28 January 2022

Multitudes indoors

Again it was at the Harmonie German Club and the event was called Australia in Harmonie : Collaboration of Cultures.  But these were the indoors acts.  It's different, indoors.  It's darker, cooler, there's a bar in the corner and people scattered at tables, seated.  The stage is big and the sound system impressive.  Noone on the dance floor, unlike some previous visits to this venue.  It's Covid, after all.  First up was a Maori Cultural Group, but I must have arrived at an odd time, for I only saw one guy talking.  Then a bit later, The Famouis (sic).  Pretty sure the spelling is correct, given the introduction.  This was a trio, all three males singing with two playing guitar and the core singer on cahon.  These were some truly lovely harmonies, most impressive, on pop tunes.  Then Anton Wurzer, our local exceptional piano accordionist.  I've heard him at CIMF, playing jazz and classical, solo and in groups.  He's a very capable player.  This day he proudly displayed his background wearing Bavarian lederhosen but his performance was more popular tunes done with wonderful authority.  All the hits, from Hey Jude to Sesame Street and Hava Nagila and then into a string of Aussie day hits, not least Waltzing Matilda and Still call Australia home, and a finish on Pier Gynt Hall of the Mountain King and Still talking about a revolution.  Now that's telling: a muted commentary played with authority and good vibe.  Great stuff!  Then a break and a return to Nancy Bates, solo artist, guitar and vocals, leading a string of singalongs (at least when we knew the lyrics), a strong voice and strummy guitar and wonderful presence with Aboriginal references.  Songwriter and singer with Archie Roach for several years, so there's experience here.  It shows in a genial presence but also a telling story.  That's one thing I am noticing of contemporary indigenous arties: the personal stories, not carping but honest and open and welcoming.  Then to a mate of Nancy's although they may have just met singing together on Aust Day stages in Canberra over recent days, Monica Moore and her blues band.  Well, I love the blues and I know these characters from Blues Society jams over the years and this was a blast (and I must admit my fave for the event).  Authentic, tight, loud blues.  What's not to love?  Sharp Strat solos, reliable, solid blues bass and drums.  The guitar gets the show here along with vocals; it's not a music of conspicuous virtuosity for bass and drums, as necessary as they are.  I liked how just bass and drums could hold the groove when guitar sat quiet and no vocals.  Then Monica with her firm and strong voice and telling interpretations.  All blues standards - Take me to the river and slow blues and Sweet home Chicago and the like - not originals that I noticed.  But so much a driving whole.  Great stuff!  It's a difficult act to follow but it was a different act that did follow.  Dale Huddlestone and the Riverbank Band was a big outfit, guit/voc, bass/voc, guit/voc, guit, drums.  Dale sang his own songs, stories of family and place, of his first nation parents moved from NT to Narrabundah for cuclones and more, about fishing with his grandfather (as I remember).  These are good and true stories as is wont with country music, and the band was tight and clean and satisfying, even if country is not a field I've yet discovered.  It was amusing that I noticed some warmup drum rolls that floored me, but they didn't appear in performance.  Not apt.  Neat and true and clear and again, telling.  So the indoors was a different world in some ways, more a listener's stage with more settled audience.  Even if the singalongs and joving in seats hinted towards other.  But an interesting way to while away some hours for Australia/Survival/Invasion Day.  Much enjoyed.  Thanks all.

Performers on the indoor stage at Australia in Harmonie at the Harmonie German Club were: Maori Cultural Group, The Famouis, Anton Wurzer, Nancy Bates, Monica Moore Blues Band and Dale Huddlestone and Riverbank Band.

27 January 2022

Multitudes outdoors

I should get to more festivals or the like.  It's interesting to see a range of performers together, on one or two stages, with continuous performance.  I got to a relatively small one for Australia/Survival/Invasion Day.  It was at the Harmonie German Club and called Australia in Harmonie : Collaboration of Cultures.  There were two stages for most of the day, one inside with that impressive stage and PA; one outside with a decent system and a hot sun.  There were various stalls, too, but too few attendees even for this free event.  Sad.  But I enjoyed my visit which was a nicely mixed view of a modern, relaxed, multicultural Australia with a strong Aboriginal component.  Good to move around the stalls, too, not least for one selling some very decent jazz on vinyl, Kool n'Krazy Records with Julian Gilchrist.  Just the outdoors entertainment first.  I arrived to see the Bobby James Band.  Original songs and one cover that I didn't recognise; guitar/vocals, bass, keys, cajon; lively and relevant.  Then into the Properous Mountain Dragon and Lion Dance.  Ah, China, that current bugbear of our incipient militarism.  This was noisy and fun, even without any understanding of the background.  Then, a little later, dancers and beats from Brazil.  Wow, of course.  Everyone loves MardiGras.  Just three dancers from the Escola de Samba, all doled out in feathers and sparse and  colourful costumes, wiggling to Latin beats from the Raio de Sol band.  Wildly popular with men and women alike although maybe for different reasons.  Whatever, there were lots of smiles and some wonderful grooves conducted by the group's leader.  I couldn't help myself, so I sat in on a free drum and watched and learnt only a touch of the complexities.  There is deep order and solid guidance here that's not so obvious at first glance.  And of course, hugely infectious.  Hot, too, in this sun.  Then some African music from the Zambesi River in Zimbabwe.  The group was Zambesi Sounds and the rhythms were very different but again wildly infectious.  Even reggae made and appearance here, as well as tunes we were introduced to as with quite political stories.  I like that.  Vocals/bass/perc, perc, keys/kalimba, guitar, drums.  It was hot outside, both in sun and music, and a lovely, relaxed, joyous outing.

Performers on the outside stage at Australia in Harmonie at the Harmonie German Club were: Bobby James Band, Prosperous Mountain Dragon and Lion Dance, Escola de Samba, Raio de Sol, Zambesi Sounds.

21 January 2022

Jamming another way

Well the other way is obvious and it's jazz and it's there virtually adjacent on a Wednesday night: the Pro Jazz Jam at Molly.  The hosts are a blast and the sit-ins are no slouches either, or a t least most.  I came in with James Luke and Con Campbell with sit-ins on drums and guitar and another guitar.  I sat in a little later, then Greg Stott and Steve Richards came back to end the night.  Both guitar and drums sitting in were classy acts; students I guess, but reliable, interesting, knowing the expectations.  The second guitar was an earlier style but again capable.  There was an e-bassist too, but I was chatting.  The final few tunes when Greg and Steve fell in were stunning.  Tight, quick, classy, all the lines clear and apt, some explosive tenor and blurting guitar and bass that was clear in intent and might quick and into the stratosphere, although only when it worked.  It just did.  The tunes were pretty standard; the performance was exemplary.  Did I mention I was impressed?  I was.

The host band at Molly's jazz jam was Con Campbell (tenor), Greg Stott (guitar), James Luke (bass) and Steve Richards (drums).

20 January 2022

Jamming one way

I had a mate playing at Classical Capers at Smiths so I went along to have a listen.  The group was a string quintet called Scribbly Strings.  They started up this night's Capers with two movements of Mozart.  Now that's always nice.  Then onwards through this strange and inclusive classical jam session.  Now this is a strange concept.  Mostly it was people getting up to present their latest for a audience but there were several real jams.  The Strings were presented with charts and supported a singalong led by Tobias Cole.  Charts were handed out liberally for everyone to join in.  Then later, Tobias sign read melody with Viola da gamba accompaniment.  Then a true improv for all present, starting with 10 secs to take in the ambience and a few minutes for whatever came.  There were some interesting lines from a few very capable voices but I found the percussion not too connected to the rest, but this is experimental and brave so good.  There were some soloists, a capable Leo playing piano featuring especially Gradus ad Parnassum.  Apparently the original was a hugely influential study on counterpoint.  This felt like a very advanced study and that fits.  Zacchary played Prelude and Allemande from Bach Cello suite no.3 and that was very capable.  John presented a few historical instruments and played the viola da gamba.  I didn't get them all, but there were various other recorder and vocal and violin pieces from various others.  In all, a varied mix with a welcoming host and a friendly, inviting audience.  And it's a monthly affair, third Wednesdays.

Scribbly Strings performed at Smiths' Classical Capers along with many others.  Tobias Cole MC-ed.

17 January 2022

Across generations

I got a book for Christmas about how all the Beatles' songs were written so the songwriting process and its outcome is of interest at present and thus it was particularly interesting to see and hear Aelus at Smiths.  Aelus is a duo comprising two songwriters.  We were chatting and they talked of writing separately and then together.  Now that was also an essential issue for Lennon-McCartney so they are in good company.  But more than L-McC, they write intimate music and play it softly and with gentle but expressive guitars and soft voices and lovely harmonies.  The Beatles wrote more indirectly and did harmonies but not soft.  It struck me how music is so generational.  At their age, I was listening to Deep Purple; this is much more the folk basements of the '60s: quiet, meditative, personal.  It's open-heart music and the wonderfully close phrasing just confirmed their closeness as a musical pairing.  I didn't catch every word, but we can:  Ebony has an album online; Solomon has several singles and an album coming; the duo has an EP upcoming.   So in some ways this was an eye-opener for this jazz-attendee.  This was personal, open, direct, speaking of family and friends and concerns and breaks and losses.  To end, Solomon played what he said was their angstiest song but this was not punk even if the themes may have been closer.  I'd like to have heard the edgy version he talked of.  Whatever, this was hugely satisfying, very intimate, like visiting someone's den, and especially given a sadly small attendance during our perennial January Canberra to the Coast and Covid.  Lovely and personal.  I can only thank Ebony and Solomon.

Aelus are Ebony Claire (guitar, vocals) and Solomon Steele (guitar, vocals) playing original songs by one or other or both.  Ebony has an album under her name on Spotify etc; Solomon has several singles online under the name Lilas.

16 January 2022


The Pots has released its sixth album.  This is a magic number.  I can now claim twice as many albums as monthly listeners on Spotify.  That's the way it is, I guess.  (It wasn't always this way: I once got to 39 with a little more marketing)  This one is called Mushroom meditations.  Megan suggested I record a meditation album, fully instrumental, presumably given my voice and political indignancy.  I liked the idea but just added some intellectual content as selections from my personal quotes.  Most quotes are widely known and renowned; some are taken from novels or other and perhaps not in all the quotes databases, but nonetheless, they are public.  Just one was a quote from the Spike Wilner from a SmallsLive newsletter in 2016.  For that one, I sought his permission, given it was not too, too public or known.  The longest quote is Carl Sagan on the famed Pale blue dot (1990), the photo of the Earth taken from the Voyager spacecraft.  I use a more recent but related pic from the Cassini spacecraft (2019) on the cover.  It's called The day the Earth smiled.  Thanks, NASA.   Otherwise, the content is minimalist, or as minimal as my excitability allows.  I like musical repetition but I can't come at the endless single chord as musical expression so there are various embellishments.  Anyway, have a listen.  It's on Bandcamp now and will come to Spotify, YouTube and the other streaming sites as approved and distributed over the next week or so.

The Pots. Mushroom meditations

Listen and purchase > https://thepots1.bandcamp.com/

09 January 2022

Picasso safe on wall

There’s recently been a series on ABC about the Picasso at the NGV stolen then recovered in 1986. Apparently the case was never solved and it’s the most expensive unsolved art theft ever. (or maybe not, think of the Elgin Marbles and a string of museum pieces throughout Europe). I was in Melbourne and I always go the NGV anyway to fill time so I got to see it. Strange, as are many Picassos. My taste is earlier. Perhaps due to age or more likely my time in Italy. I’ve written of the NGV visits before so nothing here other than a few pics for the memory.

08 January 2022

Misc Melb

Firstly, I just arrived and who was playing in Bourke Street Mall than Wylie J Miller, slap funk looping bassist and singer and quite a decent entertainer. Of course we talked bass, again, his bass being an Alembic 5-string, Stanley Clarke model. He showed me the Victor Wooten signature on the back of head. Wow. This has character. I also noticed a very decent gig bag, fully needed. Great fun, funky slapping and effective loops. Always a pleasure, Wylie. I’d noticed the Alembic; he told me most people notice the coloured strings. I understand! And a discovery at Federation Square later that day. The girl statue is a match for the NYC Fearless Girl by Kristen Visbal, the one who who stands up to the charging Finance bull. I hadn’t noticed it before. Nice to see the connection across the oceans. Wikipedia advises the Fed Square statue appeared for International Women’s Day 8 March 2019 and will stay for 4 years.

Wylie J Miller (bass) played in Bourke Street Mall.  The Fearless Girl statue is in Fed Square.

07 January 2022

Blasts from the past

We are in Melbourne and normally that may not be too highly recommended given this OMICRON outbreak, but head-for-head Canberra has similar numbers now, so maybe it’s OK. It’s certainly good for vaccinations because I got my booster the afternoon I arrived and waited just a few minutes and it was walking distance and it was the Exhibition building so that was an event in itself. It’s big and of the period and the location of the first sitting of the Commonwealth Parliament so historical. Next to it is Museum of Melbourne and I spied a blockbuster exhibition from London that had just for another week or so to run so: Treasures of the Natural World form the Natural History Museum. Now I expected a string of fossils, worthy but perhaps not exciting, but this was fabulous. It wonderfully crossed specimens with history and personalities and science and, given the period, when the red of the British empire covered all the maps and mostly wealthy amateurs discovered amazing things following the Enlightenment, it was a blast. Evolution, Geology, dinosaurs, even Piltdown. Original specimens collected by big names, Darwin, Wallace, Sloane (not Soane although his house museum in London is a gem too), Waterhouse (with Adelaide connections), Anning. Now London probably has shelves of specimens from all these people, but to see a small selection and explore the relationships is a blast. Here are some pics. But it closes very soon. Next stop, London with much more on display.

The Museum of Melbourne hosted the blockbuster exhibition, Treasures of the Natural World, from the Natural History Museum, London.

05 January 2022

Quiet times

Except form Covid, it's quiet times, or maybe because of it.  But we got out for a gig at Molly last night and our mate from Brussels, Alysa, sat in to sing a few tunes.  Great to get out even if I'm not listening to much else.  And the playing's great.  A bit touchy for the first set but then settled in.  I jokingly suggested in an earlier post that we should practice less, but the improvement in the second set proves otherwise.  The second set with Alysa was  much more settled and comfortable.  And the clarity of the trio alone, after years and gigs together was self evident.  Great fun and thanks Alysa.

Alysa Ingles (vocals) sat in with Tilt Trio at Molly.  Tilt are James Woodman (piano), Dave McDade (drums) and Eric Pozza (bass).