24 February 2022

The air of Poland

Yeah, it's stuff we know, Beethoven Moonlight and Chopin waltzes and nocturnes, and a very recognisable Liszt Nocturne as encore, but this was special.  Mark Jurkiewicz played the Wesley lunchtime concert and he's s graduate of the Chopin Academy in Warsaw and that background shows, I reckon.  Hugely dynamic, deeply expressive, technically overwhelming, just listen to the way the melodies change hands and how it's all so clear and evident.  Maybe it's the air, but more likely it's the education and, through it, the society it's embedded in.  I remember a story from Elena Katz-Chernin where she compared her training in Moscow to that in Sydney.  Chase it up: it's in CJ somewhere and it's a mind-blowing awareness raiser.  Maybe Chopin's Poland is similar.  Dunno, but this impressed me no end.  And not just the expression and the technique and the rest, but all done from memory.  It's a special awareness and closeness that allows this.  So I can just say how much I was impressed and pleasured by this music, rough sometimes amongst some mighty screeds of notes (especially Moonlight mvt.3) but always telling the story, clear in purpose, huge in dynamics and that expression, always that flow and thrust to tell.  Just fabulous.

Mark Jurkiewicz (piano) played Beethoven, Chopin and Liszt at Wesley Music Centre.

21 February 2022

Hearing yourself

I guess it's apt there's no record of our recording weekend.  It was at home, in the lounge, not perfect acoustics.  It was to be two mornings with Tilt, but James could only do one, so it became Tilt one morning and TED the next.  TED?  Just an initialism for guitarist Tim Foster with Eric and Dave.  It's a change, playing a trio with guitar; different again like a sax trio we also played once.  All different.  I doubt there will be a release from either of the sessions, but it was fun and it's always informative to hear yourself.  We could use various adjectives here - informative, discouraging, hopeful, preening, many more - but such is the way of musicianship.  Given there was no pic for either day or of the studio before its dismantlement, the pic is some gear we used.  Not a Neumann within cooee, but decent none-the-less.  BTW, my DAW is Reaper: ridiculously good for $90.

James Woodman (piano), Dave McDade (drums), Eric Pozza (bass) and Tim Foster (guitar) variously recorded over the last weekend.

18 February 2022

An Ainslie sess

It's an arty locale and this Ainslie Session held at Ainslie Arts Centre was a corker.  Three acts.  First up, Lilly Morris, singer-songwriter from Braidwood.  Braidwood appeared a few times in her introductions.  At least one song was about the unexpected at the local IGA.  A decent voice and a dirty strummed Tele and a pretty low key presence.  I liked it, but of course missed most words for the purpose or intent of it all.  Perhaps an indicator is the one cover she sang, Billy Bragg Milkman of human kindness.  Then Sebastian Field.  I'd heard him earlier on Spotify: voice and meditative drones and effect.  Nice and I thought better on the night.  I loved his voice although he said he's moving more to guitar and effects.  So be it, but the voice was lovely.  Virtually all falsetto, nicely formed and sounding and some intriguing, unexpected intervals when he laid down a chord for his effects unit then sang against it.  I guessed he would have had choir training or experience, but no.  Then guitar played lightly, fingered or plucked, spaced notes grouping though looping and subtly managed effects.  Great stuff.  He performed a 30-min piece with time just floating satisfyingly.  Convincing.  The final was Pheno, Jess Green's modern pop outing.  I've heard Pheno live and online and enjoyed the cleverness, the convincing structure and commitment of it all.  Not flashy, even in the solos which, instead, are tellingly musical.  She plays for big pop acts and the clarity of her solos shows.  We were offered a singalong with the neo-Canberra-intelli-pop hit, We are the Skywhales.  It's one for all generations of, what, Ken Behrens (how I hate that term!).  Nobody sang, but it's an intriguing tune nonetheless.  And others, There are voices out there, Shadow in the water and the like.  And a gloriously personal but joyous and telling tune written in two parts, when each of her kids were in utero, called A little thing.  It takes a mother!  I guess the mention of baby beans on her CD cover are relevant.  Touching and truthful but still playful and melodious.  She played that song solo.  The others were backed by Annie McKinnon, mostly harmony vocals and some synth, and Lachlan Coventry, this day on 6-string Fender bass.  Nice harmonies and very apt and unpretentious bass.  And Jess, on guitar, on vocals, high and clear and telling, and just occasionally on various midi tools, keys and drums.  James Hauptmann was to play drums but Covid sent him into isolation.  Thus the pandemic.  All the musos mentioned how great it was to return to stage but James is just a reminder it's not over.  (For note, SM and DP).  So, in all, a small but appreciative audience, great sound, a wonderful array of musics and some of my fave pop tunes.  Great night.  BTW, there are other gigs in the series over coming days and weeks.  Check out the Ainslie and Gorman House Arts Centre website.

Lilly Morris (guitar, vocals), Sebastian Field (guitar, vocals, effects) and Pheno performed at Ainslie Arts Centre.  Pheno were Jess Green (guitar, vocals) with Annie McKinnon (keys, vocals) and Lachlan Coventry (bass).

17 February 2022

Siècles insistent pour changer

Sam Row returned to Wesley with another concert of French music of the nouveau siècle.  Is that what it's called?  Ravel and Debussy, Paris, 1095 or thereabouts.  The Debussy was four movements of the Suite Bargamasque.  Apparently it's a masked ball or maybe a folk dance of Bergamo, the Bergamasque, including that theme we all know, Clair de Lune, taken from a poem by Verlaine, which was in the program and also seriously showing its age, at least in my reading.  Well, I guess masked balls are too.  The music is interesting, dense as busy but quite light in tone, playful, rippling, intervallic, changing tempi and deep bass but mostly lithe highs.  Then Ravel, his Sonatine, in three movements.  Sam spoke of mechanical soapbox sounds and Spanish folk songs.  Sam plays them with a light touch, perhaps suiting this music, and plays from memory, suiting any music.  I heard musical, serious, again lithe, quite and deanse but never heavy.  Just my take, I guess.  Nice one.

Sam Row (piano) performed Ravel and Debussy at Wesley Music Centre.

15 February 2022

Venerable at 30

Wanderlust is 30yo.  That's quite an achievement for a band.  Miro's group that has changed a little but not tons over the years.  Still that delightful sweetness, that glorious sense of melody, that easy virtuosity with no pretense or hubris.  This is music to delight in.  They played their 30th anniversary show at Street Theatre 1.  The sound was a delight: I noticed when I tried to track each instrument, guitar, bass, drums, piano, perhaps sax soloing, and they were all there, clear and ringing, but nothing in the way.  Then the playing.  Of course, Brendan was a blast, but from a bassist that is without saying.  And his offsider, Fabian on drums, also a blast and an intriguing opening to the music of South America.  I hadn't realised he'd escaped Pinochet; I knew of Miro's escape from Russian tanks entering Prague.  It was a different Australia then.  Then Alister blew me out with the most alacritous jazz lines but also roguishly-perpetuated dissonance.  That is serious harmonic chops.  And working across the front line, John has those harmonic chops too, that we know, but my bliss was hearing his solo on Wanderlust, a tune by Duke Ellington.  I knew the tune, of course, but not the title.  John played the most unexpected and melodically glorious solo, so much in the tradition of the originators.  Bliss.  He told me later he'd been thinking who he would emulate and reeled off a string of Ellington's performers, what, Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney, Ben Webster?  That's listening.  Then Miro, of course, gloriously melodic on flugelhorm, more stretching on trumpet.  I was noticing the sound helped me experience these guys more than I remember.  James is always a blast and an amusing stage presence, and his playing this night was overwhelming at times, deliciously tonal but also playfully quick and lithe playing to the trombone's strengths.  And finally Jeremy, always certain and clear and crisp, not so fast as certain and tuneful.  Fabulous band.  They played only 7 tunes in their 90 minute allowance, so plenty of solos shared around.  The audience delighted in it all.  They were mostly compositions by Miro.  Miro's melodies are delicious and this band plays the heads with authority, sweetly tuned but also expressive.  Bronte Cafe, Delicatessence, Mumbo Gumbo,  Pressure makes diamonds.  Mumbo Gumbo felt like a 12-bar at first, but I ended up counting 16+1.  An interesting structure.  Fabulous tunes that even found an outlet on radio as program themes (Bronte Cafe on ABCRN).  And that Ellington tune, Wanderlust, and one each from Alister and Fabian.  Then an end.  But an invitation for drinks to celebrate.  Great night of music and even a beer to finish off.  Other than the difficulty getting a pic (yeah, I know, it shows above!), all was well with the world.

Wandlerlust played their 30th anniversary concert at the Street Theatre.  Wanderlust were Miroslav Bukovsky (trumpet, flugelhorn), James Greening (trombone), John Mackey (tenor), Jeremy Sawkins (guitar), Alister Spence (piano), Brendan Clarke (bass) and Fabian Hevia (drums).

14 February 2022

Kim's mate, Archie

There's a crew that I know who support the Kim for Canberra campaign.  Kim is seeking to replace the Liberals (=Zed Saselja) in the Senate for the ACT.  She's not the only one trying to do so, not least the Greens and David Pocock, ex Brumbies/Wallabies and interestingly a social/environmental campaigner.  So we have a worthy crew to take Saselja's role, but things must go right for it to happen.  Despite the abysmal performance of Morrison LNP it's hard to create change, even in relatively informed Canberra.  So, whatever, I was at the Launch Party on Aspen Island for the Kim for Canberra campaign with my two dogs (black and tan, mini dachshunds, a rescue breeding pair).  They are super cute so everyone chatted or wanted a pat.  In the meantime, I missed the speech but caught a little of the entertainment, a pop, sometime funky outfit called Archie.   Lively, jovial even, homely, vocals and harmonies and two guitars, bass and drums.  Nice day for it.

Kim Rubenstein (law professor, UCAN) is running for the Senate for the party Kim for Canberra arguing (like the independents) especially for the trilogy of corruption, climate and women.  Good on her; good luck.  Archie are Grant Simpson (vocals, guitar), Olivia Faletoese (bass, vocals), Alexander Wanjura (drums, vocals) and Geromy Houghton (guitar, synth).

13 February 2022

Future historical cultural references (cool)


Well, a reference to 2001 A Space Odyssey will attract any boomer.  So too, with Bowie's homage, Space Oddity.  Bowie was inevitably playing the foyer while we were waiting to enter the Rehearsal room at Belconnen Arts Centre.  It was a small audience who entered to find two people in silver jumpsuits at a desk riddled with props and tools and a screen above.  The screen was showing the Destructamatic Films logo (very ironic, tongue in cheek), then into some clarinet over a drone and Also Sprach Zarathustra then through the story told on screen in Destructamatic vivid-vision: the apes and the monolith and the discovery of tools with hammer blows from bones on bones; then modern times and the space station and the Moon and the second monolith and the message to Jupiter; then the space voyage, HAL going PM psycho, the deaths of astronauts and monolith no.3 floating over Jupiter and what else but hyperspace and Bowman's arrival to find himself in a neoclassical bedroom, then aged, then transformed into a foetus returning to Earth.  Now, you might ask what it all means (I'm not the only one to wonder, do a web search) but it's a classic and great to see done in this low-budget, ironic but respectful, cardboard-constructed way as homage to the original.  Mostly this happened on the screen, but our two astronauts did some interactions throughout, especially the HAL scenes, and props from the cardboard original were littering the stage area.  So, what of it?  I enjoyed it thoroughly, but still left wondering why, but 2001 is a sci-fi capstone that refuses to age.  Does it?  Am I wrong there?  Of course I know why.  Maybe wrong again.  But I enjoyed it, not-the-least the cardboard aesthetic of it all.  Great fun with future historical cultural references.

Tom Buckland (film maker, actor, presenter) and Marlene Claudine Radice (soundtrack, presenter) screened and presented 2001: a space oddity as a homage to the odyssey at Belconnen Arts Centre.

12 February 2022

A surface with only one side

The closest I know is electric Miles, all strong grooves, changes guided by leader Viktor, some solos, effects, edgy chopping guitar.  Plenty of 4-bar 4-beat passages, powered, driving, then a collapse, all spacey, effects and percussion, then back to driving grooves.  I must say mostly driving grooves and that choppy guitar or wah, that match of telling synth and piano passages, accents throughout.  And that bass/drum combo.  Always that insistent, powerful, unrelenting bass/drums combo.  All manner of fingered chops, wah and octaver and drive effects underlying inevitable but surprisingly infrequent guitar solos.  This was more groove than solos or features.  The band was a bubbly, effervescent whole more than a backline and features.  No vocals, yet; this is still set 1. The bass/drum defining the vista and in control.  All telling.  Viktor leading, conducting, imposing with notes on a white board that we didn't see.  He'd offered his guitar as a prize if we could guess the instructions... all the instructions.  Virtually impossible of course, although it turned out to be chords passages, perhaps individually indicated by Victor and occasional stop and starts conducted by him.  Mostly very, very sharp. These players are classy.  Perhaps a 4-feel to 2, then a chord relocation, after hits, a return to drive, whatever, exhilarating.  The music was the Mobius improv jam at Transit Bar and described as improvised experimental hip-hop and progressive/neo soul.  Mobius; nicely named to fit the music: a surface with only one side.  That was set 1.  Then a break and set 2.  Starting much the same, but this was open for improv hiphop vocals and the like.  Performers would check in with Viktor in the break, the band would settle a little and Victor would invite performers up.  I didn't get names, but first up some evident rap, then some singing, then an old fart with spoken word, me, with they said poetry (I guess it was but I call it "spoken word") then a final birthday rave then the band led it out to an end.  Just two sets, two pieces of improv, with those vocals over.  I was impressed with the rapper and singer although couldn't hear much of either.  I asked a few people afterwards if my words were heard: both mentioned Double down, the theme and a repeated line, but not sure they got the politics of it all or followed the words.  Probably not.  Earlier I had tried two locations in the room and both were loud and mushy deep.  So it is in walled spaces, I guess.  As for the musical support, I enjoyed that the band grew in intensity and I went with it, and the repeats of "Double down, double double down" worked to lead a nice diminuendo.  Great night.  These Mobius jams run for the next two Fridays in Feb; free entry, 9-11pm, recommended.

Victor Rufus (guitar, musical director) led the music and event at the Mobius improv jam at Transit Bar. The musicians were Victor with Jamie Rea (keys), Mark Wilson (guitar), Phil Dick (bass) and Rhys Lintern (drums).  And there was a rapper and a singer and Eric Pozza (spoken word) and another party goer.

  • PS for those who were there, here are the words I recited for my spoken word premiere > Double down / The Pots (video)
  • 10 February 2022

    Many ways new

    It's not often a classical performance is all original.  Marian suggested that often classical players write but don't perform their music, but I'm not so sure.  I haven't seen it so much but he's in charge of music as Narrabundah College so maybe young ones do. I really enjoyed this concert.  It was the return Wesley lunchtime concert that I record.  Marian plays classical guitar and it's not loud but sharp and clear.   He plays with all manner of classical guitar techniques, of course, slaps and taps and rolling right hand picking and harmonics and chordal play and long intervals and changing tone colour as the picking hand moves over the string.  His compositions were about an athletic mate who was injured and spent years in a wheelchair, always positive, and about Gaudi and about loss in the pandemic and a final arrangement of a string of pop songs.  We chatted about influential pop songs and discovered we shared Yes as a major influence and he picked Sting Fragile as one in his pop arrangement which is a wildly beautiful ballad with a theme of pacifism.  This was also a joyous and intimate outing, about personal experiences and relationships and, dare I say, personal truths.  Marian is professional and has presence but is not flashy, aware and wary of error as musos always are.  Things are never perfect.  Gaudi was still under development; a welcome but also a slight disbelief at the applause, but worth every clap.  A deeply satisfying personal performance.  Thanks to Marian.

    Marián Boduš (classical guitar) performed original compositions at Wesley Music Centre.

    07 February 2022

    This time sublime or what?


    Three concerts in three days and maybe this is the sublime one.  Dunno.  It featured Bach and two harpsichords, so maybe it's more rollicking than sublime.  Either was, I liked it.  Our local mates Limestone Consort playing Avison, Krebs, Purcell and that feature double harpsichord Bach concerto.  LC normally play with one harpsichord and they play on gut at old-time pitch.  This was A=415 with gut and two harpsichords so there was even more tuning than usual but not unexpected.  I found the Bach my favourite, but there was interest elsewhere.  The Avison was a harpsichord concerto, but just one harpsichord (Ariana).  The Krebs was for two harpsichords, but just two harpsichords, so the strings sat out.  The Purcell was a popular piece, well known and used in films, etc, Abdelazer (the Moor's revenge), again with just one harpsichord (James).  Then the double harpsichord act with strings, the feature work from Bach, BWV1061.  Both harpsichords were busy for three movements; strings sat out on one movement or otherwise dropped in features.  This was the most balanced in volume of the concert, but still the strings overwhelmed at times.  I chatted with Clara and she told me they'd had someone with good ears to check balance, so this was the effect of the audience.  Strange that is had such an effect, but very likely.  Acoustics is a demanding thing.  These harpsichords are really not loud, so cello and violin and viola can overwhelm, even with a pair of harpsichords.  But as with all LC concerts, this was relaxed, friendly, informative (several performers spoke and gave composer background info).  Lauren said Limestone is now in its 10th year and given this outing. I hope they continue.

    Limestone Consort performed Avison, Krebs, Purcell and Bach at Wesley Music Centre.  One the day, LC comprised Lauren Davis and Michelle Higgs (violins), Iska Sampson (viola), Clara Teniswood (cello) and Ariana Odermatt and James Porteous (harpsichords).  PS, excuse the pic; not my best!

    06 February 2022

    Not the ridiculous pairing I expected

    A pairing of ACO and hiphop over consecutive nights satisfied my sense of the ridiculous.  But it was not to be.  In the end, the hiphop was moved to conflict with ACO, given Covid and landlords, and instead I saw a mixed night of entertainment at Transit Bar "Gig City".  I liked it and I met a fellow bassist.  All good.  First up, that fellow bassist was Harley and he's just come to Canberra to study and his band is Bum Funk/Punk in style and they have several tunes on Spotify and they have more listeners than me.  No issue there: most do!  Have a listen.  They are called Ricky's Breath.  Three acts appeared at Transit Bar.  First was a female singer/songwriter.  Mostly originals, one cover.  Alto voice with some power with solo guitar accompaniment with a satisfying sense of edge and dynamics.  Mostly love songs, if I caught the lyrics.  Her name was Sam Sly and strangely I'd heard that she was playing from Megan who'd heard at a women's lunch outing just the day before.  How strange and small the world!  Then a trio, guitar/bass, drums, electronics/vocals. I guess led by the vocalist with his compositions.  The feel seemed to be around '80s pop-synth to my ear.  Nice and entertaining.  Again, mostly personal life-cum-love songs; one title I caught was "Spring cleaning with my girl".  Amusing.  Then an EDM duo, female singer, male electronics/perc.  No idea what the themes were here.  Again, overloud low/sub bass (the band had it but this was worse) but lively and danceable as EDM should be.  Notably, the singer started with a welcome to country then on to sing and dance with the beat.  I've never heard the welcome on a pop/indie stage before.  As for band names, I'm uncertain, but I think the trio was Zuko and the duo was Miroji.  It could be the other way around.  Entertaining if unexpected!  As for the new Transit bar, I liked it.  It reminded me of Fat Cat in NYC, with a stage area, lounge, billiards and the like.  Then I caught a Chinese New Year Dragon Dance just outside Canberra.  Is there no end to the excitement?

    Sam Sly, Zuko and Miroji played at the new Transit Bar.  Harley from Ricky's Breath was there too.

    05 February 2022

    Not so much sublime

    That's not a title to demean the Australian Chamber Orchestra because they do a superlative job every time I hear them, but this was a concert of tango, Piazzola+, and that is worthy of adulation, but sublime doesn't seem the word to me.  Seductive, slithery, sinuous, sultry, spirited, yes, but sublime I think I'll keep for other musics.  Not to say I don't love it, I do, and I thought ACO did wonderfully and had a fabulously varied and challenging program within the self-set limits.  (Nice to see themes like this for concerts.  ACO has one coming up soon with Corea and Miles as a theme and with invitees Matt McMahon and Phil Slater).  The invitees for this concert were James Crabb and Stefan Cossomenos.  JC played a "classical accordion", the button accordion with screeds of buttons in place of the piano keyboard, so not strictly a bandoneon, but it sounded great none-the-less.  SC played piano.  Of course, JC had the prime role here, sitting central on stage with the orchestra surrounding him, and he put on a great show.  There's a showman in this muso but also a sense of dynamic play.  And the music was so satisfying and surprisingly varied.  First set was Libertango (inevitable and hugely inviting), then Agri/Carli with a piece that sounded all the world like Nino Rota and Fellini films, then Handel, which seems way out of left field but it worked, playful as it was, then an end with Elena Kats-Chernin Torque, a long tune of some madness written after her car broke down and she wished to understand something of mechanics.  Strange, but impressive.  I got a bit lost in the second set, not having the program to hand and unsure of pieces and movements played attacca.  First up, Gardel then Frank then Villa-Lobos, then a series of Piazzola tunes arranged by JC.  I variously heard more Nino Rota (showing the influences of the time) and a wonderful fugue possibly the second movement of Villa-Lobos, and otherwise some lovely sweet dotted rhythms fully in a jazz sense.  I was amused by the bassist with finger sheathes; I guess he's not a jazzer and he's suddenly discovering what extended jazz-styled pizz can do to soft skin, especially maintianing volume as one bass amongst many.  All fabulous and inviting.  Some odd slithery techniques for classical players, too, from the tango repertoire.  Lovely, sometimes simple,  always tuneful.  Loved it.

     Australian Chamber Orchestra played Llewellyn Hall with a concert of tango and related music.  ACO was led by Richard Tognetti (violin) with soloist James Crabb (classical accordion).