In this edition:
Gerry Koster manages Newmarket Music, based in Melbourne. Newmarket releases a range of music, mainly by artists in Melbourne and more recently in Sydney. The label is mostly jazz-based but with a smattering of blues, and world music. The spectrum spans music from the Macedonian Women's Choir to Ren Walters – two extremes on what Gerry sees as a continuum of under-represented music.
I spoke to Gerry in his office about the label, and about the jazz community – subjects that are both close to his heart. AAJ:
Tell me about how your association with Newmarket Music began. Gerry Koster:
I came to Newmarket in about 1995 or 1996. I was working at PBS [Public Broadcasting Service in Melbourne, a metropolitan community radio station] and a friend of mine there recommended that I talk to the new manager here at Newmarket, because they were looking for a sales representative. The last job in the world I would have been looking for was as a sales rep – for anybody – but I visited the office, had a coffee and before I knew it I had a bag of samples and I was going and visiting shops in Melbourne.
And then I did one of my typical things of quitting my job, packing up everything, putting on my backpack, buying a one-way ticket somewhere and going round the world.
Eight months later I came back and there was a new guy looking after the business. I had known him when I was working there before I went away. I came back in just to see him, say hello and have a coffee. They offered me some part-time work. I took it on and eventually started working full-time and running the company with one other guy. He decided to leave and the owners of the business saw this as a turning point. They told me we had two options. If I decided to leave, the label would close down. All there was, in terms of Australian labels releasing jazz at that time, were probably Jazzhead Records, Rufus Records, ABC Jazz and not really anything else. I didn't see how we could leave Melbourne jazz musicians without a distributor. The business owners said that if I decided to stay on they would give me twelve months and see how it went. I took it on. I'd been traveling for eight months and I was fresh and I thought I could rise to the challenge. At first I was virtually living in the office – it was at least six days a week. That was just cleaning up the catalogue, getting rid of all the dead wood and bringing it back to its original focus as a jazz label. AAJ:
Obviously the distribution side of the business is something you have always taken very seriously – you aren't just in the business of releasing music. GK:
Distribution is a big part of what I do at Newmarket – and that means getting CDs into shops. Some buyers know their jazz but we have to tell some buyers who Miles Davis was. Except for specialist shops, there's no guarantee that the buyer knows anything about the music we are trying to get onto their shelves.
I think the key to breaking into stores is just commonsense. You make friends with these people. You know, I can smell a sales rep – I can hear them before they come in the door in a lot of cases and some of them act like tele-marketers. They come in and they feed you the line. I don’t want to operate like that.
I can call up any store that I deal with on a regular basis around Australia and I don't have to introduce myself. They hear my voice and say, 'G'day, Gerry,' and we can have a chat about this, that and the other and I tell them what I've got and what I think would work in the store. Sometimes they ask me about something obscure I have in the catalogue. They get to trust you. There are a lot of reps out there who walk into a shop and they have a monthly budget and targets to work to. They're under pressure to meet these targets and therefore under pressure to load the shops up with all sorts of stuff. Monthly targets work for Top 40 but they just don't work with this genre. AAJ:
So, what is the answer? GK:
I think the best way to operate is very much on a personal level. I try to establish trust and then once the store trusts you they'll take some of the risks on your behalf. Once they trust you and they see that some of your product actually sticks, they'll work with you.
It works the other way too, with the overseas labels we distribute. We have a series of labels from overseas that we import and distribute and I talk to them on the phone too. I've never met these guys, but we've become friends and they are happy that in the beginning, instead of sending an email or a letter to introduce myself, I called them up and introduced myself to them. I think a lot of this is just common sense. AAJ:
What is the relationship between Newmarket and other jazz labels in Australia? GK:
To be frank, all the different labels are in the trenches together. If I get material that I think is more suited to another label, I will tell the artist to try them and see what response they might get. A couple of the people with recordings on Newmarket also have recordings with other companies. You'll find that happens quite a bit. AAJ:
Tell me about the music released and distributed by Newmarket. GK:
Basically jazz, and some blues. We dabble in a little bit of original music, whether it's folk or whatever form it takes and some world music. But we also distribute some labels from overseas – they are our bread and butter, with the exception of a few artists who are on the Newmarket label.
In fact, that's how Newmarket survives – through its import labels and also a handful of artists who do generate some good turnover in Australia - artists such as Joe Chindamo. I think it's true for all labels around the world that they'll have one or two flagship artists. For example with Blue Note. Norah Jones has brought in some good money for Blue Note Records which will enable them to carry other less commercial artists like Greg Osby. I think all labels now are trying to find their own Diana Kralls and Norah Jones.
And I think the ABC will have their Norah Jones with Michelle Nichole's next CD. I've heard some of it played on the ABC. I rang Michelle up as soon as the track had finished and told her what I'd just heard and I said to her 'you're on your way. This should launch you overseas.' AAJ:
This is clearly more than 'just a job' for you... GK:
I am on a salary. I am not relying on commission, or trying to get my money back so I don't have the same things at stake if I owned the business. Yet I have a personal stake in it because I'm proud of what the label has done since that point where we were saying we'd either be shutting it down or give it a go for twelve months.
For one thing, I've brought the label back to focus on jazz. It's a genre that I know quite well. I'm proud of the label and within two years of running, it went into the black for the first time in its history.
With Tim [Dunn, Rufus Records (see Notes from Downunder June/July 2003)] and Andrew [Walker, Jazzhead] and the other guys that set up labels, I share a love of the music. We are all committed to the music. But I try not to wear my heart on my sleeve. My responsibility is to get product out there that will at least turn over and get back the cost of me sampling out 50-70 CDs. AAJ:
Is it a tough business? GK:
The reality is that some CDs might sell fifty and some might sell three or four or five thousand. The top number is rare. If an artist is active and they're in constant communication with me and we work together as a team we could probably sell between two to five hundred a year on average. They're good figures I think for a local jazz CD.
And yet, if someone comes to me and I really like their music and they struggle to find work, I will tell them the realities of the business. I am honest with them and I don't raise false expectations. Sometimes I want to have their music in the catalogue because I really think it has merit but it's music that may not appeal to the market place. I tell the musicians that they have to be out there helping me, telling me when they've got gigs, telling me when they are out on the road and then we see what we can do. From a business point of view, it might sometimes be a bad decision, but I might feel that a particular artist needs representation. AAJ:
So the commercial aspect is only part of the decision? GK:
The commercial decision is part of it, and artistic merit is another. Personal taste, for sure. If I think an artist is terrific and he doesn't have anything out there, and he comes to me with something and I think it meets some of the criteria, then I will consider it. The most important thing I think is that it's got to be honest, it's got to be good and not a half-arsed affair. But some people do come to me with something that's not quite ready. I might have to tell them to wait, or to go away and do something again. It's interesting dealing with musicians. AAJ:
I guess it has its difficulties – you are, after all, dealing with artists.
It's rewarding and frustrating dealing with the diverse personalities in the business. There are some who go to great lengths to learn about all the aspects of the business. Fiona Burnett [see Notes from Downunder, April/May 2003
] for example has done a short course in business and promotion. She is involved in her community at a number of different levels - she takes her work very seriously. Fiona will involve me with nearly every part of the process of producing a CD - the cover, the photos that she's had on the photo shoot. She's asked me do liner notes for her CDs on occasion. There's a great deal of contact there. And I appreciate someone like that who is very proactive in her own career. And then there are others who just don't get involved at all.
Unfortunately, we're all also dealing with the vagaries of the business. Across the board it's a struggle – for specialist retailers, for specialist labels, for musicians. AAJ:
But this struggle seems to mean there is a sense that for everybody who is involved there is an obligation to provide some assistance here – it's an artistic community GK:
I think the term that's important there is community. I'm also involved in community radio – I'm the jazz coordinator at PBS and I look after the jazz category there. And I think that at the end of the day, we have to work together. If we're not factionalised and we do work together as a team then as a community we will continue to survive. AAJ:
So your involvement with PBS contributes to your sense of community? GK:
Yes, you see PBS and I think RRR are the two biggest and perhaps longest running community radio stations in Melbourne. PBS has always been regarded as Melbourne's jazz station. AAJ:
And there was a commitment to local jazz right from the beginning? GK:
Right from the beginning. Part of the PBS charter is to present under-represented styles of music. The jazz category at PBS has about 10% of the total programming but it brings in about 30% of the total subscriptions.
I am at the station at least once a week and whenever I get new releases for jazz artists, the first samples go straight to PBS. All the jazz announcers get a copy and they're all invited to the launches. At the radio station we support all styles of jazz we are very committed to the local scene. We even have local musicians playing live-to-air.
PBS is very important to the Melbourne jazz community because generally speaking the media all but ignores this type of music. AAJ:
Given all these difficulties, how do you feel about the survival of the jazz scene? GK:
It comes down to everybody getting to know everybody and working together. When you look at the population of Australia with a population of 22 million, the market is very small. It has also become more difficult to sell this type of music. Additioanlly, as CDs become easier to produce, there is lots more music to choose from
Jazz is the sound of surprise but all the programmers on PBS have their own little quirks and idiosyncrasies. I like to look for new and interesting releases from around the world, Polish jazz, Danish jazz, South African jazz and we also tend to look at the fringe of American music. You want your listeners to stay interested and you've got to come up with something a little different each week. For those who are comfortable you play a few things that they are familiar with and then you introduce something new and interesting.
I look at the Newmarket catalogue a little bit in that way too. As much as everyone likes to see a new release from their favourite artists I also like to introduce something new to keep it interesting and alive. Links:
PBS Community Radio - www.pbsfm.org.au
Newmarket Music - www.newmarketmusic.com.au
Sam Keevers, piano Sam Keevers is thought of by his musician mates as the original 'Mr Nice Guy'. And aside from being a thoroughly good bloke, he also plays piano like an angel. I caught up with him at Mario's café – a Melbourne institution in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy with waiters in long aprons and the best coffee on the street. And as if I needed confirmation about how people feel about Keevers, he was on first-name terms with all the staff, and they were so familiar with his habits they were making his next cup of coffee before he even realised he wanted it. AAJ:
The first time I saw you play was at the launch of the Red Fish Blue CD 'Deep' in Sydney. You and Simon [Barker, drums] clearly have a real connection. Simon seems so relaxed when he's playing and the two of you had great rapport. Sam Keevers:
Yeah, I wish I could be as relaxed as him sometimes when I watch him play, but he's really working on that –that's his main thing at the moment I think.
We have a connection as friends for a start, but we also have a connection with a lot of the music that we listen to. We both love Kenny Kirkland and on jam sessions we often have fun where I will sort of pretend to play stuff that Kenny would play and he would play stuff that Jeff Watts would play...not in performance of course... we only do that when we're jamming.
In terms of what's been important when we've been playing together, we've sort of been on the same trip. AAJ:
Forgive me, I have to ask. It's my job. Why are you a musician?
I actually remember the moment I decided I was going to be a musician. I was fifteen, and I was playing in a school band that wrote a revue, for the International Year of Peace, in 1985. We had a rock band at school and I was writing songs then – pretty bad ones but... We were playing King of Pain by The Police and I thought 'this is what I want to do. I want to do this for the rest of my life'.
And then that same year, I went to see the Sting band and I saw Kenny Kirkland and I just knew I had to learn how to do that. AAJ:
And that's when you started working on it? SK:
Yeah, I started getting into jazz. I mean through that Sting band, I started buying records by other guys. I bought Branford [Marsalis] records and I eventually just branched out.
I had listened to a bit of jazz through my dad. He loved Fats Waller. And I still love Fats Waller. Fats Waller and Louis Armstrong, but particularly Fats Waller.
My dad had a couple of cassettes that he always played in the car. One was John Wesley Harding by Bob Dylan and the other one was this Fats Waller record. We used to listen to them going to cricket training or whatever. So my first attempt at playing jazz was really trying to play like Fats Waller, trying to play stride and I really didn't know how to do it, so. That was sort of where it started.
When I left school, I went to Law school but hated that. I just really wanted to play music. AAJ:
So were you playing music when you could, squeezing it in somehow? SK:
Actually, the music took over. I only went to law school for a year and ended up being thrown out because I ended up cutting classes and just practicing the piano.
I did an audition for the conservatorium and got into the jazz course up there in 1989.
It was funny - when I first left school I applied to go to law school and I also applied to the Con [Conservatorium of Music, in Brisbane]. I rocked up to the audition, not knowing that there was a jazz course. I thought you just played what you played and then you would get in if you were good enough. So there's a panel in front of me and I'm playing Fats Waller stride and they’re all classical guys. They just had to stop me and say 'Look I think you've got the wrong course. This isn't a jazz course.'
I said 'Oh, right' and I just left and that was it. Later I realised that you have to actually apply for a jazz course. So went to the head of the jazz course – he was a pianist – and I just said I want to get lessons. I said 'Teach me so I'm good enough to get in to the course', and that's what he did. AAJ:
Where were you playing first? What was your first experience of performing? SK:
I used to play cello - I used to play in a string training group for the Queensland Youth Orchestra in Cairns so we did a lot of concerts with them. But the first times I played jazz were probably just little gigs in Brisbane. I was really only still learning how to play jazz with a band so I didn't really do many gigs until probably my second year at college.
Places like the Brisbane Travelodge – there's a jazz bar there. Some friends and I from college also got together a demo tape and went around and hustled the gigs around Riverside, the development near Spring Street there and we ended up getting a gig in a café there. But I really wasn't playing that much – I was learning. AAJ:
What happened for you when you left the Con? Did you have particular musicians you wanted to work with or particular directions you wanted to go in? SK:
I did actually. In fact, the first thing was that I really wanted to get a degree. The Con offered an Associate Diploma in music. At that time, the only places you could get a degree were Melbourne Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) and Adelaide.
I sent an audition tape to Melbourne and Adelaide and I didn't get into Melbourne. And I was all packed up and ready to go to Adelaide and at the last minute VCA called me and said there's a spare place if you want it. So that was Friday afternoon – Monday morning I was in Melbourne.
So I came here, and ended up getting a credit for a year off the degree. But around that time the Vizard Show [a late night chat format television show] started and they had Paul Grabowsky's band.
Someone had just given me a recording of the Wizards of Oz CD 'Soundtrack', with Dale Barlow [saxophone], and Paul Grabowsky [piano] and Tony Buck [drums] and Lloyd Swanton [bass]. I heard that record and it kind of changed my life. I wanted to come and learn from Paul. That's all I wanted to do. So that's one of the main reasons I moved here. Firstly because he lived here, and also because the VCA course was here. AAJ:
What is it /was it about Paul's music or Paul generally that attracted you? SK:
I really loved his piano playing. There was a kind of a soulful thing about it and the fact that he was Australian too. I'd never really heard Australian players play that well before. I was still learning. But there was something about that album. I just loved the vibe of that record. I really took to Paul's playing. AAJ:
So were you learning with him at the VCA? SK:
No I wasn't. He wasn't teaching then. He was too busy doing the show. I was actually learning from Mickey Tucker at VCA. He's an incredible American Pianist who moved out here. He used to play with Art Blakey and the Benny Golson Jazztet. Incredible player. But I did end up having a lesson with Paul. I had one lesson with him when I worked up the courage to give him a call.
But the great thing about coming from Brisbane, was that three or four nights a week I could go out here and I could go and hear Paul play and go and see all these great players. In Brisbane there was really no-one apart from my teacher at the Con, there was really no-one who inspired me. AAJ:
So you’re trying to find your own creative direction, but you need that input, don't you. SK:
Exactly. You need that inspiration. You need to get out and see someone who is way better than you are – and I just wasn’t getting it in Brisbane at all.
There some great players that I played with who inspired me who were a lot better than me – like someone like Elliot Dalgliesh for example who introduced me to John Coltrane and he was great for me because he was way ahead of me when I was that age.
He was saying 'listen to this", or "Play this tune". He was fantastic for me. He opened my mind right out there. He's an incredible saxophonist. AAJ:
I love the music on the CD Deep. I call it 'music to fall in love by'.
It's kind of –where Simon [Barker] and I come from. Yeah it's sort of melancholic. I have a tendency to go for that in all types of music – most of the singers I listen to are soul singers. It's something about being hit in that place. I want to be hit there every time I play and listen to music. AAJ:
I hear you. Give me a CD full of music and I'll pick the ballad every time. SK:
Yeah, every gig I do if it were up to me I'd just play ballads – that's all I'd play. AAJ:
Tell me about being part of the Vince Jones band. SK:
That was incredible for me. Because when I was 17 I heard Vince for the first time and I just said I want to play with him one day - and I got to do it.
That band on the Live CD was a great band – with Simon [Barker, drums], Adam [Armstrong, bass] and James [Muller, guitar]. I did love that band
I learned so much from playing with Vince, especially about accompanying singers and stagecraft; presenting yourself and working out arrangements for live gigs. Vince said many times that he believes that the stage is a sacred place and when you're on stage you need to respect that.
So the hardest thing I found about playing with Vince was that the only pressure he put on you was that when you were on stage with him you had toplay to the best of your ability every night. Night after night of that pressure used to freak me out. I loved it because we made some incredible music together but after a gig, even though I might have enjoyed it, the sense of relief I felt at getting through another gig was quite amazing. AAJ:
Did that pressure help you as a musician? SK:
Yeah, every other gig just seemed like a breeze after Vince. It's a confidence thing. Achieving at that level gives you confidence. AAJ:
Given the size of the scene here, do you feel positive about being able to continue living as a musician? SK:
Well I do actually. I don't think I'm ever going to be able to make a lot of money, but that's not the point.
The hardest thing I guess is touring in this country because it's so expensive. Small regional centres, large distances...For example, I would really like to tour my Latin band [Los Cabrones] but there's fifteen of us – that's about $3,000 to 4,000 just to get to Sydney.
I do a little gig on Thursday nights at the Cape Lounge, just down the road here. And there was a point in my life where I would actually have said no to those gigs because the money wasn't good enough and I felt that musicians were being ripped off by being paid so little.
But now I really like that there's this little place, with a little scene and you can go there every night of the week and musicians are really playing music from the heart. I've kind of let it go that we don't get paid that much. That's not why I'm doing it. I think little gigs like that are important for a scene, whatever town you're in. Notes:
Sam Keevers' band Red Fish Blue recently launched their first CD 'Deep' and the band has also been nominated for the inaugural The Apra Bell Award for Australian Jazz Ensemble of the Year.
Keevers' other big project is a 15 piece Afro-Cuban band called Los Cabrones.
He has also recently completed a recording Katie Noonan (vocals), Simon Barker (drums), Brett Hirst (bass) and the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. They will be touring nationally with that project in April, with the symphony orchestras in capital cities around the country.
CD Review by Mick Paddon
Mick Paddon is originally from England and currently lives in Sydney, Australia. He is often seen at gigs in Sydney and other cities, occasionally plays the saxophone and has a weekly show on Eastside Radio 89.7
- a community radio station in Sydney that specialises in jazz. Mick can be contacted by email on [email protected] Aldo Bassi Quartet Distanze (Jazzhead Head035)
One of those things I speculate about, when the mind is on but not quite in a piece of music, is whether there really is something distinctive between countries and continents about what is called and played as jazz. What comes from continental Europe can sometimes sound a little smoother, more rounded, closer to the conservatorium. For these cross continental musings this CD is unusual: material from an Italian quartet recorded and mixed in Latina in early 1999, just released in Australia by the Melbourne Jazzhead label. Aldo Bassi formed the quartet to develop his own original compositions. He has chosen well. Enrico Bracca’s guitar, in particular, complements Bassi’s trumpet, which he plays with a clarity and expressive tone displaying his classical training. The nine pieces on Distanze are all original and, with one exception, composed by Bassi.
The quartet is joined on the CD by the oboe and English horn playing of Mauro Panzieri. The oboe adds a particularly unusual texture, at times with a hint of soprano, but then taking a rather mournful character which sits sometimes under, at times above and occasionally in unison with the trumpet. The unusual combination of instruments lets the band cover a lot of different ground. At times they are a tight trumpet led quartet, as on “Reprise”; “Arabian Desire” carries some echoes of Coltrane’s beautiful tribute to his wife, “Naima” ; “the shortest track “Zing” would not be out of place on one of John Scofield’s funky collections. It makes for a CD I have been listening to on and off for the last couple of weeks without tiring of it, and finding something new at each listening. The least successful piece is the track not written by Bassi, “Waterfall” in which the lazy 4/4 rhythm and muted trumpet edge just a touch too far into continental smooth. Link:
Distanze on the Jazzhead site - www.jazzhead.com/distanze/
CD Reviews by Adrian Jackson
Adrian Jackson is a well-known Australian jazz writer, the artistic director of the Melbourne International Jazz Festival and the Director of the award-winning TAC Wangaratta Festival of Jazz. All of Adrian Jackson's reviews were originally published in The Bulletin www.ninemsn.com.au/bulletin
and are reprinted here with their kind permission Andrea Keller's Bartok Project Mikrokosmos (ABC Classics)
A pianist-composer who already has an ARIA Award and a Freedman Fellowship to her credit, Andrea Keller began as a student of classical music before getting hooked on jazz. She contrives to enjoy the best of both worlds here, arranging 17 of Bela Bartok's 'Mikrokosmos' exercises for a jazz quintet that includes some outstanding improvisers in Tim O'Dwyer (alto saxophone, bass clarinet), Adrian Sherriff (bass trombone), Anita Hustas (bass) and Danny Fischer (drums). There are myriad delights in Keller's ingenious arrangements of Bartok's quirky, engaging themes, and the deft touches added by the players, whether soloing or within the ensemble. Fiona Burnett Soaring At Dawn (ABC)
Melbourne soprano saxophonist and composer Fiona Burnett makes a major statement with 'Soaring At Dawn'. A six-part suite, it combines her Trio (with bassist Ben Robertson and drummer David Jones) with the Silo String Quartet. The music has a classical air, but it is primarily a vehicle for jazz improvisation, with Burnett's soprano featured for most of the journey. She rises to the occasion, from the opening soliloquy of 'Solitude' to the stirring climax of 'Daylight'. Her instrumental control is flawless, while her solos are beautifully constructed, and compelling. Her colleagues excel, too : a special mention for Caerwen Martin's cello solo on 'Morning Raga'. Mistaken Identity Wondering (Mo Music)
Melbourne band Mistaken Identity is built around the obvious rapport between the Sedergreen brothers, pianist Steve and saxophonist Mal. They have always sought to make their jazz both accessible and spirited, and they succeed on their fifth album, which presents readily appealing arrangements of the songs of Stevie Wonder. They haven't just gone for the obvious hits ; 'Higher Ground', 'Master Blaster' and 'For Once In My Life' would be the best-known of the 11 songs covered here. But whether you can compare these versions with the originals, or take them on face value, they work well as vehicles for jazz blowing by the tight-knit band. Mike Nock Changing Seasons (DIW)
Sydney pianist Mike Nock has played with a who's who of international names over the last four decades. But I'm willing to say that 'Changing Seasons', released on a Japanese label, but recorded in Sydney last year, is his most satisfying album yet. Bassist Brett Hirst and drummer Toby Hall excel here, both achieving the combination of youthful drive and mature judgement that Nock demands of his colleagues. Nock himself has never sounded better, whether waxing lyrical on 'Time' or restlessly probing the possibilities of 'Three Dee'. The highly-developed understanding between the three is obvious on the two freely-improvised tracks. Theak-tet Gamla Stan (Jazzhead)
"How many musicians in your Quartet, Mr Brubeck ?" (A legendary faux pas from a Sydney press conference back in the '60s). The answer is the same as the number in a Theak-tet, the band led by tenor saxophonist David Theak. He was living in Germany in 2001 when he brought some Sydney mates (guitarist James Muller, bassist Phil Stack, drummer Craig Simon) over for a tour. This CD, recorded in Hanover, shows they were in blazing form, reaping the benefit of the countless hours they had spent jamming at home. Muller often thrills, but Theak holds his own, with forthright-sounding, intelligently-paced solos. Dan Barnett Point Of No Return (La Brava)
Jazz singer and trombonist Dan Barrett and his big band are enjoying a good deal of popularity in Sydney, and it's easy to see why. The album opens with the title track, an old Goffin-King pop hit which employs Georgie Fame's classic arrangement. In fact, there's a lot of Fame in Barrett's suave, unhurried vocal style ; so long as you don't think that's a crime, his vocals are very easy to enjoy. With his big band providing the right blend of pulse, riffs and solos, he has a ball with oldies like 'Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby', 'Perdido' and 'Cheek To Cheek'. Judy Jacques Making Wings (Wild Dog Hill/Didgeridoo)
Over the years, Judy Jacques has sung traditional jazz and gospel, experimental jazz, and everything in between. The music presented on 'Making Wings' draws all of her experiences into a mixing bowl, and the end result is music of striking originality and emotional depth. From 1998-2001, Jacques made several trips to Flinders Island in Bass Strait, researching the history of the island and her family. Her songs explore the relationships of aboriginals and white settlers to the island, its wildlife and the sea around them. Jacques sings beautifully, and with sensitive support from players like flautist Nicola Eveleigh and guitarist Doug De Vries. John Sangster The Hobbit Suite (Swaggie)
With John Sangster's 'Lord Of The Rings' cycle being reissued on CD by Move, it was inevitable that Swaggie would dust off the album that started it all : 'The Hobbit Suite' from 1973. A classic of Australian jazz, it featured Sangster on vibraphone, marimba and percussion with a stellar lineup including such names as Bob Barnard (trumpet), John McCarthy (clarinet), Col Nolan (piano) and Len Barnard (drums, washboard). Neither traditional nor modern, the music is imaginative, whimsical, attractive and above all, fun. The reissue also includes tracks from another Tolkien-inspired album, where Sangster played vibraphone duets with Alan Lee. Ishish Waiting For It (Newmarket)
This Melbourne ensemble features three outstanding soloists in saxophonist Julien Wilson, trumpeter Eugene Ball and trombonist Jordan Murray. When they combine with bassist Mark Shepherd and drummer Ronny Ferella, the whole becomes something more than the sum of its parts. This is partly due to the flexibility of the band's original repertoire (mostly written by Ferella), but more to do with the way the soloists and accompanists combine to lift each other to greater heights. Either way, Ishish's jazz gives the soloists ample space to roam in, and contains plenty of changes of rhythm and tempo to avoid any hint of monotony. Allan Browne Collected Works (Newmarket)
Melbourne drummer Allan Browne has enjoyed a remarkably diverse and productive career in jazz, and many highlights are assembled in this 2-CD retrospective. The first disc is traditional jazz, most of it played with great spirit by the Red Onions from 1962-97. Later groups feature such younger talents as Steve Grant or Eugene Ball (trumpet) and Karl Hird or Chris Tanner (clarinet). The second disc finds Browne playing more modern jazz, alongside such names as pianists Paul Grabowsky, Tim Stevens or Bob Sedergreen. In every situation, Browne's passion for the music, and sensitivity to what his partners are playing, come shining through.