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Brisbane International Jazz Festival 2015

Ian Patterson By

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A recording of the music—completed a day before its live premiere—was made with support from the ANZAC Centenary Fund, which must have influenced the approach taken to the writing. As Karlen later explained, the musicians had no desire to glorify war and so opted instead to humanize the soldiers who lost their lives or were injured. To this end, the musicians researched State archives housing letters, journals and postcards written by the soldiers and their families, and translated the themes of fear, hope, separation and loss into new music.

Berardi's gently lilting wordless vocal was the centrepiece of the plaintive opening number, a song inspired by the fact that the Australian government of the day paid compensation to parents for sons lost in the conflict but not for daughters lost, most of whom worked as nurses aboard hospital ships -some perishing in torpedo attacks.

Arresting was the unison vocal and saxophone intro to "I Picture You," a song whose yearning lyricism was punctuated by Foran's searching solo. Likewise, the bare bones architecture of "Broken Landscape" stemmed from Baradi and Karlen's ethereal melodic lines, though this delicate lament was most emotive when all three voices intertwined. Percussionist John Parker brought patches of rhythmic impetus to a couple of tunes on cajon, buoying Karlen's ruminative tenor exploration on the first, and lending deft brushes to the delightfully mellifluous latter tune.

A darker hued song of sombre lyric and melancholy delivery altered the atmosphere significantly. The striking "For How Long?," which ebbed and flowed, brought Foran and Karlen together in animated dialog—with Parker on frame drum—and concluded with Baradi's improvisation riding the music's waves.

The music was perhaps a little one-dimensional dynamically, though the time limits of the set meant the trio couldn't perform the entire album, which may have made a difference. Still, the lyricism, emotive content and refined interplay in the performance suggested that Beradi, Foran and Karlen's forthcoming album will be worth checking out.

Tod Gustavsen Quartet

Tord Gustavsen has been a prominent jazz figure on the global stage since Changing Places (ECM 2003) announced the arrival of a significant new voice. It's a voice that has grown with each subsequent release, (six in total for ECM) arguably positioning Gustavsen as the most influential European jazz pianist since Esbjorn Svensson.

For this Brisbane performance, Gustavsen presented music from across his career, with new music thrown into the mix. The set began with two compositions from Restored, Returned (ECM, 2009): "The Child Within" saw impressionistic piano—rumbling low end and icy high end simultaneously—gave way to Tore Brunborg's introspective soprano melody; seamlessly, the quartet gravitated into "The Gaze," a brooding Middle Eastern slow burner where damped piano strings combined with Sigurd Hole's arco and Jarle Vespestad's simmering percussion to underpin Brunborg's coiled tenor lines.

"Right There"—one of few tracks from Gutavsen's most recent recording, Extended Circle (ECM, 2014)—morphed from blues-tinged folksy balladry into a rhythmically cantering Arabesque exploration with Brunborg's assertive tenor lines to the fore. The up-beat "Draw Near" featured a patiently constructed Gustavsen solo that, once in full flow, brimmed with gospel blues. "That was the closest I've ever come to playing a happy song," quipped the pianist before presenting a mellifluous new composition that housed Gustavsen's trademark lyricism, space and subtle group dynamics, framing Hole's achingly beautiful bass solo to perfection.

"Devotion," originally written as a mass for a choir, juxtaposed hymnal lyricism and moody gravitas. Tinkling piano motifs of an Eastern hue, gravely yearning saxophone, deep arco drone and rumbling mallets gathered like storm clouds before Gustavsen, accompanied by bass and brushes, teased out a delicate blues hymn.

The traditional Norwegian hymn "Eg Veit I Himmerik Ei Borg (I Know a Castle in Heaven")" picked up where "Devotion" left off, with Brunborg leading a majestic Coltranesque incantation of collective intensity. A standing ovation greeted the quartet, who encored with "On Every Corner"; Brunborg and Gustavsen were at their seductive best on this bewitchingly melancholic ballad.

There was a late-night gig and jam session on at Papa Jack's in Fortitude Valley, but after such a spellbinding concert as that given by the Tord Gustavsen Quartet, going on to something else seemed somehow superfluous.

Day Four

Saturday got under way with The Enthusiastic Musician's Orchestra at the Queens Street Mall. This was effectively a warm-up gig for its headlining slot the following evening. It was only possible to snatch a little of EMO's gig before heading off to the Queensland Multicultural Centre to catch an early afternoon gig.

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