26 October 2021

Delta III

Tonight was Gang Gang's turn to invite some performers.  First up was Apricot Ink. Well known through TripleJ Unearthed and their single.  I looked up their site but couldn't track down names.  "Gus, Sara and Willo make up the 3-piece Alt-Pop project.  A motley crew of Canberrans who got together during ISO to make music."  They were a duo tonight: female vocals with guitar and male harmonies (mostly).  Nice harmony 5th below if I hear right.  The first song was Make believe; the second was Is it OK.  "Many made me mushroom pot / Take another tote, blow it out the window / It's a madhouse, it's a share house on the corner ...  Euphoria just around the corner / Is it OK, to be not OK".  Ah the memories!  Listening later on Spotify and it's very  nicely done in the recorded version.  Then Matty Ellis, a solo guitar singer, presumably song-writer.  He sang two songs, Indian Ocean and So far (I think I caught the track title).  Both songs of lost love (again, if I heard it right).  " I can't stay here in this place / I can't travel alone / There's a space in my heart ... forever / There's a space like the Indian Ocean".   Strums and an obvious Aussie-voice.  Then a second lockdown song: occasional falsetto; another love song?  "How could I know you'd let all this go".

Apricot Ink (female vocals, male vocals, guitar) and Matty Ellis (guitar, vocals) performed for Gang Gang Cafe on MusicACT's Delta streaming series.

22 October 2021

Better late than never

My apologies!  I watched Meatshell (Helen seemed to pronounce it "Meet-sha", presumably Euro or Scandi) at Earshift then missed the writeup.  So I watched again and here it is.  Strange, as it was one I was particularly hanging out for: lockdown can be my excuse.  Meatshell are a duo of sax and bass/voc, very much at the experimental end of the spectrum and very fascinating to my ears.  Helen's soprano vocals with purpose "there is nothing for me here outside ... now I sit and wonder why / I don't know it's over ... I'm losing my way-y-y-y).  Lovely twiched voice with flits up to end in the style of punk and Scandinavians, propulsive and so-solid grooves from bass or floating fills from sax or bass or beautifully apt and responsive sax melodies.  They started with two songs from their album Since subito, Lost and Growing (out of nothing); then a new song Old mind.  All slapped sax keys and drones and long vocal notes.  Deeply felt and expressed vocals with sympathetic sax lines and challenging, poignant effects.  A final song, Face, had Helen singing bass put down and even more challenging vocals.  Just stunning and ear-opening and challenging to many a comfortable habit.  I am seriously blown out!  Then the chat.  FWIW, they are a couple which may influence things.  Collaborative process?  No formal process, whatever works.  The duo came together new with the first album.  That only had one tune with vocals, so Helen's singing is new.  Now she loves the singing, even happy to put down the bass.  (I think it showed on Face).  Tunes may start with a riff or an idea, then a thought, like how many ways to say something.  Then plays with abstacting forms form an original state, pulling apart the puzzle and experimenting: to "decompose" (Wayne Shorter).  Plenty of extended techniques, multiphonics, quarter tones, articulations, slaps.  They have both studied extended techniques for Masters studies in overseas; Banff and NYC got mentioned; perhaps more in Europe or Scandinavia.  They mention the influence of European folk which they heard frequently overseas.  And finding things that blend and conflict, but intentionally, of the joy and unpredictability in combined sounds; unexpected but conscious.   This performance was not much rehearsed, to save freshness and prerecroded for lighting and presentation (and followed with a celebratory pizza).  Andrew spoke of the novelty of live-to-air balancing against presentation value and the product, so needed these days.  So an interesting discussion and just a stunning performance.  Hugely impressed and much intrigued.

Meatshell are Helen Svoboda (vocals, bass) and Andrew Saragossi (tenor).  They performed for Earshift Festival.

19 October 2021

Delta II

Tonight a few faves from The Basement.   Alec Randles with support from James Briguglio. He sang two original songs, singer songwriter on steel strung acoustic guitar with mate James on the Cajon.  Varied rhythms, nice, US-styled, perhaps Zep-lilted voice.  Nice.  Interesting lyrics with purpose (inequality, on the way down...?) then into different fills.  The songs were Judas and Peter.  Peter had got some air time on TripleJ.  Alec and James play together in Kopasetic, a local roots/folk band, but this was form Alec's solo project.  Then Jen Broadbent, another singer-songwriter, vocals and steel strung guitar.  She sang her two originals.  Disappear was her first ("Someday I'll disappear, don't know where, running barefoot, sure to meet you").  Nicely rich on reverb and steel strung guitar, then a new one, Driving with my blues ("I don't like to remember, the night I cried and cried...  I knew I'd be alone again....driving with my blues.")  Blues as we expect.  Nice piercing voice, sharp steely sounding guitar and solid strumming.  Effective!

Alec Randles (vocals, guitar) sang with James Briguglio (cahon).  Jen Broadbent (vocals, guitar) sang solo.  Both appeared for The Basement on MusicACT's Delta streaming series.


14 October 2021

Delta I

Son no.1 told me of another series of streaming music concerts, this time of local bands around Canberra in various styles, playing at places as diverse as Blackbird, Smiths and The Basement.  Not sure what to expect, but it's a nicely broad education in local music.  Day 1 was JEP and MissM.  JEP are locals, jazz trained, playing Blackbird, Molly and the like.  Even Lake Burley Griffin, at least for this outing.  Very nice, very smooth, Herbie Hancock-ian deep groove, jazz funk.  Capable melodic playing all around, tight and nicely internally responsive, minimalist structures with perhaps with unexpected twists or inserted odd bars.  Plenty of piano lines and synth pads out front but everyone gets a solo.  I loved this one.  And I'd love to know where the power came, down there by the lake near the Museum.  We might hear them collaborating with some Canberra vocalists next year: I can't wait for that.  The stream continued with two songs from MissM, presumably self-penned.  Piano, vocals, immediate and touching, alto voice and accompanying piano.  I should have listened to words to really make a judgment, but again nice and well presented.  Both these artists perform are Blackbird.  The Delta sessions are organised by MusicACT and streamed free at 6pm Mondays until 15 Nov.  Find links at MusicACT on Facebook.

JEP and MissM performed for the streamed Delta Sessions.  From ACT each Monday to 15 Nov.  JEP comprises Jamie Rea (keyboards), Evan Marshalsey (bass) and Peter Campion (drums).

This is CJBlog post no. 2,400.

11 October 2021

Final night then silence

The final night of the Earshift Festival featured The rest is silence.  They played several shorter tunes.  Spacey guitar, slow pensive melodies of alto perhaps with a parallel instrument, guitar or bass.  Spacious, floating, sparse. slow and thoughtful but not lethargic or leisurely and often of growing intensity.  Guitar, jangly and metallic tone, or fingerpicked, 4by4 chords, perhaps bowed bass.  Or bass pizz intro pattern, 6/4, fingerpicked guitar chords, sax intro unison melody with guitar.  Or guitar enters country-ish finger-picked chords, 4/4 with dotted feel, sax with pretty melody into unison with bass then heavy mallet drums and later a heavy slow rock rhythm.  Then my sound dropped out... Then I got sound on my phone...now the chat.  But first another short tune, Gesualdo written by Theo.  Again guitar finger picking in 4, nice melody, divergent drums, perhaps conflicting given his reputation for killing wives and children.  Then the chat of melancholy tunes and slow unfoldings.  They've played together since 2015 and it's a priority.  All members like singable, melodic themes so they start with melody which then may become unravelled over time.  As one said, simple then decomposed.  Only one tune has actually lyrics and they were written after the fact by a friend.  Perhaps "not a typical jazz group" given their subversion of the jazz approach, of virtuosity and solos.  They like collective improvisation, which is a jazz concept if quite old.  Songs are brought by individuals, not yet written collectively, then workshopped.  Initially they are mostly pretty bare.  Maddie brings the most developed pieces, most of which they never perform.  Livestreamed from a Brunswick band hall with mate Kyle on camera.  "Bit of a shambles, but it's a joyful shambles   No people in the room, but there's  still a performance focus".  They would welcome visitors and a live gig again. to "tap into energy of performance".  It was a satisfying, searching, intriguing outing.

The Rest is Silence comprises Flora Carbo (alto), Theo Carbo (guitar), Isaac Gunnoo (bass) and Maddison Carter (drums).  They performed for the final night of the online Earshift Festival 2021.

10 October 2021

Face to face

There's always music before the chat although this chat was different.  First the music.  Host Jeremy led his band with Steve Barry, Noel Mason and Alex Hirlian in a quite professionally prerecorded setting.  These are very good players and this was a very satisfying modern jazz outing.  A wonderful drums entry from Alex, into a plaintive tenor melody, then a response, all in an 8-feel, then stops and starts on  a bridge and an end head and into a tenor sax solo.  Nice, punctuated, syncopated bass, swapping 8-bar piano and sax solo passages, then into piano with long 8th note lines, sax triplet drops, driving, busy, then some concurrent soloing, busy drums and a fade to end.  Really nice, but not the topic of the chat.  Instead that was Jeremy and Zoe Haupmann, artistic director of SIMA, talking of various things: the effect of COVID on musos and clubs, the use of streamed concerts, the intimacy and centrality of playing live with others and to an audience, engagements with live streaming, prerecords and struggles with tech.  The fact that you don't have to leave home.  But as Zoe said, she'd done enough gardening and surfing.  They talked of coming albums, coming shows, coming bookings as musos and as venue.  Talking hopefully of audiences also dying to get out to hear music live and happy to give support to venues and players.  Noting that Melbourne and Wangaratta jazz festivals were cancelled this year while Europe and the US is picking up for shows and tours.  Zoe has bookings to record with Ian Moss and festival gigs booked for next year with Missy Higgins and Ian Moss.  She spoke of the joy of bookings being received; "good to have hope" despite multiple reschedules.  But also of fears of lost musos and venues.  And of the particular demands for early/mid career musos and their limited opportunities for networking.  That always there is "no substitute for that live experience" and how we've learnt these things through COVID.  I learnt that the old (not original!) Basement is now Mary's Underground.  The performative ritual of musos and the concert experience of sitting still without checking phone as a liberty, some thing special, a sense of community, as something spiritual.  These are special moments and aren't forgotten: a feeling, unique and rare, precious.  Reminiscing on old time gigs with hubby Evan.  "Can't wait [for gigs to return]"  said Zoe.  And this chat also launched of the Jeremy's Face to Face video series, but it was not much discussed.

Jeremy Rose (tenor) performed with Steve Barry (piano), Noel Mason (bass) and Alex Hirlian (drums) then chatted with Zoe Hauptmann (artistic director of SIMA, bass) for the Earshift Festival.

09 October 2021

Creating problems to solve

Scott Tinkler tonight for the Earshift Festival from Bruny Island.  Virtuosic playing, super-quick runs, from the top.  Challenging melodic statements of harmony.  Repetition, relations, snaps, staccato,  Then slow, muted lippy notes, querying rapid runs, thoughtful responses.  Overwhelming chops.  Blurted notes, staccatissimi, legato, all manner of tonguing.  And that blistering pace and the rests, the space to consider, to regroup.  Those lines, those fills, so precise and clear.  Glorious!  Alternating quarter notes, sixteenth runs, sixteenth note triplets, quite consistently.  This is day (?) of the Earshift Festival and the music has been and is great.  I am feeling Earshift could be our Sydney ECM to the world.  Not just wonderful and inventive playing but the album releases look great and sound like bells.  I am impressed as I work my way through the catalogue on Bandcamp.  Tonight's gig is no lethargic outing and my first words above make that clear.  The playing is only 10-15 mins per night and, as a fellow player, I find the comments just as intriguing.  Scott spoke of his approach to practice, to play what he wishes to play as a gig, not major or diminished scales but phrases with variation and development.  No preconceived ideas; just "be there and play".  Again Simon Barker was mentioned.  Play phrases; don't fill all the space (sounds Miles-ian).  Inverting the common fears of musos, "silence is tense; playing is comfy".  But despite the emphasis on improv and avoiding endless scalar practice, he did mention daily warm ups with various maintenance routines, too.  He plays brass, after all.  But always thinking harmonically and rhythmically; intuitively, not composed.  But also "you can't bring to the stage stuff you don't have ... that is what practice is for".  As for playing to the Net, prerecorded or live, there's a necessary learning curve and "this is better than nothing".  And a gem to finish: "Get out of stops and analysis, just play, create a problem and solve it, that's improv".  Says it all for an improvising player, really.

Scott Tinkler (trumpet) performed solo for the Earshift Festival.

08 October 2021

And TikTok

My listen was delayed by a busy evening, but I caught it next morning.  Kristen singing in her detailed, embellished, richly glissed, complex but so well-controlled voice accompanied by herself on piano.  She's a local (Carmila, Qld) but now distant, teaching at HSLU in Lucerne.  The magic of the Net in lockdown.  There were some amusing interruptions, like a promise of a better solo on the album.  She'd wanted a new song for this event, but it was only half finished.  The less amusing interruptions were technical despite a decent connection (tested on speedtest.net) so some disappointment.  But then I remember family calls to Italy as a kid, through an operator, quick and costly, so I can live with occasional problems with free international video.  (I don't think it's just that, but I'll blame a reactionary, politicised LNP for a throwback, yet expensive, $A55b+, NBN nonetheless!)  These tunes are all personal, individual, purposeful lyrics and matching feels.  This is politics of the personal.  One song was He was a loaded gun.  "High on the hill looking down on the common folk...never to blame".  Come to think of it, this sounds possibly political, if expressed more personally.  She spoke of recording with Sam Anning: strange, that, a duet from both ends of the frequency spectrum, of tech and live-streaming with Dan Tepfer and working with others and how ideas are generated and shared, and the essential nature of visual presence, rather than "It's all about the music".  She mentioned motionless curlews here, of some interest to my family!  Even of performing on TikTok during lockdown.  Now that's something to chase up!.  Some very capable singing from a winner of numerous singing awards.  One thing more, I hadn't realised she'd sung at the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth games but little surprise there!  Oh, and TikTok.

Kristen Berardi (vocals, piano) performed for the Earshift Festival.

07 October 2021

Diversity

Chloe Kim is an improvising drummer in Sydney, female, born in Seoul.  I wouldn't normally highlight it for mostly a muso is a muso, but Chloe makes an issue of supporting genders and nationalities in jazz (good on her!) and more importantly, she just sounds different.  She performed a short solo piece that wasn't so much virtuosic as melodic.  She explained its structure as in four parts, uke, uke and guitar, guitar alone, guitar and drumset.  She would use sticks on the stringed instruments, giving a sound wonderfully jangly and metallic.  It started with simple 4/4 taps on the uke, undemonstrative, naturally developed, into the most sweet, perfectly collapsing fills and intriguing polyrhythmic lines on snare without snare engaged and toms, not much kick that I remember.  All the time with an awareness that sounded Asian to my uneducated ears.  I could believe that, given her background, of course, and Simon Barker as her teacher, known for his exploration of Korean drumming.  She talked of her solo albums and solo gigs, of strict, planned, disciplined practice with metronome and repetition versus improv over minimalist structure in performance, of imitation as disrespectful of self and the respected.  This last intrigued me but the success in her playing seems evident: there's a personal presentation here, doubly so in solo drum gigs.  Solo drum gigs?  That's challenging and unusual and also revealing of her approach.  Otherwise, she'd prerecorded for this event and that was obviously necessary given her shared housing situation.  But she valued the lessons that this demanded of her.  It's relevant that she'll soon be drumming for a Chicago radio station.  There are new possibilities with these suddenly ubiquitous technologies.  So a fascinating drums outing and a intriguing discussion  Unpretentious but delicious in performance and relevatory in purpose.

Chloe Kim (drums) performed for the Earshift Festival.

06 October 2021

Switch

I can understand a bassist taking up another instrument.  Bass is so dependent on others; it's essential and powerful and a great provider of gigs, but supportive.  So we hear Cameron Undy, one of our excellent bassists out of Canberra now Sydney, doing a solo gig on guitar.  Another thing bass gives you is a sense of groove, rhythm, and this is greatly evident here.  Chords fairly simple, but an underlying African groove that defines the outing.  Cameron played through series of tunes.  I heard chordal plays, varying time signatures, moving accents and chords, sometimes complex, other times sitting on one or two chord vamps, perhaps with interposed beats, slow up to a new tune, in three, and so on.  Simple, inviting, meditative, unpretentious.  That's another aspect of the bass: it promotes unpretentiousness.  A lovely, honest outing.  But hearing his chat later, about post-grad studies of African music, of how African music is the earliest known source of music and how it's evident in so many cultures, esp. modern American, jazz, funk, soul, reggae, blues.  About the percussive, muted tones and diverse resonance and the instruments like marimba and mbira.  Then further on composition, the influence of maths and numbers and Buckminster Fuller and how he uses processes to make music, perhaps numbers and patterns, not needing to await that romantic inspiration.  How he'd done this with electronics, but returned to analog instruments after chats with Simon Barker.  All fascinating and revelatory.  How he writes in graphs, even.  More to explore here.  Given lighting, this was prerecorded, in a simple, ageing backyard with a pizza oven where he often plays with children and dog and guitar.  So a concert and chat both aurally satisfying and intellectually intriguing.  How I like it.  PS and FWIW, he played a short scale Marand acoustic guitar.

Cameron Undy (guitar) played in his backyard for the Earshift Festival

04 October 2021

Piano

Sean Foran was working some electronics but I just heard piano but that was so good there was nothing lost.  It was a wonderfully intricate and satisfying performance, an improvised mixtape of two tunes (Lynette and Petrochor) with various variations and interplays on the day, minimally planned and open to inspiration.  There was an early buildup, 16 feels, decay to quiet, a 10 feel, some delicious chordal movements moving into two chords in 9, then a floating end with hand plucks on piano strings.  Inspiration might have been hard, given he was playing to a camera in an empty room, but Sean said he preferred that to pre-recording of much the same thing.  There's an edge when you can't redo it, when it's going out as it's played.  As for those electronics, he fiddled them occasionally but I didn't hear them, despite listening on some decent gear.  Maybe they were there in the background, very subtle.  Dunno.  One was a synth; the other a sampler/delay.  But I was transfixed none-the-less.  Host Jeremy suggested influences of Meldau and Keith Jarrett and Sean agreed but they would be influences for any pianist.  He specifically mentioned his teacher in the UK who records on ECM, John Taylor.  Electronics or not, this was up my alley and I was deeply satisfied.

Sean Foran (piano) performed for the Earshift Festival.

03 October 2021

Storms of my grandparents

Day 2 of Earshift was Hilary Geddes.  She's a guitarist and composer, now based in Sydney.  Her performance was one of her tunes, When waves move backwards.  It started with soundscapes of tapped strings, then into finger picked arpeggiated chordal passages moving into melody over chords, then gradually more staccato.  She's influenced by that doyen of contemporary guitarists of this style, Bill Frisell.  Host Jeremy mentioned it seemed an evocation of nature or of driving the Australian landscape (which she would have done often enough, originating in Griffith).  She'd written for a small group but was interested in translating to larger groups. Obviously this was not one.  It's actually a work in 3 movements referring to a real experience of a storm while she was camping with her grandmother.  I could understand: our last camping outing ended with a storm that ripped tents and tarps and they were never replaced.  It must be a common-enough experience.  So, meditative guitar with a story for day 2.  Nice.

Hilary Geddes (guitar) performed for the streamed Earshift Festival.

02 October 2021

Two eyes, two ears

The Earshift Festival started tonight with Reuben Lewis.  Strangely it conflicted, to the minute, with Sally Greenaway's launch for her latest classical composition/single.  I did manage to catch both, just.  Neither had masses of music, which was an advantage.  I'd caught Sally's tune a few hours earlier on YouTube and it's up for more uninterrupted consideration for 72 hours, so that's to come.  As I write this, it seems that Reuben is still available to replay, so that will definitely be a revisit.  And the Earshift Fest will be around for the next 10 days and I hope to catch it all, or maybe just most.  Sally's was a composition for a chamber group comprising CSO players with spectacular technique playing an exploding latin-styled piece sounding all the world of Piazzola.  It was inspired by the Rio Olympics and explores human achievement, complete with a "mad dash to the finish line".  Drivingly rhythmic, latin melodicism and some great playing.  Loved this one.  Reuben was a huge treat too, but in a massively different way.  I must admit I was taken by the jazz chops and the tech presence of it all.  He played three parts, improvised, with his two doppelgangers appearing behind him: laying down pads on a Prophet 6 synth, on a laptop with Ableton toying with recorded snippets of drums and bass from his band, I hold the lion's paw (this last/second album has just won huge plaudits and national awards), and up front on trumpet with a deskful of effects as the third layer.  He played some startling licks on trumpet, so despite his clear love of the electonics, his more traditional skills were hugely satisfying.  But overall, a triumph.  I can have a personal preference, but that's just a measure of my current interests.  These were two very different streams of two very different musics and cultural awarenesses and I'll happily download a copy of each.  So that's my judgement.  A difficult but hugely satisfying half hour or so with demands for a revisit.

Sally Greenaway presented her latest single composition, Don’t Forget Your Music!  Reuben Lewis appeared as the opening concert of the streamed Earshift Festival, held in association with SIMA.

17 September 2021

Hoping

A dedication of love set in cement lays claim to the hope of a generation in the days of failing climate, democracy and equality.  Told in metal, electronics, EDM and even post-modern baroque.

The Pots, my home studio project, has released its fourth album.  Thanks partly to the time afforded by Lockdowns.  Now, The Pots is not jazz, but CJ has expanded to encompass more than just jazz after several thousand posts.  Expect electronica/prog rock with a spoken word and political themes.  Sounds pretty up to date to a kid of several decades back.  Anyway, have a listen.  It's delayed on Spotify, but is on YouTube and a string of other streaming sites, as well as Bandcamp.  Themes for this album include a homage to Greta (Adult in the room), a rant about broken politics, not least ScoMo and his lump of coal presented in Parliament surprisingly recently (Hope%less), a more lighthearted theme with my fave dim synth solo (Ah! PBO), a paean to Gramsci (Wisdom of Gramsci) and baroque, electronica and EDM instrumentals.  All released on the anniversary of the first day of Occupy Wall Street demos in NYC.  Alas, a likely portent for civilisation's future given climate denial, or even just procrastination. 

  • YouTube > https://tinyurl.com/ym2zj9t5
  • Bandcamp > https://thepots1.bandcamp.com/
  • 13 September 2021

    Walkin' (not miles or as in Miles)

    I am at a loss without a project during a lockdown (or at the whims of our cute dachies).  So more album/s is/are on the way.  But in the meantime, here's a video for track 1, Pumpkin discomforts, Double down.  Again politics alert, so you have been warned.  This was assembled from a series of videos taken at Parliament House (it fits the topic).  It's not initially as I'd planned, but it works and probably is apt for the anger and dismay at the quality of our politics at the moment.  Have a watch and a listen and expect a new album release this Friday.  From The Pots!

  • Double Down / The Pots
  • 25 August 2021

    Lockdowning

    Covid lockdowns are good for The Pots, if not for CJ.  You may know that The Pots is my home studio project as Bassist EP.  The Pots have 3 previous albums to their name, all with release dates in 2020, although one was well before lockdowns, on New Year's day.  But the Delta variant has reached Canberra and we have more cases than ever before and we've been in lockdown pretty much from Day 1.  In fact one son and his partner have been in isolation following a Hen's night at Fision nightclub; they were negative and are out now.  But this latest lockdown has allowed me to complete another album that was just mostly just vague thoughts: one track recorded and otherwise just a string of poems/lyrics in store.  The album is Hope / The Pots and due for release in coming weeks.  It's mainly electronica/prog rock with spoken word but there's a final little mediaeval choral work.  It's Ma fin est ma commencement, a crab canon over a palindrome from Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377) to which I add a post-modernist overlay.  Amusingly, it reminded me of bickering over climate, forever back and forth, so its presence.  (My albums get warnings for political themes.  Another track is a dedication to Greta.)  The National Capital Orchestra's next concert got cancelled and they called for videos of members' home music projects for their FB site thus this video.  Hope you enjoy it. 

    12 August 2021

    Floored again

    Again, a concert of students that was unexpectedly impressive.  I should have learnt by now.  True, there was some youth on show, not least from a Year 6 student, but get into the upper school years, and it was a stunning awareness-raising experience.  Hannah Ni was the Year 6 student.  Not quite so developed, sharp, mature as the teenagers, but hugely impressive playing Kuhlau and Grieg.  I think of my weak take on AMEB 5th grade.  Sad.  I long to hear Hannah in a few years.  Then Year 11, Kenan Zhang, playing Mehul and Sibelius.  Dramatic, revolutionary, majestic.  I loved this playing.  Totally committed; authentically interpretive.  Then to Year 12.  Now this is getting serious, Jennifer Liu, playing Bach and Haydn and Chopin.  More common names.  A huge pleasure, capable, informed, mature, even seasoned if you can say that of a teenager.  I think of motley performances and shrink.  But they have a good teacher, obviously.  They come from the studio of Elena Nikulina, award winning AMEB teacher and accompanist and a graduate of the Donetsk S Prokofyev State Conservatory in the Ukraine.  They know their artistic stuff in those areas.  And what else?  They all played from memory.  Yes, all performers and, yes, all pieces.  And I heard a few lost bars but they were recovered with aplomb and they had been prepared for it.  All part of this immensely impressive teaching and its students.  A thing of joy and awe.

    Hannah Ni, Kenan Zhang and Jennifer Li (piano) performed at Wesley.  Hannah, Kenan and Jennifer are all students from the studio of Elena Nikulina (piano teacher).

    05 August 2021

    The seduction of brass

    Perhaps seduction is not a think to consider as you watch an army band in uniform, khaki, stripes and the rest, but close your eyes and listen and the professional chops and bell-like clarity of the brass is obvious.  And you wouldn't start a seduction with Wagner, either, especially a funeral march, but it was a work of delicious wonder, to lead into a varied program from training dragons through to jazzy doo-dah from Stephen Foster and that infectious tune Brazil and some inescapable (and ever welcome) Bach and a combination from the authentic religious brass of the Salvos.  I used to see them occasionally in the suburban streets, marching their beliefs in 4/4.  There was variation of combinations, too, in this concert.  Three big works with mostly all the performers and four smaller works, each for a quartet of an instrument: trumpets on Bach; horns or Dragons; trombones on that jazzy Doo-dah suite; euphos and tubas on Brazil.  It all worked a treat.  Fun or lively, serious or serene or funereal, these were immensely beauteous tones, soft and rich and loud, well intoned and tongued.  Just a huge pleasure.  I must get to the RMC band again in future.  They play pretty regularly and cheaply for the public, at Canberra Theatre or Llewellyn, symphonic or concert or brass band, proceeds to charity, and those uniforms and always that satisfying professionalism.

    The Royal Military College Band Brass Group played at Wesley Church under Major Darren Cole (CO, MD) and Cpl Justin Lingard (Conductor).

    29 July 2021

    Surprises

    Occasionally you really get a surprise in any field of life.  Mine this time was at Wesley at a piano concert by young-gun Christopher Taylor.  He's still at school, Year 11; it's early in a musical career; he lacks that maturity of age (and tiredness).  Perhaps I shouldn't have been too surprised given he was playing the program from his successful licenciate exam.  He arrived in time but not early, as I've noticed other students do, in uniform.  They come from classes, after all.  His first piece was a Bach Prelude and fugue and that was just a little uncomfy, but he soon settled in with the Bach as a warm-up, into a technically demanding but humourous Haydn sonata and then a seldom played Chopin Fantasy and by this time I was in awe, then a final Miriam Hyde with its own demanding flourishes.  By the end, it was admiration and joy at young talent.  Just astonishing and a great pleasure.

    Christopher Taylor (piano) performed Bach BWV885, Haydn HobXVI:52, Chopin op.49/CT42 and Hyde Valley of rocks at Wesley.

    25 July 2021

    Chasing

    It's been a long road to my Brahms German Requiem.  I missed recording it here in Canberra years back, then heard it days later in Amsterdam, at the Concertgebeouw, no less, under Mariss Jansons, sitting in the back row and entering very informally with the choir, then heard it in English as an Australian Requiem at CIMF2014.  But I finally got to play it.  Despite Lenny's video intros and the rehearsals, I still feel it's a mystery, strangely complex.  But it was a huge pleasure to play at Llewellyn with the Canberra Choral Society and a total of 100+ performers on stage.  There are passages to die for, deeply satisfying, exultant or depairing.  For bass, it's mostly the odd mingling of passages that I find in Brahms. He's nothing like the cerebral order of Bach, or playful neatness of Mozart and still beyond Beethoven.  Not beyond as better, just different.  I had to sit out one movement at rehearsal on the Llewellyn stage and it was such a thing of beauty and profundity.  I expected it, but when playing you are a bit focussed on your part, even though aware of others.  Just to listen was a delight.  So, now it's done.  On stage with Lenny leading, although given Covid/Sydney, he could only rehearse the last week.  Otherwise, Louis Sharpe and Lizzy Collier took sessions for the orchestra alone.  The soloists also were Covid affected, so the Sydney-based advertised singers were replaced by locals Rachel and Andrew.  Regardless, it's a thing of wonder, even if still of mystery.  But I guess that's how a requiem should remain.  Nice, too, to play with a member of the SSO who sat in for the day.  Congrats to the many all.

    National Capital Orchestra performed Brahms German Requiem with the Canberra Choral Society at Llewellyn Hall.  Leonard Weiss (director) conducted.  Dan Walker (chorus master) sang with the choir.  Soloists were Rachel Mink (soprano) and Andrew Fysh (bass-baritone).  The bass section (see pic) comprised Geoff Prime, Troy Davey and Eric Pozza (basses).

    • Thanks to Kat for the post-concert sectional pic with Lenny


    23 July 2021

    Flutes and whistles or neither or both

    It's a strangely pure and simple sound, even though this was an orchestra and there were a string of different pitches amongst the performers.  It was the Canberra Recorder Orchestra and they played at Wesley, in the church.  It had to be in the church because there were so many members.  I was first aware of the purity of tone from the sub-contrabass.  It's a strange squarish thing, nothing like the image of a recorder, and it was surprisingly loud and present and organ-like amongst the many other ranges.  But it's still essentially the same as the other recorders, ie, a flute with a whistle mouthpiece.  Director Margaret spoke of 10 pitch ranges (I note from Wikipedia that there are 5 ranges in each of C and F) and that only garklein (=sopranino) was missing.  It was a little thing.  There were plenty of lower enders, though: bass and "great" bass and that one sub-contra bass.  Whatever, the program ranged from Handel and Gabrieli through to modern composers and even an Irish traditional piece.  Unusual, perhaps, but nicely pleasant and pure.

    The Canberra Recorder Orchestra performed at Wesley Church under Margaret Wright (director) with accompanist Bronwyn Roberts (piano, keyboard)

    21 July 2021

    Strangenesses

    Gawd.  A few more best eva gigs and you could have tickets on yourself.  I guess it's age.  You get over playing for others, comparing, fretting and just accept you're as good as you'll ever be.  And you get better!  Strange, that.  How does that happen, I wonder?  But a great gig, none-the-less.  And several ideas for future projects.  And a really nice pale ale on tap.  Couldn't beg for more.

    The James Woodman Trio (today AKA Tilt Trio) appeared at Molly.  In this incarnation, JWT is James Woodman (piano), Dave McDade (drums) and Eric Pozza (bass).

    18 July 2021

    Pleasurable annoyances

    Super Rats has been around a while but this was my first hearing.  They are an impressive and energetic group playing music that I somewhat recognise but don't know.  But it's busy and driving and oddly timed and foreign in many ways.  In language, of course, but also in approach.  And instrumentation, given the core instrument is a cimbalom.  Cimbalom?  A form of hammered dulcimer developed in the Balkans.  Tim gave me a little introduction to the 145-stringed instrument, its techniques and structure.  I got lost after the chromatic bass strings.  The SR site claims Ottoman court music, Balkan peasant folk, Roma (gypsy) music along with a touch of tango and jazz.  My impression was lots of two-feels, jumpy and danceable, entertaining and driving, the sharp and jangly paired notes of the cimbalom at the centre of it all, with a nicely damped, thumpy bass and an accordion that took its share of solos and Pip's blistering violin.  Our group heard some similarity to bluegrass or US folk, but probably the similarity was from Eur to US.  I admired some tricky repeating bass lines and demanding counts generally throughout the group.  There was a readiness to play ostinato behind solos and a resultant drive and thrill.  And some Romanian vocals that were interpreted to much delight.  Not without reason that this band takes its name from a Romanian word meaning annoyed ones.  Not that they were annoyed or annoying, but they to performed it with panache.  Tim was cimbalom, vocals and the core of the band, having studied at the source for some time so this was both authentic and playfully Aussie-local.  And the band he gathered is capable in its own fields (jazz, classical) and eminently satisfying in this.  What a great local treasure: an authentic, modern take on Balkan music.  Saves a trip to Bucharest in these locked-down times.

    Super Rats played all shades of Romanian music at Band Bang Cafe.  SR are Tim Meyen (cimbalom), Alister Price (accordion), Pip Thompson (violin) and Simon Milman (double bass).

    15 July 2021

    Shimmies

    We can be pompous about the arts, their deep connection with our souls and the like, so the sheer entertainment of good company and close relationships or even playful seductions can be forgotten or disregarded.  Even this statement is doing much the same, meaning, intellectualising the everyday and playful.  Linus Lee did a concert that had me bopping in my church pew and smiling big smiles.  He called it European Dance Afternoon.  He played it in the Wesley church, variously with their relatively grand organ and Yamaha grand.  Again, pipe organ in a church is not normally throught of as a thing of playfulness, even less so of seduction.  But it was all there, with the seductive program cover and the polkas and boleros and various dances.  He had a range of tunes, many very well known, from Strauss II, Bartok, Brahms.  I knew Csardas but not Vittorio Monti.  Trust an Italian!  Several dances derived from national folk music, Norwegian or Hungarian or Bartok's Romanian.  SS's Dance macabre.  It was a mix of tones, with the majesty and depth of the pipe organ sandwiching the percussive business of a competently played grand piano.  Linus did both with panache and involvement and joy.  What a wonderful, joyous concert. 

    Linus Lee (piano, organ) performed various shades of dance music at Wesley Church.

    11 July 2021

    Pencilled pop

    The National Portrait Gallery has an array of musics including their Drawn In sessions where they provide easels and paper and pencils and visitors are invited to draw to the accompaniment of musicians.  Today's was with nonbinarycode.  They got me in mentioning that they'd grown up on grunge, punk and stadium rock.  Sounds cool and good fun.  I could expect some renowned anthems and searching lyrics.  nonbinarycode was a duo: Hardman and InkBits.  Well, I got their names chatting to them later and they were wonderfully welcoming and not at all hard or bitsy.  The sound was Maton acoustic guitar into a decent PA, vocals and occasional harmonies.  No auto-drums or the like, but nicely solid strummed rhythms and committed voice out front. Structurally simple but attractive and inviting with tunes like Scar/Missy Higgins, One/U2, Never tear us apart/INXS, Broken bells/Greta van Fleet.  Popular and satisfying and most intriguing hits.

    nonbinarycode performed in the foyer at the National Portrait Gallery for a Drawn In session.  nbc are Jolene Mifsud (vocals) and Stephen Harden (guitar, harmony vocals).

    10 July 2021

    More@BBBBB

    But of course there was more at B!B!B!B!B!  It was essentially a singer-songwriter night, but there was a mix.  First up was pop-rock band Winning Combo Band playing mostly originals from the pen of the singer.  I didn't get names, but this was tight with short songs.  Then The Pots, then Anthony Glynn.  AG was fairly playful, quite confident, nicely rhythmic with a stomp box and his ukulele played over the top.  I noticed a different skew on politics from The Pots and considerable comfort from regular busking.  Interesting.  Then Minh.  I didn't get a full name, except maybe a stage surname, Slowjam.  This was not at all slow jam.  This was singer-songwriter with very rich and fascinating harmonies.  Very nice piano.  Then we caught just a tune from Sanjiva de Silva.  Very capable, presentable guitar-vocals, capable and settled on each skill.  Impressive.  Nice to encounter new styles and people around town.  But this is Canberra and this is Smiths and both bode well for interesting experiences.

    Winning Combo Band (pop-rock quartet), Anthony Glynn (vocals, uke, stomp box), Minh (piano, vocals) and Sanjiva de Silva (guitar, piano, vocals) performed at Smiths.





    09 July 2021

    CD@BBBBB

    Now this was fun!  Smiths runs an open-mic session called Bang!Beng!Bing!Bong!Bung! and The Pots appeared there in their incarnation as a DJ set.  Well, The Pots playing snippets from Pumpkin Discomforts.  The Pots have produced 3 albums but this was their first outing as a CD launch with Bassist EP doing the transitions and intros and just a touch of effects and giving some introductions and apologies for the tunes ("Beware: Political themes!").  All a good lot of fun even if those political themes were not so rosy, sounding great over Bevan's PA at decent volume, even bringing some dancing shoes out, at least to shuffle about to my fave, Power.  What a fun outing.  I have ideas for another, more live incarnation.  Maybe.  TBC.

    The Pots is a project of Bassist EP.  The Pots performed as a DJ set at Smiths.

    Thanks to Rich for the pic

    08 July 2021

    Jelly's roll

    Mila was rushed at first, arriving quite late, for some reason held up.  It showed for some of the Bach prelude that started the concert.  She was playing solo violin this piece, and the arpeggios over the fingerboard gradually got more convincing and settled as she settled.  I have no problem with this.  Then into some confident, rich playing on the following fugue then the Mozart, Ravel and Prokofiev, all with accompaniment from Anthony Smith.  The first pieces didn't surprise me at all, Bach being Bach and Mozart also being his joyous self.  The Prokofiev was different, initially sparse, but then into busy and intriguing, not least the pizz.  It was a violin concerto as were the others, but quite a different beast,.  And then to the most different, very far from Bolero, Ravel Tzigane,  He'd written the piece for Hungarian violinist Jelly d'Aranyi from a commission.  Lots of feature solo passages with harmonics or screeds of notes then into bouncy then dissonant pizz stuff with piano.  Even a touch of danceable fours.  A strange but fascinating piece, no doubt a show piece for both Jelly and Mila.  Mila did it great justice.  So impressed with this intriguing piece of great unexpectedness.  Mila did a great job.   They teach them great and young. 

    Mila Haydon (violin) performed the music of four European masters with accompaniment from Anthony Smith (piano) at Wesley.

    06 July 2021

    A view from the bottom end

    NCO is rehearsing Brahms German Requiem.  It's a great work and I have a history with it, chasing rather than playing it.  Now I get to play it.  Maybe.  The story is that we should perform it with the Canberra Choral Society at Llewellyn on 24 July 3pm.  That's 150 people on stage.  How I love these choral outings at Llewellyn.  An absolute blast and a great pleasure.  But Lenny, our conductor, and our two solo singers are in Sydney, and given COVID and a string of recent cancellations (incl. Mike Nock and Brendan Keller-Tuberg), it's up in the air.  We can just hope.  In the meantime, here's a pic from rehearsal as seen from the bottom end.

    National Capital Orchestra and Canberra Choral Society may perform Brahms German Requiem at Llewellyn at 3pm, 24 July.

    03 July 2021

    Band hang at Gang Gang

    I'd had a coffee at Gang Gang Cafe one afternoon, but not gone to any gigs there.  I should have.  I've seen the names and they are a worthy summary of local players, jazz on Friday with Free entry and indie and other on other days, free or with a cover charge.  So we got to play last night and it was a hugely pleasant outing.  Seriously nice staff, a very decent beer on tap, comfy surroundings and easy parking.  It was cold and in Covid times, though, so not too many turned up.  The piano's not perfect, a bit well worn, but it is a Yamaha grand.  Likewise the PA, also mostly Yamaha.  The space was good, the audience gave some claps and we had a great outing.  Our recent Molly outing was somewhat a "best eva" gig and this wasn't too far off.  Much enjoyed.

    Tilt Trio played at Gang Gang Cafe in Downer.  Tilt are James Woodman (piano), Dave McDade (drums) and Eric Pozza (bass).

    01 July 2021

    Revelations

    I admit I was wary of attending a concert of piano students, presumably from a very young age.  What could I learn from kids hardly up to my waist?  But I was wrong.  This was a huge revelation.  The younger kids would play music relevant to their age and musical development and do it surprisingly capably.  So the Bach lines were satisfying and the Haydn pleasant.  This from 9, 8, 10 years olds.  But then to watch the development of older students was a revelation, as they played more complex, rhythmically demanding, dynamically interesting, emotionally more profound pieces.  You could observe human development here, in the course of 11 short but lengthening pieces.  So we got into Beethoven and Chopin and ultimately Grieg and Rachmaninoff.  If I had a favourite, it would be Mykhail Anufriiev playing Rachmaninov Prelude C#maj op.65 no.2 "Bells of Moscow" for both the music itself and the wonderfully mature performance.  And then to finish with two movements of a Mozart sonata by a duo of 10yo Charlie and adult violinist Jason Li, who I had recorded leading the Black Mountain Piano Quartet just days before.  The playing was different and developing with age but always worthy and interesting.  The joy of it all was infectious and only helped by the sight of slightly nervous kids on stage.  The training must have been excellent, from teacher Jinbo Huang, (BMus ANU, PhD UCLA).  Maybe unexpected but a great pleasure.

    Piano students of Jinbo Huang performed at Wesley.  The students were James Li, Lingwen Chen, Charlie Sanoubane, Naomi Feng, Frank Huang, Hongkai Chen, Michael Danilov, Damien Ruan, Mykhail Anufriiev and Charles Huang.  Jason Li (violin) joined Charles for a final Mozart sonata.

    29 June 2021

    Afrofolk

    I think of Afrobeat as electric, hot rhythm section, horns out front, deeply funky.  That's  what I had expected at the Afrobeat jam session at Smiths.  They happen on Sunday afternoons and have been running for several months.  This was my first visit.  Not at all bad, but not what I'd expected.  This may be, probably is, more authentic to traditional village music making in Africa.  I dunno.  It was folky, acoustic, still rhythmic, still with that tum ta-tum rhythm on the 2+, more soft and with some intriguing instruments.  One guitar-like instrument had 12 tuners and the smallest of bodies (so cute!); the bass was a double bass neck on a kick drum body.  And some more traditional instruments: lots of percussion to share around; flutes and guitars, fiddles and flugels; voice.  I enjoyed tapping a resonant box in the background, but I may have been too varied so undermining the intense, unending regularity.  It has its own mega-power that infuses and inculcates and brings out the dancing feet in the audience.  If they are not joining in somehow else.  So folky rather than funky but still strongly grooving and very inclusive.  A nice and friendly scene for a cold Sunday arvo.

    The Afrobeat jam session happens every Sunday afternoon, 1-3pm, at Smiths Alternative.

    28 June 2021

    B-ing late

    Last year was the big Beethoven birth bicentennial but many events were lost due to Covid.  I just got to one, a year late.  It was Black Mountain Piano Quartet playing two Beethoven piano quartets, one written at age 15, another much later, and two pieces written to Beethoven.  Local composer Michael Hardy, an old mate from the Patents Office and also the Blues Club, presented two world premieres, A scherzo for Ludwig and Ludwig in Wonderland.  Mike introduced the works as influenced by Beethoven's playfulness, thus the scherzo, obvious enough, but Wonderland?  Beethoven after too much listening to Steve Reich and Terry Riley.  Amusing.  And both were solid, interesting works.  Well done.  Not to be limited (Mike is prolific!) the encore was a classical take on an Angels song, a great melody with classical harmony and quartet interplays.  Insinuating and satisfying.  The BMPQ was neat and internally responsive, perhaps a bit unsure of some of Mike's reimaginings, but very satisfying.  As for cello, Alex got a good few bass-like lines.   But think of this.  In a few hours in downtown Canberra, I've explored bell ringing in two venues and experienced 2.5 world premieres and 2 Beethoven piano quartets.  And tomorrow a touch of Afrobeat, perhaps?

     The Black Mountain Piano Quartet comprised Jason Li (violin), Thayer Parker (viola), Alex Moncur (cello) and Kathleen Loh (piano).  They played Beethoven and Michael Hardy after Beethoven and The Angels at All Saints, including 2.5 world premieres.


    27 June 2021

    Evading the riff raff

    It's learning all round, from the article in the Canberra Times that morning, through to the visits to two bell towers just a few hours later.  I thought there was only one church tower with tuned bells in Canberra, at St Paul's Manuka, and the tuned bells at the Carillon, played as they are, with several fists and feet on several big keyboards.  But no.  There are two other bell towers, each with 8 tuned bells, but not played by 8 ringers (as are the bells of St Paul's) but by one or two ringers, using the "Ellacombe Chiming Apparatus", or more simply Ellacombe chimes.  It's a mechanism that uses static bells struck with in internal hammer.  The alternative is bells that are rotated 360deg and called Full circle ringing, in which each bell requires its own ringer.  Apparently this new apparatus was devised in 1821 by Rev. Ellacombe of St Mary's Church, Bitton, Gloucestershire, to avoid reliance on unruly carousing travelling bell ringers.  They were a bawdy lot!  Whatever, we have two instances here in Canberra and they were rung for the international bicentennial celebrations of the invention.  First bells were in NZ, then through the world, played at Noon in each location, but due to a prior booking, one was delayed here.  Suits me: I heard them both.  First up was St Andrew's Forrest, our deco-influenced post-WW1 not-quite cathedral that is and probably will remain sadly unfinished (lacking a dome and entrance).  I entered as they started, so heard the much more firm and glorious sound outside.  They started with a lengthier Plain Bob Major, then into a series of popular tunes, much shorter and simpler.  The bob and peels and the rest, written for the bells, are intricate mathematical expressions of moving orders.  Quite fascinating.  The popular tunes are just melodies played in a major scale.  Then on to St John's, Reid.  Again we could watch the bell ringer/s.  We arrived a little later and just heard the simpler songs.  The bells at St Andrew's are mysteriously tuned in G# (=Ab, a jazz key) and are in lovely tune.  Those at St John's are in G and not quite so accurately tuned, perhaps showing their age.  Either way, they are delightful.  Bells are a strange obsession that I touched on some time ago and enjoy the occasional visit, I think when St Paul's sounded a half peel for some Civic ceremony.  Maybe they rang for the Queen's visit too.  To learn something about the craft, check out the free app Methodology (Android).

    Bell ringers at St Andrew's Forrest and St John's Reid rang in the bicentennial of Ellacombe chimes.




    25 June 2021

    Travel in these days of Covid

    It's one of the pleasures of Canberra to get invited to an Embassy event.  I know one Hungarian well, and on the night I discovered several others that I've known.  And discovered some classic Hungarian foods, including the luscious Dobos torte, and wines.  The main event was a concert by Huangkai (Kaykay) Lai, a current third year student at ANUSOM, winner of various competitions, not least the 2014 Chopin International Youth Piano Competition.  He played a set of solo piano pieces: several each from (Hungarian) Liszt and Chopin, Rachmaninov, Ravel, Debussy, Peixun Chen, Tan Dun and an original piece KayKay had written.  My favourite was the Ravel.  I was fascinated by the styles of the two Chinese pieces.  They sounded programmatic  I could almost hear the goldfish jumping (do they jump?).  KayKay observed that the Chinese and French pieces had similarities, both very picturesque.  I could only agree, especially for the Debussy, Voiles, where you could just hear the wind blowing in the sails with upward flourishes of notes somewhat like those goldfish.  Whatever, it was a nice opportunity night to put on a suit and visit another country, given we can't do that in real life these days.  Another pleasant aspect of the Canberra experience.

    Huangkai (Kaykay) Lai (piano) performed at the Hungarian Embassy. 

    The pic is KayKay with Hungarian Cultural Attache Anita