August-September 2004


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In this edition:

"inventive is the word for Ten Part Invention..." ~ Jack Bowers

On the eve of Ten Part Invention's departure for a US tour that takes in the Chicago Jazz Festival, The John F. Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts in Washington DC and gigs in Iowa and Illinois, AllAboutJazz spoke to John Pochée, drummer and leader of this band of originals.

All About Jazz: Ten Part Invention has been around for nearly twenty years - that's quite a track record. And no mean feat considering the line-up. They're all musicians who are in demand for other projects.

John Pochée: Yeah, rehearsing can be a difficult thing nowadays - most of the musicians make a living by teaching so for a band like this its incredibly difficult but we always manage to get together. In the early nineties for a couple of years there we rehearsed every week for about 8 months of the year and that really gave the band a solid thing - it only needs to be a little bit of playing and everybody rises to the occasion.

AAJ: How did it all come together?

JP: The band started in 1986. I put it together for the Adelaide Festival of the Arts. It was a dream that I'd had for many years - since the early sixties I'd always wanted to have a ten-piece ensemble. I'd liked some of the Thelonius Monk ten-piece ensembles and that line-up had always appealed to me, but I never saw any opportunity to do it. When the 1986 festival was coming up I approached Anthony Steele, who was the director that year and put it to him that the jazz content of the festival could do with something fresh and new. The concept that I put to him was that I would pick out the finest players in Sydney and put them together and form a band to play all original material.

AAJ: Who ended up in the band and how did you choose them?

JP: The band I had in mind was going to be built on top of The Last Straw which was the quintet I had for twenty five years. It turned out that only Ken James and Bernie McGann were going to be available. Then, there were Mike Bukovsky and Roger Frampton - I was aware of their writing abilities and I thought a band like the one I was proposing would be perfect for them. I was chasing Steve Elphick to play bass. I'd been hearing him since the late seventies. I approached Sandy Evans... I'd never met her but I'd heard some of her tunes she was performing somewhere and I could see there was a future there. I thought that Sandy would be terrific to have in group. Eventually we settled on the line-up.

A wonderful thing about the band, for me, is the people it includes from four different decades. Roger Frampton and Mike Bukovsky, I've known since the late sixties and of course Bernie McGann and Bob Bertles I'd known since I began in the fifties, so there was like a twelve to thirteen year gap between meeting those guys. Then I met Ken James in 1974 when we played with Judy Bailey and I met Steve Elphick in 1978. From the eighties there were the other people I asked to join, - Warwick Alder, Sandy Evans and James Greening. James was still in the Con [Sydney Conservatorium of Music] at that time and nobody had ever heard about him.

AAJ: People often say about Ten Part that the generations within it make it vibrant.

JP: Yeah, well we had people from four decades there. And the great thing is that just about everyone is a band leader. But the funny thing is that it just worked. We just put these people together and there were no egos in there although everyone thought there would be. From the very first - it was even stated in reviews of the band - everyone thought it would be a problem... and it was quite the opposite. In fact it went on for fourteen years without a change until Roger [Frampton, pianist and composer] died and then a couple of years later Bernie retired from the band.

AAJ: So when a situation like that happens and you've got a group that's been working together for so long and somebody leaves, how do you choose someone new?

JP: [shrugs] Well, I suppose when the time comes you think about it. So I had to think carefully about piano players who were around when Roger died. The music written for this band is not simple music so if the piano player is not available then I just say we can't do that date. All the other parts are difficult too, of course. I mean, Andrew Robson came into the band and he says that Ten Part's been an inspiration for him through the years. He had the music, I told him what to look at and he came into a rehearsal... I mean he's a wonderful musician and he was saying "I didn't think it was this hard!" so there you go. And I think there's a lot of depth in those charts and there's a lot of knowledge required...

All the band members have had a career over the general jazz spectrum and I think everyone's played some experimental music ... they're people who love a challenge and there is a lot of adventure in this music and conversational things happening. I think that's been the secret of why Ten Part Invention works. The older guys have been really interested to hear fresh and new ideas and the other ones, the younger ones, really grab the opportunity to learn from the experienced players. So we've just all grown together over the last eighteen years now.

AAJ: This idea of a ten piece ensemble playing original music was new in Australia at that time ... was it a risk for the Adelaide festival to give you a go back in 1986? Were people hesitant?

JP: [laughs] Well no, we found a way to make the whole thing financially viable. They had a jazz programme that went every night for a couple of hours in the Fringe Club. What I did was form the band and then also worked with all the small configurations we could from the line-up. We went on as the Roger Frampton Trio and then we went on as Bernie McGann Quartet and the next night we had Warwick Alder and Bob Bertles and we were the Bob Bertles Quintet, then we had the Mike Bukovsky Quartet and of course The Last Straw...

I had this all tee'd up in mid-1985 and it was just a matter of the festival coming up with the money at the last minute. Steele had to come up with about 17,000 dollars at that time to actually get us over there, put us up and pay us for the time there. The guys wrote the arrangements for a ridiculously low amount of money and the festival to agreed to pay for the first ten pieces in the book - which is how we got the basic book together. We rehearsed in the couple of months beforehand and then we went to Adelaide. Each night we played in the different configurations but during the day we were getting on the back of a truck and going out to some school because everyone wanted to rehearse, and Roger [Frampton] would be running into rehearsals with the ink still wet... Roger had written five pieces, I think and Mike [Bukovsky] wrote four and Sandy [Evans] wrote one. We went to Adelaide and near the end of the festival we launched Ten Part Invention - the world premiere.

AAJ: What was the response?

JP: Yeah, it was great! I was surprised that the original pieces went down so well, but we were quite adamant after that that we only wanted to play original music.

AAJ: Why were you surprised?

JP: At that time, people weren't really performing original pieces, except a piece here and a piece there. That's where I think Ten Part Invention helped to change things. We came on and played programmes of all originals even though plenty of times people who were running things said 'Oh if you play original pieces people won't come'. It was just because they didn't think the music was going to be any good. And even though I knew our originals were great, I still wasn't sure how they would be received. But people were really enthusiastic about the originals we played so we were really enthusiastic about playing them.

I'd grown up listening to the dance bands and jazz - my mother was a jazz fan so I'd listened to Tommy Dorsey and Artie Shaw and of course the Glenn Miller Band. And people just wouldn't let it die. Particularly in the eighties, every time you got in the lift, or anywhere, you'd hear Glenn Miller [hums a bar of 'American Patrol'] and it got to where I thought I'd go mad if I heard another Glenn Miller song. I did a flyer at one time for the band. I wrote 'All Original Compositions' and in brackets '(absolutely nothing by Glenn Miller)'. I wasn't putting Glenn Miller down but I was aiming that comment at people who were trying to hang onto their youth or something. Even now, a lot of the big bands play those tunes... Why? That's sixty years ago, let's move on!

AAJ: Maybe there's a perception that that's what audiences want?

JP: [grimacing] Yeah, well there you go. And back then when we played original material I thought 'I'm not sure if they'll want this', but it didn't stop me. I haven't ever been in the habit of playing music because I think it's what people want!

AAJ: And Ten Part Invention is still going strong, nearly twenty years later.

JP: It's a long life for a band and I have to say it's been made possible with assistance from the Australia Council for a lot of it. I must give them credit. The Australia Council have been very helpful over the years at various times. I think the band itself has been inspirational to a lot of music students - Andrew Robson was one of them. It has inspired a lot of the younger musicians to write and perform their own material and I think it must also inspire young musicians to be better instrumentalists from watching the wonderful soloists that are featured in this band.

'This uniquely Australian music is modern Jazz of the very highest quality, able to strut the world's stages with the best that the artform can offer. U.S. writer, Whitney Balliett once called Jazz "the sound of surprise". This extremely gifted ensemble personifies it - in its case TPI also stands for Totally and Positively Incredible!" ~ Ron Morey (JazzReview - UK)

Ten Part Invention is: John Pochée (drums, leader), Paul McNamara (piano), Miroslav 'Mike' Bukovsky (trumpet, flugelhorn), Warwick Alder (trumpet), James Greening (trombone), Bernie McGann (alto saxophone), Bob Bertles (baritone saxophone), Sandy Evans (tenor saxophone, flute, wooden flute), Ken James (tenor, soprano saxophones). On this tour, the band's regular bassist Steve Elphick is being replaced by Steve Arie

Ten Part Invention Dates in the USA

2 September - John F Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts

4 September - (Small Group) Chicago Jazz Festival

5 September - Chicago Jazz Festival

5 Septermber - Chicago, Hot House

7 September - Iowa University

9 September - Eastern Illinois University

10 September - University of Illinois (Masterclass)


Ten Part Invention website - www.tenpartinvention.com
Ten Part Invention plays at Chicago Jazz Festival on in early September 2004 - www.jazzinstituteofchicago.org/jazzfest/26thfest.htm

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2004 Freedman Fellowship

James Muller was honoured with the Freedman Fellowship for Jazz this year. Onya James! The final stage of judging the Freedman is a live concert at the Studio at the Sydney Opera House. This year, punters in the Studio were treated to a concert featuring wonderful music from a range of ensembles:

James Muller (guitar, Sydney), The James Muller Trio, including Felix Bloxsom on drums and Phil Stack on bass.

Adam Simmons (saxophone, Melbourne), Adam Simmons Creative Music Ensemble including, Evan Mannell on drums, Andrew Ogburn on piano, Steve Elphick on bass, James Greening, trombone, Phil Slater and Simon Ferenci on trumpets, Stuart Vandergraaff and Ben Savage on saxophones.

Gian Slater (vocals, Melbourne) Gian Slater Trio, including Andrea Keller on piano and Steve Elphick on bass.

David Theak (saxophone, Sydney), theak-tet, including Matt McMahon on piano, Craig Simon on drums and Phil Stack on bass.

I spoke to Dale Barlow, one of the judges this year: "James was so deserving but the final decision was difficult." Barlow has, since the beginning been behind the push to ensure that the live concert remains an important part of the assessment. "After all," he says "Jazz is a live artform - the concert is so important."

Another key component of the judging is the proposal that participants present for what they plan to do with the fellowship: From the MCA Freedman Fellowship website: "With his Freedman Fellowship, James [Muller] intends to record, manufacture and promote a new CD featuring both his current Australian trio (James Muller - Guitar, Brett Hirst - bass, Felix Bloxsom - drums) and a New York based rhythm section (drummer Adam Nussbaum and bassist Matt Penman). This involves initially recording several of his original compositions in Sydney, then travelling to New York to record further original work. Both recordings will then be mastered and produced in Sydney."

MCA Freedman Fellowship website- www.mca.org.au/freedman.htm

James Muller's website - www.jamesmuller.com

Umbria Jazz va in Melbourne

Yep - this probably isn't the first place you've read this news but I had to mention it too. Carlo Pagnotto, director of Umbria Jazz, has been retained by the Melbourne International Jazz Festival (MIJF) and is also participating on the panel of the Bell National Jazz Awards announced on 25 August. Pagnotto sees this as an important foray for Umbria Jazz into the South East Asian region as well as taking the MIJF to another plane. In his words - "Everybody benefits."

Locals seem to be of one voice in applauding the appointment. The last couple of years have seen the MIJF go from strength to strength, after a period when its continued existence was in doubt. 2004 saw a great program, overseen by Adrian Jackson who has stepped aside from MIJF duties (with some relief) to concentrate his Artistic Director efforts completely on the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz, which is widely seen as Australia's most important jazz festival.

Pagnotto's contacts will no doubt see an increase in the number of international acts that visit and we wait with bated breath to see how the 2005 MIJF sounds.

For press releases and local press about the appointment, see the Melbourne International Jazz Festival website - www.mijf.org

To read the AAJ (Italy) article (in Italian) - www.allaboutjazz.com/italy/articles/news0804_010_it.htm

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And speaking of Wangaratta...

The program for the 2004 TAC Wangaratta Festival of Jazz was announced this month and is available on their website www.wangaratta-jazz.org.au

The National Jazz Awards, held each year at the festival, feature the drums this year - for only the second time in its fourteen year history.

And for those not 'in the know' - the tac in the festival's name is Transport Accident Commission in Victoria who are once again proud sponsors of the festival. The TAC slogan "If you drink, then drive, you're a bloody idiot" is the central message in their campaign to raise the issue of drink driving as a community issue in the Wangaratta region (as well as everywhere else in the state). TAC sponsorship of the festival has been a great success by all accounts with just one driver booked for drink driving in the festival's history. Just as well they don't book us for 'drink listening'!


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Reviews by Adrian Jackson

Adrian Jackson is a well-known Australian jazz writer and the Director of the award-winning TAC Wangaratta Festival of Jazz. All of Adrian Jackson's reviews that appear in this column were originally published in The Bulletin www.ninemsn.com.au/bulletin and are reprinted here with their kind permission

Joe Chindamo - Paradiso : The Joy Of Film Music (Newmarket)

Pianist Joe Chindamo takes obvious delight in rearranging familiar melodies; in fact, 'reinventing' might be a better word for it. He has done albums devoted to the songs of Burt Bacharach and Paul Simon, and here he applies himself to songs written for film scores. Some are totally recast, such as "The Pink Panther", which here becomes a dramatic, affectionately humourous tango. Others sounds surprising because they are taken out of context, like the James Bond theme, or Ennio Morricone's "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly"; Chindamo may well be the first to adapt it for piano. Yet others remain quite faithful to the original, in spirit if not instrumentation, such as the yearningly beautiful "'Cinema Paradiso Medley". He may be a virtuosic pianist, but Chindamo often expresses himself here on accordion, and also gives plenty of space to Geoff Hughes' guitar and Nigel McLean's violin.

Aaron Choulai - Place (Move)

Young Melbourne pianist Aaron Choulai released an impressive indie album of original compositions with his sextet, Vada, a couple of years ago. His first CD under his own name finds him in the big league. Recorded last year in New York (for the French label, Sunnyside, but released here on Move), it teams him with experienced US trumpeter Scott Wendholt and saxophonist Tim Ries, plus Dave Douglas' rhythm section, bassist James Genus and drummer Clarence Penn. Inevitably, the album has a New York sound, and listeners will hear echoes of jazz heroes like Miles Davis or Dave Douglas. But Choulai's compositions stand up as attractive vehicles that can establish a mood, and encourage the soloists to produce strong statements. Choulai is not a flamboyant pianist, but his solos here are consistently thoughtful, and germane to the theme at hand.

Paul Grabowsky - Tales Of Time And Space (Warner Music)

Melbourne pianist-composer Paul Grabowsky established his international credentials back in 1990, when he recorded in New York with jazz heavyweights, Dewey Redman and Paul Motian. Grabowsky renewed his US 'jazz visa' last year, when he took trumpeter Scott Tinkler to the Big Apple to record with saxophonists Branford Marsalis and Joe Lovano, drummer Jeff 'Tain' Watts and bassist Ed Schuller. Lovano and Marsalis alternate from track to track, and to a large extent, their contributions mirror Grabowsky's own work as soloist and composer. Marsalis' soprano sax is all quick thinking and fleet fingers, ideas flowing from the horn in rapid succession. Lovano's tenor, on the other hand, invests an elegant, smoky lyricism in melodies like "Angel" or "Rhyme And Reason". Brilliantly as the pianist plays on the up-tempo numbers, it's the understated elegance of his approach on the ballads that lingers in the memory. Tinkler excels too, his work often edgy, yet sharply focussed.

Keith Hounslow & Tony Gould - McJAD Goes Organic (Move)

In the late '70s and early '80s, trumpeter Keith Hounslow and pianist Tony Gould formed the Melbourne Contemporary Jazz Art Duo (or less loftily, McJAD), playing spontaneous improvisations in a style inspired by Keith Jarrett's solo concerts. They made two LPs, Introducing McJAD and Miniatures, both reissued here on one disc. The extended performances on the first LP and the more concise forays on the second confirm Hounslow as one of the greats of Australian jazz : he displays a truly personal sound and approach, and a rare gift for melodic invention. Gould is ever tasteful and creative as his foil. The other disc, from a reunion recording session in 2000, finds Gould playing pipe organ for the first time, with surprising success. Most of the music is created on-the-spot, at times recapturing the old magic ; they finish with a few standards, including "Basin Street Blues".

Los Cabrones - Los Cabrones (Jazzhead)

Drop into The Night Cat in Fitzroy late on a Sunday night, and you might find the dancefloor jam packed as the Cabrones pump out their high-energy latin jazz (they prefer to call it 'Afro-Cuban jazz'). The 15-piece outfit has been keeping dancers moving and listeners impressed for some seven years now. Their long-overdue debut album does a good job of capturing their vibrant sound. The opener, "Mucho Muncho", boasts an irresistible blend of swaying pulse, insistent percussion and fiery, urgent solos from saxophonists Ian Chaplin and Kate McKibbin, trombonist Jordan Murray and guitarist Crag Fermanis, all spurred on by jubilant riffing from the horn section. It's not all Afro-Cuban ; "Psycho Cabron", for example, is soul-jazz territory, with Sam Keevers getting funky on the electric piano. The final two tracks are dance remixes that I could live without; but the rest of the album is the next best thing to hearing the Cabrones live.

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