Thursday, September 20, 2007
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.
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 http://www.rayhughesgallery.com/
Catscratch is a small label specialising in the releases of Trevor Hart.
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
DESERT SONGS - THQ LIVE
BRISBANE JAZZ CLUB
FRI 14 SEPT.
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
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
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 NEW GENERATION
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 http://www.brisbanejazzclub.com.au/
Friday, May 11, 2007
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.
Friday, April 27, 2007
The Valley Jazz Festival 2007 has scheduled a diverse program with trumpet playing on every night. Clint Allen's 7th Chapter of Fine Brass, Dan Quigley, Scott Tinkler, Vince Jones plus yours truly with his quartet. On Thursday night at The Zoo it was Phil’s Slater’s Band of 5 Names. I’d heard Phil’s playing only on cd and a live Don Cherry style piece on the ABC’s Music Show so I was eager to hear his music live.
Music to me is the art of communicating emotions. Great musicians touch you, move you. What I look for in a musician is the simultaneous ability to express mood and feeling through their playing, to present coherent imaginative ideas, and their relationships with other musicians on the same stage.
All too often I hear one dimensional trumpet players. Some play in an alpha male style – a heroic style that leaves no room for human frailties (what one trumpet player called 'a punch in the face' style). Others, aping famous trumpeters, play with a cold thinness that shows little understanding of the instrument or even the idea of communicating emotions.
In a trumpet, piano, and drums configuration the Band of 5 Names performed one long improvisation. Phil Slater’s trumpet tone is full and open. His is a passionate and original trumpet voice made from contrasts in tonal colour, rhythm and dynamics. Slater has the technically ability of superb breath control, precise fingering and a lip that held out through most of the set. This he used to service the narrative of the improvisation.
Slater explored the limits of the trumpet. At times he created intensity through long complicated downwards runs punctuated by jumps up into the higher register to start more runs. It was thrilling to hear a trumpet in flight like this. These passages gave way to low whispering, spatial long forlorn notes, and at times with low moans that came from the physical manipulation of the valves. Slater also used a Mac laptop with what sounded like an analogue delay to ramp up the intensity by adding layers to some legato runs. His lip gave way to air and fast fingers through a tough passage at the end of the set. This I really liked because, after an hour, he was still going for it.
With his head half cocked Phil Slater listened to pianist Matt McMahon and drummer Simon Barker feeding off their ideas. The band listened to each other’s playing and generally had good communication. Barker was an excellent accompanist driving, exploding, providing colour.
Their impro was really a number of themes strung together by solo segues on piano and drums. In a long impro it is difficult to know when the narrative has ended, where to put the full stop. As a listener I felt there were a number of points where this had been reached.
An epic sonic landscape
The Band of 5 Names created an epic sonic landscape. Their music stands within the long and proud tradition in Australia of searching for original sounds and forms. Bands such as The Necks, with whom BOFN share a similarly large scope in improvisation, come to mind. It's fantastic that the Valley Jazz Festival 2007 has programmed such important music.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Used to be that Brisbane was a run down colonial backwater, a large provincial town. The beautiful Queenslander architecture of stilt houses, wooden pubs and shady government buildings owed much to its Indian origins. The mango and jacaranda trees belied a political corruption and a rigid morality that symbolised a police state of lazy brutality.
Looking towards The Valley from Centennial Park
This tropical torpidity could also boast some great Australian painters like Donald Friend , Mervyn Molvig and Ian Fairweather. Jazz was played in pubs on Sunday afternoons and in some gangster run clubs in The Valley. Its heart was the magnificent Brisbane Jazz Club, a converted boat shed underneath the Storey Bridge. I say this is one of the most beautiful places to gig with undeniably the best band room I've ever been in - a slipway converted into outdoor garden fringed by mangroves and boats and ferries on the Brisbane River with the city skyscape as its backdrop.
Joh Bjelke Petersen
The Brisbane of my youth was a cultural backwater. In the dark days of the corrupt populist Bjelke Petersen regime, police would raid rock gigs and shut them down for fear of the assembly of a large group of young people would have a corrupting influence. There was once a piece of graffiti emblazoned in large capitals on a building site, "95% of artists leave Brisbane. Why don't you?' And they deserted Brisbane for Sydney and Brisbane in droves.
I can't wait to see the great trumpet player Phil Slater's Band of 5 Names at The Zoo and James Ryan's Trio on Thursday night.
The Trevor Hart Quartet is playing Rics on Wednesday night (25th) as part of the festival. Visit www.valleyjazzfestival.com for more info.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Since I can remember, people have commented that I have a 'Spanish' sound. I'm not too sure what that means. Do I sound like a guitar or a bloodied bull in an arena? Perhaps they are picking up on a fascination with Spanish culture and history. I'm intrigued by Andalusian music from Spain and North Africa - of lyricism set again rhythmic complexity.
I assumed that trumpet featured prominently in Spanish music. Sure it can be heard in film scores and some orchestral works but I was quite taken aback to learn that it was just a little add on /frilly filler in some modern flamenco recordings.
Bacalau is an attempt to redress this imbalance: to try to meld the flamenco guitar and percussion with the trumpet.
Bacalau, the salted cod essential to so many Spanish dishes, needs to be seasoned to bring out entirely original dishes.
Bacalau is having a rare appearance at the Brisbane Jazz Club this coming Friday night. Check out the details on the poster.
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
In breaking news, the other Trevor Hart Quartet will play their 1st gig for a while at Rics Bar on Tuesday 20th March at 9pm. Trevor, Toby, Andrew and Grant return to their old haunt in what is now their 10th year of Tuesdays. Must be some type of record for any band let alone a freeform jazz band!
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Here's a great performance by John Zorn's Masada Quartet live at Warsaw Summer Jazz Days 1999, Poland. Someone has dropped a lot of Zorn's Polish performances on YouTube which is great for us all to see how this band works.
John Zorn - alto saxophone,
Dave Douglas - trumpet,
Greg Cohen - bass, Joey Baron - drums.
Friday, February 2, 2007
Here's a fun little thing. Animal is the very favourite of my daughter, Fizzy D. I could just imagine Grant Collins doing a gig like this!
Animal's drumming was done by Ronnie Verrell....for those interested he was one of the greatest session drummers in Britain during his day (pre-rock). Buddy Rich is holding back a lot here...
Saturday, January 27, 2007
There has always been a significant between the visual arts and music.Examples abound. French composer Claude Debussy hung out with the impressionist artists and was influenced to become a master of instrumental color and texture. It is this attention to tone color -- his layering of sound upon sound so that they blend to form a greater, evocative whole -- that linked Debussy in the public mind to the Impressionist painters.
In New York in the 1940's the Abstract Expressionist movement produced work that exemplified the careful balance between accident and control that characterizes both art and the improvisational jazz of bop. Jackson Pollock was an avowed jazz fan, often attending live performance's at New York's Five Spot club. Critic Ellen Landau notes the influence of jazz on Pollock's painting:
"As early as 1945...one prescient critic compared the "flare, spatter and fury" of Pollock's paintings to modern music...Pollock loved jazz..."rocking and rolling" for days on end to Dizzy Gillespie, Bird, Dixieland, and bebop. What undoubtedly attracted him to this type of sound was not just its rhythm and tempo, but its naked presentation of honest and deeply felt emotion..."
Minimalism in art has been enthusiastically taken up by composers. Terry Riley, Steve Reich and Philip Glass first explored these concepts in the classical field. The great Australian band The Necks have a synthesis of improvisation and minimalism.
The well know Australian artist Joe Furlonger says that the act of applying paint to canvas is similar to improvisation in jazz. By this he meant that, after drawings and drafts, one is left with the gesture, the act of creation which is by definition improvisatory. It is unsurprising to find a collection of artists at a gig. (Some have appallingly anachronistic tastes in music but the same could be said of musicians for art.)
Which all brings me to Florence Forrest's 1000 Cranes. Florence's cranes look like Kabuki characters. As she writes in her blog http://windbagandthunder.blogspot.com/ the crane is a symbol of longevity and grace. There is a beauty and a serenity in these objects that belies a rigor in thought and theory that is the hallmark of the best in music and art. The cranes need a musical landscape to exist upon: beautiful and serene; quiet and profound .
Monday, January 8, 2007
Occasionally I find myself surprised by the emergence of a memory of a long forgotten musical influence. Coming across the name of Roy Elridge, the fiery trumpet player, triggered this within me recently. I was reding Ian Rankin's latest Rebus novel, The Naming of the Dead. One of the victims is called Ben Webster and the associations flowed.
In the pantheon of American jazz trumpet players Roy stood as a bridge between Louis Armstrong and Dizzy. ie, he played swing. Perhaps it was because, like Lester Bowie, one of his seminal influences was carnival music that Roy played with a great sense of drama.
This is best illustrated in the 50's record Ben Webster and Associates. Apparently Ben ran into Roy on the way to the recording studio and invited him to the session. It's really a jam session that was so popular in those times... a couple of blues and standards. Now that's normally a formula to turn me right off but the playing is superb. Roy's solo starts with the 1st 12 bars of a blues repeating a triplet riff G# A B over and over. By the change in the second chorus he is screaming like a Baptist preacher (even though he was a Lutheran). ecstatic, exuberant, the glory that is a trumpet. He seems like he's pushing his instrument to the max. Jubilation is the object. Roy is just not doing the changes but has this preacher -in- the -pulpit quality that so suits the trumpet.
As a little aside, I'm including this little article I found that illustrates the racism endured by Afro Americans playing in white bands.