30 November 2013

One and two of three

The Loft featured a pair of guitarists with their bands. Dave Rodriguez was down Sydney with his trio DLR after a night at the Phoenix. Jack Ray’s ’93 Project was the support. And the Smith’s jam later in the night was to feature another guitarist, but more on that in another post. So how different can guitarists, and conceptions, be? Very different.


’93 Project started gentle and moody with ballad-like chords and West Coast sensibility, Phill’s steady and determined and great-sounding bass and some cracking snare from Rhys. Jack has written the tunes and he laid out the heads with simple clarity on guitar, giving way to occasional effects, wah or overdrive over solos. The other main soloist was pianist Tate who can take a tune and express it in ways that are exploratory and expansive, but nicely unjarring. I was thinking while listening to Tate that most of what we hear is not new. I can almost say it’s all been played before; after all, there are only 12 notes. But good players interpret with a clear and fluent take on those existing, established themes, perhaps combining in their own ways on the day. Thus this quote: "In the final analysis, your stature as a jazz musician is determined not by how much you have practised, but by how well you have listened " Jazzology, p.195. Tate does this so well. ’93 Project is a platform for Jack Ray’s compositions. It comprises Jack Ray (guitar), Tate Sheridan (piano), Phill Jenkins (bass) and Rhys Lintern (drums).


DLR is Dave Rodriquez’s current trio. It’s so different, even so entertaining. I laughed with joy and some nostalgia for this music. Think guitar trio, Hendrix with loops, Fender bass. This was crossover to rock. There were also hints of jazz in some solos, but more lanky bass and preposterous drumming. This was also loud, effected, sustained, looped. The whole felt produced, rich, full, although this was only a trio. The effects and loops bring this, sounding like a complete and recorded electric/electronic sound. Very much unlike acoustic and jazz and classics. It takes different knowledge and skills; it has its own expertise; it’s mostly music of other scenes. It’s a refreshing visit, thus my smiles of nostalgia. There’s nothing new, and this too has its precursors, but I wasn’t the only boomer who enjoyed this visit to a world of guitar and electronics. Much enjoyed. DLR is Dave Rodriguez (guitar, electronics), Jan Bangma (bass) and Miles Thomas (drums).

28 November 2013

Heavy on bottom end


David Pereira joined the Limestone Consort for a cello-heavy concert over the weekend. It was called Back to Bach and I guess it was a play on back to back. The concert started with Dad Bach JS and his Brandenburg concerto no.3 in G major with three cellos. It ended with Son no.5 Bach CPE and a very different music, his Symphony no.1 in G major. Director Lauren observed that both Bachs were prolific; that JS was reclaimed by Mendelssohn (it’s hard to think of Western music without JS Bach as a lynchpin) and that CPE was influential for Mozart and Haydn and Beethoven.
Also that CPE’s symphony was “quirky” with jumping dynamics and unexpected phrases. I liked how the mathematical integration of baroque got an intrusion from vibrant and colourful lines of massed strings in CPE’s work. It’s a different feel from the dry but attractive intellectuality of counterpoint. But this one only had two cellos; JS had three. They also performed Vivaldi’s Concerto for two cellos (with a third in support) and that was a fascinating opportunity to compare two cellists on similar material – here teacher David and student Clara Teniswood. Master David was stronger and more confident but Clara did an admirable job as colleague. There were several shorter pieces, two choral preludes from Brahms and two aquarelles from Delius. The Brahms impressed me as pieces rich with symphonic development, one dignified and the other welcoming and generous. Lauren commented that, if push came to shove, she might pick Brahms as her favourite composer. I warmed to these pieces. The Delius were apparently annotated to be played on a summer’s night on water. The first had a pretty descending melody with string backing. The second was more mixed, with what I heard as an American theme (perhaps borrowed for some film?) leading to flowing swells. I was most amused at David’s introduction to the premiere of his Double concerto for cello and violin. Not so much for what he said, that the cello has proved good to get work and that it’s down the “pecking order” against piano and violin. I could only think that the bass is so much further down and clumsier too. A cello seems such a neat and portable instrument to a bassist. This was a harder work for the consort, more dissonant, very varied. There were features for harpsichord and bass. There was strength in cello and huge distance in range of cello and violin when they played together. There was a middle movement with no strings in support. I’ll be listening again to my recording because this is a demanding modern piece with various references. So this was a worthy and wide-ranging concert complete with a world premiere. I was impressed. David Pereira (cello) performed with the Limestone Consort at All Saints. The Limestone Consort comprised Lauren Davis (violin, leader), Lucas Allerton (continuo), Alison Giles, Alys Rayner, Jacqueline Smith, Mia Stanton (violins), Sarah Ingram (violin, viola), Elysia Fisher, Hannah Keese (violas), Clara Teniswood, Jack Hobbs (cello) and Kinga Janiszewski (double bass).

26 November 2013

Taming Fury and the left


It’s topical. Megan says it touches on many current issues of concern to this demographic and it does. I’d seen the Removalists yonks back at an Adelaide Festival of Arts. It was new then and much talked about. It’s still remembered. As is Don’s Party which I saw again in the last few years when it was revisited by Canberra Rep. They say David Williamson is prolific. He’s renowned. We went to see what is presumably his latest, When Dad married Fury. Rich father surprises two sons by marrying an American half his age, and Christian Tea Party to boot, then she gets pregnant and he dies. Issues? For the sons and at least one wife, it's the inheritance. For the playwright, it's finance, class, families, religion, politics, more. It’s standard soft-left POV. The Right would go gaga if they worried about this anymore, but plays are pretty harmless in the hands of superannuants with left predilictions. More power to seek elsewhere; more coal to mine. In the end, there are some twists that might even discombobulate those lefties. The Tea Party religionista is generous. Arch-leftie wife ends up admiring water ripples with Mum and decides she can’t spend every minute saving the world. Audience claps. Trouble is, we probably don’t have time for our lefties to rest. Physics is like that. As for the play, its heart’s in the right place but not beating so hard. But that’s show business. When Dad married Fury was written by David Williamson, Denis Moore directed for a run at TheQ Performing Arts Centre at Queanbeyan.

25 November 2013

Three further paces


Jack Hobbs and Kimberley Steele returned for the second in their trio series, called Three’s a crowd, this time with flautist Rachel Howie. At the first concert, I noted the historical development. The developments continued so that here they arrived at early C20th. The music was still tonal but the melodies were distinctly different, anticipating or hangi, playing with rhythm, moving away for 4x4 structures and simple calls and responses and with more play on intervals. This was adventurous without dissonance, although a little of that also snuck in. Weber Trio in G minor was from an earlier romantic, but the rest dated about 1900. Poulenc’s flute sonata displayed this modern melodic sensibility, unexpected phrasing and anticipated pauses. Then two Czech composers. Janacek A tale which started fiery and passionate and later settled, and featured some unusual, extended cello pizzicato. Then what is apparently a standard repertoire piece for this combination, Martinu Trio. It was introduced as three movement, folks and Czech cultural influences, some light-heartedness. I could appreciate the humour but I also found it quite disjointed. I’ll have to revisit my recording, but I think Janacek was my preference. I was more impressed with the trio, though. It’s a good venue with clear sound and a decent piano and no interruptions, and maybe this was a motivation, but this trio was very satisfying. Grand and voluminous flute, sometimes delicate but lively and precise cello, and a constant certainty in piano. They are going their own ways, now, for further study and life. A shame but that’s how things go. This music was tonal but inventive and the playing was certain and sensitive. Very nicely done. Rachel Howie (flute), Kimberley Steele (piano) and Jack Hobbs (cello) performed at Wesley Music Centre for the second Three’s a crowd concert in the C100 series.

24 November 2013

Of music & spring & love


It’s always a pleasure when you encounter the sheare ease and comfort of established professional musicians. It’s tto that they don’t have some nerves or take things lightly. They just relate better and perform more easily. Alan Hicks and Christina Wilson are in that category. Relaxed and unstrained even when challenged. Christina joked before the concert that she must get all the notes right because I was recording. I guess she did. I didn’t hear any clangers (alhtough there was one little switch of verses). What I noticed was easy, responsive piano accompaniment and powerful, voluminous mezzo-soprano ornamented with deep vibrato and portrayed with considerable drama. There was presence in the patter, too, as Christina introduced the songs, located composers in time, joked about some of the more silly lyrics. (Like the one where the singer wished to be a jug to carress the lover’s lips), but the topics ranged from spring and warmth and hope and peace to music and love. There were groups of songs by several composers and this was interesting as well as an introduction to some more obscure names. Two songs by Purcell were dedications to music (Santa Ceclia’s feast was the following day) including a strange one of repeating drops: “Till the snakes drop, drop, drop, drop, drop, drop, drop, drop, drop from her head” (Music for a while, from text from Oedipus A Tragedy by John Dryden). Then three songs from Schubert who wrote more that 600 before his early death aged 31. One was the Trout which portrays a cunning fisherman and his dastardly technique and the more tragic song of Gretchen at the spinning wheel to the words of Goethe who recounts Gretchen’s love for Faust “My peace is gone / My heart is heavy / I shall never find peace / never again”. Then a jump to early C20th and songs by Fernanco Obados with touches of flamenco and jazz. Christina introduced one with the outline: “Tiny is the bride, tiny is the groom, tiny is the bedroom. I must buy a tiny bed and a mosquito net”. (Maybe something is lost in translation). Then three songs from Brit Roger Quilter: Fair house of joy, Drink to me only and Lover’s philosophy. You couldn’t not recognise Drink to me only from the words of Ben Johnson, with its A-A-B-A 32-bar structure in 3/4 with turnaround. It makes you realise how common is the infrastructure of Western music, despite the different cultures and repertoires. But how good was this? An excellent end to a lovely little and intimate monthly concert season at St Albans. Christina Wilson (mezzo-soprano) sang with accompaniment from Alan Hicks (piano).

23 November 2013

Dig the rhythm


It’s no surprise that Geoff Page was a teacher in his previous life. It was clear as he spoke of anapaest in the poetry of Melinda Smith. Geoff and Melinda were doing a dual poetry launch and each was introducing the other’s collection before the other read a few poems. Poetry is “metrical writing”, or at least that’s what one quote suggested, although it’s valued for more besides, not least imagery and concision in emotion. I was perfectly comfortable with Melinda speaking of iambic pentameters. Isn’t that standard Shakespeare? It’s also the base of Geoff’s unpretentious poetry. Anapaest was not something I recognised, although it’s easy enough when I looked it up (anapaest has stress-unstress-stress; iambic has unstress-stress). Geoff spoke of Melinda’s poetry as of a women’s sensibility and experience as well as of another generation. She even wrote in Twitter-verse of 140 characters, which must be an amusing challenge. Geoff’s iambs seemed more informal and conversational, less concerned with women’s issues (pregnancy was an obvious one) but equally concerned with issues of seriousness. But there’s also humour here. Geoff welcomed it in Melida’s poetry and lamented that humour is a missing element in much poetry today (and also elsewhere in society, as I thought while watching Keating’s reminiscences and wit on TV shortly after the launch). I remain a neophyte in poetry but words like this could touch this steadfastly practical realist. Geoff Page and Melinda Smith introduced each others’ poetry and each read a few lines at the Civic Library mezzanine. The collections were: Improving the News / Geoff Page and Drag down to unlock or place an emergency call / Melinda Smith, both published by Pitt St Poetry, 2013.

22 November 2013

Veging


Jazz pops up all over, often as a backdrop to our lives. Dollface were at the Fyshwick Market last weekend. There were just two in this incarnation. Alice Cottee singing sweet soprano and Tom Sherringham accompanying chords with a thumbed bass line on guitar. Just in the corner by the cases of tomatoes singing standards. They waylaid me from the bread and pasta I was looking for, but it was a pleasant interlude. Dollface advertises as Jazz, swing and anything. The TripleJ unearthed recognition for her band, NoHausfrau, and 2XX broadcasts suggests an indie sensibility. Alice Cottee (vocals) is Dollface. Tom Sherringham (guitar) accompanied on the day.

20 November 2013

Jam ... sweet

The Jazz Jam at Smith’s has been going on for months and I finally got there. What a buzz. The band was a blowout: Wayne Kelly, Simon Milman and Aidan Lowe. All well known and all respected, but they were more impressive than I’d even expected. Aidan’s back after over a year in Berlin. The word that comes to mind is monster. Confident, inventive, steady, concentrated but ready for an occasional smile of recognition. The sticks were flailing but this was gentle and detailed playing. I hadn’t so much thought of him playing hard bop and modern, but this was exemplary. What a year can do. Wayne is a master with his own overseas jaunt, if more commercial: Macau for several years. This man flows with ideas, toys with dissonance, nothing forced or jarring but on not too easily expected. Authentic as in channelling the masters. There was a bit of roughness this night, but so be it in this context, but reliably awe inspiring. Simon was with the two internationals. I’ve recently heard him in all manner of styles. He raps, he writes, he rambles through a post-modern collage of music, so it was a surprise to hear some swing, but not a disappointment. These were inventive lines with a soft but firm presence and well-spoken solos. Then the jam. Tables with audience and tables with musos. Simon gave the invitation and Wayne called Alone together. This is my signature standard so I couldn’t let this pass. So much for reticence. I got up for Alone together, then My funny valentine as bossa with a singer, then Stella. I played OK and it was a pleasure to play again with Wayne and Aidan. Then Alex Raupach, Tom Fell, Victor Rufus, Angela Lount, Phill Jenkins and other singers, guitars, drums, pianists and an end with Wayne’s trio with Alex and Victor. It’s a scene of nerves and friendly competitiveness but general goodwill. Notably, also, Smith’s is a lovely little venue, with grand piano, stage and lighting and PA and café tables and a bar and centrally located. Very nice. And as I write, I hear that the Loft is moving to Smiths for a gig and jam every Thursday from 16 Jan.

18 November 2013

Decorous not stuffy


I had two stellar groups I wanted to catch recently, Tallis Scholars and the Academy of Ancient Music. I had a gig when Tallis were performing so missed them (as I did for another last night when the ACO performed Mozart’s clarinet concerto). But I caught AAM with Australian singer Sara Mcliver. I took a while to settle in, but then I realised just how perfectly integrated were these musicians. Their sense of timing and balance and note formation and decay were excellent. Phrases just died in perfect synch. They played Locke instrumental suite form the Tempest and Purcell (excerpts from the Fairy Queen and Arne Overture no.6 Bb and a series of songs or hymn by Handel. The theme was of theatrical music of the era, around mid1600s to early 1700s, introduced as preparatory to Gilbert and Sullivan and even Andrew Lloyd Webber. Locke was entered into with a warning, that he’s “certainly not easy listening … quite weird” - the words of director and harpsichordist Richard Egarr. I found it the most satisfying of the works, with angular lines, counterpoint, odd harmonies. The others were neat and obviously works of expertise, but they were also predicable. Hear one line and you could guess the next. I felt just a little disappointed, but the performance was superb. The early oboes were delightful; the bass was big and omnipresent and the bassoon cut through clearly. Not sure the theorbo / lute was too aurally prominent although it’s an amazing visual presence. I loved watching Paula’s fingers as they formed over the theorbo’s fretted neck, as I enjoyed he relaxed precision of Judith on double bass (four string). There were occasional squeaks, which are the way with period instruments, and the bows were old-style French and the cello was held between legs with no end pin. Blokes wore morning suits, although without waistcoat (English informal, I guess) and the women were similarly attired, but this was not stuffy. The English do this nicely, decorous but jaunty, so I wasn’t surprised by Judith resetting her hairpin in a break in performance. And I should mention the David’s glorious trumpets. He had two, both long and probably without valves. I guess these are natural trumpets, in different keys, played like a bugle, but they seemed to have an almost complete chromatic range. And Richard on harpsichord. I strained for this, other than a feature solo that was besieged with notes. He sat with back and tails to the audience, leading his ensemble, all the world like images of baroque orchestras, which it was, of course. Sara Mcliver performed for most of the program. Clear high notes and coloratura virtuosity. I lost some of the lower notes, but it must be hard for soloists to avoid indulging their preferred ranges.

Some of the music had a predictability as the theatrical music of its day, but I loved the precision and casual professionalism of it all. These are masters from a centre of the art, England and the Barbican and Cambridge University and it shows. This is their 40th anniversary tour. The Academy of Ancient Music were Richard Egarr (harpsichord, director), Pavlo Beznosiuk, Colin Scobie, Iwona Muszynska, Bojan Cicic, Rebecca Livermore, William Thorp (violins), Jane Rogers (viola), Joseph Crouch (cello), Judith Evans (double bass), Frank de Bruine, Lars Henriksson (oboes), Ursula Leveaux (bassoon), David Blackadder (trumpet), Paula Chateauneuf (lute). Sara Macliver (soprano) sang.

16 November 2013

All plot and no theme


We hope against hope, of course, but to be presented with politics as realpolitic is to be disappointed. Bruce Hawker was introducing his diary of the campaign trail with Rudd in the recent election. Michelle Grattan was leading the conversation. These are both insiders with the fascination of insiders. I just found it disheartening. It’s necessary but feels unclean. I was interested in just what Bruce couldn’t answer, mainly about what was in Rudd’s or Gillard’s head. This is a guy who spent hours with Rudd over an intense 8 weeks or so, but he didn’t present much knowledge of Rudd’s desires and thoughts*. [BTW, I also noticed that despite the time together, he still referred to Rudd where some others had first names]. This was a story of actions and responses and travel and occasionally touching on policies. It’s not his role, of course. He’s not a policy guru but an election campaigner. He mentioned how he’d worked with Carr on an election against Greiner in NSW when Greiner had a hung parliament and “we did just the same thing that Abbott had”. Successful but disturbing. Success is all, I guess.

So what did we learn? Campaigns are pressure cookers and the days are long. Many decisions are made daily in response to party, polling, campaign office and more. Labor’s campaign office lost 110 staff when Gillard was rolled. The four issues for change before the electron were carbon tax, party reform, economic challenges and asylum seekers. There was discussion over election dates and Rudd was “extremely consultative”. Gillard played a constructive role right up the night that Rudd was rolled. Young staffers demand a very different industrial environment and this was a problem in Rudd’s office “to some extent”. There was “overblown rhetoric” to justify rolling Rudd [but then, those 110 campaign staffers and a string of minister resigned when Rudd returned]. Rudd as the public face with Gillard as the Labor worker were an effective pair, at least early on, but this was “not a long term plot”. A questioner observed there’d been no mention of the Coalition during the discussion. I hadn’t noticed this but it was revealing. BH argues that as “bad as it was” Rudd’s campaign avoided a “horrendous outcome”. Labor’s 54/5 seats would have been 30-ish; Labor now has ~30 seats with <3% margin (presumably Reps) and doubt about Abbott remains. He discussed a “massive campaign [by News Ltd] against us” especially by the Courier Mail and Daily Telegraph. There was a suggestion that Rudd should have ignored this, but it had become “total war”. The slogan “A new way” was a “big mistake” as it “lent itself to mockery”. But the segue to “building the future” was relatively painless. “We do rely on polling, I’m sorry, we do” but at least this is to mould the message rather than to create policy. The ETS was ahead of its time [not sure I agree with this one] and the Greens voting with the Coalition to scupper it was a tragedy. The turning point of the campaign was the NT policy, but there were also leaks from campaign HQ. Yes, they “wargamed” a Turnbull return. It’s “hard” to stop the media cycle and the attempt creates opportunities for Labor. Mobile phones are mostly missed for polling and the influence of social media is hard to measure and Focus groups are keys to campaigns.

There were a few other snippets. I’d heard or read of many; few were really a surprise; I agreed with some and less with some others. This is the necessary but uninspiring side of politics and this pair, both Bruce Hawker and the ace Parliamentary Press Gallery person, Michelle Grattan, are functionaries. Interesting, necessary, mostly known if you read and listen, but far from the purpose of it all.

*PS: There was a question about what Rudd would do now in politics. BH clearly didn’t know or have an intuition, musing that Rudd couldn’t have a third attempt at PM but could maybe have a role as an elder statesman or could resign. An hour later, returning home, we heard Rudd had given his resignation speech that evening in Parliament.

Bruce Hawker was interviewed by Michelle Grattan and the Paperchain Bookshop for the launch of his new book, The Rudd rebellion : the campaign to save Labor / Bruce Hawker. Melbourne : Melbourne University Press, 2013.

14 November 2013

Apologies

It was a busy time and that’s my reason but not an excuse. I missed writing up the CD launch for RasRufus. RasRufus are graduates of the Jazz School. They’ve been lucky in grants, and this is one outcome: their CD launch. The Ainslie Arts Centre was full with family and friends. This was virtually all original material, other than a visit to Radiohead. It was varied: studiously cool with minimal grooves, latin dotted crotchets, jazz rockers in 9/8, a Lonnie Smith tribute, the unpredictable floating odd times of Radiohead, a ballad and the major work, Tanzverbot. Tanzverbot is the name of the CD and the tune is long and complex. It means “dance is forbidden” in German, and refers to dance being banned before religious and public festivities from the 1930s. It’s written as an undanceable piece, although there’s at least one segment of danceable 4/4 mixed with the freeish or minimal styles and punctuated melodies and 7/4. Careful and prescribed msuic and sometimes excitable, especially with solos from Luke and Tom. My apologies to RasRufus for being so late with this one. RR are Victor Rufus (guitar), Henry Rasmussen (drums), Luke Sweeting (piano), Tom Sly (trumpet, flugelhorn) and Jared Plane (bass). Victor and Henry are the composers.

13 November 2013

Orch alt


It felt like an album. Markus Popp stood, or rather gyrated, over a laptop and a few little controllers and the sound was complex and the themes appeared like tracks on a CD.
There was structure here and consistency. The rhythms may have been tortuous and the harmonies the same, but it sat with authenticity. This is electronica but he was saying it’s just one branch. The conventions of jazz or classics are respected but manipulated. We spoke with him afterwards and he talked of the strength of drum sample libraries and how they are different but approaching the complexity of acoustic sounds. They were still obviously digital, but with an alternative authenticity and richness. I’d been impressed by the sample tones. Big, processed drums and delicate strings and classic synth patches and bells and even the sounds of damaged electronics. The PA was powerful and deep. There were just a few hits of sub-bass but mostly the range was more human. It’s all music over a PA. He joked that he’d had to leave the cello in customs, but I just envied his achievement, done with a laptop and a few measly little add-ons. That’s the way to travel. But I was convinced by the performance. This was genuinely big and complex and I’d describe it as symphonic in extent, but it also had improvisation from his triggering of a multitude of samples. He was performing pieces. Presumably he’d prepared and processed samples to suit any one theme. Certainly, his Ableton Live screen was a mess of colours and lines which were the samples he had on hand. I guess he could further process in real time. His interfaces were a little keyboard controller, a trigger/mixer and a mouse. Big sound and big concept from so little gear. A laptop as a valid alternative to an orchestra? Sure beats a theremin for richness.

Marcus Popp appeared as Oval at the National Film and Sound Archive.

12 November 2013

Pre-Popp

It was a big evening of electronica-cum-experimental. Marcus Popp was being welcomed by two acts: Canberrans Spartak and Sydney resident Hinterlandt.

I’d seen Spartak several times. They are well known to CJ and they’ve taken on various combinations over time. They now appear as a quartet, but more surprisingly, with vocals. Evan sang, and so did Shoeb for a few tunes. I liked this. It seemed to give the music a place and purpose. They sang of “the Thrivers” and the like, so there’s a message, too. The lyrics are sung with the oddest of melodies comprising unexpected intervals moving all over the place, and the harmony matches that. You can hardly speak of scales here, and although you could interpret as harmony, I doubt it’s written that way. The rhythm takes the standard 4 bars of 4/4 with the chunky, truncated grooves of this style. It all works. I like this pop-like take. The guitars and bass, when they are played, tend to the down-beat-on-crotchet-on-one-note/chord style, so that’s no challenge, but they got in some delightful solos, Evan a fabulous one on acoustic drums and another shorter, but nervous and tonally varied one on drum machine, and I admired Matt’s rabidly syncopated bass-machine line on an early tune. I was interested and impressed but also well entertained. Very well done. Spartak were Shoeb Ahmad (guitar, electronics), Evan Dorrian (drums, electronics), Matt Lustri (guitar, bass, electronics) and Rory Stenning (electronics, drums).

Then Hinterlandt, the one-man band project of Sydney - based Jochen Gutsch. I don’t say one-man band lightly here. Jochen played one long tune. He introduced it with trumpet, adding effects and processing, rambling through glockenspiel and guitar and finally back to trumpet to end. There was considerable preparation here: this was clearly not all improvised. The instruments matched against supporting samples and loops at various times. I was impressed by just how much work must have gone into this. The musicianship was nothing virtuosic (not that that’s not an issue here) but the introductory jazz melody on trumpet was quite fascinating and restless with some missing beats and slipping melody. The styles touched on contemporary jazz, rock, metal. The metal was heavy with body-shuddering sub-bass and one hand guitar strums. Then a return to trumpet and an unexpected end. This was interesting and obviously subject to considerable work of composition. I had a few concerns. I did find the sub-bass was oppressive, but sub-bass is common in this music, and I felt the composition was too all-encompassing and thus somewhat unfocussed. Like a pizza with the lot. But what do I know of these styles? Hinterlandt is Jochen Gutsch (trumpet, guitar, glockenspiel, percussion, effects, processing).

Three paces in history


The order was skew-whiff but the development was pretty obvious. Estelita Rae, Kimberley Steele and Jock Hobbs played Schubert, Brahms and Mendelssohn in the foyer of the National Library for another C100 concert. I’d heard all these players before although not in this format. I spoke to Jack after the gig about the development of this music. They played the Brahms first, although he’s the latest of the three. I heard this as solid, rich in interplay and more turgid. It was the first movement of his B major Piano trio. I checked the key – yes, B major, about the worst key for any jazz player despite its appearance in Giant steps. The Schubert followed. This is actually the earliest of the three (1828).
Jack called it the “most classical” and it was lighter, fresher, more immediately attractive, with more straightforward instrumental roles and less interplay and development. More chamber- and song-like than the symphonic styles of Brahms and Mendelssohn. This was Schubert’s Eb Piano trio op.100 second movement. Apparently said of it “see the sun setting”. That fits. Then the major work of the night, all four movements of Mendelssohn’s first Piano trio in D minor. This is the intermediate work between the other two. The movements vary, of course, with the piano evidently presenting a larger conception. The first movement was Russian passionate, with sequences, echoing lines and interplay, wide dynamics and emotional richness. Then a slower, questing second movement and a bouncy third in 3/4 time. Then a final smoother movement where I was taken by some massive ascending and descending passages on piano that were mirrored by violin and cello. I felt the Trio played the best here. Jack told me the Brahms had its first outing and was not so settled. The Schubert was lovely but the Mendelssohn made demands. Certainly by the Mendelssohn they were playing with attachment and gusto. The piano could have done with a tuner’s visit and the noisy sliding foyer doors were an interruption, but the live acoustic and the small audience was a pleasure. This was a lovely visit to some significant names but also an opportunity to view changes in styles over the time. Nice.

Estelita Rae (violin), Kimberley Steele (piano) and Jack Hobbs (cello) performed in the foyer of the National Library of Australia for the first Three’s a crowd concert in the C100 series.

10 November 2013

No fixed pitch


At one stage, Gian Slater commented on U.nlock, her band with Shannon Barnett, Sam Anning and Rajiv Jayaweera, as being a challenge because there were no instruments of fixed pitch. U.nlock is vocal, tromone, acoustic bass and drums, so hitting the right pitch takes good ears and technique. I didn’t hear it as a problem, though, and Gian joked that it wasn’t “95% of the time”. This is also an open-sounding band with no chordal instruments. They did it all with skill and accuracy and considerable panache. I was drooling over trom harmonies below Gian’s soprano voice. I loved the solo bass and the modern take on scat that used sidestepping and sequences and clever dissonancne like any contemporary sax.
I was stunned by some trom solos, that fat raspy tenor tone, sometime staccato, only once somewhat flourished, but always definite in chordal relationships and pitch. Not that this was too mainstream. The trom and bass could be deliciously independent of chord tones and tonal centres when they chose to be, moving very freely against or over the changes. Alone together is a tune that I regularly practice but I didn’t recognise the opeining bass solo and only just picked up the tune from the liberally arranged head. Contemporary jazz can stray very far from the underlying tune; jazz is now a very evolved art. Noone got lost, at least amongst the band. They played some originals by Gian and originals and arrangements by Shannon and a series of standards. These are old friends from teritiary training in Melbourne and they were getting together a tour of Wangaratta, 505 and more. It’s a return for Shannon, Sam and Raj who have been in NYC for several years. They were reading charts for the originals but it all sat easily. Raj is an undemonstrative drummer but clear and firm and steady. Shannon also had me thinking of how each instrument, or perhaps each group of instruments, has its own patterns, phrases, lines that sit easily. Her solos were not solos of sax, although she was fronting the same tunes. Similarly, hers were nothing like Sam’s bass solos. As guitar and keys solos are not like either. Both played clearly defined ideas of intelligence and responsiveness, but each was different. As were Gian’s solos, which were perhaps more like keys, sequences of scalar snippets, but with delicacy of tone and some everests of pitch, that were nothing like the earthy tone of the trom. All interesting, exploratory and quite a unique combination with some exceptional musicianship. Bring on more of that NYC vibe. U.nlock comprised Gian Slater (vocals), Shannon Barnett (trombone), Sam Anning (bass) and Rajiv Jayaweera (drums).