30 December 2022

Spa plus

Just back from a family Christmas get-together in Daylesford.  It's a cute town, said to be the lesbian capital of Australia.  I saw several couples but then we returned through a similar small country tourist town and ate at a gay-run hotel with a trans receptionist, so what's to tell?  I think of Daylesford for mineral spas and organ concerts.  We got to both, or at least a connection to each (the sulphur water was the preferred spring although still undrinkable to our tastes, and we met two women who'd married [to husbands] at the Uniting Church with the organ) but the intent was really Christmas and family and friends.   The first night was to the beer garden at the Daylesford pub and I just caught a local jazz trio while ordering.  This was Vida jazz, playing around town for "your venue or special occasion".  Could not but feel comfy with a local working band.  I just heard a few tunes, standards and latins, of course, but also a string of pop and blues, done in style, Light my fire and Beatles and the like.  The band had a groove with no drummer, just Vida singing and Bruce bass and Bronwen keys.  Nice for a welcoming front bar experience on a Friday evening. 

Vida Jazz were Vida Petrini (vocals), Bruce Miller (bass) and Bronwen Algate (keys).  They played at the Daylesford Hotel front bar.

20 December 2022

Visiting Paris

Paris comes to a backyard near you.  Aussie bassist Leigh Barker grew up in this house and performed a garden concert for friends of the family.  Leigh has ventured to Melbourne then to Paris with his singer/violinist partner Heather Stewart and they now have two young Parisians to fill the family but he still comes home every so often and plays tours and clubs and backyards and the like.  This time they'd also recorded in Melbourne.  I got to the backyard gig and it was something special, like our own jazz club with sun.  The day was good and the deck was new and stage-like and rang with taps and the piano could be rolled straight out into the open.  Leigh and Heather had Matt Boden from Hobart and Dan McLean from Michelago.  No drums, but the pulse was strong, the bass certain and voluble with the expansive piano and forthright trumpet.   There were plenty of quips and gasps and whoops shared in this style and the humour was skin deep but articulate and the groove was ever-present.   This is early jazz and not something I chase but a huge pleasure when done like this.  I was all tapping toes, as I should be.  Heather explained her new Guanieri-like violin's subtleties (essentially the Strad/Guanieri dichotomy but to all, I guess, it was pretty much unnoticeable without the two together) but the slides and delicacy were what mattered and her voice, so perfect for the era, just rang so, so true.  I think of Paris as a comfortable home for early styles (but not just: I heard Hadrien Féraud there and he's no slouch and nothing at all early).  They played WC Handy and Ellington and Fats Waller and Jelly Roll and Gershwin and even Rudi Valli and just one original, a dedication to a friend, Adriana, by Heather.  Not just another club gig but a bundle of joy of great musical skills and a huge pleasure.  Thanks to Leigh and Heather and Matt and Dan.

Leigh Barker (bass) led a quartet with Heather Stewart (vocals, violin), Matt Boden (piano) and Dan McLean (trumpet) in a backyard in Hughes.

19 December 2022

Market Sundays

I was on a mission to the Fyshwick markets on a Sunday and mooched over when I heard music in one corner.  It was Sally Davis singing worthy singer-songwriter fare, not least Amy Winehouse and Florence and the Machine.  Danceable and intriguing music, not least for a string of little kids who gathered with their mums.  Mostly, it was the business of shopping for others, so despite a cosy corner with seating, we were few.  I left soon enough, but enjoyed the encounter.  I enjoy the market well enough, but thanks to Sally for a more artful visit.

Sally Davis (guitar, vocals) performed at Fyshwick Market.

17 December 2022


The National Press Club is my go-to on a quiet Friday evening when I want a short outing with beer and some entertainment.  It's local and easy parking and a happy half-hour to boot, let alone some of the best local players, even if the playing tends to kept fairly tame in this context.  This night Mereki Leten and Michael Larsen-Collins were playing.  Not a pair I knew but they were described as a "up-and-coming sax and guitar duo" so all sounded good.  I enjoyed them with capable playing of standards and latins and the like from their differently keyed iGigbooks on the music stand.  Mereki had some flourishes that hinted at considerable chops and I loved how she played conterpoint to several of Michael's solos.  And Michael's solos and chordal backings were worthy outings; not surprising from an obviously serious student of Greg Stott.  For some audience involvement, I requested Alone together and they didn't know it but they did a very decent read.  Then chatting, I realised Mereki was the female saxist that my band, Tilt, had got in for a gig a few weeks before when I was out of town (with bassist Barney Briggs).  I felt there was due respect all round for that outing.  So, some names I didn't know until now, but surprisingly close to home.

Mereki Leten (soprano sax, flute) and Michael Larsen-Collins (guitar) played at the National Press Club.

12 December 2022


I read of Handel's late baroque opera, Alcina, being performed at Llewellyn in the Saturday Canberra Times just in the morning.  It was the second of two performances and I was free and it's not often we can see serious opera in Canberra.  So the ticket.  It immediately followed a long jazz gig so it was a rush but I got there.  The audience wasn't large and that was sad.  This is an attempt to create a serious opera company in the national capital.  It's an expensive process and they need support if it is to happen.  I checked Alcina on Spotify: 3hr 23min.  Mmm, that's a call.  In the end, this was a sparse stage with mostly just a small company lasting 3hr including an interval.  So it was a challenging outing but it quite lovely.  This is opera seria of 1735 with a chequered history: debuted then not performed for ~200 years then a feature for Joan Sutherland and Cecilia Bartoli and others.  I think it was also the first time I've seen musicians in a "pit" at Llewellyn.  Not a true  pit, perhaps, but  replacing the first rows of normal seating.  This was not Aida or the like.  the music is very different and the lyrics are totally sung.  It started with an overture then mostly short scenic numbers with exploratory notes projected above to explain the complex story of Queen Alcina, sorceress, and sister Morgana and heroic knight Ruggiero and his fiancée Bradamante and various loves and affairs and spells and magic rings and Oberto and his missing father.  I read that it was derived from Orlando Furioso.  The libretto was from Italian Antonia Fanzaglia (Wikipedia says the original was from Roberto Broschi).  I could pick the Italian occasionally when I listened carefully, but mostly I just took in the music of it all. Sung opera is not easy to understand at the best of times.  I enjoyed the whole, and it was a long whole.  The music is delightful, being of that hugely attractive era, and nicely played by ~25 members of the Canberra Symphony Orchestra.  The singing is in the same style, of course, melodic and expressive and richly embellished with scalar extrapolations.  Handel also included some dance sequences so 6 dancers also featured. But mostly the stage was fairly bare with 2 or 3 or 4 central characters singing their story.  I was a little discombobulated by the voices.  Ruggiero was counter tenor and cross-dressed fiancée Bradamante was sung by someone from the side.  And missing father's son, Oberto, was played by a woman.  It suits the time.   And interestingly, there were six dancers for several musical sequences.  It was a long session and I'd gigged that afternoon and rushed to it, but I was glad I attended.  Baroque opera performed with serious intent and worthy quality.  Best of luck to the National Opera.  And to finish, some delicate quotes from the descriptive projections: "One moment's happiness turns all true lovers' tears to joy";"Enduring love and compassion will help bring back happiness after so much suffering".

Handel Alcina was presented by the National Opera at Llewellyn Hall.

11 December 2022

Right numbers

At our Molly gig, Mark was talking of doing just the right frequency of gigs.  He was playing 6pw, 7pw was pushing it, but he's a pro so this is his job.  I'm no pro and that would be a stretch.  But just back from Antarctica, a week now, and it's been musically busy.  Four gigs in one week.  First up was Molly and that's already written up on CJ.  Then a DJ gig for a disabled home Christmas party for a friend.  How much fun was that?  No stress, relaxing and listening to some fave music.  And people are paid for this?  The task of a muso is much more demanding, not least the years of practice.  Perhaps also more satisfying; certainly more inventive.  The other two gigs were for Red Hill Primary School's end of year get together.  It's a semi-regular gig for us and a great pleasure, especially given my kids' connection with RHPS.  Then a 50th birthday party for a lively woman and friends and family at a local winery.  It's been a busy week just off the ships but all gigs were a real pleasure and featured some hot playing.  Now for a quieter Christmas.

09 December 2022

9 into 3 does go

There are 9 current Wesley music scholars and they were to perform at the final Wednesday lunchtime concert for the year but Covid intervened. The revised program had 3 performers!  Not sure it was all from Covid.  Nonetheless, the result was satisfying and really very interesting.  First up was Jess Hill playing a movement of a Haydn trumpet concerto.  That was interesting as a solo trumpet performance and lovely for the classical tone.  Then some inventive stuff from Yona Su playing two contemporary Australian solo viola pieces, strangely similar in technicalities, I thought.  The second was accompanied by a digital drone as a brush with electronica.  Then Ronan Apcar performed perhaps his last gig before he goes to Melbourne and ANAM (congratulations).  Ronan played two of eight etudes from Nikolai Kapustin, hugely busy with jazz chords and extrapolations and fully transcribed but to all intents jazz.  Apparently NK used to import US jazz records into Russia pre-WW2.  Then, interestingly, a take on Brad Mehldau When it rains, partly a reading of a transcription from the Net of the solo components and partly a transcription by Ronan of the strings and other accompaniments.  Fascinating and extravagant for the extensions and substitutions and the like.  So an end to the Wesley lunchtime concerts for this year with a small but effective concert.

Jess Hill (trumpet), Yona Su (viola) and Ronan Apcar (piano) performed at Wesley.

08 December 2022

Another hero

Australia has found another hero courtesy of governments closing down climate action.  It's a sad story and a real concern for our Human Rights record.  But  the show must go on, at least until it won't anymore.  And that's not too far off, given floods and fires and incessant new mines.   Deanna 'Violet' Coco is in jail for at least 8 months, perhaps 15, with no bail while she lodges an appeal.  It's scary.  Her action was a big one and notable, closing a lane of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but the subject of her non-violent protest was immeasurably more significant, the end of civilisation, no less.  And it's not as if we are succeeding in our actions on climate.  Just see the graph above and despair.   And now we read a report that an uncle is a NSW pollie and agrees with the decision.   Even family ties don't seem to bring a pause on this issue and this largest of all industries, energy.   We are in peril.  Youth sees it and they will suffer it while power does the little it must.  Read up on this case and despair.  Here are a few references.

  • Pollie opinion no.1
  • Pollie opinion no.2
  • Overview
  • Comment
  • Violet's statement
  • Violet as the Pram Lady
  • To finish, my climate warning of 2014 remains true.  Here's my summary that I sent to PMs, pollies, editors, etc,  I still think it's a good summary.  To me, the "tipping points" are the killer, but you don't hear so much of them these days.  Maybe they are trying avoid widespread despair? 

    All you really need to know about climate change. We're one big civilisation and climate is changing fast given a sudden imbalance of carbon since the industrial revolution. The mechanism of greenhouse gasses has been known to science for 150 years or so and we're at 400ppm and adding another couple each year, and 2 degrees warming (guessed to come at 450ppm) is a rough, perhaps optimistic, estimate of where runaway climate change could happen given various feedback loops (the ubiquitous "tipping points") and it looks to me like we've got Buckley's chance of staying within 2 degrees. With business as usual, IPCC estimates 3-6 degrees rise by 2100. That's just 86 years. Scientists provide the proof of all this for honest readers. To me it looks like game over and sooner than we think. I just hope I'm wrong because nobody wins an argument with physics.

    BTW, here's the current CO2 concentration at Mauna Loa:  Oct 2022 = 415.31 ppm  (https://www.co2.earth/).  It's rising ~2ppm pa.  One ray of hope: it was rising ~2.5ppm a few years ago.

    Deanna 'Violet' Coco joins Greta Thunberg as an authentic CJ Climate hero.  For her commitment and bravery in the face of political and social intransigence.

    PS.  David Ritter says it beautifully.  From The Guardian News Live 7 Dec 2022 15:57AEDT. 

    David Ritter, CEO of Greenpeace Australia Pacific, said the right to peaceful protest is fundamental to democracy, and the laws were “rushed through in a chilling and knee-jerk response to ongoing peaceful protests”:

    [They] are the latest in a suite of increasingly draconian measures introduced in Australia, designed to curtail peaceful public dissent.

    What these laws fail to acknowledge is that climate activism does not exist in a vacuum. People are feeling compelled to take a stand only because of the fossil fuel industry’s wanton and knowing destruction of our right to a safe climate over the past 50 years.

    While tactics and approaches to climate advocacy may differ, and there are legitimate differences of opinion on what forms of advocacy are most effective for winning hearts and minds, the fact remains that the inconvenience caused by the climate crisis – catastrophic floods, fires and storms destroying homes, livelihoods, and entire communities – staggeringly outweighs the inconvenience of one climate protester blocking one lane of traffic for 25 minutes.

    What we must remember is that climate change isn’t happening to us, it’s being done to us. It’s being done to us by the executives of the fossil fuel corporations, and they know it. Just as Ms Coco knew that her act of protest would disrupt one lane of traffic, these executives know that their relentless pursuit of profit is disrupting the lives of billions of people and every species of life on our entire planet.

    07 December 2022

    Breaking a drought

    Travel has interrupted my playing big time recently.  I've missed some jazz and also three classical concerts.  It's not a complaint because travel is an exciting and mind-expanding experience but it does interrupt playing.  Dave managed to keep up practice on our ship to Antarctica, but he plays guitar and it's an easily portable instrument and he had a smallish travel guitar anyway.  I play double bass so I've had a break of 5 weeks or so.  Add some residual jet lag and I was wary of playing Molly and it is to be just the first of three gigs for the week.  But one thing I notice is that playing a gig after a break can be refreshing and can bring out the best.  It did last night.  Of course, I had some help from James and Mark playing like the clappers and a lively Christmas-partying crowd and a sound that just sat fat and rich and satisfying from the first notes.  My new approach, to set EQ pretty much flat and adjust volume, is working.  Good tone comes mostly from the fingers anyway.  And  I enjoy the two long sets with a decent break.  Now excuse me as I mix my metaphors.  We forgot to order food for the break so we ended up breaking our fast after the gig.  Here's a pic of two satisfied players eating toasties at the end of a decent gig at Molly.  Thanks tons to James and Mark.

    James Woodman (piano) led Mark Levers (drums) and Eric Pozza (bass) at Molly.

    30 November 2022

    ...but not quite no jazz

    We were lucky to have a capable guitarist on board serenading us each evening as he played his travel guitar. David Landon is from Berkeley, California, across the bay from San Francisco. He's played blues rock professionally in Paris and elsewhere, still playing festivals and running a studio (Whip Records) to record such luminaries as Taj Mahal, Tuck and Patti, Lenny Williams and Adam Duritz of the Counting Crows. No slouch. He describes his style these days as more singer songwriter, but I've yet to hear his albums. We heard some seriously satisfying improvs during Happy Hour, played from memory of bluesy pentatonics and a string of melodies, not least Charlie Parker bop. It's the closest I could expect to jazz or the like in Antarctica. A great pleasure and quite unexpected. Thanks, Dave.

    David Landon visited Antarctica on the Ocean Nova.

  • http://davidlandon.com
  • https://www.whiprecords.com/
  • 21 November 2022

    Sun sets sometime

    Now this post is unexpected.  This is Ushuaia.  Dig the location: Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia, Argentina.  The surrounding mountains with slips of snow are spectacular.  It's great weather and the locals are out in t-shirts (not all!) even if the wind chill factor is serious around every corner.  The tourists have scarves and hoods.  But there's a Hard Rock Cafe and it's Saturday.  One section of the main street is blocked off and there's a seriously decent PA set up.  First up, we happen on the local drum band, La Famiglia del Tambor.  They are having a great time, rollicking with drums of all sizes, tight as, led by a conductor, sharp and smiling with the best.  Loud.  But loud it is for the Municipal Band, too.  Now this is no ordinary Municipal Band.  First up, I thought Big Band given bari, tenor, several altos, sop saxes and a few clarinets, then I see four brass, trumpets and troms.  Then surrounding them the rock rhythm section, piano, bass, guitar, drums, percussion, two singing.  They start up with great grooves, reggae gets a look in, but it's mainly shades of latin, alive, loud, with decent singing.  I ask the name and I'm told "the Municipal Band".  It doesn't do them justice.  People are dancing in the street.  Behind me, more painted symbols for Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo.  Down the road, a large meeting hall with pics of Perons.  I'm somewhat confused by these stories, the Perons being variously lefty and populist and perhaps other.  But there's plenty of time for all this: the sun doesn't set until 10.30pm at -55deg. This is Argentine Terra del Fuego, within a stone's throw of Chile and it's a surprising place. 

    PS.  It turns we are celebrating the 138th anniversary of the founding of Ushuaia (12 Oct 1884).

    20 November 2022

    Local is international

    One thing I had to see was tango in BA and Mono, our bass mate, was playing just that the next day.  This was a performance venue rather than a Milonga dance-cum-school so we had a band, dancers and singers: a veritable story-telling, all singing, all dancing show.  The club was Cátulo Tango.  We were told it's a traditional venue, frequented by locals.  A decent space, plenty of set tables with red tablecloths matched by red uniforms of staff.  A big raised stage in the centre as well as a curtained band stage nearby.  We all arrived at 7pm for seats and to start the pics and eating, then show at 8 running on to 10, then again that community mingling after.  Plenty of talk which we didn't get, of course, some jokes, introductions to composers and themes.  And always that intense, intimate music.  The band was violin, guitar, bandoneon, bass with solos and moving features.  The guitar sounding sharp and acoustic like classical; the violin all phrases and rhythmically places notes and tones and squeaks and slides and taps, like the bass, rich in effects to spell the accents.  Sometimes playing as feature, sometimes backing dancers or singers.  We didn't catch the lyrics, of course, but you could feel the overt passion, as clearly also the dancers.  We think of love and sex and the themes of tango and they are there, but there are also amusements and playfulness, as in two women dancing with one man, or the simple joy of dancing of two women together or the overt sexual rivalry of two men at one time.  We'd been told this was a classy night.  The dancers (three women, two men) included three internationals, one a world champion form Holland, no less.  And again the interactions with audience to announce birthdays and to welcome a famed tango composer.  And ultimately, an end with Piazzola Libertango and all manner of community pics and chatter for the next half hour or so.   For this is something I enjoyed immensely, how everyone would congregate after, chatting, laughing, meeting, selfy-ing.  Like at our jazz the night before.  So a fascinating and unique and relevant local experience that nonetheless expressed a very international style, tango, known by many, not least the jazz scene.  But the real thing was different from the jazz interpretation that I know; more intense, more immediate, deeply sensual.  A wonderful find.  Thanks to Mono for the invitation to this one.

    The tango performance was at band was at Cátulo Tango in Buenos Aires.  The band comprised Estebon Morgado (guitar), Quique Condomi (violin), Augustin Gil (bandoneon) and Mono  Hurtado (bass).  The singers were Leandro Ponte and Rosana Fontan (vocals).  The dancers were Maricel Giacomini, Katherine Laytón, Guillermina van der Linden, C Jose Carlos and Romero Vedia (Carlinho).

    19 November 2022

    Always learning

    I chose a jazz club close to our hotel but then we moved.  The new club had a tribute to Bessie Smith, apt for Megan, but in the end wasn't open that night.  Maybe for the best: the club was only weekend hotel.  So we ended at my first choice.  Again a tribute, this time to Gato Barbieri, the Argentinian tenorist.  I had known of GB during his softer era of soul and smooth jazz in the '70s so the tribute gig and reading of his early days with Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, Carla Bley and the likes was an eye-opener.  Not free jazz, but calls to it.  There was melody here, but floating segments, strong dynamics and well shared solo passages and outlandish power throughout.  Pablo played alto and soprano saxes, all extended arpeggios and full range and insistent and intense.  Pianist Pepe read rich charts and improvised aptly against them, telling the story of the tune with authenticity beyond just running chords.  Drummer Carto played often for colour or for melodic effect.  His solo entry for one piece was a dream, all sharp, diverse with rim shots and tonal drum colours interspersed with delirious fills.   But I was watching Mono mostly: he was bass.  There was (French) bowing that clearly said tango and busy, rhythmic, burbling playing that intrigued me, not so much from left hand, although that was well formed and accurate, but from a unique right hand pizz action, sometimes the extended two fingers but balling into a fist for three finger pizz, all rhythmic dissection and colouration.  No idea of action or strings.  Stunning stuff.  I've never seen the like and a wonder, especially in this context.  Again excuse the bass-centrality, but we all know it's inevitable (!)  And I should mention the bar, Prez Jazz Club, pretty central, in a basement, nicely decked out and some snacks and grog on tap, and obviously a real community of jazz lovers.  Complete with CDs on an old stereo to settle after the gig.  This will be my jazz outing for BA and I seriously lucked out.

    Pablo Ledesma (saxos), Pepe Angelillo (piano), Mono Hurtado (contrabajo) and Carto Brandán (batería) played a tribute to Gato Barbieri at Prez Jazz Club in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

    18 November 2022

    Day 1

    Visiting any new city is a haze until you get a little knowledge under your sleeves. Buenos Aires is like any other in this. But it's also very big and looking like it's seen better times. BA's metropolitan population is 16m, a full third of the population of Argentina, and inflation is running at 100% pa. Yes, it's seen better times. As comfy tourists, we are in a richer and safer area, so we see galleries and glitzy restaurants and we've taken tours and seen gloriously classy bars with the well-dressed lounging. But there's still a pall. We are warned about walking after restaurants close (midnight) and about some poorer areas, but they are tourist taps in the day. So the mecca of La Boca with Maradona's stadium, Boca Jnr. La Boca is the obvious home for bandoneon, too, that button accordion that's the heart of the tango. I caught Miguel Angel Yofre playing Carlos Gardel / Alfredo La Pera songs on a hundred year old instrument, all ravaged buttons but pretty and sounding a charm.  And this is a religious country. We are told 80% claim Christianity (66% Catholic; 15% no religion) and the Pope is from here even if it doesn't particularly look it, but there are churches and one caught my eye, all Spanish styled, florid, baroque with relics. We also hear of the Mothers of the Plaza del Mayo who protest children and grandchildren lost during military dictatorship, and see bullet holes on walls from Peron's days and drive on to avoid being trapped by a Union march for better wages to deal with inflation. On the other hand, my search for Jazz clubs reveals plenty and for Tango shows and also Milongas (tango schools-cum-clubs) reveal more and a waitress lauds the musical community and we meet fans outside the Hyatt awaiting Ricky Martin (!) And there are lots of dachshunds to meet (admiring someone's dog is our sure-fire way to meet the locals). Oh, and the time difference is a stunner (14 hours). Just passing through, really, but thus is Day 1.

    In Buenos Aires in passage. Miguel Angel Yofre (bandoneon) played for visitors in La Boca.