28 December 2013

Always a pleasure


In2Deep meets Jazz Republic, or at least a mix of musos under a few band names. Mike and Rachel perform as a duo under the name In2Deep and here's a pic. They called the band in for this night to celebrate end-of-year / Christmas. Noddy sat in for Brenton. Good family fun and some nice relaxed playing, even if James Brown always challenges on double bass. Thanks to all.

22 December 2013

A return and an end


Daniel Hunter played the last concert in the Canberra Grammar Gallery jazz series. And what a wonderful little concert, well attended and well played. Daniel is back for a visit after leaving for Europe around 6 years ago. He’s been in Paris for the last 2½ years; I think it was Geneva before then.
I heard him once interviewed on the Net by French radio. He tells of playing the boisterous and hot Parisian jazz scene. I remembered it for seeing an uberhot bassist, Hadrien Féraud; Daniel’s played with him. Small world when you’re in a world centre. He returned to play with old friends: Phill Jenkins, who he’d played with over the long term; Aidan Lowe, a few years younger, who he’d met through Phill and has had his own European jaunt; John Mackay, teacher, mentor, blasting saxist admired by all. The tunes were all composed by Daniel and many were from the CD he was launching at the gig, called The Twentieth, for the 20th Arrondisement, Paris, end of the spiral. I heard Scofield often enough; that was easy. I was not so sure of his other influences, Jim Hall or Kurt Rosenwinkel. Phill was lanky, simple, beautifully toned, studiously steady. Aidan was aware, volume controlled, varied and rich in fills and colour. John was a blast and fresh with the new tunes; world class, thrilling. Daniel was a little muted in front of family and friends, but extensive in solos, stunningly toned with Fender valve amp and overdrive and a touch extra distortion for some solos passages, and nicely varied and coloured in comping. These a tunes worthy of a another listen, contemporary and instrumental and busy but tonal. It was a worthy concert to end the series and a nice opportunity to catch up with Daniel after some years away. I’ll expect to report again in a few years time. And here’s a pic of Pauline getting thanked for running the series.

Daniel Hunter (guitar) led a quartet with John Mackey (tenor), Phill Jenkins (bass) and Aidan Lowe (drums) at the last Canberra Grammar Gallery concert and the launch of his new CD, The Twentieth.

20 December 2013

Break aways


Grey Wing Trio sounds mysterious to me, meaning it gives me no hint about what to expect. Luke’s invitation to the gig mentioned a blend of “simple fold-like melodies, jazz elements with epic textural adventures”. Perhaps Grey Wing suggest folk-like melodies, or even winging it or epic flights. It was all these.
Luke showed James and me the charts after the gig and they were mostly single notes, lines for trumpet and both piano staves. And extensive. The first set was one medley-cum-tune. Melody breaking off to free or solos or other times. One hour; one piece. It’s daring music with lots of space to fill or flounder in, but these are very polished musicians. It also leaves openings for being lost, or at least not returning easily, but messaging and glances worked well in this outfit. This was comfortable, the changes fell together, the melody appeared almost mysteriously accurate and together. That really impressed me. I liked the melody, but I loved the escapes into free. Luke’s so comfortable at free across all seven octaves, moving chords, changing harmonies or single note flourishes. Ken’s trumpet is controlled, his volume restrained, his tone scratchy, but like wet sandpaper rather than abrasive. I part5icularly enjoyed his scalar lines that would switch chords on a whim. Lovely and unusual: this was controlled performance with unregulated harmony. And Finn has a similar iconoclasm, bringing all manner of tones and rhythms form his kit and percussion, explosive then floating, just once or twice dropping into a rock rhythm. They played two sets, each with no break. The first was 60mins, the second 40 mins. And this was intriguing and impulsive and, yes, epic. Great stuff. Grey Wing Trio comprise Luke Sweeting (piano), Ken Allars (trumpet) and Finn Ryan (drums) and they played at Smiths.

19 December 2013

All stand


Maybe it’s wont of imagination but while I was sitting there I could imagine nothing more beautiful or more perfect. We were at Llewellyn Hall at the Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO) were performing Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with the London Singers. This is perhaps the work that brought me to classical music so it holds a special place for me. They performed the whole, all 6 cantatas in one concert with a lengthy interval. It adds up to almost 3 hours of music. It was performed in German, at baroque pitch (lower than A440) and the instruments were of period. The baroque trumpets and natural horns and oboes d’amore and da caccia and wooden flutes and the oddly balanced bows and presumably gut strings and that busy chamber organ. And those fabulous voices on those fabulous exultant choral passages and the dignified tenor evangelist and the interplays of soloists. The choir numbered about 20, about 2 in 3 were women, and a good few of them took solo roles at some time. These were wonderful voices, strong but gently formed, clearly articulated and precisely pitched. I heard two of them on radio the next day saying there’s not one bum note in the whole series. I could only agree. I left thinking this is 6 cantatas and probably just a few weeks of work for this journeyman genius. Bach would produce this stuff at incredible frequency and speed. This cycle was first performed over several days at Christmas to entertain the churchgoers. I’d imagine a composer could make a life’s reputation from just one of these cantatas. The melodies were a delight; the massed choir, tear-jerking; the accompaniment, divine. Other thoughts? This is chamber, so the sound is contained and fairly small. How good is the ACO? Some virtuosic passages by violins or another by cello/bass in unison were stunners. The trumpets glowed but didn’t overwhelm. I noticed one spot where the woodwinds were too prominent but that was reigned in by the next line. I was amused to hear arpeggiation every bit like 70s synth arpeggiators, and stunned by the modernity of one strange high passage from violins, somewhere around the fifth cantata. Obviously there is nothing new under the sun. There was considerable informality, movement on stage by musicians and singers, casual awareness when not playing, mostly cool black but unmatched dress colours amongst the female singers. More musically, cycles that just must be jazz fifths, playful business of interplay, say between soprano and oboe, or two violins and tenor. Llewellyn wasn’t quite full, but I think it was the only time I’ve ever seen all the audience standing for an ovation. Me too, and I seldom stand. I’d thought this could be a CD, it was so close to perfect, although there were just a few quibbles that the ACO would presumably want get right before a release. But so close to perfection. Exultant and intensely beautiful

Too many musicians to list. The Australian Chamber Orchestra was led by Richard Tognetti. The choir was the London Singers. The performed the full Bach Christmas Oratorio BMV248.

18 December 2013

What a role has man


I was at the Lords of misrule / Christes Maesse concert of the Pocket Score Company when I started wondering about men in mediaeval days. These are four dignified and beautiful voices joined in complex interlinking lines, singing with the absolute belief of the time, with voices from manly bass to proud counter-tenor. For male choirs, I think Rugby or Wales, not these fine and exquisite part-singing monkish types. I place this choir in early European music, around mediaeval/renaissance, mainly due to David Yardley’s influence, but David Mackay spoke of his pull towards baroque and Bach so I guess there’s some productive tension here. But it’s all exquisite and dignified either way … at least when it’s not lusty. The concert had two brackets, each of three or four grouped songs. The first was early, plainchant and religious music. I noticed the gentle attacks, the clear voices, complex harmonic movements and one song with an organ-like vocal pedal: all very unmodern and reminiscent of stone and European cathedrals. The next set was introduced with jokey comments about a tune “not performed for 200 years … until people got a sense of humour”. This was renaissance with spikey rhythms and crochets bouncing with quavers and new harmonies of 3rds and 6ths. There was a short Bear’s Head carol which was particularly relevant as Boar’s Head ale (spiced, dark) was served after the gig, courtesy of a local brewer. [That’s another interesting thing about Canberra. We have a fine brewers’ club which has won around half of the National Championships]. Then some originals by Davids Yardley and Mackay. DY’s was arranged from his original for three female voices and DM’s was a combined unison exposition with parallel harmony and overarching counter-tenor in response. There was more, including a song by Loyset Compère which was trawled from history by DY, and, for encore, a modern song sharing the Christmas / Marian theme, Lamb by recently deceased John Tavener, another with unisons leading to devilishly difficult dissonant harmonies. This was only their second concert of 2013 given DY’s overseas posting, but they are promising more gigs next year. I’ll look forward to more otherworldly music from pretty-deep history sung by these wonderfully commingled male voices. On the day, Pocket Score Company were David Yardley (countertenor), Daivd Mackay (tenor), Paul Eldon (tenor) and Andrew Fysh (bass).

17 December 2013

Another musical pleasure


Mark Sutton and Reuben Lewis are friends and musicians who I’ve heard and admired for a long time. I’d played one gig with Mark way back, on e-bass, and none with Reuben. So to have them sit in was a pleasure. Thanks, Mark and Reuben …. and Mike and Richard, too, of course.

16 December 2013

Last night at the Loft


It was a big affair. The place was full to overflowing when I arrived. I was late after the Ben Winkelman concert. I arrived to John Mackey & co blowing on Have you met Miss Jones. It’s a standard blowing tune and a favourite with its early take on Coltrane changes (read Giant steps). There was a break and Ben Winkelman arrived with his trio. They played their odd-timed samba and it was a blowout in this lively, jazz-aware audience. Then John Mackey sat in for Beautiful love then Alex Raupach for the next and gradually the bands changed through to the early morning and people had work and were leaving and the night was ending.

They ran over 100 gigs at the Loft. I must have got to at least 80 as did Brian and Keith and Robyn and Geoff and the regulars. It was a small and idiosyncratic venue, but clean sounding, comfy for an intimate audience and it had that grand piano. We heard some excellent music, international, interstaters and locals. The Loft continues in a combined series with Pauline’s Canberra Grammar Gallery series. It will be at Smith’s Alternative every Thursday from 16 January. Each night a band, 8-10pm, then a jam. Charged for the band; the jam is free for all. There’s a grand piano, stage, lighting, PA, beverages, café tables. Nice venue and with any luck it may spread the jazz message more widely. I’m looking forward to this new era in Canberra jazz. Thanks to the Loft team for their work over recent years and for the coming coordination at Smith’s. Luke Sweeting and Andy Butler and Jack Palmer who ran it early on; then Alex Raupach and Tom Fell. Thanks to Dr Tim Nielsen who lent the piano and premises. Have I missed anyone? Also to Pauline for the parallel Canberra Grammar Gallery series. Their last gig is next Thursday with ex-Canberra, now Parisian guitarist, Daniel Hunter. Not one to miss. Then Christmas and Smiths next year. It’s teams like this and their musos who study and perform, who make this mature and intelligent and too little recognised artform possible.

15 December 2013

The pleasure of informed delicacy


Ben Winkelman is a delicate player. Richly detailed. His tunes display complex structures and changes. They are heavily syncopated with written lines defining rhythmic and harmonic relations of bass and piano. The solos, piano, bass or drums, appear from a vista of chordal movements and subtle repetition. His solos are similar. Exploratory but unobtrusive with rhythmic tension and symmetrical sequences and conversational embellishments.
Two originals were from an earlier period and channelled 1920s and ragtime although with a modern ironic take and historical respect. Drummer Ben V fits perfectly with all this, toying with tone and splitting and conjugating rhythm. Alex and Ben V both rode freely over the beats, implying structure and responding to it without obviously stating it. Admittedly this wasn’t always true: there were two fairly straight works with more traditional cyclic structures, and Alex was persistent and unending with the bass line on Five Odyssey, a salsa in 10 as I counted it. This was the final tune at CGS and later the intro tune for the jam at the Loft, so it’s a favourite in public. They played Monk’s Bye ya but mostly these were originals by Ben W. That early pair, Tomazo variations (?) with a ballroom melody and swing feel and diatonic harmony with heavy accents, and Maxine’s stomp, a ragtime feel about a deceased cat. The others had various odd times, like Remolacha, the beetroot song (long story), that switched back and forth between 6/8 and 4/4, all latin, or Prospects, more standard with an even rock feel, or Other way, a lovely 3/4 ballad-styled tune or the Schlep in 5/4 or Westbury with floating piano chords over slow rock drums and sparse bass. This doesn’t suggest off times but the written syncopations and the players’ styles supplied it. Ben W with his diverse tones (including a cowbell kick), constant and obtuse polyrhythms and playful articulations and splits of the beat shifting all over the tune and seldom settling. Alex with his sharp syncopations, similarly precise 16-th notes, expressive intervals and richly expressive solos that often spoke to the mainstream of jazz melody. And Ben W with his easy nature, joy in performance and finely wrought but unassuming solos over detailed and expansive tunes. It all makes for a special night of contemporary jazz at the highest level. Great stuff. Ben Winkelman (piano) returned from the US for a tour with Alex Boneham (bass) and Ben Vanderwal (drums). They played at the Canberra Grammar Gallery.

14 December 2013

Christmas again


Sunny warm days and Christmas must bring out the buskers. Graeme Adler is the first I’ve taken note of at lunchtime in Woden for a while. Graeme is out of Queanbeyan, and plays weddings, parties, anything with piano accordion accompaniment (nice combination). He played some pop tunes and classical and did the Bourrée from Bach’s Partita no.3 in E major BWV1006 for me. Little better! Bach and sunshine.

13 December 2013

Homepatch


The Australia Institute’s Christmas party was on its home patch, in its own offices in Civic. It’s interesting to see how small an operation it is. Just about 12 staff, producing 27 research papers, 292 radio/to interviews (speaker Richard Dennis was interrupted for one), 92 OpEds, Facebook friends and Twitter followers and the rest. So they are a productive little outfit. But what most impressed me, and a newcomer mate who came on the night, was their practicality and democratic ethics. Richard is clearly responsive to the situation but also honestly responding within our democratic institutions. So influencing, convincing, imagining are keys to messages. There’s a recognition of the recent electoral loss, of the poverty of debate and media interrogation, of a likely loss of carbon pricing and mining taxing. There’s a ready curiosity around what the new Senate will bring us in July. Dreams are irrelevant: “we got the politicians we got”. Practical, but also ethical. Engaging in debate. Providing themes but not obfuscating or misleading or descending to vapid slogans. Good on them. I trust this wins in the end.

So what items to note. Parliamentary control can also lead to problems. Who knows what this Senate will bring for Abbott. Barnaby Joyce crossed the floor 19 times under Howard and now he’s a Deputy Leader. What are the implications for the Coalition in hard times, given that Liberals represent the richest seats and National represent the poorest? This has been a rollercoaster year with three PMs and yet Australia remains steadily democratic. This is something to cheer about. It’s possible to reduce carbon without carbon pricing but “why would you do it the hard way”. And humour: “economists sometimes are people”. You can set themes going and win over time; it takes “3 years to shift a debate”, viz, TAI’s National go home from work on time day or Affluenza as a concept. Imagining is important, so comparing Foreign aid expenditure against pet food got TAI on 60 minutes. What of Turnbull? That’s a “very real prospect”. On par for child care workers: Does money matter? The Boss says yes, but “I wouldn’t want people caring for my kids to be motivated by money”. On TPP, it increases corporatisation of Australian democracy. It binds a parliament, even though constitutionally no parliament can bind another. 85% of Australians want it public before it’s agreed to. The “entire US strategy is about IP”. There were a few questions that I missed.

It was just an informal end-of-year chat but it was riddled with thought and clear democratic ethics. Good on TAI. All done on the proverbial oily rag, too. The Australia Institute had their Christmas part in their offices. TAI head, Richard Dennis, spoke.

11 December 2013

Piano and two deep voices

Kimberley Steele presented another of her concerts at Wesley, this time with two very different streams: baritone Alexander Knight and cellist David Pereira. Alexander took much of the program with his big voice. [I was near the stage as they were warming up and this voice was huge! Who needs amps with a trained voice around]. Alexander was singing a range of art songs, from Rachmaninov and Schumann and Vaughan Williams, but through to some more obscure names like Gerald Finzi, George Butterworth and Dilys Elwyn-Edwards. I think Finzi was my favourite with more modern malleable harmonies and words form Shakespeare. Schumann was my least favourite. Perhaps because of his fame, he seemed predictable and the foolish nationalism and boy-war-wonder of the Two Grenadiers put me right off (I’ve just finished Farewell to arms and All quiet on the Western front so I’m now distressed by the war is great / Great war meme at the moment). His I bear no grudge also annoyed me, seeming to be more grudge bearing in musical presentation than not. Kimberley’s inclusion of the Elwyn-Edwards was a great remedy. Trust a woman’s sense. It was a song sung at her wedding and was vastly different to the Grenadier’s view. Perhaps the encore was somewhat the same, if from a bloke’s POV. It was one for the rum drinkers and Alex performed it with humour and grand operatic gestures. Fun.

The other part of the program was very different. David Pereira joined Kimberley for a rendition of Chopin Sonata for cello and piano in G minor. Chopin wrote it very near his own death, but it was not maudlin. Despite Chopin pianistic flamboyance, this was a work of joy and seriousness and unpretentiousness. Four movements over about 30 minutes. A very real pleasure with wonderful playing on both parts. I’ve heard David at two recent concerts and this one was particularly intimate. This was confident, firm and informed playing. I can understand his reputation.

A very enjoyable concert of two very different worlds. The outspoken verbalisation of voice with baritone power and a similar range in strings held together by Kimberley’s empathic piano One image returns to me here, when voice set the tempo and piano followed with wisps of notes. I think it was in Rachmaninov The Isle. Quite beautiful but also perfectly responsive and coherent. Another memory will be the wonderfully colourful image from poet Housman put to music by Butterworth: “feather head of folly”. Perhaps out of modern times, but amusing.

Kimberley Steele (piano) accompanied Alexander Knight (baritone) on songs by Gerald Finzi, George Butterworth, Rachmaninov, Vaughan Williams, Schumann and Dilys Elwyn-Edwards. She paired with David Pereira (cello) on Chopin Sonata in G minor for cello and piano. Op.65.

9 December 2013

Bringing jazz to the concert hall


This is a jazz site so a concert by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra entitled Jazz inspirations is a must, even if it’s in the Sydney Opera House. Sydney’s somewhat a suburb of Canberra these days, given the easy drive, or perhaps it‘s the other way around. Megan and I did one of our day trips. The program was Shostakovich Gershwin and Prokofiev with the jazz theme. I was intrigued. The Shostakovich were three little numbers, more Palm Court Orchestra than jazz, but cute. They were a waltz, a polka and a foxtrot. The players were (left to right) piano, bass, banjo/slide guitar, violin, soprano, alto, tenor saxes, glockenspiel, trombone and conductor. More bass pizz from classicists that you might expect. The odd banjo sound, which placed it in US country as well as ragtime, especially given one slide guitar solo. The violin was all heavy vibrato and intimations of gypsy jazz. This was cute music with melody constantly moving between instruments. Attractive and cute and I reckon I’ve heard some before, in films of other.

Second was Gershwin Piano concerto in F. I got the feeling there’s some dismissiveness in the classical community around Gershwin being serious. (“Classical crossover goes both ways when Dmitri Shostakovich dabbles in jazz and George Gershwin tries his hand at ‘serious’ music” / SSO website http://www.sydneysymphony.com/production-pages/2013/concert-season/thibaudet-plays-gershwin.aspx viewed 8 Dec 2013). We chatted with two women after and their favourite was Gershwin (mine was the Prokofiev). The notes say that critics observed “structural deficiencies” and that there’s “not much development” and a certain amount of repetition but some “highly effective melodies”. All obvious when you’ve read the notes, and true. I loved the melodies: fabulous and effective as Gershwin can be. I felt it was a simple work, lots of American ebullience, great swells, whole sections playing melody together. I enjoyed it immensely, bathed in its luxurious lyricism but I could see it’s a different beast from a classical construction. Lovely but different and not so complex. The pianist was Jean-Yves Thibaudet. He’s a renowned pianist with many recordings to his name including Gershwin arrangements for the Paul Whiteman. He encored with a take on I’ve got rhythm, presumably the Ferde Grofé arrangement for Paul Whiteman that Thibaudet had previously recorded. Like much jazz/classical crossover, I was a bit troubled by the sense of swing, but otherwise these guys have chops (to use jazz expressions).

My favourite of the afternoon was Prokofiev Symphony no.5 in Bb Op. 100. It’s a good jazz key but also a “sort of Soviet-style blues or Muscovite one-step” has been found in the second movement. It was also written in 1945 so expressed joy at the end of the war and wariness of Stalin, and this is more what I heard in it. Much more complex and contorted and rich than the Gershwin, but without that gorgeous lyricism and joyous enthusiasm.

The Sydney Symphony Orchestra performed at the Sydney Opera House under James Gaffigan (conductor). They performed Shostakovich Suite for Jazz Orchestra no.1, Gershwin Piano concerto in F with Jean-Yves Thibaudet (piano) and Prokofiev Symphony no.5 in Bb.

7 December 2013

Unseasonable cold


Jazz Republic played outside for a school barbie and it was fun but it was also bloody cold. Nice to greet James Woodman who was filling in for Mike on the night. But how cold! Wind chill factor cold; rain cold; fingers that refuse cold. I played with fingerless gloves, but I can only imagine the effect on exposed sax metal. Intonation becomes an issue, doubly so as Richard switched tenor and soprano. We had to play slower, too, so the blasters became medium swings in the second set. I enjoyed the few trio numbers, piano trio, then a format I’ve wanted to play for some time, sax trio. It’s open, chordless, contrapuntal and surprisingly modern sounding with much the same lines. I also enjoyed playing some of James’charts. We share a love for post-bop. Charts from Bobby Timmons and Ronnie Matthews as played by Woody Shaw. It’s an attractive era: interesting changes (not all 2-5-1) and written syncopations that transform easily into walks. Nice gig but memorably cold. On this night Jazz Republic were Richard Manderson (saxes), James Woodman (piano), Eric Pozza (bass) and Brenton Holmes (drums).

5 December 2013

Rabid pianism


Ross Clarke played a tribute to Oscar Peterson at the Gods. Ross introduced OP as modern in his time (late ‘50s) and popular but not critically acclaimed and commented that you could find his records in the stores. I remember a time with OP and Ray Brown and that mainstream pianism. It’s infectious, entertaining and deeply swinging. The National Library had a Yamaha midi-driven grand piano that was playing OP for a week a few years ago.
What excitement it was to see those keys moving! Ross wasn’t quite at OP’s level, of course (who is?) but this was a joyous concert with the same feel of release and pure melody and glee in it all. This is 50 years ago now, old times and not too harmonically or melodically challenging, with tunes like Reunion blues, Cold duck time, Blues for Gene and C-Jam blues. Also standards of somewhat greater complexity, Green Dolphin Street, Con Alma, In the wee small hours of the morning, What is this thing called love. And a few I didn’t know, Lee Ritenour’s New York Brazil, apparently recorded with one of my favourites, Dave Grusin, and another original-cum-arrangement by Ross based on the theme from Michael Palin’s film Brazil. All melodic, joyous and emotionally uncomplicated. The band did their part, too. James was a monster in solos, admitting later to borrowing bass lines form Ray Brown and Christian McBride. Not unimpressive stuff. Mark was sharp and tight and exciting in his own solos. This is music of solos. It seems like it exists to feature melodic chops between heads. Mike was nicely clean and bluesy in his solos, and sometimes chordal. Ross did his own capable job on Oscar. None of this is too deep, of course. “As deep as the ocean” would be deceptive if they’d played it, but it was entertaining and ripe for the holiday season and Australian summer. A lively and happy and comfy end to Geoff’s Gods series for 2013.

Ross Clarke (piano) led a quartet of Mike Parker (guitar), James Luke (bass) and Mark Sutton (drums) in honour of Oscar Peterson.

4 December 2013

Killer factoids


Labor is the only party that’s cut spending in real terms in the last ~50 years. That’s a killer factoid. It came from Stephen Koukoulas when he spoke to the local branch of the Australian Fabians. SK worked in banking, is a macroeconomist, was economic advisor to PM Gillard. More about that factoid. Labor/Coalition have governed about equal time since 1970. This fact is despite the accepted wisdom that the Libs are the better economic managers. SK said the Libs would cut, but then they would reallocate. It’s an example that “people don’t face facts” which was the base argument presented. The session’s title was “Why values matter : evidence and ethics in Australian politics”. Right up my alley. I imagine this is really a question of political philosophy rather than macroeconomics, but then economic facts are much of the evidence in question. It was a discussion rather than a presentation and lots of questions from the audience led to a rambling outcome, but SK is informed and there were gems on show as well as a few questions that challenge an economist’s view on the world.

What themes arose? Why is cost of living seen as in crisis when wages have exceeded inflation for the last 10 years? SK suggested views are formed by frequent (petrol, electricity) rather than infrequent (TVs, blenders) purchases and changing comsumption patterns (takeaways and meals out increased from 3% of household expenditure to 8% over the last 20 years; think today’s workplace coffee culture). 23 years since the last recession is “incredible”. Australia is the fifth richest country per capita in the world (after Luxembourg, Qatar, Switzerland, Norway); its GDP per head is double that of NZ. Has it made us complacent? Despite the hype over the carbon tax, only 2.5% of household expenditure goes to electricity (although some additional component must appear in other bills). Price signals are very efficient at changing behaviour. Recessions actually hurt people. There’s a recent article in the Lancet on poorer health within 1 year of the GFC in Greece, Ireland and some other countries. Does business confidence rise with the Liberals? Yes “but they can’t do it for too long” and “talking down the economy before the election did hurt the economy” and there is a challenge in replacing mining. Complex messages aren’t always easy to explain; slogans can be more effective in influencing. As for the economy, it’s horses for courses (eg, fiscal austerity is not good when the economy is weak). There is confusion over gross/net debt and it’s used politically (an example was given). There’s a perception that mining, agriculture, manufacturing are better because you can see them, but in 20 years we will mostly be doing services. Messaging is necessary but it requires policy. Labour had clear messages in 2007 (“country that makes things”, “greatest moral challenge of our time”, etc). Keating was a master with the ability to tell interesting and difficult stories, but “he had enough of the people that matter on side”. Now Labor has “blind criticism”. About the first months of the Abbott government, SK is “disappointed how bad they are” by “hurting the economy and constraining future economic growth”. Was it just about the message? Yes “but you need to have some substance underneath it”. Perhaps the best, most challenging question was about supporting the car industry for national resilience and diversity of skills and capabilities, given Australia is the 15th largest ecoonomy and could sustain it.

Given urgent questions, this was interesting if a bit rambling. I absolutely agree with the requirement of evidence and get upset with misleading and simplistic arguments and spin abouding in our political process. I would have liked to chat further, but an hourly bus beckoned. Not that it would have made much difference. We still have what we have and climate change and inequality and the rest are still threatening … ever more urgently.

Stephen Koukoulas spoke to the Canberra branch of the Australian Fabians on “Why values matter : evidence and ethics in Australian politics”.

1 December 2013

The Kiwis have it


It was a Kiwi-Canberra connection when Tom Botting and Peter Koopman (NZ via SYD) joined Alex Raupach and Aidan Lowe (CBR) as the opening band for the Smiths Jam session last Thursday. They had got together just that day, playing a function in the afternoon and then a few standards along with some compositional sketches from Alex in the evening. I arrived to a dumbfounding solo from Tom over my favourite, Alone together. Then Out of nowhere (another classic) and Skylark. Out of nowhere was medium swing, but this band subverted it, so walks became sparse and truncated and intervallic, rapidly moving from thumb to first position, and Peter shredded the tune with long passages and odd phrasing way off the one and a NYC feel that made me think of Kurt R. Dead steady and serious business. Alex was his best, more bop-oriented than Peter but moving phrases against barlines and flattening endings and often enough in between. Aidan seemed a touch more restrained in this company but perhaps not on latin or swapped fours. Swapping sixteens and eights seems outré for a contemporary outfit like this, but the historical references are still there. The whole band was feeling its way on Alex’s sketches, but the skills were stunning. Jocie Jensen sat in at jam’s end for some stunning takes on Round midnight and It could happen to you. Her scat and unison heads with Alex and high and accurate voice fitted this choppy-rich band perfectly. Mike Dooley sat in for a run of tunes, including a funky Nature boy and some boppy takes on Green Dolphin Street and the like. Mike’s feel is more bop-hot with some classical reference so these were interesting intersections of eras. I sat in for a few tunes as did drummer Mitch Preston who is so strong in the local blues scene. This was a stunning end to a rich night of jazz in Canberra. A blast with some stunningly capable and informed chops. Just to finish off, here’s a quote from Nick Dooley, Mike’s brother and once a trumpet teacher at the Jazz School. It’s out of context here, but wise advice: “It’s hard to be exciting rather than excitable in a band”.