23 April 2021

Sandwiches

It was a double decker: Anton and Ariana had sandwiched Bach between two Vivaldi sonatas and I had sandwiched my recording between Melbourne and Adelaide.  So we could expect an unusual and slightly rushed affair.  On my part, it was rushed: I managed the audio processing but no time for video.  That takes time.  As for the music, it was a little singular, at least in that combination, but it worked very nicely an in a pomo way that opened our ears to new possibilities.  Ariana was playing harpsichord and it could be lost behind the relatively firm, unrelenting tone of Anton's piano accordion.  They were aware of it but it still was a little issue.  The akkordeon, as named by Anton, was organ-like in its firmness.  Not at all like a violin which it mostly replaced.  And the fingering was probably an issue for Anton, but I loved how he would work the fluid phrasings and how the keys bounced in the fast lines and how he'd punctuate phrase ends with left hand notes or chords.  And it was interesting to talk to him after, with his jazz training and harmonic awareness, talking of chromatics and 1-4-5s and cycles of fourths.  Bach is lovely in his colourations and so often jazzy in his harmonic movements.  And you could hear the richness of Bach highlighted betweens the Handels.  Handel is lovely but Bach is God.  There's a reason for the 3-Bs in fine music.  So, another lunchtime interlude at Wesley with some serious musical musings.  Too bad I missed the real cheese and biscuits outside.  That would have been sandwich no.3.

 Anton Wurzer (piano accordion) and Ariana Odermatt (harpsichord) played Handel and Bach at Wesley.

21 April 2021

Bigs

For some reason I was thinking of Smalls through this show. Smalls is a jazz bar in NYC that has a daily video feed. I watch it every so often and I’ve been there. The upstairs bar at Paris Cat was similarly smallish, brick clad and industrial, so some similarity. And the band that was playing had mostly gone to record these very songs in NYC with a few local luminaries sitting in. I doubt they needed it other than for the name recognition. This band was stunning. It was a sextet brought together by saxist/leader/composer Rob Burke with 3 rhythm and three front line and their first gig together in a Covid year. Mostly the tunes were twisted heads opening to free soloing. I struggled to find chords for the first half, if perhaps I could hear them more obviously with later tunes and the Albert Ayler which I remember as twisted rhythm changes with plenty of chromatics. Plenty of chromatics throughout with some devastating solos from Phil Rex and Paul Grabowski and basic-kit power-drive from James McLean on drums. The front line of sax, trumpet and trom passed solos, but not expectedly if perhaps planned. Some great outings there too, and wondrous interfaces with all the back line, and often enough harmonies with the other horns. I wonder if the front line was less chromatic than the rhythm section in solos, but not sure, and more playing on melody and sequences. Whatever, the regular switch of solos through players was not at all obvious and the ideas were rampant and that bass just dumbfounding in its intensity and unrelentingness. My POV, of course, as a bassist, but Phil was overwhelming and the rhythm section was inspiring. And that front line, they were no slouches. So why the thought of Smalls? It was a similar structure of a night and a similar presence that occurred to me. The way they all perused the music to remind themselves before opening and the comments “Do you remember that? / Nope” and the side chatter with some near audience. Perhaps a similar tune structure for open improvisations, too. But this lost nothing to Smalls. This was just a stunner and as good as I can imagine. And that bass.

Rob Burke (tenor, soprano, compositions) led his sextet at Paris Cat, Melbourne, comprising Paul Williamson (trumpet), Jordan Murray (trombone), Paul Grabowski (piano), Phil Rex (bass) and James McLean (drums).

20 April 2021

Postal

Now this is a bit of local colour. I met Phaedra and Dave at NGV when they were doing some performance art for the Triennial. They were performing a mirror activity, but were largely ignored as people milled about and looked at much more static art on walls. We chatted and they invited us to their single launch a few days later, and voila. Local colour in Fitzroy at InCube8r gallery. This was synth-pop, simple rhythms, straight changes and 1-3-5 arpeggios. As this should be and very catchy. Add extravagant make-up, staunch Dave with dancing Phaedra, a suite of bouncy pop tunes telling of Covid experiences, kisses and returns to work and such-like, and some spoken word to ensconce it all. With lights and even smoke. Intimate, fun, impish. We enjoyed it lots; my feet bounced along. What’s pop got to do with it? Given that MN describe themselves as Post-genre, probably very little.

Madame Nightingale performed at InCube8r at Fitzroy. MN are Phaedra Gunn (vocals) and Dave O’Toole (keys).

19 April 2021

New scene

 

Well, it was a new scene and one I’m not familiar with: punk, metal and the like. I heard music from across the road from the Victoria Markets. The pub was a run down deco pub called the Public Bar, AKA Last Chance Rock'n'Roll Bar, surrounded with scaffolding, but it seemed to have an entrance. So it did. Inside was small with not too many people, a pool table, a bar, stamped metal walls and band stickers, Star Trek on TV and a noisy trio. I liked this one. No bass; just vocals, guitar, drums. Two kick pedals of course, so driving, some interesting chordal movements and endless commitment and a sometime pogo singer with a wry smile and raspy lyrics that got lost without comprehension. All as I expected and lively and loud and the beer was good. The style was metal/grindcore. The sort of afternoon I could take while my ears allowed. This pub stages free bands each Sat/Sun, perhaps 3 per afternoon. There must be lots of metal outfits around. Like many of these scenes, they are friendlier than they look at first. I chatted with vocalist Frank after and that was a pleasure. Also met a fellow bassist (we are not uncommon although not wanting in Frank’s band) from Forklift Assassins. They had played there the week before. I caught a female bassist/singer and her trio before I left realising it was a little loud for these drained ears. I didn't catch their name.  Frank’s band was Tongue Scum, with Frank (vocals), Den (guitar) and Ben (drums). I didn’t get the other names, but I did get a decent beer. A good find all round.



Tongue Scum played at the Public Bar, north Melbourne. Forklift Assassins had played there the previous week.

18 April 2021

Filmz

Film is not my favourite art form. Nonetheless, I went to one, Nomadland. It seemed fairly obvious if touching. We’ve read of such inequality and desperation in the US before (Nickel and dimed : undercover in low-wage America / Barbara Ehrenreich). We’ve hoped it wouldn’t happen here but of course it is in train right now. I just wondered what it says about modern film art that a fairly known theme would get such plaudits. Maybe with Covid, it’s time. Just my musings. But more relevant to this site, we also visited the ACMI, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, a museum of “screen culture”. Mostly it was about techniques and technical developments: how the first moving pictures were made, some snippets, how movies are now made, film and TV and games, technical roles (costumes and storyboarding and props and special effects and more). Some thing on the role of moving images in politics (interesting) including a spot on SS4C (School Strike for Climate; next demo due 21 May). Something else on private film matters, as film/video became cheaper and home movies became common. Not the most interesting museum for me but for some or many, their favourite artform.  BTW, the pic is Don Bank's early synth used for film work, perhaps Dr Who? 

The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) is in Fed Square, Melbourne.

17 April 2021

Always the gallery

Any visit to Melbourne for me includes the National Gallery of Victoria. It’s a fave. This time, for the Triennial but also just to revisit old friends, the three Rembrandts and the early Italian and German religious works and some favourite Pre-Raphaellites. We mainly checked out the Triennial and that was impressive: some modern indigenous art in cerulians and aquamarines and the like using oils and acrylics; a video of a possible future post-climate city of 10 billion people; some incredibly high-resolution oozing video that played with our sense of framing and depth; some huge woolly cubby-house toys that a mum just made have made for her kids (and that you just longed to jump into); that busy C18th/19th European room (would love to know its name) featured with intense and sharp lighting and sound; photos of religious sites with the homeless. More, too, of course. It was school holidays and busy like Bourke street in the Gallery. These people are seriously cultured! And walk the streets and experience high rise that works, gargantuan sizes with historical bluestone features. Melbourne seems to have worked itself out. No wander this place is so prized. It was a rushed visit and so busy, but I got to see a few faves and some intriguing art to chase up later. Maybe.



The National Gallery of Victoria was busy with its Triennial and more.

5 April 2021

A phenomenon around town

Early morning (moderately early) and a last minute run was my experience of Skywhale and Skywhalepapa.  Skywhale appeared in this blog years back and the recent arrival of hubby Skywhalepapa with his caring responsibilities has caused quite a stir.  I didn't bother to book tickets, but listening to the radio in bed, I heard a report from the Parliamentary Triangle of the good weather and the last flight before a 2-year tour of Australia and the possible takeoff time.  I had 45 minutes and it was just a 5 minute drive, so I went.  The dark was lifting.  The sky was glorious and the weather still.  When I arrived, the pair of Skywhales were jovial and inviting.  They are a strange pair, but that's their attraction.  Just look at Patricia Piccinini's other hyper-real unrealities and you know what to expect.  They are all diverse and deeply touching.  It's a strange encounter but positive and heartening.  Anyway, the sun gradually rose and the balloons were readied and the crowds waited calmly and ABC666 invited the artist to make a welcome and then Jess Green's Pheno performed their piece, We are the Skywhales, with a children's chorus and the pair departed, off to the west and then off to Australia.  Like kids leaving home.  This is emotionally satisfying art that says something to us; I'm not sure quite what, other than to be open and generous and welcoming and honest.  The skywhales have such lovely eyes, even if they are branded with a flight registration number.  It was a lovely morning.

Patricia Piccinini (artist) created Skywhale and Skywhalepapa.  Jess Green (guitar, vocals, composer) wrote the associated tune and her band, Pheno, played it with a children's choir.  Pheno comprised Jess Green (guitar, vocals), James Hauptmann (drums), Alyx Dennison (synths, vocals) and Lachlan Coventry (bass, guitar).



4 April 2021

Powerless

I don't write about all my jazz gigs, just when there's something notable or when we play with someone new.  Now this last gig had a few items of note.  First up was playing in a park with no power.  So I was working hard as bassist with no amp, and we couldn't play with piano, being unwilling to cart an acoustic piano.  So, this was the Tilt Sax Trio with Justin Buckingham.  It was interesting as a chordless trio, just bass line and melody/solo above.  And drums of course.  I liked the effect.  Just working our way through standards charts, starting at A; sounding open and clear, contrapuntal rather than harmonic.  It was hard work playing outside with now power, but the air was still so we heard pretty well (you can lose sound with a breeze) with the band adjusted to a lower volume.  But it was certainly a workout for this bassist's fingers/arms and it demanded some simplification.  That was nice, too.  The outcome was evident in my favourite solo for the day, slower, more clear in chordal statements, more mobile over the neck and through octaves.  Suffice to say, we enjoyed the gig and hope to do it again sometime.  Thanks Justin, great playing.  Oh, and one more thing to note.  We performed for a Commitment Ceremony.  That was also something new to me.  How the world changes!  So congratulations to Patrick and partner.

 Tilt sax trio were Justin Buckingham (alto), Dave McDade (drums) and Eric Pozza (bass).

2 April 2021

For posterity, or at least for radio

I've recorded literally hundreds of jazz and classical performers but these have all been live shows.  It was something a bit special to track original compositions and to be asked to do it by the composer.  Alan Hinde recently provided a piece for Maruki Orchestra that we played as its world premiere.  A few weeks later I recorded Stuart Long playing four of his piano compositions.  The titles mean little and there was some discussion over apt titles (other than Nocturne or Prelude no.x).  These were seriously interesting tunes.  At one time, Stuart spoke of Alan as our Canberra Chopin.  Megan mentioned Satie when she heard some takes.  Alan himself spoke of the influence of jazz harmonies.  I enjoyed that the three of us could talk jazz as much as classical, with Alan and Stuart having a jazz background along with their classical present.  It's all music and each has its fortes.  We recorded on a new Yamaha grand at Wesley Music Centre, in that acoustically correct space.  What a pleasure and a privilege.  Let's now see what comes of it.

Stuart Long (piano) played and recorded four pieces by Alan Hinde (composer) at Wesley.  Eric Pozza tracked.