31 January 2021


I’m in Adelaide and it’s a family week and one event was the book launch by first cousin, Lara.  I’d missed her last two book launches although I had her products on my shelves.  Lara writes as one aspect of her little business of yoga, self-help and more called In The Pink.  The three books have been on grief, although from chatting to Lara you’d never guess it.  She’s a bright spark and witty presence.  The first two books were on lost loves and lost parents; this last is on lost pets/dogs.  Now Lara is a great dog lover.  I am too.  We no longer share breeds, but dog lovers are common and remain that way for life.  They are lovely people, greatly informed by their animals, and open to any others dog lovers, especially those who share their breed.  Megan and I have travelled the world with cries of “Dachy alert” with subsequent pats and meetings with dachshund owners wherever.  Travel hint: people love you if you show interest in their dog/s.  But most must know that.  So, otherwise, this was a lively event, well lubricated, chatty and noisy with family-met-too-seldom and Lara’s string of friends.  Even George Clooney, although only present somewhat in absentia.  Given the passions of dog lovers and some early sales, this might be Lara’s breakthrough.  Get a Kindle copy or otherwise chase down Lara Casanova on FB or in an Adelaide bookshop.

Loss love and lessons : healing pet loss and grief / Lara Casanova was launched by Lara and various sisters and rellies and friends at the Maid and Magpie Hotel, Adelaide.

28 January 2021

Whose day

Ah, the annual culture wars over Australia Day.  The day only dates back to the mid-1990s anyway, so it's hardly great tradition.  It is a view of Australia that's kosher for the glass fully-full crew, though.  Along with the Queen and the Union Jack (not our union; rather it's a reference to the sun-never-sets empire that is now set).  Not that Australia is really so bad, but as lucky people sharing luck (as in mining!) we should be open to the less lucky.  But increasingly we aren't.  Since the new reaction of Howard, we've stubbornly stuck to old tropes, to the future cost of our kids, not least with climate.  As for our own indigenous people, for along time they have not been the lucky ones.  So we walked in the Invasion Day march to Parliament house.  I was surprised how many others did too.  I was not quite so enamoured of the speeches although I admit I caught very little given distant speakers using mere loudhailers. There was anger which is understandable but not politically effective.  The bikies arriving on Harleys, parking up front and presenting was a challenge.  Not that I could hear what they said either.  I have no doubt that land was never ceded (that's a fact) but the endless chants of always was, always will be is difficult, sounding to my ear of sole possession, but then I don't warm to chants.  On the other hand, the invitation to common love of land and the welcoming of non-indigenous supporters was more politic and well received.  It doesn't take many generations to come to love this land.  I could particularly understand the anger with the unrepresentative crew behind, in upper and lower chambers, and their lack of consultation, and I found it interesting that not one pollie was in attendance, so it was said.  Not morals but money talks, especially recently, on cultural issues, climate and more.  Recent reports from the Centre for Public Integrity indicate that.  So I felt this march was a huge success in numbers, but just a little uncomfortable in effect.  But given history, there's plenty for we non-indigenous to understand and remember, and no need to go back 60,000 years to view indigenous loss and disappointments.  One example was PM Turnbull's fairly recent misrepresentation of the Voice as a third house of Parliament.  Strange given the limited demands made for the Voice to Parliament: to me, it seemed so lacking in real power.  But now ScoMo seems more slippery in communication and more dangerous in hidden action.  But the levees will break, for climate, indigenous issues and the rest; hopefully not too late for the survival of civilisations, indigenous and non-.  Just remember the joy of the day of the Apology and imagine if Australia could surpass these eternal road blocks.  I doubt we'd ever return to the social laboratory of the past, but perhaps we could just recognise scientific and cultural truths once more and so move on.  That would be a good first step.  Our people do it reasonably well; it's our leaders, influenced as they are, who fail.

The Canberra Invasion Day march commemorated indigenous experiences otherwise celebrated as Australia Day.  Marchers walked from the Tent Embassy to the steps of the new Parliament House.

26 January 2021

Relaxedly literary

This was something new.  I had attended one or two Geoff Page poetry readings but not the local scene like this.  It was called That Poetry Thing, at Smiths, hosted by Penelope, open readings by whoever volunteered.  My offering was Double down, a spoken-word track from my Pumpkin discomforts / The Pots recited as poetry.  There was at least one other musician reciting (Jack recording as Small Town Alien).  A few other recited published poetry by others, but mostly it was original.  Laurie amused with a simple repetition of double not necessarily being better than the half until he gets to age (he wasn't young!).  I was sitting with Laura who presented an improvised poem, perhaps recorded only in my pic, I guess.  Powerful.  There was considerable amusement over mic management, cleaning and coddling.  Inevitable and obvious and  suggestive if not particularly noted.  Each presenter had 3 minutes, but this was casual.  Mostly they read one poem; some two or even three short ones.  The audience was warm and open and accepting.  Aaron finished with a lengthy bureaucrat-tease on climate.  Amusing but frightening.  Lois and Janice read; Bosco recited about a waterfall; Robin on revolution; Izzie (?) on the Telopea Park High School Band; Audrey and Louisa and Sarah and Audrey; not sure who was the Two cars canoodling but it was a corker; one was inspired by lust, perhaps more?  Excuse any missed names.  Most read; a few recited from memory; one or two improvised.  There was humour and seriousness and rhythm, rhyme and not, so various in style and approach and topic but always of interest.  A pleasant and intelligent and welcoming night.  Recommended. 

That Poetry Thing was a night of open readings that happened at Smiths.

24 January 2021

On the street

It was pretty formal and family and dance-school oriented but it was fun.  I took to Civic on a hot day to visit the Canberra Street Dance Festival.  There was competitive (but very friendly) street dance routines, some rap singing, some too bassy hiphop music (~100bpm), a few street artists and the like.  It was approved so there were Covid checkins.  And it was fun.  A few really young kids got up for a quick lesson and appearance.  Plenty of parental and family and friend supporters whooped for their mates.  A few big numbers had a dozen or so on stage for demos of choreographic works.  There were plenty of smiles and not at all the edgy, intimidating thing of movies and myth.  And on the way out, I chatted to Kurt, steadily developing a mural in a local lane.  All approved and even supported by government.  How forward thinking are we! But great fun and no doubt great exercise, all this popping and locking and krumping and all.

The Canberra Street Dance Festival was in Garema Place and Kurt was painting a mural nearby.

22 January 2021

Converted by Covid

I guess it was Covid that caused Sydney drummer Dave Goodman to be off the program at NPC.  It's the standard way in these pandemic times.  But the guy who walked by me, I guess seeing me alone and listening, the guy who said "excellent music", said it all.  This was a blast regardless and with no drums!  Just jazz blowing on standards and latins and bop with tenderness to curb exhuberance.  Brendan and Greg were on the bill; Con replaced sticks with a tenor reed.  This was truly a thing of beauty.  Not too loud or insistent but gloriously expressive from all three.  Greg works hard taking both solo and accompanist parts, but never a hesitation.  Brendan was just a smooth speedster playing soft but deadly lines throughout his solos, then nonchalant accompaniment with equal finesse.  Dave's ring-in was Con, on tenor.  The role was different but mellifluous, sometimes, explosive, always melodically satisfying.  I could hear the lyrics and lines of many players, from bop to latin, presumably a measure of his transcriptions, or maybe just listening.  Transcriptions is my guess.  Lovely.  So a different experience but a deeply satisfying one.  Just locals, but just excellent, in the words of my passing mate. 

Con Campbell (tenor), Greg Stott (guitar) and Brendan Clarke (bass) played at the National Press Club.

18 January 2021

Classical jazz

The classical equivalent of a jam session is a play through, I guess.  I was asked to cover for a session playing the Trout last Thursday evening in someone's house with just family and dog as audience.  The request just came on Thursday morning so I had a sight read at home with a recording and revisited a few of the harder passages that weren't such easy reads (not least a lovely jazz-like diminished run).  Then the run through that evening.  The musos were very capable.  We got pulled up a few times, repeated a few other times (I was responsible for some of each) but mostly it worked well (perhaps only in my "good enough for jazz" hat).  I was happy because I should know the Trout.  It's one of a popular few chamber pieces with double bass.  Two similar others were mentioned: a Beethoven septet and a Schubert octet.  I've played each of them, as I had the Trout, but a regular run through wouldn't hurt.  And then a chat and a drink.  First bowing for the new year and with such a capable crew.  What a treat.  Thanks for the invitation.

The lineup for the Trout was by George Chan (piano), Georgina Tran (violin), John Gould (viola), Rita Woolhouse (cello) and Eric Pozza (bass).

14 January 2021

Visiting an old friend

Coming to know an art gallery is a love of my life so while I was in Melbourne I had to get to the NGV.  Not so much the modern wing or even the Triennial, which was on at the time, but the old masters and the like.  We can't expect collections as in Europe, but Victoria probably has the best collection in Australia.  Three Rembrandt oils, no less, and a string of Dutch/Flemish works.  A touch of various eras otherwise, and some decorative arts.  It's naff, but I like the figurines.  I didn't find The Music Lesson this time which I've seen here before, but I did find McKennal's Circe in life size (don't we have a little one at the NGA?  I know AGSA does).  This visit I discovered some big renaissance names, Gaddi and Correggio, and decided the Memling was my fave for this visit.  Or possibly the "Carved retable of the Passion of Christ" from Antwerp with its 3d polychrome timber panels and surrounding painted panels in oil.  And Burne-Jones from his Garden of Pan, of course.  There's some lovely stuff there and it's free to see.  Always a highlight of my Melbourne sojourns.

The National Gallery of Victoria is in Melbourne (!)

11 January 2021

Not Bourke

This was in front of the Town Hall in Swanston Street.  Quieter but just as small a world.  One busker playing tuned percussion.  We chatted.  I mentioned Canberra.  He’d studied with Gary France and taught Chris Latham in universities in the USA and played at a few CIMFs.  He’s now settled in Melbourne.  He finds it’s improving from when he arrived early this year (somewhat with the arrival of Covid and lockdowns!)  He comes back to Canberra every now and then with his wife who tunes pianos.  He was playing a Pearl Malletstation that he’d bought from Gary.  I liked what he was playing.  Professionally understated and relaxed and richly coloured with key changes.  Nice.  It was from a musical he wrote in the States.  All a great pleasure.  Cheers to JB Smith.  Nice to meet, and hear, you.

JB Smith busked tuned percussion in Swanston Street, Melbourne.

10 January 2021


You needn’t go to a gig to hear some pretty smart players in Melbourne.  Victor Wooten for one.  I was chatting with Wylie J Miller, a pretty stylish slapper himself, sporting a 5-string Stanley Clarke signature Alembic.  He was surprised someone recognised the Alembic. Apparently, VW had sat in with him one day when here in tour.  These are those wonderful stories that are true but become mythical.  I was a little dumbfounded to hear it, but not surprised.  He was doing a wonderful job with deep grooves, natty singing to accompany it and a wonderfully entertaining presence.  And he had a nicely worn Alembic to share.  But I’d seen a few others over the days and they were all impressive.  Bianca Ivorie was a singer songwriter with a decently strong voice and convincing songs.  One song she noted was Ex’s and Oh’s by Elle King, once a hit and an in-your-face feminist statement in one.  Nice one.  But she writes, too.  There were a few violins another day.  Cam Nicholson looping a modern set with various effects.  There’s a nice one of him on YouTube playing the whole of Pachelbel’s Canon with looped parts.  Loops really are the stuff of modern busking.  I think it was Dario Zhang standing by.  I saw Dario later playing against recorded or digital accompaniment.  Not sure if it’s just for Covid, but they all perform in taped off boxes, obviously approved by city authorities.  Busking ain’t what it used to be (it’s actually often much better).  They are all on YouTube if you wish to follow up.

Wylie J Miller (bass, vocals), Bianca Ivorie (guitar, vocals), Cam Nicholson (violin) and Dario Zhang (violin) busked in Bourke Street, Melbourne.

09 January 2021


There was a time when Miles had to justify that he played funk.  So I guess on a jazz site I don’t have to do that anymore.  I went to hear a great little funky soul band last night called Fulton Street, in Melbourne, at Cherry Bar.  Fulton Street is a sextet: tight, inventive, deeply funky and virtually all original.  They dropped into Midnight Oil for a little interlude (The power and the passion) but otherwise this was all theirs.  But that was not what got me; after all funk is mostly a few chords and I couldn’t catch most of the words anyway.  But these guys are trained and it shows.  The grooves are deep and authentic; the players look to each other, perhaps playing minimally and repetitively, but the parts fit together key-in-lock into a satisfying whole.  That’s how funk works, of course.  The players just play, and the singer, bless her soul, is soulful, as in singing but also dancing, moving, grooving.  So the torso bends and the arms raise and the fingers flit.  All as it should be and wonderfully satisfying.  It’s not jazz, but the knowledge is clear enough (they are all trained, at least several completed music degrees and some advanced studies here): the awareness of interaction and the trained accuracy of interpretation are obvious.  The bass was finger happy and lock tight.  The keys playful and expressive.  The percussion aurally present and enlivening, playing with drums as a locked pairing, often sparse, always decisive.  The guitar light and choppy and responsive, as this interplay of parts in 16th note syncopations should be.  Spacious and relaxed but also taut and tight; insistent, then suddenly quiet to await a delightfully precise return.  They liked that and so did I.  I bopped with the others on the floor, standing, listening, intrigued and whooping often enough.  Great fun, great grooves; nice stuff.  This was Fulton Street’s return from nine months of Covid interruptions and it was a blast.

They sometimes expand with horns, but this night Fulton Street were Shannen Wick (vocals), Nate Scott (guitar), Jamie Stroud (bass), Andreas Miculcic (organ), Laura Kirkwood (percussion) and Daniel McKoy (drums).  They played at the Cherry Bar in Melbourne.  And, BTW, the instrumentalists have recorded as Dive Team 5.  Have a listen on Bandcamp.