26 August 2016

But Britney?


It's yonks since I've listened much to early jazz, the stride and ragtime styles of the bordellos that started it all. It's familiar, but also considered old and fusty and is somewhat denigrated by the modern types, but this was rollicking music, fun as, very danceable (if little danced to on the night) and by essence heavily swinging. Robbie led the band from his piano stool, playing a piano that was suitably out of tune to fit the style (was it detuned for the occasion? Probably not) taking the chordal and bass roles. There was no bass player, only Robbie's striding left hand. And he gave us some percussion, too, with a firm leather heel on timber tap for a good deal of the time. The pianist can actually do it all, being an orchestral in a box, but this was a band, so there was more. More driving and complex rhythms from drums. The horns, too, expanded on the pianist's palette. The trom took some bass-like role at times, and the three horns - clarinet, trumpet and trom - often defined the changes or one of the other stated the melody or went ecstatic with collective improv which is a core sound of this period. And the rhythm, too, was shared with drums. There plenty of solos passed around, mostly short and sweet, but the interplay, the collective soloing, the arrangements of heads were most interesting to me. They played a string of obvious and less obvious tunes. Congrats to Bob and Keith for naming most of them: no surprise there. Maple leaf rag, Bohemian rag, The entertainer; Scott Joplin and Fats Waller and Joseph Lamb and the Old Dixieland Jazz Band; Fidgety feet, Clarinet marmalade; After you've gone; Britney Spears, Chopin ... yes! period takes on One more time and Nocturne Op.9 no.2 (and yes, they both worked). Congrats to Robbie and the band. Much fun and a well-deserved visit to jazz history.

Parlour Social played at Smiths. PS was led by Robbie Mann (piano) with Tim Bensen (trumpet), Thomas Manly (clarinet), Josh Hart (trombone) and Jamal Salem (drums).

23 August 2016

Chalk & cheese

BJ Gilby had a busy week: CSO on Wednesday and Thursday; practising with NCO on Friday then performing on Sat; finally performing again on Sunday. Maybe others had it so busy and maybe that's the life of a professional muso, but I understood the busyness of that program. Music like this takes preparation, it's not just a matter of turning up to the job on the day. Only Barbara knows the other work put in behind the scenes, to learn parts and to rehearse various groups. I just know because I attended four of these events: CSO Thurs; NCO practice Friday; NCO performance Saturday; Romance & Revolution Sunday. R&R was one of a series of concerts in the theatre at the Tuggeranong Arts Centre. This concert was two groups playing two works: Shostakovich Piano trio E minor Op.67 then Mendelssohn String octet Eb major Op.20. Chalk and cheese, really. The first was heavy, post-war, influenced by loss and tragedy; the second was lively, the work of a 16-year old (!), joyous, busy, alive with hopes for the future. It's not surprising that the first was played by young performers: Aaron Chew, Helena Popovic and Olivia Thorne; youth often takes on the big thorny issues. The second was performed by the seasoned professionals. It's sometimes thought that older generations have seen and digested loss and survive notwithstanding. Whatever, the older group played the lighter music, busy and complex as it was. I much enjoyed the 1944 Shostakovich for its Jewish folk themes and frenzied dances. This was a modern piece that came alive to me with this rendition, just three parts, clear and well spoken. The Mendelssohn presented as two string quartets arrayed side to side but this was far more complex than shared parts from mirrored quartets. There were lines that passed throughout, harmonies shared and played with, at one stage an endless line played in harmony throughout. This was youthful, joyous, energetic and the octet played it with charm and understanding. So this was two halves of an unmatched orange, but fascinating for that very thing. Great playing throughout, intimate and close (we were in the front row), diverse and inventive. Great little concert.

Romance & Revoluation was staged at the Tuggeranong Arts Centre. Aaron Chew (piano), Helena Popovic (violin) and Olivia Thorne (cello) performed Shostakovich. Barbara Jane GIlby (violin, leader), Pip Thompson, Jack Chenoweth and Isobel Ferrier (violins), Caroline Suthers and Lucy Carrigy-Ryan (violas) and Patrick Suthers and Matisha Panagoda (cellos) performed Mendelssohn.

22 August 2016

Which is it?

For me it was Llewellyn 2, my second performance in Llewellyn Hall. For everyone else it was Llewellyn 3, National Capital Orchestra playing Beethoven's Triple Concerto with our soloists Barbara Jane Gilby, David Pereira and Edward Neeman, with a featured extra work with Stephanie Neeman. The rest of the program was Haydn Symphony no.49 "Passion" (named by his publisher but reasonable enough; apparently his only symphony in Fmin) and an intro with Beethoven Fidelio Overture. The four-handed Neeman performance was a little extra, not requiring orchestra and using the Steinway readied for Beethoven: Martin Wesley-Smith My brother Jack. I spoke to Edward about this after the concert. It's a work in 17 (12/5) with canon-like melodies from each performer (perhaps each hand) featuring snippets from Frere Jacques. No wonder this was my favourite, especially given my recent interest, if not success, in polyrhythms. Otherwise, I fell in love with the classical dignity of Haydn, so that was my other favourite to play (other than movt.2 which is a killer). But I couldn't help but enjoy both Beethovens. Fidelio was all bluster and drive from the top. The Triple was a pleasure, to play and to listen to, for I did get time in this one to listen. The lines that moved from cello to violin were clever things; the odd rhythmic interplays of piano and violin were perplexing; the virtuoso cello lines were stunning. I can worry about the count when I'm not playing, but Leonard is a wonderful leader, always there with clear counts and dynamics and cues. But maybe I should think of this as Llewellyn 1 for it was my first outing for my new/old bass. I am still adjusting to a different scale so intonation is a challenge and it's clearly toned, so not particularly loud but projecting well. A new instrument takes time and adjustment. I'm enjoying making my investment.

National Capital Orchestra play Beethoven, Beethoven and Haydn under Leonard Weiss (conductor) with soloists Barbara Jane Gilby (violin), David Pereira (cello) and Edward Neeman (piano). Stephanie Neeman (piano) performed with EN in four hands for Martin Wesley-Smith.

21 August 2016

Out for energy


Mark it down to my boomer heritage but I like a good demo. The one had the biggest of reasons to attend: climate change and the survival of civilisation and jazz (with music and the arts more generally) certainly locates itself amongst civilisation. The event was a COAG meeting on energy policy with implications for renewables. I was amused to be invited by several organisations for a last-minute rally at the Convention Centre, not least by AYCC (Australian Youth Climate Coalition). The turn-up wasn't large. I wonder if rallies are a thing of the past, but perhaps they maintain some relevance. At least there were journos and cameras and Megan said she saw me on SBS News (although not ABC). I joked with others about our ages, given the AYCC invitation, and got wry replies from both young and old. I caught up with a few mates, not least one retired Exec whom I admire for intelligence and openness and another who's an ardent campaigner. Simon Corbell spoke and I realised he's a hero of this group, as the architect of ACT's 100%-renewables by 2020 policy; he's about to retire. I was mightily impressed by one activist speaker and disheartened if amused by another who could obviously talk underwater and had mastered the demands of political communications (and chants): those things are probably necessary but I find them unsatisfying. It was just a small turnout but maybe it served a useful purpose and I enjoyed some banter and conversation with some aware and concerned people. And in the end, Corbell seemed to consider the outcome of a commitment by ministers to an energy policy which was "reliable, sustainable and affordable" was a good outcome. Climate is an almighty political stoush, but I expect most of our pollies accept the science and recognise the dangers and are doing something on the quiet, even if it's likely to be too little and too late. We'll know soon enough: the reckoning is coming much quicker than we had recently expected.

AYCC and 350.org held a rally outside a meeting of COAG ministers on renewable energy.

20 August 2016

Latest locals with visitors


As I play more classical music I realise how little I know of it even as I'm getting better at playing it. But I'm enjoying the process of reading and bowing and revelling in the sound of an orchestra. Christian just confirmed this when he asked which encore piece the soloists at the CSO played on Thursday night. He suggested the Handel passacaglia arranged by Halvorsen for cello and violin and I'm sure it was. Christian joked it could almost be considered a fourth movement for the Brahms Double concerto that it followed because it's always played as the encore. I'd just noticed that the melody was familiar and enjoyed the rabid scalar runs on cello and descending chromatic harmonic accompaniment. Nice. The soloists were German husband and wife team, Indira Koch (violin) and Wolfgang Emanuel Schmidt (cello), holidaying/touring in Australia/NZ and invited by Nick Milton. I luxuriated in his cello, but as a principal violinist she was no slouch with some doubly quick descending lines. Maybe it's the nature of an orchestra, being collection of many musicians attempting to work as one, but I did feel the tutti segments of the Brahms were more indistinct, at least against the clarity of two soloists, excellent as they were. But I didn't feel that for the Dvorak Symphony 7, D minor. To my ear, that felt as if the orchestra was speaking with authority and confidence. The first piece of the night seemed an odd little one, Weber Der Freischutz overture, sometimes pastoral, sometimes ecstatic, dramatic then finally balletic. But I enjoyed it all immensely, our local orchestra with such a difficult task of infrequently pulling together for such significant concerts.

Canberra Symphony Orchestra under Nicholas Milton (conductor) performed Weber and Dvorak and featured soloists Indira Koch (violin) and Wolfgang Emanuel Schmidt (cello) on Brahms.

18 August 2016

Entertainment too

But there were more than the shows. Every ship has a dance band or two. Dawn Princess had The Solutions, a quintet out of Guyana. I liked this band. The first time I caught them was in the Wheelhouse bar and the sound was good and they were playing hot and tight. Then a few other outings, but the location or sound was not quite so satisfying. They play the pop-covers-60s repertoire, perhaps more modern. I was amused to hear a set-long medley of Motown and R&B hits for one outing. Nice. No names other than 5-stringer Sherwin (bass). There were regular mini-concerts from piano man Oleksandr Varyukhin (vocals/piano) and classical/contemporary melodies from the Acoustic Rush Duo (violin/guitar) and dancing from the Alphard Duo (female vocals/male vocals, guitar with midi accompaniment). There was a changeover in Bali and I think I missed virtually all the new performers: I only caught Kevin Philip (guitar/vocal) as a walk on in a stage show, the same with Donna Campbell and here Dolly Parton tribute show, I heard just a little of crooner-styled French Canadian Claude Eric (vocals) and I totally missed Pearson & Harvey, a straight man/funny man variety routine for whom I heard rave reviews. P&H were members of the Four Kinsmen, a '60s male vocal quartet ("one of Australia's most highly awarded groups, stacking up a remarkable 27 Mo Awards including a Gold Mo for Variety Performers of the Year and four ACE Awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award" / YouTube). I did catch Jane Cho (violin) a few times and I liked here: classically trained from a Korean tiger Mum who found rock and pop and e-violins. Beven Addinsall (vocals) interested me less, but maybe because I'd not seen his Young Talent Time debut film until this night. Otherwise there were the dancers but they were mostly nameless and two singers, Laura Parks and Darrél Dexter. Darrél was newly on board to replace a recent injury and he was really good: classically trained in Washington DC and a convincing stage singer (tenor/baritone). His demo on YouTube doesn't do him justice. As for names, the stage band was Matt Joseph & the Dawn Princess Orchestra and the others were simply the Dawn Princess singers and dancers. Ivan (bass) played a Warwick 6-string with the DPO.

A few final pleasures were in store at our second port of call, Semarang. Firstly, a welcoming band on the dock comprising perhaps 100 military performers in various uniforms with a few leaders in dragon outfits. Including what seemed like some tough commandos amongst the combined bands: amusing for them and us. Then a nifty quintet playing in the reception/Internet hall. The space was hard and reflective; all instruments seemed to be going through the PA (including miked drums and DI keys and bass) which had copious reverb of its own. Just Beatles and the like, but some nicely minimal drums, effective bass elaborations, nice voice and a lovely understated melodious alto made for a pleasant, if loud, interlude.

17 August 2016

That's entertainment

Still on the Dawn Princess. I didn't catch everything, but I did catch most. What I most like on cruise ships is the shows - I don't see dance/song shows like this otherwise, and they are very good. As on another ship, we were introduced to the performers and went backstage to see the minimal dressing space. The competition for these gigs, especially for the dancers, is immense. One male said he'd attended an audition in London with 900 dancers and 9 were selected. They go on a list, get matched into a team considering skills but also presentation, sizes, looks, I guess. Then off to LA to learn the routines in 6-8 weeks, then to a ship for a contract, perhaps 6 months. Then breaks in between and perhaps more contracts. Some had been dancing 10 contracts with Princess. They are good and do it on a rolling ship (more difficult to stand still, apparently) and, to quote Ginger Rogers, the women do it backwards and in heals. No written choreography, so memory is required. The dancers performed different shows most days, each twice daily, mostly with live music. Otherwise there were feature singers or musicians with the show band. Once there was once dance show (British invasion - Beatles, Queen, etc) with a recorded track. The stage band was 7 players, reading charts: keys, trombone, trumpet (leader?), tenor/alto sax, guitar, drums, bass. Nice and supportive rather than featured. Grand pianos available on main stages and a few places otherwise. A truly satisfying PA throughout from Apogee Sound. I love a good PA: there's nothing like shear, clear power.

16 August 2016

Incommunicado

Canberra Jazz was off to the waves for a cruise so incommunicado for a while. My apologies. I'm back now so some updates. We were on the Dawn Princess on a two week cruise out of Perth to various Indonesian islands. A cruise is a bourgeois thing being essentially a floating resort. Yes, it's indulgent, a place where we drink and eat too much and share our sicknesses. Gastro and flu runs around the shipping industry and they work hard to protect from it, but there's always something. You spend the first days drinking and eating too much and the rest of the trip recovering and you can arrive home exhausted from the experience. But the entertainment can be good quality and it's an opportunity to meet new people, often and interestingly from outside your common circles, and this is good. We talked US politics with a Maryland gay couple heavily involved in Democrat politics; we came to common agreement with Queensland National Party voters; we genially argued climate change and considered the idea of Guaranteed basic income with a pair entering their nineties; we discussed the pleasures of Canberra with a couple now retired via Tassie to Cairns and early Canberra with a staffer from Menzies' office and must have met half the population of Mandurah. I chatted music with a middle-aged female drummer who plays an electric kit in a rock band; we flitted through ballroom dancing and disco-themed exercise routines (much appreciated given all the food and drink) and quick-visited Kuta and braved Komodo dragons (little bravery required!) and consistently came in near but never top in the trivia comps. Cruise life is like that. I tasted new cocktails (only on hols) and settled on Amaretto and Talisker as regular indulgences. None of this is new, of course: it's what everyone does. I did get in one performance in the Pop choir (unison unless you can find your own harmony), under ever-grinning Canadian leader, Victoria. And regretted, after attending that very ordinary talent quest, that we hadn't managed to form the passengers' band we talked of (we did have sufficient members to do it). But my excuse for no CJ posts for the last 2 weeks is limited Internet access (and some degree of laziness). Cheers to many: Gene, Leonardo, Plexie, Martin, Bruce, Sandra, John, Chris, Spook, Pat, Kim, Barrie, Kelly, Leanne, Randy, Romeo, amongst others. More on shipboard music and entertainment to come.

1 August 2016

Ancient meets modern

Nothing unexpected there. Ancient and modern may be separated by time and technology but not at all by our humanity or intelligence. My example of this is the humble safety pin. It was given a US Patent sometime around the 1850s. How that could be, I don't know. I'd seen one just like a modern nappy pin (with with bent hook rather than the stamped metal) in the Etruscan Museum in Perugia in the '80s. Etruscan, ie pre-Roman. This meeting of modern tech and ancient relics was the launch of an ap for the ANU Classics Museum. It was presented by Classics staff to a decently-sized group including the Friends of the Classics Museum clustered around the map of ancient Rome. it's an aside, but many structures in the map, even streets, are extant and in use. In that vein, I was amused to find an ancient building on the Palatine in use as a site office. That's Rome. But to return to the museum and ap. The Museum is a hidden treasure of Canberra. It's open business hours in the foyer of the AD Hope Building. Don't expect the British Museum or the Met, but it's a lovely little collection that continues to grow. As for the ap, it presents some detailed photos of some significant objects with short descriptions. It's more invitation than guide, but a worthy addition to a Canberra mobile. Both ap and museum are free. Just remember to visit the real thing.