Sunday, January 20, 2008

The impressive,impeccable,inimitable stylish G Harishankar

I have a layman's love of Carnatic music. I was introduced to it by my John Rodgers all round genius musician and composer. John was writing a piece for the Australia Art Orchestra's collaboration with the Sruthi Laya ensemble led by Karaikkudi Mani. I got to see them perform on their own at the tiny Cooroy Butter Factory.

At the Cooroy gig, we sat within reaching distance of the players. I just love this type of audience experience: much better than the distance created in a concert hall. G Harishankar (June 10, 1958 - February 11, 2002) was a renowned player of the kanjira, a tambourine used in the Carnatic music of South India. To date, he is the only Kanjira player to be awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, the highest national recognition given to performing artists. [source: Wikipedia]

Here is a short example of G Harisshankar's kanjira magic. I just love to look at how he uses his right hand. It's all in the palm. Enjoy, my friends, enjoy.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I did a crazy thing

I did a crazy thing. I bought a car on the internet. I saw a 73 250 Merc. It's understated elegance attracted my attention. White with blue seats, white wall tyres, rust free (as it far from the corrosive coast atmosphere, clean engine bay, stylish to hell....

It had been photographed in an alpine setting, snowflakes falling into the field of vision. In the stickiness of early Queensland summer, these images were unbelievably exotic.

I had no way of physically inspecting it: It was in the Snowy Mountains and I in Queensland 1200kms away. By a process of talking to the seller and to the local mechanic who had worked on the car, I had it thoroughly checked out. I punted that it was rust free it being far far away from the corrosive coastal air.

The seller turned out to be a noise artist of sorts and he seemed a nice guy. My father had mantra that, with a 2nd hand car, you always bought other people's problems. Damn the difficulties! Damn the escalating price of petrol, peak oil etc. I closed my eyes and bought it. Style was more important!

Leap of Faith

My good friend Ewart and I flew to Canberra. My plan was titled 'Road trip as leap of faith'. Just stick the key in the ignition and drive back to Queensland. Break through or break down. We did the purchase in a Kingston hotel room in the midst of a torrential downpour. It was far too heavy to even check out the car properly. 'Look's great.' I thought fleetingly, 'but what am I getting myself into?' This idea I quickly pushed away like an unwelcome advance.

The next morning we drove through clean streets, past the dwarf Stalin era flats of Northbridge and into the rural void of the Southern Highlands. "It's fucking boiling!" yelled Ewart. "Fix up the heating." Easier said than done. The symbols of 30 years ago were far different from todays. The heating system's symbols looked like diminuendos and crescendos. OK, I know this language but a half hour later it finally dawned on me these symbols were counterintuitive. The exhaust sounded throaty and the steering a little loose. Some 200 kms along I began to think 'we can make it... we can make it.' This car won't break down, won't blow a head gasket, won't cease up ( insert horror auto scenario) stranding us for days in the middle of nowhere.

But the car just went and went. With each flashing kilometre confidence in the car grew. In Dubbo a thunderstorm large enough to shrink any insurance company's heart fell upon us and there was not a leak. The engine sounded throatier as we drove and this turned out to be a manifold leak but the Merc was faithfully. In 2 days driving the Merc pulled into Maleny quiet and triumphant confirming my leap of faith.

I did a crazy thing but you should do crazy things every now and then.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Desert Songs CD

Trevor Hart, trumpet.
Toby Wren, guitar.
Andrew Shaw, double bass.
Grant Collins, drums.

Desert Songs is our new live cd. It is a typical performance by the Trevor Hart Quartet and the 4 tracks are in fact merely the first set of a performance. The recordings are of concerts in Sydney and Maleny in Queensland.

For the uninitiated, the Trevor Hart Quartet have been playing together for more than 10years. Trevor and Andrew have been playing together for about 17 years. Andrew and Grant went to high school together. Toby is a relative newcomer being with the band for 8 years. All this experience adds up to a mature sound and musicians who know each others playing intimately. THQ acts as a musical democracy - a place where dialogue can occur freely between players. In this sense I see THQ continuing on the spirit of the original New Orleans music.

In performance THQ construct a narrative. This narrative develops within each song plus it encompasses the entire performance. Much has been written and talked about THQ's music taking the listener on a journey, being evocative and lyrical magic so I've decided to write a few liner notes to accompany Desert Songs.

1. Hymn of the Desert People.

Hymn comes from the Amantes jazz suite and is something of a signature tune. The desert I am referring to is an emotional desert but with distinct reference to the desert heart of Australia. I've been told by some who have played this tune in the outback that it fits with the landscape. If this is true then I am happy. This performance is from the now defunct Side On Cafe where we did a concert for the Sydney Improvised Music Association. It showcases Andrew's double bass. Hymn of the Desert People was recorded by Richie Belkner.

2. Tcip Tcip

Tcip Tcip was written by Toby Wren. The story goes that Toby wrote whilst travelling on a TGV through France during his honeymoon. The tune shows Toby's formidable skills as a writer and a guitarist. The trumpet used a piece of paper as a mute. This and the following tracks were recorded at the Maleny Community Centre in Queensland (my home town) by Pix Mason.

3. Wandering the Desert

This epic is THQ in full flight. Taken also from the Amantes jazz suite, it is an example of THQ's creativity and sensitivity to each other. Originally the piece was to do with aloneness and aridity but has over the years become a celebratiion of of life and music.

4. Bike! Bike!

This is a bit of fun! Complicated though.... It is in 9/4 with the 1st beat anticipated plus a little bit of serialism. The tune originates from my observations of a toddlers' attempts to walk. Toby is playing his Parker guitar. A good example of Grant's drumming.

Other bits

The mixing situations could not be in greater contrast. The Sydney mix was done in inner city Chippendale just off Parramatta Road. The Maleny mix was done ina run down farm house down a dirt road in a secluded valley. This I think reflects on the duality of THQ's orientation: at once urban and regional.

The artwork for Desert Songs was done by Joe Furlonger. The face on the cover is a detail from his Broome series and the lino cuts are from that period also. More of Joe's work can be seen at

Catscratch is a small label specialising in the releases of Trevor Hart.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007



There's been a lot said about the Trevor Hart Quartet: “lyrical magic that touche[s] the core”... ‘totally absorbing’...“beautiful”... ‘rich and evocative’...‘ a deep musical and emotional experience’ ... ‘very thoughtful atmospheric music’... the best freeform jazz Brisbane has ever seen'... 'prepare to be amazed'... the audience was absolutely blown away'... are but a few of the epithets from jazz critics around Australia.

Trevor Hart (trumpet), Toby Wren (guitar), Andrew Shaw (double bass) and Grant Collins (drums) make up THQ. I believe that THQ have a sound and approach to jazz that is distinctly particular to Queensland. This sound developed on what could be called the cultural periphery of Australia ie, not in Sydney and Melbourne. Coming out of the West End community and developing in The Valley, THQ were allowed the time and space to develop their ideas and music. Initially in West End this was done by putting on our own gigs in halls and pubs. Later in The Valley this development process was particularly facilitated by Steve Fitzgerald, the owner of Rics bar, who gave THQ the Tuesday night spot in his bar permitting us to play our brand of music.

THQ have played to amazingly diverse audiences all around Australia. From the top jazz clubs to tiny regional towns to the legendary residency of Tuesday nights at Rics Bar.

Deasert Songs cd cover artwork by Joe Furlonger

New live THQ cd

For years there'd been requests from these audiences for a live recording of THQ. Now this has come about with the release of of a new live THQ cd Desert Songs. 'Desert Songs' captures THQ in performance. Here is a band that plays like a loud chamber quartet in the sense of creativity, spontanaeity and interactivity. The four tracks occupy an hour's listening and are simply the 1st set recorded at the Side On Cafe in Sydney and the Maleny Community Centre.

'Desert Songs' will be launched with a performance by THQ at the Brisbane Jazz Club, 1 Annie St., Kangaroo Point (under the Storey Bridge) on Friday 14 September at 7.o0pm. Note the early start!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Life is a cabaret

Last year the Trevor Hart Quartet plus a couple of add ons did a Tom Waits show for the Brisbane Cabaret Festival. One of those performing was Sandro Colarelli. I thought he was a great interpretor of Tom waits' later period. I was also impressed by Sandro's intensity and amazing vocal and emotional range. There was some brief after show talk about working again and that was that.. Sandro went off to do more theatre such as Red Cap for the Queensland Music Festival and I to my own devices. This brief desire is about to become reality with a performance of Sandro with the THQ at the West End Cabaret. It's being held at The back Room in the West End Club, Cnr of Vulture and Montague on Saturday 25 August at 7pm. See the poster.

Sandro in a relaxed mood.

Sandro will perform some songs from my musical drama On Bloomsday. Bloomsday is drama of Greek proportions: love, sex and murder set in the bars and clubs of The Valley amongst musicians and marginals. These Bloomsday songs are rarely heard. They bear such titles as The Green Siren, The Dock Song, Johnno, The Schism; they are works I'm very proud of. He'll also reprise a couple of the Tom songs like Alice, Everything Goes to Hell and Reeperbahn. It's also the first excursion of THQ for a while. It's our only appearance before we release our new cd "Desert Songs", a little slice of THQ live around Australia.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Talkin Jazz 2007

Much to my surprise I have been given the job as Artistic Director of Talkin Jazz 2007.

This is a free program funded by the Brisbane City Council for high school students in the Brisbane area that gives students access to some of the best musicians and jazz educators. TJ 2007 has monthly masterclass/jams and a performance intensive during the mid year break.

They learn in a performance situation. The program is covering music from the history of jazz with a particular focus upon Australian jazz.

TJ 2007 Performance Intensive encourage students of all abilities to find their own voice. With that in mind, the masterclasses focus upon the themes: the importance of rhythm and timbre in improvisation, time is everybody's responsibility, to create a whole band sound and ... have a go!


The students has students of all abilities attending. Some are just becoming exposed to jazz and improvisation whilst others are more advanced and experienced. But without doubt, these students represent the new generation of jazz improvisers in Brisbane. And I think there is within this group some real talent that we should nurture. In years to come they will be the players gigging around, that will form bands and will show a new approach to jazz.

At the end of the 2 week intensive, students perform over 3 nights in the 1st week of July. For more information visit

Friday, May 11, 2007

Time The Revelator

The Trevor Hart Quartet at Jazzworx! Club

Being a new dad I've got plenty of time to think whilst nursing P'rly Shells. I've been thinking about an upcoming gig with a drummerless quartet. It comprises of me on trumpet, John Rodgers on piano, violin and hopefully flamenco guitar, Toby Wren on guitar and piano and Andrew Shaw on Double Bass.

It'd be easy to do stuff from the THQ repertoire. So, whilst nursing P'rly Shells, I started thinking about doing some rarely played pieces and.... contemporary country improvisation.

Contemporary country improvisation! What's that? I'm not sure if such a thing exists but John is de facto president of the Johnny Cash Appreciation Society and Toby plays beautiful country guitar. There also exists a sort of alt country that's rootsy and spare.

Time The Revelator

Take Gillian Welch for example. Hers is what I'd call badlands music. It evokes a bleak landscape full of desperados and the downtrodden. Gillian Welch and David Rawlings play with a consumate timing that becomes mesmeric and this is an exciting concept to explore. Here's the video clip for those who are not familiar with them.

Jig a Jig

Jig a jig is a kind of bent hoedown. It sounds like a hoedown but is written in the Kerralic 105 pulse form in 10/8. Here's the 1st page of a 3 part arrangement. It's going to be a killer to improvise over!

Click on the score to make it large enough to read.