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).