31 December 2007

Black noted in Adelaide

It was a visit to Adelaide for Christmas, and a chance to catch up on jazz in my hometown. I’d checked the Net before the visit. There seemed to be plenty of jazz in Adelaide, but not much at the time I was around. But I’d found an informative site that listed a young band playing “bossa to cool jazz and hard bop”. The band was the Christian Weber Quartet although it performed on the night as a drummerless quintet.

The CWQ were young players with connections through jazz studies at Adelaide’s Elder Conservatorium: some were current students, others met there but were now further afield. They played a well-known set of charts (Blue bossa, Alone together, St Thomas, Softly, Song for my father, All the things you are, Bird’s strangely lighthearted My little suede shoes and obscure Segment, etc) with just a few originals in the final set. The two originals were by the guitarist and bassist, and were perfectly presentable. I would have liked more. Ross’s “I can’t believe it’s come to this” was in the standards tradition, and Quentin’s “Cruisin’” was laid back groove. Both were decent tunes, and worth the outing. The core of the band were capable, smooth swingers. Chris Weber (trumpet, flugelhorn), Quentin Angus (guitar) and Ross McHenry (bass). They played with restraint and gentle volume: Chris was lyrical with a sweet tone and frequent falls to flat fifths and sevenths; Quentin was typically jazz guitar smooth, capable and fluid. Ross interested me with his 6-string electric bass, some occasional slaps and thumb work, but mostly fast and melodic solo lines high on the neck. This was quiet music suitable for restaurants and cocktails and perhaps a little too laid back for the venue (but maybe I’m just displaying my preference for a bit of raunchy, hard swing).

The ring-ins were Matt Sheens (piano) and Patrick Thiele (trumpet). The two trumpeters had played together some time back at the Con, but Chris had gone to Japan for work, and Patrick had departed to Melbourne for further study. Patrick played much hotter and tougher than Chris, free from bar lines and root notes, and frequently and comfortably moving in and out of tonality. His intro to Autumn leaves at breakneck pace was clear evidence of his approach. I particularly liked Matt Sheens (piano). Piano is an orchestra in itself, so lends itself to rich ornamentation, harmony, invention. Matt was confident and free enough to sit in or out, reharmonise and move through discordances, play through extended atonal sequences, anticipate and otherwise mangle time, switch from chords to lines and back at will. I also enjoyed what seemed to me to be a rich sense of the history of piano, as he played in various styles. This was an impressive display from a current student, and he’s obviously someone to watch.

It was a disappointingly small audience, but I met several local jazz supporters. Ross Spain is a music writer and reviewer for the Australian Jazz Scene and the South Australian Jazz Archive. Yacek Szocinski of the Yacek Jazz Agency is the promoter of the Black Note Club. Chris (missed her surname) is on the committee of the longstanding Jazz Action Society in Adelaide. It was also interesting to hear news of the current course at the Adelaide Conservatorium and to compare notes on names from the past (Schmoe, Ted Nettlebeck, Ralph Franke, Hal Hall [all still around] and Dave Dallwitz and the Creole Room [sadly departed] were mentioned). There was also talk of a big band run by Mike Stewart, a teacher at the Con and the local Jazz Coordinator. They play monthly at one of the pubs around town, and sound like a local gem.
  • JazzAdelaide
  • AdelaideJazz
  • Elder Conservatorium
  • 22 December 2007

    Nice to get out again

    It’s nice to be out gigging. It’s been a long while between drinks, but I’ve managed a few gigs recently and there are good chances of more coming up. The pic is Trio Toucan playing a few days ago at JusQytly restaurant in Manuka. We got in a several originals along with better known Real Book tunes, so that was a double plus. Hopefully there’ll be many more gigs, but I’ll do my best to keep up CJ over the next year and promise not to feature my own bands too often.

    Please keep me informed of gigs for the CJCalendar, regular or one-offs, and if there are any budding authors out there, get in touch. I’m happy to publish articles and pics on jazz in Canberra and break the tedium of Eric’s ongoing musings. For now, have a great Christmas and New Year, and looking forward to another year for jazz in Canberra.

    15 December 2007

    Jazz can at UCan

    I particularly like it when I’m out and about and unexpectedly come on some nice jazz. It makes me feel the jazz scene is bigger and more invasive than I know of. I was out at the University of Canberra on Thursday and happened on Aron Lyon (guitar) playing with Sam Young (drums) and Gareth Hill (bass). It was just a short set as part of a celebration for the end of year. It may have been a throwaway set, with tunes like All blues, but it was not tame. The guitar was fluent and fierce at times. The bass gave some effective solos, and Sam was observant and responsive. It was also interesting to see that Aron was playing a guitar from a notable local luthier, Ray Berketa. Ray’s a nice and helpful guy and produces a magnificent product.
  • Berketa guitars
  • 13 December 2007

    ArtSound update

    Just got a message from Mike Champion at ArtSound, and he included a list of jazz-related programs on our great local community radio station. ArtSound transmits on FM 92.7 and also FM 90.3 in the Tuggeranong Valley. Keep up the great work.

  • Soundspace - 10am-noon, weekdays
  • The Music Works (mostly jazz) - 2-4pm, Sat
  • Jazz Made in Australia - 3-4pm, Wed
  • Swing Time - 4-5pm, Wed
  • Down in the Basement (mostly jazz) - 8-10pm, weekdays
  • Jazzwaves - 8-10pm, Sun
  • Jazz Nice’n Easy, Tom Parker, NY - 10pm-midnight Thurs
  • After Hours - Midnight-7am, Sun to Thurs

  • Chris Deacon also tells me they are planning on restarting live jazz broadcasts from their new studio in Manuka. Looking forward to it.

    Buttercuppin’ hoe-down

    Zoe brought her bumpkin Buttercups to town last night for a great night of whacky but intelligent, hick but danceable music. I’ve written of the CD recently, and many of the tunes were from that CD. This was a six-piece jazz-trained outfit, but playing across the styles of rockabilly, reggae and blues, but always with the tinge of the jazz influence, despite the ever-present 1-3 drum figures. I guess this is one of the options for where to take jazz in the new century. Whatever, it’s entertaining, infectious, and very different sounding. Perhaps the defining sound is the banjo, which brother Ben plays on most of the tracks. But Ben’s given it a strange twist, with this normally rhythmic and ostinato instrument played as solo modern jazz guitar. Weird, as it imparts a new choppy, staccato sound to a jazz guitar solo style. The drums are also key, with other brother James playing impeccably on the square 1-3 beats, and ably managing the growing intensities of rhythm section against solos. The sleazy front line of trombone and alto sax are perfect. John Hibard on trombone plays the part to perfection, with energetic gyrations on his lengthened instrument, and with the addition of a great rendition of the song from the CD. Dan Waples played perhaps the most jazz style on the night, but even so he seemed to forego wailing and screaming in a Coltranesque style, preferring an elegant, intellectual, probing style that to me was reminiscent of Chris Potter. There were several excellent blues solos from Aaron Flowers, who’s a guitarist of few but meticulously appropriate notes, and hot soloing by Ben ranging across rock and fusion styles when he did get on his guitar. Both guitarists played Telecasters, and the sounds were to die for. Zoe held it all together (in calling the tunes as well as on bass) and played a few of her own solos. She’s gloriously understated in her playing and always lyrical. Lovely stuff. It was a wonderfully quirky, joyful and entertaining night at the trying edge of the art.

    Zoe and the Buttercups were Zoe Hauptmann (bass, vocals), Aaron Flower (guitar), Ben Hauptmann (banjo, guitar), John Hibard (trombone, vocals), Dan Waples (alto sax), James Hauptmann (drums).

    6 December 2007

    Kingston’s funky these days

    Kingston is alive these days. Thursday nights on cool, calm evenings are no exception. I was down there for other reasons (so no camera and little time), but I caught the funky trio that plays each week at the Belgian Beer Cellar. The trio comprised that satisfying combination of Bill Williams and Ed Rodrigues, who we see so regularly playing around town these days, with a guitarist who was new to me, Andy Campbell. I’ve admired both Bill and Ed for some time, and written frequently of them here. This context was more blues-based funky than the laid back jazz they play here on Sunday afternoons. They did it proud. Bill is wonderful on the double bass with syncopated funk lines that would be more at home on electric. Not an easy ask but he plays it convincingly. Ed was his usual responsive self, but in this context more insistent and percussive. Nice stuff. Andy was a fitting partner in these surroundings. What I heard (just a few tunes) was blues-scalar lines (perfectly apt for this style) on a blond semi-acoustic with some nice chordal soloing thrown in. The place was lively and the clientele were largely ignoring the players, which allows you a nice, self-indulgent outing. I wish I had more time to listen. I didn’t have the camera with me either, so no pics. Andy Campbell (guitar) played with Bill Williams (bass) and Ed Rodrigues (drums).

    5 December 2007

    Meeting of the generations

    Geoff Page’s 2007 jazz series ended with a meeting of young and old. Ross Clarke and Terry Wynn are jazz names with considerable history in Canberra. They played together at The Pendulum, an early modern jazz venue in a basement in Garema Place in the 60s and 70s, and have been local names ever since. The newer generations were represented by James Luke and Mark Sutton.

    The event got me musing on issues of changes in jazz. Most obviously, the experience of living through such years of jazz change, say from the mainstream of Oscar Peterson and Ray Brown, to the modern of McCoy Tyner and the post bop of Benny Golson. All these composers featured in the concert, and they are so different although all members of a family. Also, the changes in education, from old school listening to new school academic training. And memories of old jazz clubs and touring solo artists and local house bands in clubs just like the Pendulum must have been. Individual international players don’t seem to tour that way these days. And specifically for me, memories of 70s Adelaide and the Creole Room, and local names including Geoff Kluke, Schmo and Ted Nettlebeck.

    It was an interesting concert with some great playing. Terry played a range of horns. He started on clarinet. It’s a workhorse from the past, but now relegated. Geoff Page mentioned it was the first time clarinet had appeared in 5 or so years of his jazz concerts, and this just confirmed the fact. Terry also played a range of saxes at various times: soprano, alto and tenor. Interestingly, I felt his tone on sax was reminiscent of the clarinet sounds that he started the night with. Ross played all styles, but I could feel the formative influences of the mainstream in his more modern playing. James excelled himself on the night, with simply structured but lyrical and expressive solos, good solid swing in backing, and a great, growling tone. This was very mature playing from the baby of the pack. Mark was responsive and aware and swinging, but came into new focus with the McCoy Tyner tunes. It was clear there was a real comfort with the Elvin Jones style.

    There were a range of styles. From a St Louis blues clone with a bass-played melody, through McCoy Tyner tunes, Contemplation and Changes, the standard Softly as a morning sunrise, Spyrogyra’s Shaker song, Benny Golson’s Killer Joe, Gershwin’s Soon and There’s a boat that’s leaving soon for NY, Oscar Peterson’s Smudge and Ray Brown’s Bam bam bam, and an encore of that beautiful ballad, The very thought of you. There were originals, too, presumably from Ross’s pen. He talked of influences leading to several compositions and it hinted to me again of the aural nature of the craft at the time. For instance, how he’d composed Flyaway after hearing snippets of a Dusty Springfield tune. I heard it as harmonically reminiscent of There will never be another you (not sure if Ross agrees).

    The band was Ross Clarke (piano), Terry Wynn (clarinet, saxes), James Luke (bass), Mark Sutton (drums). It was a good night for recollections, history and generational interaction and a suitable way to end another season of Geoff Page’s Jazz at the Gods. Listen to ArtSound for snippets from the recording of the night, and look out for Geoff's 2008 jazz series when it starts next year.

  • Brian Stewart's Photo gallery of this concert
  • 2 December 2007

    Out of Africa

    Simon Milman returned last Friday with project and a capable trio to carry it out. This was Bamako 3. B3 is an acoustic trio investigating African music and its influence, and how it has changed to produce the blues and jazz that we know. Simon called it an “African journey”. I was surprised to find it pretty folky and also to hear the banjo appear. I was little taken aback by a lack of drums, although there was strong and insistent rhythm. I wasn’t surprised to hear pretty clear hints of the musics we know as black and American. The trio started with a long, unison melody by all players, and finished in a similar vein. In between were several originals including two ragtime tunes. One (Furniture polish crawl) had Simon playing the melody with a slide on his acoustic bass guitar. The other (Gut bucket rag) started with the long unison melody and featured Jess playing a meditative solo against a drone backing. No more signifying was another original; its title amongst the band members (Led Zeppelin) was surprisingly apt and reminiscent of early and heavily blues-influenced Zep. By this time, Simon had changed from acoustic bass guitar to banjo. They also played several tunes by Ali Farka Touré. I missed the title of the earlier one, but it was simple and sweet and lyrical. The later one was City groove, which was again very melodic. AFT is a Malian playing at the “intersection of traditional Malian music and its North American cousin, the blues”, and the Malian tradition is the “DNA of the blues” (Wikipedia, article on Ali Farka Touré, 2 Dec 2007). Clearly stating the African descent theme, there was a 1932 blues tune by Skip James with vocals by Jess. The relationship was a bit more obscure with a tune from Tuva . Tuva is a republic in the south of Siberia and is noted for throat singing. Arne performed the strange, otherworldy singing style. B3 were called upon to perform an unexpected encore. Arne came to the rescue with an authentic southern blues number on vocals and guitar, I wish I was a catfish. It was appropriate as a reminder of the connections the band was seeking on the night. Bamako 3 are Simon Milman (acoustic bass guitar, banjo), Jess Green (guitar, vocals), Arne Hanna (guitar, vocals).

    BTW, this was my first visit to the Folkus Room. It's mostly a folk venue and not too salubrious as a club venue, but it's got one impressive sound system!