Jennifer Brian (flute) and Greta Claringbould (soprano).  They performed at All Saints, Ainslie.

    14 November 2020


    I was interested to hear that a collection of over 1,000+ prints had been offered to the National Gallery by the Megalo Print Studio but not accepted into the collection.  Being an ex-librarian, I understand the implications of such an acquisition, so I could understand to some degree (this being a large local collection), but I was interested in seeing the prints anyway.  A small sample were on exhibition at Megalo's premises in Kingston.  Megalo is a Canberra institution dating back 40 years, having originated in a tin shed in the Ainslie Village in the 1980.  For Canberra, that's an institution.  They have a small collection on show in the workshop's foyer.  I recognised a few names and various techniques and a few historical themes, many political - Fraser, Whitlam, Howard, feminism, class, events.  Printing seems to have always been a political medium.  It had me thinking back to the '60s/'70s screen printing scene: everyone had posters on walls, for bands and more; poster shops were institutions; every demo had its prints.  It was a peoples' artform although not without its skills.  My indulgence for a short time was linoprint and I still love the mediaeval effect of woodblock printing.  So, this was in some ways a visit to a past that's somewhat replaced by newer technologies.  But if the return of vinyl means anything, it suggests that art forms of all eras tend to co-exist.

    The Megalo Print Studio is in Kingston.

    13 November 2020

    Near enough for jazz

    Not really near enough, but it is relevant.  Tilt played another best-eva gig for the opening of the British Film Festival at Palace Electric.  BTW the pic isn't Tilt hard at it, but from the Festival film White Riot about late-70s punk in Britain.  The Clash, I think, from the Festival brochure.  Not sure what makes for these best-eva gigs.  A good day, good acoustics, good feel, volume, repertoire?  I fought for tone this time, but it worked in the end.  Concentrating on tone is physical, especially on the double bass, but it lets me relax into melody, so better solos.  And I was standing, so there's that sensuous aspect of poring over a big, old, clumsy, wooden instrument.  And we had to reduce volume when one film started, and that has its influence, adding to subtlety and care.  Whatever,  it worked and we had a ball.

    Tilt Trio played at Palace Electric.  Tilt are James Woodman (piano), Dave McDade (drums) and Eric Pozza (bass).

    11 November 2020


    It was after the demos and I was wasting time mosying around Civic, the civic area, Garema Place, outside Hippo, rather than the privatised Centre.  A band was playing, or at least a duo, The Beez, two vocalists, male and female, on guitar and accordion.  They were playing Midnight Oils' Beds are burning as I arrived.  Very catchy, sounds fun, nicely lively.  Then, what?  German?  Yes, they'd switched to a verse in German.  I caught a string of other songs before they closed shop.  Faco Der Commissar, apparently in a Viennese dialect.  Never going to be Barry White, I assume an original (see The Beez performing this on YouTube).  Baissong (?), perhaps a Euro-take on Kiss' I was made for loving you, and that 80s glam-pop classic, Nena's Neunundneunzig Luftballons (99 balloons) which I've just learned has a theme of nuclear holocaust.  The Beez: nice and lively, great fun, with those unexpected Germanic lyrics.  Nice to hear some other languages on the bandstand: we are so unrelentingly monolingual in English-language countries.  It's a weakness.

    PS. Megan recalls we saw their show "Don't mention the wall" (about the Berlin Wall) at the Artist Shed.  The Beez site says they toured it to Australian in 2013.  That's two years before the advent of CJ so no record here.

    The Beez performed in duo format in Garema Place in Civic.  They were Deta Rayner (accordion, vocals) and Rob (guitar, vocals).

    10 November 2020

    Day of demos

    If you listen to my recorded music (under the pseudonym "The Pots" on Spotify et.al.) you'll realise I have political opinions.  Fairly strong and, at least I think, fairly ethical.  Also, I think, reasonably informed by good sources providing guidance from evidence.  Now, we have had some dog days of late.  The bushfires and Covid and ScoMo/LNP's response to rebuilding the economy and generally to climate and secrecy and security and much more.  But maybe there's some hope.  Trump got the flick and he seems to be strangely restrained in the face of defeat.  Biden is no arch-lefty (clearly to the right of our own revered Liberal Menzies, as is our contemporary Labor party) but at least he's not so impetuous and ill-informed and has at least some respect for truth and belief that it exists and we can at least approach it.  So there's some mild, distant hope.  Thus, I embarked on a day of demos. 

    First up, a morning fling outside Parliament in support of Zali Steggall's climate bill.  Not a big crew, mostly retired.  Strange that, but the kids have much less time these days, what with flexible work and dearer housing and the rest.  I was handed a sign to hold and it worked for me "Coal ... too stupid", but I wish I'd made one "Invest in Gas / What could possibly go wrong".  Well, lots, given Europe, US, Japan, South Korea, China (others too) are committed to give up on fossil fuels within 30 (China 40) years.  So it's not just survival of civilisation, but even survival of economy.  That's changing minds!

    Second up, a lunchtime session outside the ACT Courts in support of Bernard Collaery and the subjects of secret trials.  I wish to say justice, but the essence of secrecy is the denial of justice.  Thus is the way of an increasing state of security, the primacy of Home Affairs and the rest.  Our local luminary journos spoke, Jack Waterford and Mark Kenny, with hosting presumably by host Sister Susan Connelly.

    I took the opportunity to promote my albums to the fellow travellers at the demos.  If you've heard my albums, you'd recognise all these themes: climate, broken politics, Covid.  If not, catch up with these.  In the meantime, remember Gramsci: "Pessimism of the intellect; optimism of the will".

    The Pots is a project of Bassist EP of Canberra.  Here's some listening:
    On Broken politics > Spotify
    On Climate > Spotify
    On Collaery et al > Spotify
    On Trump's Bible photo-op > Spotify

    09 November 2020


    Thanks to George for asking me to record Georgina.  I've watched Georgina for several years and played with her occasionally but as is with youth, she's blossomed.  She's now in her honours year in violin performance (UQ) and seeking entry to a Masters program.  My recording is a help towards that.  How they play!  She performed with accompaniment by Anthony Smith, so this was a mighty pairing with some unique music.  First up, a movement from Saint-Saens Violin concerto no.3.  Then some solo Bach from his Violin sonata no.3.  Then the odd one, Ravel Violin sonata no.2.  Why odd?  Just not at all like baroque or classical or romantic.  This had growls and rhythmic grooves and the like.  Some reminded me of modern US music, perhaps even country.  I guess that was the growls; the grooves perhaps suggested funky something or other.  But so nicely played all around.  Nicely intoned, alive and vibrant, fast and sometimes furious, delicate and formal as required.  I can just hope she takes a Masters spot.  I cna only imagine she deserves it.

    Georgina Chan (violin) performed a recital with accompanist Anthony Smith (piano) at Wesley.

    08 November 2020

    Pic an excuse

    Tilt played another gig at Molly last week.  We had just a little competition on the night: the US Presidential Election and State of Origin.  Nonetheless we got listeners and they were stayers, so all was well on the night.  I've got to little else recently and otherwise nothing particularly to mention here so it didn't get a run earlier.  But I like this pic from Layla, with cocktails front and centre while we strived in our profound artistic pursuits (!).  Good gig though; much enjoyed.

    Tilt Trio comprises James Woodman (piano), Dave McDade (drums) and Eric Pozza (bass).

    31 October 2020


    This CV19 era is a downer. There have been a few jazz gigs but I couldn't get to them for some reason of other. As a break, we went off to Dubbo. Dubbo? Yeah, famed for the zoo but we didn't go this time. We did check out some historical sites, the gaol and the homestead, and the Botanic Gardens and Cultural centre and various restaurants. I noticed a ton of motels in town. I guess it's the zoo's pulling power. We chatted in a surprisingly large music store and discovered the local conservatorium (our local SOM heavies had played there recently). Met the great-great-niece of Ben Hall, the famed local bushranger. Got to see the Canowindra fish fossils and the Parkes radio telescope in our travels. The music highlight was the Old Bank pub, with guitars on the wall a la Hard Rock Cafe. These guitars always surprise me as attractive instruments (335, superstrat, jb, DanElectro, Gretsch, etc) but they are not really so expensive as decoration and possibly serve as investments. That was the site for the Tuesday night jam session. This was rock with a string of hit covers - Paul Kelly, Pink Floyd, Dylan, Angels, Santana and the like. I liked it but didn't end up sitting in. So be it. The band was greying (I can talk!) and capable. The burgers were huge. We only stayed for the host band's set. We liked it. Takes you back. As for Dubbo, there must be layers to unearth that we didn't have time to discover. 
    Eric and Megan visited Dubbo.

    25 September 2020

    Maintaining history

    The Wadsworth organ seemed out of place in this modern church space, all stage upfront with lectern and no altar, but with resident band gear in the corner.  The organ, though, had history, birthing in 1908 in Manchester and finding its way through a number of moves to Marist College here in Canberra, then finally to the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Cook.  Linus Lee played it for this RSCM (Royal Society of Church Music, Australia, ACT Branch) concert.  I'm working my way around the organs in Canberra through this lovely group that presents monthly lunchtime concerts around town.  It's a pleasant interlude with these unique and complex instruments. They are mostly not the grand organs of European cathedrals, but satisfying none-the-less, even if their spaces here in Canberra can lack requisite stone to share their profundity. Whatever...  This concert featured Linus Lee playing a range from Buxtehude through Bach and Beethoven to Franck, Ketelbey and Lefebre-Wely.  There was a pleasant mix of stateliness and lighter contrasts, right from the Buxtehude on, and counterpoint and renowned melody - the Beethoven was his piano sonata no.8 Cmin put to organ so less percussive and fuller.  And a string of organ grinder-like joviality and joy to finish.  That was a little unexpected but clearly welcomed.  There were some low notes that felt weak and some clunks and knocks but that is all part of this mechanically complex instrument that demands such maintenance.  The cost of that, the age of the instruments, the lack of expertise militate against that these days.  But the sounds can be blissful and there were some lovely passages in this.  Thanks to RSCM(ACT) and Linus Lee for the concert and Westminister Presbyterian for the opportunity.

    Linus Lee (organ) played Buxtehude, Bach, Beethoven, Franck, Ketelbey and Lefebre-Wely on the Wadsworth Organ at the Westminister Presbyterian Church for the Royal Society of Church Music monthly concert.

    23 September 2020

    Best eva

    Megan says that I report every gig as the "best eva".  I don't think I do, quite, but this one really was.  Maybe it was getting up again on stage.  With Covid, it's relatively rare for all players.  This was only my third jazz gig since March.  But it all just seemed to gel.  Sometime it does.  I remember reading Leonard Cohen's novel decades back and he said that about performing.  I have always thought it's not particularly professional - we should we able to play decently whenever called - but there's some truth in it.  Sometimes your hands are just not in, or it's cold or the sound doesn't work, and that's particularly an issue with double bass.  But last night I could hear myself so well with my mammoth, heavy Eden amp, relax into the tone and the tunes and interactions with James and Dave.  So I was enjoying it, my hands were supple and quick, and I found it a great night.  But then last time on this stage in a duo with James was good too.  Was that the best eva?  Well, it's difficult to say...

    Tilt Trio comprises James Woodman (piano), Dave McDade (drums) and Eric Pozza (bass).  They played at Molly.

    20 September 2020

    Concert in the time of Covid

    It's a strange experience.  This was my first concert since the Covid close-down six months ago.  The group was much the same - twenty or so string players in Musica da Camera with guest guitar soloist and director.  The location was the same, but instead of 100+ audience, there were just 30 seats sparsely strewn in front of us.  Better than nothing.  Someone mentioned the sound was different but I didn't particularly notice, being too busy trying to play the parts.  Because that's another thing: the parts were not too challenging, but my practice hasn't been so established for several months.  Covid has done strange things to our mental states.  And another thing, I couldn't play the Sunday concert.  I have to confirm 14-days staying in the ACT in a bit less than 2 weeks and the Sunday concert was close, but in NSW.  Strange, really, given that ACT is so small, and so many NSW residents come to Canberra for work or pleasure anyway.  But they have to set some rules and this is a little oddity.  So I thought we were just a little rusty but the music was surprisingly satisfying - Grieg, Vivaldi, Whitacre, Boccherini and Piazzolla Libertango.  The soloist was Canberra-trained guitarist Andrew Blanch and the conductor was local music educator and bassist Lizzie Collier.  Both were impressive.  I expected it would be too much guitar, too Spanish, but I came to enjoy the performance immensely: the passionate, driving rhythms and growling bass parts.  Lizzy advised that tango should be played virtually 100% with down-bows on bass and cello.  Interesting and strange but it gave a drive and growl that I loved. The Grieg was lovely folk song as Nordic melody; the Whitacre was colours of autumn interpreted with all manner of time signatures (3/4,5/4,4/4,6/4) and harmonic colour.  The Vivaldi and Boccherini were with guitar, one a guitar concerto and the other including a fandango.  Libertango is just a fabulous, hugely covered passionate tango (from Grace Jones on).  So, I'm sorry I'm not playing the Sunday concert (it's being played as I write this) because the rehash is always more comfortable and committed, but I enjoyed that which I could and I remain Covid-correct.  Thanks to all and hope it's going well right now.

    Musica da Camera string orchestra performed Vivaldi, Whitacre, Boccherini and Piazzolla under Lizzy Collier (director) with soloist Andrew Blanch (guitar).

    13 September 2020


    FWIW, a note of consternation for readers.  Blogger has changed its publishing interface and I can no longer publish multiple images to display as I always have.  So, just one pic per post until they fix this.  I'm not alone: there's a discussion happening with lots of disgruntled bloggers.  How often do updates reduce effectiveness in computing?  Too often.  So, sadly, just one pic posts from now on.

    It's the mark of a seasoned professional that they've played all manner of musics and they can pull different styles off with some conviction.  I knew Wayne Kelly was seasoned and professional from seeing him around town over the years but this was particularly obvious this night.  He wasn't playing a jazz bar, but the Lone Wolf blues-rockabilly venue of Jeffro and fondly remembered Bucky (vale Bucky).  So we got a mix of musics but with the conviction and wit and jazz-tutored chops of Wayne.  Not that he did it all alone.  He had James Luke and Chris Thwaite on side.  James has been everywhere over the years and Chris has been around for a similarly long time, although I haven't seen him for years.  Amusingly, the name suggested the styles, Wayne Kelly Experience, although the pop was the Polics (Walking on the Moon) and Beatles (Strawberry Fields forever).  Perhaps the bluesier numbers with Jeffro sitting in on blues harp were more Hendrixy, but they included some.  Or the Trane-ish  original, King of Kings.   Then there were a few songs, both ballads, with Wayne doubling on vocals, When I fall in love and Crazy, both immensely popular and clever tunes.  And the intro on Nardis, the first bars, had me floored with jazz subtlety and harmonic invention.  Wow.  Then another Bill Evans tune I'd never even noticed, Very early.  But then, after interval, was something different again, solo Wayne on Maple Leaf rag and, oddly but intiguingly, some classical solo piano, Chopin nocturne F#maj op.15 no.2 and two Bach Two part inventions, no. 14 Bb and no.8 (F?) that everyone knows.  Wow; and intriguing playlist.  Quite and experience.  And the most fabulously substitutioned Doctor Kirkland Blues (after Kenny Kirkland): so, so clever.  But this is not to say his offsiders weren't worthy.James blew us out with a string of solos.  He's quick and expansive and melodic, although we couldn't alwasy hear his that well.  That's a problem with amplifed double bass, here over a bluesy PA.  And an interesting looped take on Strawberry Fields, starting with pizz then through a number of bowed harmonies under the melodoy.  Verr cool.  And Chris, solid and steady, intriguing with a djembe-styled solo on King of Kings, and intriguing with some very satisfying, determined solos otherwise.  And not to forget Jeffro, more blues than jazz, sitting in on a few tunes that suited him and giving that plaintive edge of authentic blues.  Takes you back to early jazz, I guess.  Before The Police or Beatles, before Coltrane or Oliver Nelson, before Ellington (oh, Caravan was in there too) although not before Bach.  So, some great playing and an expansive vision.  I guess that's an experience to savour.

    Wayne Kelly Experience comprised Wayne Kelly (piano, vocals), James Luke (bass) and Chris Thwaite (drums) with Jeffro Martin (blues harp) sitting in on a few tunes.  They played at the Lone Wolf sessions at the Austrian-Australian Club.

    01 September 2020

    Journaling the plague year

    There's little music and particularly little jazz that I know of these days, this being the time of the pandemic.  But a last minute advice on FB about our star young local bassist, Brendan Keller-Tuberg playing at Molly with his quartet was enticing.  The band was Brendan with Wilbur Whitta (piano), Steve Read (guitar) and Rhys Lintern (drums) playing variously over 3 sets.  I hoped to catch the middle set and more, with the non-jazz arrangements and interpretations (Radiohead and the like) going into standards to finish.  I arrived to instruments laid on stage and the band in a break and a decent buzz and a girl who didn't offer me a beer, but informed me they'd reached their limit (51).  So that's that.  And so little more jazz!  That was sad: they would have made a worthy outing.  In a related vein, that afternoon I offered to record a classical group in a few weeks time.  To allow them a full paying audience, I offered to sit in the Green room.  No choice anyway: it was already sold out.  I've always enjoyed that we needn't book for jazz.  If this is our new entertainment world, I can only hope dearly for an early vaccine.  And no pic.

    26 August 2020

    My indulgence


    There's a line from Sting on the 1980 album Zenyatta Mondatta by The Police that has always stuck on my brain.  It's a great melody with a hypnotic endless rhythm and with considerable depth: When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around.  It's in this light that I released my third home-studio album by The Pots, called Pumpkin discomforts.  The first two albums had themes of climate then Covid-19.  Pumpkin has the theme of broken politics.  Plenty of anger with disillusion and despair and some Catholic guilt for being comfortable amongst it all.  I'm getting better with various tech things and perhaps with conception and implementation with  more experience, but that's for you to judge.  I invite you to have a listen.

    Have a listen to Pumpkin discomforts / The Pots on Spotify, YouTube Music or some other streaming site.

    24 August 2020

    Singing art

    Art song is a style. I'd heard of it, but looked it up: mostly solo voice with piano, excluding arias and chamber music with song and the like. I think of mainly romantic styles and sopranos on stage, but no doubt other voices do it too. So I went to an ArtSound Canberra session, invited to record. Sarahlouise Owens sang soprano with Natalia Tkachenko accompanying on piano. Like much that I do these days, it had crossovers in style and more. Mike Dooley was page turning for Natalia. He was also the main composer for the session with a lengthy and intriguing collection called truth and bearty which put four poems of John Keats to music. They were renowned poems that kids of my days read as school and the source of many quotes: Endymion ("A thing of beauty is a joy forever"), To Autumn, Ode on a Grecian urn ("Beauty is truth, truth beauty - that is all / Ye know on Earth, and all ye need to know") and Ode to a nightingale. Mike did a great job, all rolling arpeggios and complex interpretations of iambic pentameters; even the sound of nightingales between stanzas. Then a strings of lesser known composers, often women: Linda Phillips with two Hebrew songs, Phyllis Batchelor with some love songs and more (love songs just have to be a staple of art song, as much other song to our days), Carl Vine and Horace Keats, two romantic males for this outing. It much have been a huge task to get this together, presumably for one concert. Sarahlouise was strong and firm, lively and entertaining. Natalia was more delicate, soft and responsive. So a lovely outing with my jazz mate Mike presenting yet another classical composition, this a song cycle and some wonderful performances. Just one last thing to note, not least on the subject of love. Mike's song cycle, his Keats poems put to music, were a commission by a man to his wife for their anniversary. More romance in song. We all liked that.

    Sarahlouise Owens (soprano) sang artsong with accompaniment by Natalia Tkatchenko (piano) at Wesley. Mike Dooley composed the core song cycle to the words of Keats.

    24 July 2020


    I expect there are a lot of musicians out there in Covid-land who are a little rusty With the best intentions, we mostly don't manage to practice all day even when we have the time. We miss those upcoming gigs that prompt the preparation. So it was, to some degree, when I got to a return Royal Society of Church Music (RSCM) organ recital. The planned organist pulled out due to lack of preparation. Bill Fraser, a stalwart of the local organ scene, filled in. He told me he was missing the normal preparation himself, but he did a worthy job on a string of interesting pieces from Baroque through to last C19th. The concert was in St Peter's Lutheran Church, Reid, with a German-made baroque organ that sounded great to me and filled the A-frame church nicely. Interestingly, Bill told me this is a mechanical organ, so keys are linked with bars to pipes. The more common current style is electro-mechanical with actuators controlling airflow; presumably cheaper and easier but not always preferred. just closed my eyes and enjoyed it immensely. Organ is so satisfying, big and full and sweetly toned, and this concert had a series of apt tunes, a Corelli violin sonata transcribed and an early Bach Prelude and Fugue and two choral preludes by Merkel and Brahms. We heard a Mendelssohn allegro taken from a manuscript, called the Berlin-Krakow, of uncertain ownership like various other removals from Germany after WW2. I remember seeing a few remaining pieces of the plunder of Troy in Berlin, with reference to the rest of the collection being held in Russia. Again, conflicts over ownership. Of course, there could also be some query over Germany's ownership in the first place. At least they are not lost to humanity. And a few late C19th Australian works, religious and very satisfying. So the gigs are up again, perhaps only while they last. Let's catch what we can, within the limits of social distancing, of course.

    Bill Fraser performed for the RSCM (ACT Branch) at St Peter's Lutheran Church, Reid.

    20 July 2020

    Cautiously in concert

    The return of live music is now judicious, especially with the second wave of CV19 in Melbourne and, as I write this, Bateman's Bay. That's Canberra playground territory, so we are all a little apprehensive. But this Limestone Consort concert was planned a month or more back and it went ahead. With sparse seating and limited numbers, as planned. And without the cello we expected, but that was due to a slip in the kitchen; not at all to do with the pandemic. So just Lauren on violin with James on harpsichord. Clara could just turn the pages (I don't envy Clara: finger skin injuries may be temporary but they stop your playing and they can be very painful). The program was Schmelzer for two numbers and Handel, Biber and Bach. Lauren noted that Schmelzer was appropriate for the program, given he died in a Plague. Certainly apt. Lauren always gives informative background introductions, social or musical. Another comment was on the Biber piece, Mystery (Rosary) sonata no.5 (Jesus in the temple). Apparently Biber was hugely inventive, even predating atonal composition. Here it was scoradatura, so the violin (a new and powerful-sounding baroque violin on loan from Hugh Withycombe) was tuned to an A major chord. Apparently the notation was for standard finger positions so the tones surprised the ear. Otherwise, there were two solo harpsichord pieces (Handel Voluntaries and fugues no. 3, 8 and Bach Toccata in Dminor (not that renowned Toccata and fugue - BWV913 not 565). In all, a lovely outing, small and sadly missing the cello, not least in the Schmelzer Cucu sonata, but a welcome return to live classical gigs.

    On the day, Limestone Consort appeared as a duo comprising Lauren Davis (violin) and James Porteous (harpsichord), playing Schmelter, Handel, Biber and Bach.

    16 July 2020

    Ellingtonia, Strayhornia

    Once again back at Molly for another Covid gig, this time with three of our local heroes playing music of another pair of heroes, Ellington and Strayhorn. The local heroes were Tom Fell, Wayne Kelly and James Luke. I chatted for some of it, but was floored by some understated then immensely melodic bari sax and a similar melodicity on bass and Wayne's lovely bluesy response. Floored is an apt word. James is so lithe in his playing, but also relaxed and diverse and satisfyingly lyrical. And with a lovely, rounded tone. Tom spelled the tunes so effectively then the solos with clear reference to the originals. I guess there was a good bit of transcription in his history, but if not, a good ear and some solid listening. Wayne plays piano, so chordal, so bunches of notes in his raunchy style that contrasted to some degree, but complemented with ease. These guys know each other well and it shows. This was easy and wonderfully effective. The pics weren't so good, they had turned the stage lights off. Well, it is jazz in a speakeasy. A wonderfully satisfying evening with superb playing and a deep knowledge and respect for the classic tunes they were portraying. Fabulous. Not sure what the musicologists would make of my title, though.

    Tom Fell (baritone sax) led a trio with Wayne Kelly (piano) and James Luke (bass) playing the music of Ellington and Strayhorn at Molly.

    15 July 2020

    The other side of the stream

    We've been stuck inside and doing streams and webinars. Here's something that's a little more active and quite fun: playing together by streams. You can do this as a jam session or live performance, but that has issues of internet lag and I am yet to achieve that. But I have done a few home recordings that are assembled later as a performance. One was with Bernard Duc, a composer in Switzerland, who put out a call for bassists to support a choral performance of Amazing grace on FB. The other followed an invitation emailed around Canberra, for community musicians to play a few tunes with Canberra Symphony Orchestra and Canberra School of Music students. Both provided an audio download to listen to while reading a part. It's much easier to play with the volume and excitement of an orchestra around you, but I managed them. I also tried to record a tenor part for a huge choir with Eric Whitacre (2,000+ singers) but I wasn't comfortable with my solo voice so that one bit the dust. All amusing pastimes. Links below; perhaps more coming.

  • Amazing grace / Bernard Duc
  • CSO Community special (1) Jamaican rhumba
  • CSO Community special (2) Can can
  • 13 July 2020

    Ragtiming Paris

    There's not too much international travel these days, but Heather and Leigh got back from Paris just at the start of the pandemic and they've been down the coast and dropped in to Smiths for a gig. Leigh is Leigh Barker, once local bassist trained here in Canberra. It's a story of a small world, but I know Leigh and his folks through multiple connections. Heather is from rural NSW but I first heard her in Melbourne. They have kids now and have lived in Paris for several years. But back here for the duration, I guess. Their gig was classic early jazz, perhaps the latest tune was from Irving Berlin in 1932. Glorious beauteous melodies, cute and nicely played on violin with guitar or bass, and sung by Heather with a firm and tailored voice intervening with her neat violin melodies with a lovely, understated vibrato and considerable body. There was one ragtime, this being a family-version of Heather's Dirty Ragtimer Duo, along with Maple leaf rag and Carter Family and Louis' Hot 5 and a string of lovely but often sad songs, like Old fashioned love and Lover come back to me and Say it isn't so (that's the Irving Berlin tune from a time when he'd lost much). So, a lovely, touching, period concert (it's arguable that much jazz is that these days) that had me tapping my toes with 2-feels. And some decent guitar and wonderful bass, not least with French bow, spelling 2-feels and early walks and beautifully self-evident and understated solos. It was a change to go to Smiths again, although sadly now sparse, separated listeners, but a pleasure none-the-less. For the audience, some returns; for Leigh and Heather, maybe some more returns, to Paris. Not sure when. But so nice while it lasted.

    Heather Stewart (vocals, violin) performed with Leigh Barker (guitar, bass) as the Dirty Ragtimer Duo at Smiths.

    12 July 2020

    Forever streaming

    Well, here's a change. Not for the streaming, which is common to my daily life these days, but for the event. The International Online Bass Summit. Five days of various seminars, master classes, concerts and the like, various concurrent sessions, international with names I just read about or hear of. Not all good, though. It ran on NYC time, so started ~2am and ran to early morning. Not optimal for we Australians, although we made up a good portion of attendees. I'm still working my way through recordings, but it's not the same. While live, you can flip between sessions and ask questions and thus interact. The recordings are more like YouTube views, private but distant. I've enjoyed orchestral masterclasses, regularly floored when the leader picks up his bass. I particularly enjoyed Derek Jones, a multi-talented studio musician with awareness of getting and keeping the gig, and Kristin Korb who presented various exercises and demonstrations on singing with the double bass. That one was unexpected and little considered. Kieron Hanlon presented some arrangements for Bach cello suites in different keys to suit the double bass. Danny Ziemann presented his crawl, walk, run approach to jazz bass (2-feel, walk, solos) and David Allen Moore presented his fractal fingering approach which I didn't find so convincing, me the traditionalist. And the concerts, Francois Rabbath smiling deeply throughout, and John Clayton with son Gerald, Gary Karr with Christian McBride and more. Some sessions were interesting but not so relevant for me, but I may watch them in coming weeks, and some dealt with technical issues that I'm hanging out to view, like spiccato bowing or Simandl-plus fingering or thumb position. All matters of fascination for the double bassist but unknown otherwise. And Australian Rob Nairn on early music. How could I have missed that till now? It's a strange experience but nice that I could take part. Thanks to Covid-19, I guess, for the opportunity.

    The International Online Bass Summit was held by videoconference on 24-28 June 2020.