The Review Revue – Fabulous Diva: the Music of Dr Nina Simone

Monday 21 May 2012 at Chapel Off Chapel, Prahran

Ruth Rogers-Wright, a singer from Brixton who lives in Melbourne, performed her tribute to Nina Simone at the Stonnington Jazz Festival. Backed by a four-piece group, Rogers-Wright’s act was not so much cover band as séance, channelling the spirit of Simone through song and spoken word.

Opening with Be My Husband, the singer set the mood with a soulful rendition accompanied only by drummer Hugh Harvey. He Needs Me showcased Rogers-Wright’s eerie voice as the rest of the band eased into the show.

Crowd-pleaser My Baby Just Cares for Me featured a lovely bass solo from Philip Rex and ivory tinkling from Monique di Mattina, but the real highlight was Paul Williamson on tenor sax, squawking and growling all the way through. Continue reading

The Review Revue – Allan Browne: the Poetry of Classic Jazz

Is it really a year since Allan Browne last played at Stonnington Jazz Festival?

His latest show, The Poetry of Classic Jazz, featured a five-piece band performing New Orleans-influenced jazz and the inimitable Browne sharing some of his favourite pieces of poetry over the jams.

The band leader started with a rendition of W. H. Auden’s Funeral Blues, a tribute to Melbourne drummer Peter Jones who passed away on Friday. Jones had drummed for numerous acts, most famously Crowded House, before he was struck with cancer. Continue reading

The Review Revue – ‘Stone Flower’ by Antonio Carlos Jobim

Antonio Carlos Jobim, known to some as the Brazilian George Gershwin, is best-known as the writer of 1960s hit The Girl from Ipanema. But in 1970, several years after the bossa nova craze had died down, Jobim released what would be regarded as his greatest album, and an altogether exceptional musical achievement.

Recorded in Hackensack, New Jersey, in the same studio as a hundred wonderful Blue Note jams, Jobim was a million miles from the sunny Brazilian beaches of his youth. Looking a little like Belgian performer Jacques Brel on the LP cover, Jobim played guitar and piano throughout, and contributed vocals to Brazil, the only song he didn’t write for the album. Ron Carter, who had worked with everyone from Coleman Hawkins to Miles Davis and George Benson, looked after the bass, locking in nicely to the Latin rhythms.

The opening song Tereza My Love, written for Jobim’s wife, sets the mood, taking the listener far from the daily grind to a place where the beach meets the forest and the waves wash away the cares of the world. The interplay between the trombone and the flutes builds on the bones of the bossa rhythm, and Jobim’s piano solo takes the whole thing to a cool-jazz level before the wind instruments transport you back to the beach. Continue reading

The Review Revue- Leigh Barker & the New Sheiks

Friday 27 May 2011

Leigh Barker & the New Sheiks played at Chapel Off Chapel on Friday night as part of the Stonnington Jazz Festival. Bopstretch were in support, playing their usual mix of lush ballads and fast-and-furious bebop, with trumpeter Eamon McNelis moonlighting after the interval with the main act.

Bassist-composer Leigh Barker was joined onstage by the New Sheiks: Don Stewart (trombone), Anthony Schulz (piano) and Al Kerr (drums), along with the aforementioned McNelis. The band were resplendent in suits, looking every inch the professionals they were, and they quickly showed it with some superb polyrhythmic work off their new self-titled album. ‘Be Still Hold On Tight’ by Melbourne guitarist John Scurry was a particular stand-out as the band locked down the groove and stretched out.

For the second half of their set they were joined by guest vocalist Heather Stewart, and the night clicked into another gear. A solid cover of ‘She Ain’t No Good’ by the Mississippi Sheiks eased Stewart into the set, Schulz’s staccato piano playing complementing the bluesy vibe nicely. The singer pulled out her fiddle too on a Cajun-sounding ‘Funeral Blues’, swinging as tight as the band did as they rounded out the show with more tunes from their latest album. Continue reading

The Review Revue- Allan Browne Quintet and Trio: Verses from the Past

Sunday 22 May 2011

Teeing off the Stonnington Jazz Festival’s run of shows at Chapel Off Chapel in Prahran, legendary Australian drummer Allan Browne was joined by the members of both his quintet and trio for a “program of musical portraits and poems”. Quite what to expect was somewhat a mystery, but the audience’s questions were answered as Browne settled in, sharing anecdotes of his days playing with jazz legends including Teddy Wilson and Milt Jackson before setting off on some fantastic musical performances. Browne read snippets of poetry between songs too, often accompanied by one of his musicians, making for laconic Australian spoken word.

The first set was blistering, with one ten-minute jam beginning its life as a 1920s New Orleans rag before melding seamlessly into a slice of Charlie Parker-esque bebop, then finishing with a soul jazz swirl.

Guitarist Geoff Hughes was versatile throughout, equal parts George Benson and Lee Underwood, Tim Buckley’s long-time collaborator. His moody playing helped set the tone for the sadder tales Browne shared throughout the show. Continue reading

Stonnington Jazz 2011

City of Stonnington 19-29 May 2011

The Stonnington Jazz Festival kicked off last night with the beautiful Sarah McKenzie (left) performing with her sextet at Malvern Town Hall. McKenzie will perform again at the same venue tonight at 8pm.

The festival runs until 29 May and bills itself as “100% Australian Jazz”. Famous names to play this year include Harry Angus of Cat Empire fame, piano maestro Joe Chindamo and ex-George singer Katie Noonan, not to mention personal favourites Bopstretch.

Find out the haps at the festival’s homepage, and book your tickets here. It will be the perfect chance to pique your appetite for the Melbourne International Jazz Festival which kicks off in just a few short weeks.

Luke James

Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2011

The Melbourne International Jazz Festival is now less than two months away. Running from 4 to 13 June, the festival will feature reknowned artists from the world over showcasing their talents for our aural pleasure.

Jazz great Sonny Rollins, the latest incarnation of the Sun Ra Arkestra, and the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble are all sure to be highlights of the festival, and here at Bop Hard we will be previewing and reviewing the gigs ’til our hearts are content.

The official website features plenty of information on the shows and artists and a comprehensive guide to the festival. To purchase tickets you can click on the artist and follow the links from there. You can even follow the proceedings on Facebook.

So stay tuned to Bop Hard as the festival draws closer, and make sure you get your tickets early for some great nights of music.

Luke James

The Story of Me and Juzz (I mean Jazz)- Part 2

I was showering the other day, pondering my jazz roots and thinking about when I first listened to jazz. I was trying very hard to connect with the younger me, to understand my mindset, but to no avail. Naturally, it wasn’t until I was on the tram that it hit me. For some bizarre reason, I do my best thinking on the tram.

The answer to my question was hip-hop. The question itself: how did I get into jazz? Or perhaps, where did it all begin?

Hip-hop. Two words and a hyphen. Hip-hop was my formal introduction to jazz.

This really shouldn’t come as a surprise. Artists like The Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron read their poetry over beats and jazz tunes in the ‘70s but it was still a few years before hip-hop really got started, and we have a Jamaican named Kool Herc and his giant sound system to thank for that. Continue reading

The Story of Me and Juzz (I mean Jazz)- Part 1

I am not entirely clear of when I first got into jazz. And yes, this will be one of those retrospective essays where the writer always knows where they are heading, but pretends to discover gems along the way, walking blindly towards an obvious outcome. Yes, indeed.

In all honesty, it wasn’t until writing this down that I remembered the first story about myself and jazz. I was back at school, during assembly, and a friend of mine played a song on piano entitled something titular like Jazz for Teens or Jazz Hearts Start Young- something stupid. I remember thinking it sounded awful.

And that was my earliest memory of live jazz. Not a great one, but it sparked a series of moments that formed my early understanding of the genre, as follows:

1.       Lisa Simpson of The Simpsons

Lisa is at a venue called the Jazz Hole. She is in the crowd watching an electrical violinist on stage.

Guy: [Unimpressed] Hmph, sounds like she’s hitting a baby with a cat.

Lisa: You have to listen to the notes she’s NOT playing.

Guy: [Still unimpressed] Pssh, I can do that at home. Continue reading

Today’s poll

Well kids, here it is… the first ever Bop Hard poll. Exercise your democracy fingers.