Our previous concerts...
Barney McAll's 'ASIO' Quintet
15 October, 2017
The Windsong Pavilion
We are reproducing below a review article by notable jazz critic and author, Geoff Page, who attended our Barney McAll Quintet concert.
But first, here are some links to 2 excellent videos of the concert’s songs that exemplify the subject matter of the review:
click here and here.
They were filmed and produced by ABC South East NSW’s Bill Brown with the assistance of expert music recorder Ian Battersby and our regular sound engineer, John McVeity.
Review for The Triangle, Nov 2017
Magnificent music, full house, standing ovation
The Barney McAll Quintet concert on Sunday 15 October at Bermagui’s Four Winds Windsong Pavilion was extraordinary by any measure. A first-rate grand piano in a purpose-built concert hall with a full-house of about 180 listeners was just the beginning.
The concert was arranged by Zephyrs Jazz, who commissioned Barney McAll’s Quintet comprising five of the country’s most accomplished musicians. The leader, Barney McAll (piano), has worked in New York for two decades and has recently moved back to Australia. Mike Rivett (tenor sax) won the 2016 National Jazz Award; Carl Morgan (guitar) won it in 2014. Both are outstanding young musicians with distinctive approaches to their instrument. Jonathan Zwartz (bass) and Hamish Stuart (drums) have both been at the heart of jazz in Sydney since the 1980s.
The performance featured the compositions on the group’s recently released CD, Hearing the Blood (Extra Celestial Arts). The music was both highly integrated and satisfyingly various. The solos seemed to emerge organically from (and return into) the composition rather than being merely an opportunity for virtuosity (which was often present nevertheless).
There were also significant shifts in dynamics and mood – a few pieces with the delicacy of French impressionism, others building to remarkably climactic solos by either Rivett or Morgan. The seamless unison playing of these two in the written sections seemed almost to generate a third front-line instrument that hadn’t been advertised. All five players were given solo space but the focus always remained on the composition as a whole.
McAll’s piano playing is by now convincingly personal but still with important traces of J.S.Bach, Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett and maybe even Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel – leavened, at times, with not a little humour, as in the almost raucous “Dogface Now!”.
For an audience which clearly contained quite a few jazz aficionados but also had many listeners for whom contemporary jazz was almost certainly not their first love, the quintet presented a program which all found hard to resist and which culminated in a rare (if almost un-Australian) standing ovation.
It’s a sign of the strength of Australian jazz at the moment that Zephyrs Jazz should not have too much trouble finding a group of comparable excellence for another full-house event next year. If only this sort of thing were done more widely around the country we’d all be a lot more blessed.
Geoff Page is organiser since 2003 of the monthly concert series, Jazz at the Village (previously Jazz at the Gods), in Canberra.
Also author of A Sudden Sentence in the Air: Jazz Poems and Aficionado: A Jazz Memoir and approximately thirty other books, predominantly poetry.
11 October 2015
The Windsong Pavilion
The Vampires’ Zephyrs Jazz performance confirmed the judgement of Lloyd Swanton (The Necks) that The Vampires are ‘an absolute must-have for festivals anywhere in the world’. We were also impressed by the band’s ability to attract an enthusiastic contingent of young people to our concert in the Windsong Pavilion.
The band featured: Jeremy Rose on saxophone and Nick Garbett on trumpet and responsible for the compositions; veteran Jonathan Zwartz on double bass, filling in for Alex Boneham; and Alex Masso on drums/percussion. From their opening number, Nick Garbett’s ‘Tiro’ (an Italian word that means here ‘to play with plenty of drive’) to their concluding piece ‘Mothers Dance’, Jeremy’s New Orleans blues style homage to his mother) the band presented a wonderful combination of virtuosic and uncannily tight duo sax playing in the front line and sustained close dialogue with the drums and double bass rhythm section.
Jeremy and Nick were already familiar to some in the audience through their periodic appearances by another of their bands, the highly popular reggae group The Strides, at the nearby Murrah Hall.
The Vampires’ music is a highly successful and unique integration of an eclectic mix of musical traditions, such as jazz, old-school reggae, romantic Afro-Peruvian, danceable Afro-Cuban, exotic Balkan and funk-laden Afrobeat. The jazz component draws, in turn, on composers and players from Ornette Coleman to Dave Douglas. At our concert they played pieces from across their many albums, together with some new ones, and they gave it all they had. Their skill, soul and commitment were rewarded by a strong audience response, including an enthusiastic standing ovation at the end.
The Alex Stuart Quintet
26 October 2014
The Windsong Pavilion
The Alex Stuart Quintet (Alex Stuart guitar and compositions; Julien Wilson sax; Miroslav Bukovsky trumpet; Jonathan Zwartz double-bass; and Tim Firth drums) played for us at the Windsong Pavilion on 26 October 2015. It was a sell out performance. Again, a highly appreciative audience responded warmly to the performance of this band of great musicians in this acoustically lively and intimate venue.
The ABC’s Bill Brown filmed the concert and afterwards interviewed Alex about his music (see the ABC website here). That interview provides a good starting point for an account of the event.
As Bill reports, in each of his compositions Alex ‘tells a story that can’t be told in words’. He does so by drawing on not only the jazz tradition, but also on the musical vocabularies of a wide range of other musical traditions such as African, Indian, Latin American and rock and funk music, selecting what best conveys the meaning and emotion of the particular composition and blurring the lines between the genres. The outcome, Bill notes, is Alex’s identifiable rhythmic style – one that ‘provides platforms for improvisation’.
Here are some of the ‘stories’ that we heard at the Quintet’s October concert. The band started with a piece that conveyed the wonder and beauty of snow falling onto the crests of waves during a winter surfing experience in France (‘Snow Falling on the Crests of the Waves’). Another tune was sparked by a dream involving a pursuit through several musical cultures by a sinister ‘Little Black Lion’. Then there was a song dedicated to two friends who had been through a sequence of intense pain followed by joy (‘Pour Vous’). Another was a remembering of youthful times spent surfing and fishing on the far south coast (‘Wapengo, Cuttagee’). And the title piece was inspired by Alex’s discovery of the delights of living in his culturally diverse new neighbourhood in Paris (‘Place to Be’).
The Alister Spence Trio
29 June 2014
The Windsong Pavilion
29 June 2014 was a day of firsts. It was: Zephyrs Jazz’s first performance in the Four Winds Windsong Pavilion; The Alister Spence Trio’s first performance on the NSW Far South Coast; and the first public performance in Four Winds new indoor performance space. The audience enthusiasm level was first rate too.
Alister, Lloyd and Toby showed us just why they are among Australia’s most acclaimed jazz musicians. They took us on a musical adventure, starting with a simple drone-backed two-finger piano meditation in ‘Arc’, then charging straight into a crazy, impossible chase in ‘Flight Plan’, then back to a meditative start on ‘Felt’, which in turn morphed into a phase of lyrical, almost classic piano trio playing, but with eerily tinkling glockenspiel, then on to a catchy, driving groove on ‘Brave Ghost’. And so on, through five more pieces until we came to a sort of energetic rest, under a swimming pool in Rajasthan, in the concluding ‘Sleep Under Water’. It was ‘jazz’, but much more besides. The audience also appreciated Alister’s introduction to each piece.
So the Trio was an ideal band to provide the first full ‘test’ of Four Winds’ brilliant new performance space. The music was only lightly amplified, but it filled the room effortlessly; and the Pavilion allowed us to hear perfectly all of the rich and varied sounds created by this highly acoustic group of musicians. The Trio, too, was impressed by the venue. In Alister’s words, ‘it was a joy to play in the beautiful Windsong Pavilion. This is one of those rare spaces: an excellent recital hall for un-amplified music that can also cope with audio reinforced sound and a drum kit, while still retaining clarity and an ‘acoustic’ feel.’
After the concert our audience enjoyed Zephyrs’ traditional chat with the musicians and each other over drinks and fine, locally prepared finger foods, while some who had arrived early had already enjoyed picnic lunches on the lawns at Four Winds’ beautiful site.
Two Bands in Bermagui
The Bill Risby & Alex Stuart Quartets
11 November 2012
Bermagui Community Centre
This concert was a first for us in several ways. We presented two bands (with a shared rhythm section) in the one program; we weren’t able to hold it at the delightful Penders House at Bithry Inlet, which had been our venue for many years; we did hold it Bermagui Community Hall for the first time; and we attracted a record audience of 190 to this larger venue.
As always our Music Director, Peter Storey, conceived and presented a wonderful program of music that delighted our audience. And, as always, it was a lively and engaging social event, with everyone sharing the music and, after the show, also sharing the fine finger foods and drinks with old and new friends and our wonderful musicians.
We had selected six distinguished and highly accomplished jazz artists:
- Bill Risby– piano, compositions (Sydney)
- Alex Stuart– guitar, compositions (Paris)
- Miroslav Bukovsky– trumpet and flugelhorn (Canberra)
- Brendan Clarke– bass (Sydney)
- Ben Vanderwal– drums (Perth)
- Julian Wilson– saxophone (Melbourne)
Between them they had played at many impressive national and international venues, produced many wonderful albums and won many national and international jazz awards.
We presented the musicians in three sets – a set each by the two bands, the first led by Bill Risby and the second by Alex Stuart, and a finale that brought all of the musicians together under their joint leadership. Bill is well established in the Australian jazz scene, a highly accomplished pianist and band-leader and a good friend of Zephyrs, having played here (and at Four Winds) several times before. Alex is from the next generation of music makers. He was touring from Paris, which is now his home, to launch his latest album and was playing for Zephyrs for the first time. However he was not a newcomer to our region, having spent a lot of time here when he lived in Canberra. In fact he composed the title song of his first album on Cuttagee Beach.
Our musicians played their own compositions and then, as a finale, unrehearsed and in their own brilliant and improvising way, gave us their novel treatments of a selection of old favourites. Real crowd pleasers. And the sound was fabulous, thanks largely to Mark Bolsius’s impressive grand piano and magical Bose speakers (many thanks for the freebies on both, Mark – we’re going to miss you). The audience response to the performance was perhaps best summed up by a request by one member – ‘next time, please leave some space for dancing’.
We were sad that we had to move from our beautiful Penders ‘home’ when it passed from our generous host of many years, Joanna Baevski, to its new life with the National Parks and Wildlife Service. (Thank you Joanna for your generosity.) And we were nervous – would enough of our audience follow us, particularly to a more conventional performance space?
Well as it happened, yes they did; and many new Zephyrs audience members joined them too. They filled a Hall that had been transformed by an enthusiastic team of volunteers. Reg Dew’s seriously professional (and free) temporary stage, set up in the body of the hall to bring the musicians into the audience, made a huge difference to the feel of the event. The work of our imaginative volunteer interior designers – the flowers was a particularly nice touch – made us feel at home. Our set-up crew did a great job and didn’t complain about moving a grand piano. Our team of catering volunteers produced a variety of exquisite finger foods and served some very enjoyable wines. And our welcoming front of house and ushering teams set the right tone with our guests from the start. Despite our earlier trepidations, this success proved to us that our Bermagui Community Hall could provide an effective and convivial venue for a Zephyrs event.