19 August 2017

War out the door

It was the Canberra Symphony Orchestra playing another Llewellyn concert, this one nominated Horn and it was just a series of pleasures. First up was the crowd-pleaser, Borodin Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor. Well, it's a rollicking thing with memorable themes, enough to make it into the popular repertoire as Strangers in paradise and it's got particular relevance for me. I'd heard it played very capably by choir and orchestra of the combined Canberra Grammar Schools in the wonderful CGGS hall when it was a revelation to me as a newcomer to classics. Easy listening, perhaps, but exciting and melodious and inviting. CSO did a great job. Then the matter of the horn. Hector McDonald played Richard Strauss Horn concerto no.1 Eb major. HM has been 27 years as a principal at the Vienna Phil amongst his illustrious career in Europe, but he started out here, in Sydney and later Canberra, playing in Llewellyn Hall and with the CSO. Some old band mates were playing behind him on this night. He's obviously not so well, as he explained later, but his playing is sweet and pure, so another pleasure. He encored with a bit of Vienna, playing Johann Strauss Sweet tears with harp accompaniment. Then the final pleasure, not at all a frivolous thing: Prokofiev Symphony no.5. Apparently it was written with WW2 outside the door, first performed with cannon in the background. It's big, unrelenting, mobile and flexible and tactical as war is and battles are. An overwhelming experience only enhanced by taking a seat in the front row, under the cello, in Dave's line of sight, not too successfully trying to follow Nicholas Milton. But what a work! I'd listened to some that morning and it seemed heavy and tortured but in life it was powerful, forceful, varied and, again, unrelenting. Fabulous and capably done by the orchestra. So, a wonderful concert with all manner of styles and all manner of receptions. Great stuff.

The Canberra Symphony Orchestra played Borodin, Strauss and Prokofiev, under Nicholas Milton (conductor) with soloist Hector McDonald (horn).

17 August 2017

Classics all

These were Miro's classic hits, and classic they are. Just seven tunes, but every one hugely attractive, all different, all locking into a groove and spelling a hugely inviting melody. Also from somewhere, referencing something or someplace. Bronte gets in there. Bronte Cafe is a famed piece, having been used on Radio National for some program theme tune (was it Landline?). It's about a local cafe when Miro lived in Bronte by the sea in Sydney and it drives with the greatest of infectious grooves. Then there's one about Mandela and South Africa with the perfect title, Pressure makes diamonds. Wow! Again a work of mastery with an amusing story that Miro can recount for you sometime. The mysterious, caravanserai-relaxed Dakkar, all slow tones merging to form a long pensive theme against the unshifting regularity of an underlying groove. Or Delicatessence, somewhat similarly, thoughtful and gentle and inquisitive in melody and gently insistent in drive. Mambo Gumbo is a street-wise New Orleans beat and For Woody is a driving swing with a quintessential syncopated jazz melody overlying it. And Miro's masterpiece, Peace please, a ballad of optimism confronting sorrow. All great tunes, all heard often enough but never enough for me. And the playing was equally satisfying. Miro leading the lineup with John up front, always stunningly inventive and effective. Newcomers to Canberra, Hugh on piano and returnee Brendan on bass, both stunners, in solos and accompaniment. And Col again welcomed on the scene. I loved the African percussion colours in his intro and outro on Dakkar on a slit percussion box. In all, a intimate and communicative outing with Miro's great music and this hugely satisfying local band.

Miroslav Bukovsky (trumpet, flugelhorn) led a band with John Mackey (tenor), Hugh Barrett (piano), Brendan Clarke (bass) and Col Hoorweg (drums) at the Canberra Grammar School Gallery.

15 August 2017

Sundae jam

Another drop in to the Sunday afternoon jam session at Smiths. Again with house band Josh Buckler, Hugh Barrett, Anthony Irving and Andrew Howard. Today's visitors included singers Erissa and Claire, a guitarist (sorry, forgotten your name), Tom on guitar, Geoff on drums and two bassists, Phil Dick and me. Given recent visits by Brendan Clarke and Ben O'Loghlin, there seem to be a session, a six-string, a collective of bassists around. This was great fun. I got two tunes in, with bassist Anthony doing a quite decent job on piano. Sunday afternoons suit me: it's a quiet time. Just one of two regular jazz jams in town. The other is Wayne, Ben and Mark at Old Canberra Inn on Wednesday nights. Both are capable and welcoming. Get to one or both when you can, to play or just listen.

The Smiths Jazz Jam house band was Hugh Barrett (piano), Andrew Howard (drums), Anthony John Irving (bass) and Josh Buckler (tenor). Sit-ins included Erissa and Claire (vocals), Tom Sherringham (guitar), Geoff (drums), Phil Dick and Eric Pozza (basses). (Names updated, thanks for the comment / Eric)

12 August 2017


Listening improves with experience, like many other capabilities. Last night was the Australian Haydn Ensemble. I've heard them many times but I noticed I'm hearing more now. Not all the time, but more frequently. I play music something like this (although don't play it quite like this!) so my awareness has been honed, my hearing attuned. So I marvelled at the way the phrasing moved between players; how the phrases were spelt out together, in conformity, yet not lifelessly cloned; how individual instruments would spell out their parts (Anthony's cello was impeccable) so even a note had form and life, or would bounce with staccato; how the whole was dynamic and expressive and how a few passing glances would hold this all together. The tunes of this are often not so very difficult to read or to play, mostly with harmonies and melodies that fit scalar or arpeggiated patterns except for the occasional oddball phrasing that may trips you up or some cadenza that flies with semiquavers. This is not music of dissonances or odd times but of order and dignity and some humour, except maybe for the slow middle movements that can be things of exquisite beauty. There were the tuning interludes, which are so much a part of this period music, but the rounded tone is the end result and so lovely. And these are friends: those glances were often little smiles and the guys joshed at the end and they all glowed with pleasure. The theme was the baroque oboe and a few quartets named "the Hunt". The format was quartet for all, string quartets or three strings with oboe. The music was Haydn String Quartet ‘The Hunt’ Op.1 No.1 Bbmaj, Mozart Oboe Quartet K.370 Fmaj, Janitsch Oboe Quartet Gmin and Mozart String Quartet ‘The Hunt’ K.458 Bbmaj. This was a small incarnation of the AHE, a core with oboe, but they are always intellectually thoughtful and musically wonderfully satisfying. That delicacy and unity that a string quartet can portray, this time with music and instruments located somewhere in the early classical period. Just a joy as always and an education in just performance.

Australian Haydn Ensemble performed Haydn, Mozart and Janitsch at ANU University House. On the night, AHE comprised Skye McIntosh (violin), Simone Slattery (violin), James Eccles (viola), Anthony Albrecht (cello) and Amy Power (oboe).

9 August 2017


It's not so much that I have anything new to report, but we played again at Molly, that dark underground speakeasy, and Rich took some neat pics with his camera phone that works a treat in very low lighting. So here are a few.

Tilt Trio comprise James Woodman (piano), Eric Pozza (bass) and Dave McDade (drums). Tilt played at Molly).

7 August 2017

Why the ado

The why for the much ado. The first why was National Capital Orchestra performing its third concert for the year. This was called Emperor in reverence to the Beethoven Emperor concerto which featured after the interval, but there were other wonders. The first half consisted of two modern Australian compositions, complete with composers in attendance. It's always a thing of honour and some little trepidation to play for the composer, and I presume it is for them to hear their works played live. First up was Nigel Sabin and his Symphony 1996. It's a portrayal of Australian life, of land and sea, of pasts that never were (sounds like much of our current politics), of light and even the Republic that's yet to be, given our nostalgia for our multi-citizened head of state (I jest, a Queen doesn't have citizenship, does she? We are her subjects in whatever land). I particularly loved my first notes, a few bars of pizz which just spoke busy offices in old films, but there was much more, with heaps of odd changing counting. Quite a challenge at times. Then Christopher Gordon's Suite from Moby Dick. It was an early work from him, sometime in the 1990s, to accompany a TV miniseries put together by Americans in Australia. Again, some changing counts, but more flowing and sea-faring and story-telling, specifically of the white whale and Ahab and the Pequod and the chase. Here it was obvious how the orchestra plays its best with the nerves of performance. Both these fell together neatly, the counts played well and the narratives were evident. This is a community orchestra, but the intent and challenges and performance was very worthy. Then interval and one of the major piano concertos, Beethoven's last one, his Fifth in Eb major, the Emperor Concerto, played by Katherine Day. Katherine was trained in Melbourne and London and is now resident in Canberra and now works at the ANUSOM and more. And what a pleasure to play this music with her, both in performance and in rehearsal, so we have played this with her several times. A fine, sometimes rollicking, sometimes profound work with some fine playing, on the night without music. My vision was less on stage, but in rehearsal it was fascinating to listen while Katherine mused, looking into the distance or to Leonard. Again, great playing by the orchestra, too. It's a full day for the performers. It amuses me to see the profs arriving with the audience for a concert at the Opera House or Llewellyn or other. Our experience was not like this. We arrived before 11am to set up the risers and stage and for a revisit and warm up. Then lunch and a beer at the pub and Christopher Gordon speaking at 2.15 and the concert at 3pm then pack up. A full day but immense pleasure, from the music and the great playing, from the excellent little theatre, TheQ, from the good cheer amongst musos in black at the pub and the rest. A great day. Congrats to all and special thanks to Nigel, Christopher and Katherine and Leonard and Martin and the Committee who brought it all together.

National Capital Orchestra under Leonard Weiss (conductor) performed Nigel Sabin Symphony (1996, Canberra premiere), Christopher Gordon Suite from Moby Dick (Australian premiere) and Beethoven Piano Concerto no.5 "Emperor" with soloist Katherine Day (piano). The composers (other than Beethoven) attended. And the bass section comprised Roger Grime, Geoff Prime and Eric Pozza (basses).

5 August 2017

Much ado 4

Last minute practice, Friday night before Sunday afternoon gig. This time with our other Australian composer, Nigel Sabin. We are playing his Symphony 1996, again filmic and sea-themed and with some varying modern counts. Back at our usual rehearsal haunt. And a run through of Beethoven Emperor Concerto. I think of myself as liking the moderns, and I do, but I was carrying a beaming smile as I played the Beethoven. It really is fabulous. There's a reason for Beethoven's reputation. Not that piano soloist Katherine Day didn't have some part in that, too.

Nigel Sabin (composer) and Katherine Day (piano) rehearsed with National Capital Orchestra under Leonard Weiss (conductor) prior to a concert two days later.

3 August 2017

Much ado 3

Now it's getting serious. National Capital Orchestra is coming within a week of performing. The program is Beethoven Emporer concerto and two modern Australian pieces, both very filmic and seafaring: Christopher Gordon Moby Dick suite and Nigel Sabin Symphony 1996. But most interesting is the involvement of the composers. Both will be there on the day; CG was at our last practice; NS will be at our next. Beethoven isn't coming. The apprehension is higher for Leonard, our conductor, as his interpretation is on show and open to comment by the composer, but the whole orchestra is on display. Not exactly nerve wracking, but another experience with some demands. We did it last concert with Carl Vine. It's an interesting twist on a rehearsal. The concert is NCO, TheQ, 3pm, 6 Aug.

Composer Christopher Gordon attended a rehearsal of National Capital Orchestra under Leonard Weiss.

2 August 2017

Much ado 2

I've played jazz for yonks and now classical and I'm amused to find a similar joy and comradeship in both fields. They have lots in common: application to a demanding artform; commitment of significant time, often for little financial reward; inner satisfaction, especially when you play well, or the performers click; shared goals for those who play in ensembles. Of course, they have their differences - reading and interpretation on one side; improv and groove on the other - but they also overlap. I'm finding some technical aspects of my jazz playing benefitting from classical, but finding less time for improv and some jazz-specific matters. But to the matter in hand: a Maruki afternoon playing session. Not a formal practice, but a get together with some chamber charts to sight-read with food and drinks and socialising on the side. I sat out for some that didn't have a bass part, but did manage a few movements of the Trout (the quintessential double bass chamber piece) and most of Dvorak Serenade in E major with several recognisable sections. Somewhat like the Smiths jazz jam session that clashed for time. Players of one field or another enjoying musical interactions. Challenging and fun.

Some members of Maruki Orchestra met for a playing afternoon.

1 August 2017

Much ado 1

Here's a visit to another music institution in Canberra. There are many. This is a choir, again there are many. Now called Canberra Community Chorale; previously it was the University of Canberra Chorale. I sat in on tenor for one session. The normal guide is AJ America with accompanist Lucus Allerton. They were off somewhere performing with Luminescence Chamber Singers so Tobias Cole filled in for the day, on both roles. This was good. Toby did an excellent job, training in odd times (7/4 required for this piece) and modes (dorian and mixolydian were practised and phrygian required for this piece). Also, interestingly, rounds of the modes, resulting in some delicious harmonies and a complex musical environment. The choir sings songs for the first semester and a major work for the second. Last year's was Mozart Requiem; this year's is Bob Chilcott Requiem. To be played with a chamber orchestra at Wesley Church in November or thereabouts. Nice. Best of luck.

The Canberra Community Chorale was led in practice by Tobias Cole.

30 July 2017


These guys are young but they don't sound it. Their music is of the fifties, perhaps earlier. Their playing is hugely impressive, harking back to hard bop and post bop and Ellington and some originals, not least one that moved forward in time a decade to channel Ornette. They are senior students, mostly fourth year, one third year, from Mount Gambier, somewhat unexpectedly the location of a major Australian jazz school, the James Morrison Academy. They show his influence, too. Hard burning playing of a period, well presented in suits with Mingal whoops and responsiveness to each-others' solos. Hard burning, very well tutored and well practiced. So young, and yet playing like this. Lachlan Karl Hamilton led the band on saxes, with trumpet, bass and drums. No chordal instrument, so an open sound, willingly filled with immensely fat bass playing and drums drenched in dynamics. There were lovely harmonies from the two horns up front, occasional chords, but lots of firm, inventive bass lines, not least those impulsive urgent runs, and the kit that would weave and duck around the time then spatter with a fff cymbal or snare snap. The tenor lines were respectful in melody and closed-eyes exploratory in improv, ably passing through sequences or delaying note to twist melody or just playing the right bluesy line with determination and comfort. Then Matt on trumpet, burbling or blaring, neatly spelling lines but varying them for emotional effect. And Harry behind on bass, urging, driving, fat toned with a two finger pluck and mobile in body as he spelt the changes and grunted his involvement and support. Such a good band, speaking in music of that time, modern yet definitely clearly sourced. They played several originals, that Ornette syled piece, and a few others from Lachlan and one from drummer Patrick. Also a string of Ellington tunes as well as Cedar Walton, Out of nowhere, Vertigo, Misty. There's clear historical reverence here, especially around Ellington. Young ones or Young guns, whatever, they were good. Hot players sitting nicely together. These are guys to watch.

Lachlan Karl Hamilton (tenor, soprano) led a band at Smiths with Matt Nichols (trumpet), Harry Morrison (bass) and Patrick Danao (drums).

Thanks to Richard Pozza for the main pic

28 July 2017

Inventions change us

It was a theatre piece about 7 great inventions of the modern industrial age and it finished by musing on the next seven, which has me wondering how they chose this seven. They were telecommunications, aviation & space frontier, advent of convenience (esp household appliances), the mechanical brain, massed world warfare, biomechanics and medical marvels and the advent of film. It's an interesting collection. I'm not a film buff, but they had me thinking there was justification in its inclusion. The performance featured one host, Dene Kermond as Harry Hawkins, with music written by Sally Greenaway and performed by the Syzygy Ensemble. Harry's a genial period person, dressed in fineries and arriving by Zeppelin, leading us through various inventions and implications and provoking both laughs and thoughts. I liked this. He reponded to a mate, Ziggy, , presumably in the Zeppelin, through Morse, and sometimes interacted with the largely mute musicians on stage. Mute ohter than for their performances, which were both musically satisfying and very nicely performed. So, a melange of ideas and text and music with real-world relevance. I liked it immensely with its steampunk presence and vivid filmic musical presence. And I was convinced: "great inventions change us ... what we do and how we think". Even for film, real but fanciful but serving to bring people and cultures together, to promote understanding. There was awareness of good and bad in all this, "horror and hope", as in the best of inventions from war, through being cruel to eachother. And of convenience that saves time, questioned when Harry quizzed on how much spare time the audience has. And I was fascinated that both spyglasses and cyborgs could be associated in that they both extend our abilities. Otherwise, the music. Syzygy comprised a sextet, piano, violin, cello, clarinet, flute, percussion. Largely inert on stage, other than playing, but sometimes reacting. The percussionist played the Morse-coding Ziggy. I have always mused that my grandfather saw the birth of flight to the landing on the Moon, and what a change that was. Now the moon landing is 50-years old (I remember gathering in a hall at school to watch it, ~2.30pm local time). Time passes. The technological goods and bads. Now we fear for the future and climate. So it goes on, until perhaps it doesn't. Entertaining and interesting show - it got me thinking.

7 Great Inventions of the Modern Industrial Age was performed at the Street Theatre. It was composed by Sally Greenaway, written by Magenius (Paul Bissett and Catherine Prosser), performed by Dene Kermond (Harry Hawkins) with music by Syzygy Ensemble.

27 July 2017


After the workshop, the gig. First up was Palaver, comprising Miro and John from Canberra with Ronny, Geoff and Tom, Michelle Nicole's band. What a delight this was. Very different from Michelle singing standards. This was free music, unscripted, uncomposed, played in the minute. But this is free from highly trained jazz players and the awareness and comfort with harmony and rhythm and standard instrumental techniques is evident. This was glorious, sensual, grooving, intense or playful; great tone, odd polyrhythms, settled grooves, comfy crossing rhythms. It started with Geoff laying down a feel on his woody-toned guitar, the drums and the rest. Both horns were blissfully tuneful while open-eared and exploratory. If anything, it was the rhythm players, bass and drums, that were playing for colour while the lead instruments spelled melody. This is free that's easy to partake of: stella. Michelle came on and the style changed. Still overwhelmingly capable and satisfying and beauteous, but based on the standards repertoire: Once upon a dream, Too marvellous for words, I like the sunrise, Do nothing till you hear from me, Drop the smile Ellington Diga Diga Doo and Caravan. These are standards but done with great agility and freedom and interplay and with the addition of two star horns. It was an expansion on the tone of Michelles's band. I drooled over solos by both Miro and John, richly toned and improvisationally intriguing, but they retained a professional reserve as the sit-ins on the night. (That's a good lesson for excitable sit-in-ers). All things of wonder. Stella(r) playing and stunning vocal skills. What a wonderful concert.

Michelle Nicole (voice) sang with Geoff Hughes (guitar), Tom Lee (bass), Ronny Ferella (drums),Miroslav Bukovsky (trumpet, flugelhorn) and John Mackey (tenor) at the ANU School of Music. The band without Michelle performed free jazz as Palaver.

26 July 2017

Workshop and

Michelle Nicole and her band started their visit to ANU School of Music with a workshop. First up, the most delicious rendition of There will never be another you. I was stunned. I know Michelle can sing and I remember feeling much the same way last time I heard her, but still I was stunned. A neat band with understated skills, a readiness to move and twist and play together, and a long history to support playing like this. But still I was stunned. Michelle is just so inventive, so involved in her songs, so free with her invented melodies, playing through chords or scales or whatever, but always with purpose and her light and immensely managed voice (I could say agile if it hadn't been appropriated by whomever). Then some talk, mostly from Michelle, but also from the band. Michelle had started on violin and played all manner of bands and plays piano and more but voice is her love, "it's easier" (jokingly, I suppose). She works things out on piano. Geoff talked on the pleasure of the band, not least as a guitarist in a piano-less outfit; of "trying to be more pianistic"; of an interest in all players for their different musical personalities; of freedom to play other than instrumentally-defined roles (alhtugh you are sometimes booked for just this). Finally advising to "get some buddies, stick together, play some music" [ie long-term]. Tom talked of role playing but seeking to stretch. Ronny talked of the 'listening drummer', of finding what's right and being flexible, musical, challenged, but also of an ability to "repeat and act" [essentially, play a groove]. Then from all, some more: develop your ears, transcribe (although not necessarily to paper); jazz as a chamber music, as a "self-organising organism"; a good band will accept members' inventions and play with the risk; "every instrument has its bag of tracks" but take time, enjoy melody and simplicity; slow down, get simple things right; for voice, make a good sounds, be able to sustain a note without vibrato, think like and instrument so voice is a peer. Then some student came up, some talking, some questions, some advice, always open and inviting. Jazz is like that. Commitment is all, improvement is forever.

Michelle Nicole (voice) led a workshop with Geoff Hughes (guitar), Tom Lee (bass) and Ronny Ferella (drums) at the ANU School of Music.

18 July 2017

When words speak

I met Sandie White when she came to Smiths to hear the impeccable Michelle Nicole. This was Sandie's return to play the room, on a Sunday afternoon, down from Sydney, with Welsh import Esmond Selwyn on guitar and our own local, Eric Ajaye on bass. When IU listen to jazz singers, I remember that songs have themes, words, meanings that are evident, often sentimental or maudlin, occasionally tender. The songs of the jazz era were like that, but I love it. Sandie sang some lesser-knowns like Peggy Lee I never knew, Lee Wiley Oh look at me now, Nat King Cole Just me just me, along with Misty and September in the rain and the like. All lovely, all poignant, but the jazz improv showed through, too. Sandie sang several scats that rang with jazz movement. Nice. Esmond accompanied with celerity, all staccato chords and lithe, hasty lines and sweeps, and a free take on one-man improv especially over the ballads. And how great to hear Eric again - it's too seldom these days. All smooth and flowing and mellifluous, but quick and endlessly conversational. Loved it. A pleasure to hear in such an intimate, drummerless grouping. Great that Sandie discovered Smiths and came for the outing. Perhaps next time, for an evening with a more generous gathering: it may have been warm within, from heating and an inviting performance, but the sunny arvo had a bitter breeze.

Sandie White (vocals) performed at Smiths with Esmond Selwyn (guitar) and Eric Ajaye (bass).