23 February 2023

Latin who's who

Everyone loves latin music but it's hugely varied even if some core concepts can look pretty straightforward.   Straighforward, perhaps, or deceptively simple, like the forward and reverse claves on bass and the dotted rhythms and those hugely infectious montunos.  So what are these variations in this rich tapestry of musics?  Sam Row played latin musics at Wesley on piano and I was particularly interested in the first number, a history of tango in four short movements, labelled Bordello 1900, Cafe 1930, Nightclub 1960 and Concert d'aujourhui.  For the record, aujoudhui was 1985.  The bordello was the tango I think of, playful, lively, described in the notes as "Spanish women teasing the men visiting the bordello".    The cafe era was more a listening music, romantic, slower, meloncholy, sometimes sung.  The Nightclub was  era was more international, with new tango and bossa nova sharing slower tempos.  The aujourdhui had influences of Bartok and Stravinski and high art musics.  Fascinating.  Meanwhile, Sam is playing all this with intrigue and connection and from memory.  He then played Granados Allegro de concierto C#min, a piece that won competitions and fame in Spain before WW1 and indirectly led to his death on a torpedoed ship in the English Channel in 1916.  This was all rolling handfulls of notes and sweet melodies and a clear connection in my ears to film musics and popular song.  Then something contemporary, Chris Norton Latin Prelude with two passages as Rhumba and Salsa.  So two more latin musics from this fascinating and inviting scene.  Much enjoyed.

Sam Row (piano) performed Piazzolla, Granados and Norton at Wesley.

22 February 2023

Kae's plays

Kae Tempest played the Playhouse.  This was something exciting; something I'd waited for in anticipation.  KT is an influence on my recordings as The Pots.  Their poetry, care and thought and political position ring true.  Not just that, but KT is also highly regarded and awarded.  It's hard to appear with such high expectations.  Some expectations were thwarted.  I didn't like the overloud sub-bass, but then I don't like that dumb and painful thump which appears mostly in a professional outposts with the best gear.  I lost much of the meaning with that thump, from my tissue earplugs and just the sheer volume.  And there was also a toppy edge that I protected against.  The show was Kae with Kinako Omori accompanying on various electronics, synths, loops and the rest.  KO played some simple piano on a Nord and some single note stubs on a Novation board but mostly loops and triggered whatevers.  It was musically simple and performance-wise effective, insistent and involving.  She sang an occasional line, too, behind or in response to Kae.  But it was Kae and Kae's words that were the inherent purpose of the night.  I noticed how we heard them best a few times against quieter backing, as in Firesmoke, gentle, pensive, intimate, quiet with anticipation, persistent with that 4-cum-5 beat groove.  No volume struggles there and the poetry stood clear and the meaning bell-like.  The core of the performance was Kae's latest album, The line is a curve, played straight through if I recognised it right.  It's more intimate and personal than the earlier works.  Kae sounds happier, if some travails also appear.  Then a selection of earlier tunes and three unreleased ones to finish.  I noticed Europe is lost for its politics but it was missing the tragic intro of Esther's story, touching and demonstrative as it is.  I love how Kae can place political commentary in that human context.  Esther was missing this night but these were similar  snippets otherwise, other visits to London lives or at least related, desperate humanity.  I think I remember Ketamine for breakfast and Peoples' faces and Hold your own.  Others, too, if I knew Kae's repertoire better.  Kae, like Jannah before her, spoke to the audience on arrival and later to end, but otherwise performed uninterrupted, with Kinako on a pedestal with several keyboards and various lighting effects and an inexplicable (to me, at least) projection of a Californian sequoia (if my botany serves me correctly) and her mic and stand.  And I can only admire her memory.  There were very, very many lines over those 80 mins or so and I only noted one slip, in a final piece of unaccompanied poetry (was it Hold your own?).  Largely, Kae's performance was as I'd expected, informed, personal, touching, visiting tunes.  Perhaps the biggest surprise on the night was the audience.  I'd expected poets or young hip hoppers or whatever, but this was a mostly ordinary looking Canberra crowd, of various ages and seemingly mild disposition.  Wow!  Such a surprise to me.  I guess, like Smiths and its often mature crowd, the bohemian and poetic is widespread in this town.  Maybe elsewhere too.  It's a satisfying realisation and this was a satisfying if loud concert.  Much enjoyed by Megan and me and many.

Kae Tempest (vocals) performed with accompaniment by Kinako Omori (keyboards and various electronics, occasional vocals) at the Playhouse.

21 February 2023


I read that Omar Musa performed support act for Kae Tempest in Perth but the support in Canberra was Sydney-sider Jannah Beth.  I hadn't heard of her, but I did view one YouTube video before the gig.  She appeared solo with a mic and picked up a guitar for a tune or two, otherwise with a recorded backing.  It was her first theatre gig and that was clear and made the event a bit special and personal.  We all smiled for a pic with her on stage and the audience behind for her Mum.  Nice.  She sang 6 tunes over a 30-minute set.  I'd expected rap or spoken word and there was some of that with that swinging-arm hip hop presence, but she also had a very decent voice for her presumably original songs of life, I guess from her recordings on Spotify, et al.  This scene does seem very personal, with songs about love and life and perhaps political thoughts.  I caught snippets to chase up later, maybe they are titles: Where the angels sing; Who am I to judge ... leave it to the God above; By your side; Wake me dead ... selling my soul (obviously a more angry outing about the entertainment industry); I hope everything doesn't have an expiry date.   And personal for the direct chatter with the audience.  And that loud PA with sub-bass, and audience singalongs and claps and waves and her hip hop dance movements and big loose white shirt and tightly cut (red?) hair.  I liked JB.  I'll listen more.  Impressive.  As you can guess, no pics allowed and I just didn't feel like being too stroppy about it.

Jannah Beth (vocals, guitar) performed as support for Kae Tempest at the Playhouse.

18 February 2023

Unique prints

The latest blockbuster at National Gallery was Cressida Campbell with her intimate and unique prints.  We got to it in the last week.  It's been very popular, perhaps given it's just so relatable.  CC does a style of woodblock printing with unique prints using a unique technique: detailed woodcuts with incised edges, painted with watercolours and single printed to cotton paper, then extensively touched up with further watercolours and tiny brushes.  Each large work is a consumer of months. although amusingly she can paint or cut while on the phone.  I noticed a ton of "private collection" tags, so there's a market out there and this exhibition will just promote that.  I didn't know of her, but I do now and I love her work, intimate, time consuming, personal, local with still lifes, her house, her world (Sydney suburbs, Newcastle).  I was amused to realise she has to cut writing in reverse, but of course that's one aspect of printing.  I noticed a string of images of ships in harbour that would have had writing, but there was none.  I can understand that.  It was all detailed yet not necessarily photographic, amusingly left-right inverted when you see woodcut and print together, interesting in tondo (round) form.  There's more to like, but I just immersed myself and I was one of many, unsurprisingly including very many women.  A very great pleasure. 

The National Gallery of Australia exhibited Cressida Campbell (woodblock print artist).

17 February 2023

Charles returns

I'd heard and recorded Charles Huang before at Wesley Music Centre and I'm sure I raved about that performance, as I am about to here again.  Of course, he's further in his piano mastery now so it's to be expected: now he's 12.  He's completed his LMusA and won various Eisteddfods is a champion chess player to boot, so a serious and capable person.  And he has a father who teaches piano; handy inhouse and probably demanding.  So what did he play and how did the audience receive it?  Starting with the audience, with mighty admiration and some awe.  Stunning playing in two very diverse styles.  And what did he play?  First up, JS Bach English Suite no.6 Dmin; second, Beethoven, Sonata no.12 Abmaj; for encore, Sonata no.14 C#min "Moonlight" mvt.3.  All from memory.  I noticed things like the balance of left and right hands in Bach, the regularity and neat dynamics, again in Bach, that clear statement of structure, then Beethoven's romanticism, his melodious emotions, that romantic flow after the formal baroque, and then just the shear extravagant dexterity of the Moonlight movement.  I did some piano as a kid, and I think this shows why I play bass!  Congratulations and thanks to Charles.

Charles Huang (piano) performed Bach and Beethoven at Wesley.

16 February 2023

A shorter hour

It's a slow Feb and a relaxed return to normal activities, not least CJ.  I got to a few local art exhibitions.  One was The work of art.  Tricky title.  I found a string of photos and paintings of visual artists, musicians, writers, but also gallery owners and wealthy collectors and the like.  The artists seemed intrinsically more interesting and the gallerists and collectors better dressed.  Just one pic of Elena Katz-Chernin but Wendy Sharpe called the Witching hour.  Interestingly that's the title of a concerto by EK-C for 8 double basses that a few mates have thought of suggesting to our orchestra to perform.   It was premiered by the Australian World Orchestra so it's probably more challenging than the painting.

The work of art is an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.

02 February 2023

Plus three

It was the last flourish from Carmen Chan Schoenborn on vibes that gave me a chuckle.  This virtuosic little upward flowing line on the vibraphone borrowed from the CSO and then the look up to find ... the end.  This happens, of course.  Then set had vibes/piano with erhu and Gail's synth with floating tones and Jasmine's bowed erhu (what a lovely sound it can make) and like harmonies and synth and bells and cymbals and some other smaller percussion but it was coming to closure then this lively, perhaps hopeful flourish that had the three players looking at each other and chuckling. Thus is improv, of course.

Carmen had played earlier, too, this time with another bassist, Sam and Joe on drums and Gemma on trumpet and some vocals.  We'd heard bowed cymbals as well as bowed bass and harmonics, plastic bag noises , plucked piano strings and bass and various drones and percussive seed pods (Toca) into a finale of octave vibes, blown trumpet mute and a final bass pizz and bowed cymbals.  I found some a little airy but the bass/drums combination had purpose and power at times to satisfy my less developed ear.

Then another bassist, Chloe Sobek, or at least a somewhat busetto-shaped baroque violone.  That was odd to see.  Chloe also played a set on violin, but I didn't see that.  I can't imagine anyone with a six-string violone  and baroque bow and gut strings and gut frets who doesn't play mediaeval/renaissance/baroque music, so I guess that's Chloe's background.  Here, she played slides and pizz and odd intervals to sounds from around the piano, under the lid, piano-related noises but not from the keyboard with an accompaniment of alto sax with water bottle mute moving to hisses and bubbles of water boiling on hotplate with handheld condenser mic, if I got it right.  Not common in Llewellyn hall, but quite fascinating sounds that we all know but don't think about too often.  Here we can.

Variously, the musicians were Carmen Chan Schoenborn (vibes, piano), Gail Priest (electronics), Jasmin Wing-Yin Leung (erhu), Gemma Horbury (trumpet, vocals), Joe Talia (drums), Samuel Pankhurst (bass), Chloe Sobek (violone), Elizabeth Jigalin (piano, percussion) and Peter Farrer (alto, electronics).  They played at SoundOut at the Drill Hall Gallery.

01 February 2023

One to four

I caught Peter Knight doing a solo set, sadly missing his masterclass.  His presentation was solo, initially sitting in the audience playing whispy trumpet tones, quiet, then whistley calls, then louder, twissddling, flipping between harmonics, animals, tones and lip suctions and kisses (do I have the tech terms right here?).  Then a return to the stage, playing trumpet through various electronics and effects, hevily echoed eighth-note pairs, then a tonal rise and taps and trumpet drones.  Thisd was all mystical, pensive, feeling something like repeating 8 bar 3/4 passages with almost endless echo and layered harmonics.  His t-shirt stated "No music on a dead planet" reminding me of posters that have appeared around Canberra from Extinction Rebellion.

I had met Khabat Abas earlier in the day so I was interested to hear her.  She's played cello with the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra and a string of more experimental groups variously around Europe and was over from London for just 5 days. Her website claims "experimental and transgressive cellist" so clearly apt for SO.  She appeared in a session with Jon Rose, bassist Mark Cauvin and voice artist Nikki Heywood.  They presented 4 quartets, one each introduced by each performer, then a final journey from Jon playing and dissembling the theme tune from the film Love Story, "Where do I begin / to tell the story...").  Quite a lovely melody if schmaltzy and gloriously dismembered here into effective noise.  I heard bowed end-pins and explosive bass lines and bowed hammers and dissonant cello slides, occasional words but also non-verbal tones and song from Nikki and again those evident chops put to whatever purpose from Jon.  These were five short, guided, purposeful segments that intrigued with their diversity from different leaderships.

Peter Knight (trumpet, electronics) performed solo and Jon Rose (violin), Khabat Abas (cello), Mark Cauvin (bass) and Nikki Heywood (vocals, electronics) performed together at SoundOut.