AUSTRALIAN JAZZ ROUND UP FEBRUARY 2016
This month, three great albums, three different styles, but sadly all come with a sense of loss. Julien Wilson (pictured above) and Andrea Keller albums both feature the recently departed Allan Browne, one of Australia’s jazz legends, whilst Davis Ades died only weeks after this recording was completed. It was particularly tough on Wilson, as it was his decision to release two of these discs on his lionshare label.
– Michael Prescott, Jazz Presenter 5MBS, Australia
This Narrow Isthmus
Julien Wilson (ts), Barney McAll (p), Jonathan Zwartz (b), Allan Browne (d). Rec. 13 July 2014
Although recorded in 2014, it was only after Browne’s death that Wilson revisited the tapes and decided that this album should be released. Good decision! Recorded live in Sydney on a promotional tour for his Bell Award winning CD “This Is Always” with the same personnel, the group performed a completely new set of eight Wilson originals. Simply put, this was a fine quartet, bristling with class all the way with Wilson’s3wa gorgeous fluid tenor; McAll’s luscious playing, supported by a dream rhythm section. All of which would add up to nothing if the compositions were not up to it. No problem here, Wilson is a gifted composer with melodic flair and he is able to compose in almost any style, the slow paced opener “Rainman” is followed by the up-tempo “McGod” and so on. He closes the album with the appropriately titled “Farewell” on clarinet and in doing so raises the question as to why doesn’t he play it more often. This CD is a welcome follow-up to the quartet’s award winning predecessor and establishes Wilson as one of, if not the, leading tenor saxophonist in the country. In combination with McAll and the late Browne, the outcome is simply marvellous!
A Life In The Day
loinshare Records ★★★★
David Ades (as), Tony Malaby (ss, ts), Mark Helias (b) Gerald Clever (d) Rec. 18 September 2013.
It is a testament to Ades determination that this album was recorded at all, that it is as good as it is merely confirms that not even severe adversity could stop the creative process. The plain fact is that Ades was in the last stages of cancer induced illness, but that did not arrest his need to get this album in the can. Such is his playing the illness is totally absent from these recordings. Instead, we have about 60 minutes of sublime improvisation from a great quartet, recorded in just five hours. Most of the tunes were composed by Ades in the days before the session and are loose, giving plenty of space for both Ades and Malaby to weave intricate lines over a very free rhythm section. The spell is broken by three trios, Clever being the man left out and Helias providing a floating bass, sometimes using his bow to great effect. The ease that these musicians have with each other reflects a deep understanding of each other’s playing; they recorded Ades’s “A Glorious Uncertainty” in 2011. In the accompanying liner notes Helias waxes lyrical about Ades and the special bond between these friends and musicians is what makes this disc so special.
Keller / Murphy / Browne
Beginning And End Of Knowing
Andrea Keller (p), Tamara Murphy (b) Allan Browne (d) Rec 9, 10 February 2015
This is the second album this month to feature the recently departed drummer, Allan Browne and it may have been his last session. Recorded live at Bennett’s Lane (rumours of the club’s demise are exaggerated!) just a few months before Browne’s death, this CD captures Keller and co in fine form. She has recorded with trio before, 2006’s “Carried By The Sun” and in the meantime she has released albums in numerous configurations, for example, 2012’s “Wave Rider”, reviewed in these pages, being a classic example. This album marks a big step forward from the aforementioned trio album, Keller plays with superb touch, economy and, most importantly, obvious emotion. This being a trio, Keller shares the writing duties composing three, Murphy (two) and Browne (one): plus some non originals, including Monk’s “Hackensack”. Strangely, Browne’s “Cyclosporin” is a vehicle for bassist Murphy to show off her considerable skills. As one expected from one of Australia’s most respected drummers, Browne knew how to play just right all the time and that’s a skill few percussionists possess. Keller should be appreciated by a wider audience than she is. Over several albums she has proven to be a consummate composer, arranger and performer, that is, the complete package.
AUSTRALIAN JAZZ ALBUM ROUND-UP DECEMBER 2015
A real contrast in musical styles is evident here, from the sax trio of Origami and its stories of Australia, to the adventurous leaning of Alister Spence, who continues to impress and finally the old master, Mike Nock teams up with the younger Laurence Pike, for some wonderful duo improvisations.
– Michael Prescott, Jazz Presenter 5MBS, Australia
Billy Tea To Burgers
Self Release ★★★★
Adam Simmons (as, b cl), Howard Cairns (b, concertina), Hugh Harvey (d). Rec 20 December 2014
A sax led trio can be a daunting experience, a double CD even more so. However in this instance, Origami, led by altoist Adam Simmons has presented an extraordinary range of material over the 2 discs that comprise this set. Make no mistake; however, this album is Australian to its core. This stems from two tracks on the first disc, “Lunch At Niagara” and “Greggie”. In the first of these tracks, Simmons talks about a road trip from Melbourne to Gundagai over a persistent bass line from Cairns. It is engaging and strangely, bears repeated listening. The same can be said for the tale in “Greggie”, although here the only accompaniment to Simmons spoken word tale is the wonderful drumming from Harvey. You’d be hard pressed to find tales more Australian than these and they’re simply great!
In complete contrast two tracks feature an altogether different instrumentation and feel. With Howard Cairns on Concertina and Simmons on bass clarinet, “Mirage” and “Adios Alistair” create intense, almost sinister music. The remaining tracks feature strong melodic themes and superb, but very distinctive, alto from Simmons. Whilst disc one contains nine tracks, the second disc is comprised of a single 58 minute track, “Here And There”. Within this track the group cover an enormous range of styles and in all available configurations. In some ways it is reminiscent of The Necks, without the repetition. It does, however, ebb and flow constantly thus not only holding one’s attention over the course of the track, but more, it becomes thoroughly compelling. This is one fine album, one that has been on “repeat” for a while now. ‘Nuff said.
Info & samples: https://fatrain.bandcamp.com/album/billy-tea-to-burgers-2
Alister Spence Trio
Self Release through Rufus Records ★★★★
Alister Spence (p, samples, music box), Lloyd Swanton (bass), Toby Hall (d, glockenspiel) Rec. 20 March 2015.
Following on from his duo album with Myra Melford “Everything Here Is Possible”, Spence continues apace with his exploration of the modern jazz form. Although a live album, comprising mostly of tracks featured on 2012’s “Far Flung”, (even the cover art harks back to that album) it is in reality a further step in this engrossing search. With the same musicians and instrumentation as the aforesaid album, this recording finds the trio in stunning form. Spence has said that he has been looking for a live performance worthy of release and in this gig, recorded at the Sydney jazz co-operative, SIMA, he has found a gem. The opening track “Radium”, from 2009’s “Fit” sets the pace with a different take on the studio version, oddly, if anything, more restrained, with greater emphasis on the jarring rhythm. From there the trio take lengthy excursions into Spence’s oeuvre, with “Felt” being a highlight with its somewhat modern opening and almost mainstream second half. The only new original, “Not Everything But Enough – Opening“ is centred around Hall’s glockenspiel and Spence’s liberal use of samples. Throughout Swanton, of The Necks, anchors the music with consummate skill whilst Hall never seems to run out of differing percussive colours. The glockenspiel is very effectively utilised to provide both rhythmic and tonal contrast.
Info & samples: http://www.alisterspence.com/discography_zoom.php?id=13
Mike Nock & Laurence Pike
Beginning And End Of Knowing
FWM Records ★★★★
Mike Nock (p), Laurence Pike (perc) Rec 4, 5 March 2015
Nock, 75, one of Australia’s leading jazz musicians for several decades, teams up with percussionist Pike, 36, for a series of spontaneous improvisations in a follow up to their first collaboration, 2012’s “Kindred”. On this occasion a government grant to Pike meant the pair could travel to Oslo and record at Jan Erik Kongshaug’s Rainbow Studios, where Nock recorded for ECM many years ago. The trip was at Pike’s request as he has long harboured a love of the studio and the ECM sound. Once in the studio the pair recorded hours of improvised music and the resulting CD is a distillation of their efforts. Whilst there have been duo recording with this instrumentation in the past, it’s not often that have they reached the heights of this recording. Nock’s sometimes simple but beautiful flourishes are complimented by Pike’s ability to utilise every possibility from his drum kit. None of the twelve tracks are long, just one is in excess of five minutes and this seems to concentrate the inventiveness and makes each track a cohesive whole. Nock and Pike appear to have an almost intuitive understanding of each other’s playing and together they have created a very fine album and one that bears repeated listening.
Hannah James Trio
Self Release ★★★★
Hannah James (b), Casey Golden (p), Ed Rodrigues (d). Rec. 24 May 2014
A year ago, on this site, I reviewed with much enthusiasm, James first release, “Effigy” and predicted a bright future for this young bassist / composer. Now comes her second, which confirms the promise demonstrated so clearly 12 months ago. She has also taken the bold step of introducing her new compositions in a live setting, recorded at Sydney’s Sound Lounge. There is a sense of déjà vu with the album reviewed above, Casey Golden and Ed Rodrigues return to complete the trio. Despite this, it is James who is the clear leader here, penning 5 of the 6 tracks; the remaining track is Golden’s “Six”. As with her debut, she features a strong sense of melody and compositional skills, providing the perfect vehicle for Golden’s simply luscious piano. Rodrigues is again outstanding on percussion and I suspect it won’t be long before he achieves greater recognition for his different take on the role of the drummer. He is certainly one of the most innovative drummers around today. Golden further cements his reputation as a pianist of sheer class and brings life and passion to James’s compositions. This is a very worthy follow-up to her debut and confirms the promise so clearly evident on that album.
Self Release ★★★
Featuring; ade ishs (p, voc, glockenspiel, melodica), Chelsea Allen (d, voc), Paul Bonnington (b), Ee Shan Pang (t, f, voc). Rec 5, 6 November, December 2014
The ishs/Allen Project is a very different beast to the above 2 albums. Led by pianist ade ishs and drummer Chelsea Allen, with all but one composition by ish and the remaining track co-composed with Allen, the Project have produced something not very common in jazz, an album that reeks of a positive vibe, very uplifting, almost joyful. The common theme of this month’s releases is very melodic and expansive themes. Here they are in vogue again but this time with a greater range of tonal colour. The themes are stated by ish, and Pang’s trumpet / flugelhorn augmented by the judicious use of wordless, atmospheric vocals, mainly from Allen, soaring over the melodic base. Interestingly, Pang’s role appears to be more concerned with theme enhancement than soloing. This he does with great effect, his restrained approach just adds to the overall sense of joy. “Welcoming Spring” is a good case in point. This is not an album that relies on innovation and pushing boundaries. There are many other albums that do that very successfully, but frankly, that’s not the objective here and it’s all the better for that. The end result is a an album that finds itself repeatedly being slipped into the CD player
Info and samples: http://tiap.info/the-ishs-allen-project
The Bitter Suite ABC Music / Universal ★★★
Paul Grabowsky (p), Jamie Oehlers (ts), Andrew Robson (as, ss), James Greening (t) Cameron Undy (b) Simon Barker (d). Rec date not stated
Grabowsky has been at the forefront of the Australian jazz scene for many years, with an occasional jaunt to the Big Apple. A man of many talents, In addition to his various groups he has found time to score films and TV plus direct various Festivals. Normally at home in a trio setting here he expands the palette by adding an impressive front line in a return to a format he has not utilised since the 1990’s. Grabowsky composed the 9 originals and arranged Scriabin’s Piano Prelude op 74 no 4, all in the space of a few weeks. He then assembled a powerful group to perform his new works. Oehlers and Robson are formidable soloists and the addition of Greening gives the sound a fuller texture and a sense of fun. The album kicks off in grand style with a reggae infused “Paradise” and continues to offer tasty treats all the way through, with the exception of ‘Sisyphus”, which to these ears falls flat and dirges its way for 10 long minutes. That said, the remainder is all class with excellent solos from the leader ably supported by his front line. Grabowsky again shows why he is at the forefront of Australian jazz.
icality and invention whilst the casual listener will fall for the simple beauty of this music. This is an album that not only can withstand repeated listens, but calls the listener back again and again.
Click here for more info and samples