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When a cat is dropped, it always lands on its feet, and when toast is dropped, it always lands with the buttered side facing down. I propose to strap buttered toast to the back of a cat; the two will hover, spinning inches above the ground. With a giant buttered-cat array, a high-speed monorail could easily link Melbourne with Sydney. "Good Science"
Well! A long break from writing though fortunately not from having a great time! There is a group in the UK, I think, called "Scientists for Having a Good Time", or words to that effect. Their premise is that the benefits to your immune system from hanging loose outweigh any possible ill effects from the over-indulgence that said good time might precipitate. Where do I join! Look out for surreptitious health messages sprinkled throughout this year's missives.
So to the great wines of the holiday period. Skip this segment if you are prone to jealousy or spleen-venting; it's not good for your health.
1977 Wirra Wirra Church Block Shiraz-Grenache. Like some of us, it should have been over the hill - but defied the odds. Ultra-smooth with still-discernible fruit.
1990 Grant Burge Meschach. Biblical in name, a bit of devil on the palate.
1990 Dom Perignon. Ho-hum, not a bad everyday bubbly, I suppose.
1988, 1991 Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet. Rarely fails to age well.
Disappointment of the holidays:
1990 Oakridge Yarra Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Light fruit, undistinguished despite its rave reviews upon release.
The "Lucas Michaledis Quintet" at Bennetts Lane (12/1) produced a most enjoyable couple of sets, comprising Lucas (guitar), Lachlin Davidson (woodwinds), Craig Beard (vibes), Ivan Rosa (bass), Greg Ryan (drums).
"The Sedergreen Family", connected in part by genes and part by membership of Bob Sedergreen's self-proclaimed jazz family. I guess if anyone has earned the right to be head of this family in Victoria it's Bob. A tireless supporter of young jazz musicians, he usually subjugates his considerable talents in order to highlight the emerging talents of the younger generation. Father Bob (keyboards and piano), son Steve (keyboards and piano), son Mal (alto and tenor sax), Toby Mak (trumpet), Peter Ayliffe (the only drum kit I've seen made from jarrah), Glen Cannon (guitar), and Jackie Gaudion (vocals) comprise The Sedergreen Family. They produced a pleasing blend of mostly original tunes, pitched in a style not too demanding for jazz neophytes, some emanating from the spinoff group "Mistaken Identity" in which Steve, Mal and Toby play. The setting, at the Eyton-on-Yarra vineyard (near Healesville) is idyllic, with its mini Myer Music Bowl sound stage surrounded by grassed amphitheatre. Watching the sun set over the sound shell, picnicking on the grass, wine, company, good music - must surely add years to your life! The next event in this Eyton series "My Friend The Chocolate Cake" is already sold out, as these events become increasingly well-known.
"The Mighty Reapers" at The Continental (28/1) are from Sydney and have an enviable reputation throughout Australia, and once again provided a "groove to lean on". Their music is mostly self-penned - a sophisticated amalgam of jazz-tinged blues with a funk emphasis. Singer/mouth harp player Robert Susz, despite a gammy leg that precluded his now-expected pirouettes, was in sparkling form as the band worked their way through a terrific playlist. Guitarist (Dave Brewer, also of "the catholics") was also in fine touch on the Fender Stratocaster, producing an engaging blend of rhythm and lead styles. Irresistible rhythms for a cheerful crowd of aficionados at The Conti.
"Snag" at Bennetts (21/1) - a hybrid band: Julien Wilson (Oz, tenor sax), Bjorn Meyer (Sweden, bass), Sergio Beresovsky (Argentina, drums), and Steve Magnusson (Oz, latterly Switzerland, guitar). The band provides a challenging listen - a wide range of styles as one would expect from such diverse influences. Successive tunes may involve straight-ahead jazz, bebop, South American rhythms, or Eastern European folk tunes. Great collaboration from a group whose members have not played regularly together. "Lithe and tempestuous … wonderfully fluid" gushed one reviewer of their recent CD "Hey, Guess What?"
The Diana Clark Quartet (29/1), a young group of relatively recent VCA graduates, produced an interesting if somewhat mixed bag at Bennetts Lane recently. The supporting trio of Will Poskitt (piano), Mark Shepherd (bass), and Will Guthrie (drums) provided a sympathetic and enticing sound for Diana to expand upon. Will, the drummer, won the 1997 Wangaratta Jazz drum competition, and has always impressed me. One characteristic, now markedly reduced, was a stiffness in his posture that gave the impression, if not the actuality, that he was unduly restrained in his approach. He now appears much looser and looks more comfortable at his kit. His playing was thoughtful, and sympathetic to the vocalist. Will, the pianist, is considered an up-and-comer - and his work was very satisfying, being of the more lyrical, romantic style - well suited to supporting vocalists. Diana is also young and has several pleasing features that suggest she may progress as a jazz singer. She appears confident, and has power and good pitch. Her voice is a little variable in quality, perhaps due to her rather shallow breathing technique, and to incompletely developed control. She is inclined to overuse her power, and the shift from restrained and smooth voicing to "belting it out" can be disturbingly abrupt. Diana's gestures are also a distraction, appearing choreographed and unconvincing. A welcome feature of the performance involved her collaborations with piano in duet format, and also a brief Brazilian 3 tune set with master guitarist, Doug DeVries.
Upcoming events include: New York tenor player, Chris Potter (Victoria Hotel, 4/2); The Amazing Rhythm Aces (Continental, 12/2), My Friend The Chocolate Cake (Eyton, 14/2); Barney McAll (Bennetts, 16/2); Billy Cobham and Randy Brecker (Continental, 25, 26/2). Also of possible interest the Yarra Glen Wine and Jazz Festival (Yarra Glen racecourse, Sun Feb 21 or 28), and of course, Grape Grazing in March.
A new Melbourne jazz venue commencing in February sounds interesting. Manchester House is in Flinders Lane, down from Swanston, has a capacity of 200 and offers a grand piano, bar and table service. At Last, a possible replacement for the late lamented Jazz Lane.
Previous gems from the pen of your correspondent may be read again at any time on my webpage, the address of which is below.
THE WINE AND JAZZ APPRECIATION SOCIETY NEWS, VOL 5, NO 2, 12/2/99
"I worry that the person who thought up Muzak may be thinking up something else." Lily Tomlin
The Anton Delecca Quartet (Bennetts, 11/2) was late in beginning because their bassist (Matt Clohessy) was delayed at another gig. An interesting player with an "otherworldness" about him; he doesn't hug his bass, he plays it as you would dance with a bosomy great-aunt - politely, but at a distance. He occasionally looks at his fingers, but mostly concentrates upon his charts. This seems a little odd as he is a fine player, invariantly accurate in his timing, and interesting as a soloist when offered the opportunity. His cohort in rhythm, Tony Floyd, has become less flamboyant with his tongue-extrusions and seemingly more confident in keeping up with the musicians. His playing is not assertive, but is always complementary to the band's direction.
Mark Fitzgibbon has long been recognised by his peers as a fine pianist, but until recently he has avoided the exposure of his own trio format. As on most occasions when he appears in other's bands, he is understated and musically self-effacing - a characteristic that always leaves me wishing he would extend his solos somewhat. In listening to his deft playing, one can imagine the effects of being raised in such an intensely musical household and the influence his famous forebear, Smacka Fitzgibbon, must have exerted.
Anton (tenor and soprano sax) led the band through a varied and well constructed playlist of mostly original numbers. Very enjoyable, and worth another look (at Bennetts again 18/2, 25/2).
Finally, a decent wine available at Bennetts Lane - Annies Lane Cabernet (Lane, coincidence, or marketing ploy?). Fine and underpriced wines are those of the former Quelltaler vineyard - I've enjoyed the Shiraz and the Riesling, and don't expect the current low prices to be maintained.
Some lists of wine and music from 1998:
PENGUIN GOOD AUSTRALIAN WINE GUIDE AWARDS
Penguin Wine Of the Year & Best Bargain White Lindemans Bin 65 Chardonnay 1998
Best White Wine & Best Chardonnay Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 1995
Best Red Wine Cullen Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 1996
Best Sparkling Wine Scarpentoni Black Tempest
Best Cabernet Sauvignon Katnook Estate 1996
Best Shiraz Waterwheel 1996
Best Pinot Noir Seppelt Sunday Creek Pinot Noir 1997
Best Red Blend/Variety d'Arenberg The Custodian Grenache 1996
Best Riesling Crabtree Watervale 1997
Best Semillon McWilliams Mount Pleasant Elizabeth 1993
Best White Blend/Other Variety Chapel Hill Verdelho 1997
Best Sweet Wine Miranda Goldern Botrytis 1995
Best Bubbly Hardys Omni NV
Best Bargain Red Ingoldby Cabernet Sauvignon 1996
AUSTRALIAN LIQUOR INDUSTRY AWARDS
White Wine Commercial Winner Houghton's White Burgundy
Also recommended: Rosemount Estate Chardonnay, Brown Brothers Crouchen Riesling Moselle, Cockatoo Ridge Chardonnay.
White Wine - Premium Winner Rosemount Reserve Chardonnay
Also recommended: Petaluma Rhine Riesling, Goundrey Unwooded Chardonnay, Peter Lehmann Semillon
Red Wine - Commercial Winner Lindemans Cawarra Shiraz Cabernet
Also recommended: Hardys Insignia Cabernet Shiraz, Wolf Blass Yellow Label Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon, Penfolds Rawsons Retreat Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz,
Red Wine - Premium Winner Penfolds Cabernet Shiraz Bin 389
Also recommended: Wirra Wirra Church Block, Henschke Mount Edelstone, Penfolds Cabernet Sauvignon Bin 407
Sparkling Wine Winner Hardy's Omni NV
Also recommended: Domaine Chandon Brut, Killawarra Brut NV, Andrew Garrett Pinot Noir NV
Dessert Wine Winner De Bortoli Noble One
Imported Wine Winner Donelli Lambrusco
Also recommended: Riccadonna Asti Spumante NV, Moet & Chandon NV
Best Marketed Wine Winner Banrock Station Shiraz Cabernet & Semillon Chardonnay
Also recommended: Blues Point Brut Reserve NV, Rosemount Estate Chardonnay, Montrose Poets Corner Classic Dry Red, Hardy's Omni NV, Seaview Glass Mountain Classic Brut NV & Classic Dry White
THE AGE GOOD LIVING UNCORKED AWARDS
Best Sparkling Wine Clover Hill 1995
Best White Wine Coldstream Hills Reserve Chardonnay 1997
Best Red Wine McWilliams Barwang Cabernet Sauvignon 1996
Best Sweet White Wine De Bortoli Noble One 1995
Best Bargain Sparkling Killawarra Premier Brut 1995
Best Bargain Red Rosemount Shiraz Cabernet 1998
Best Bargain Sweet White Yalumba Botrytis Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 1997
1999 GRAMMY NOMINEES
Best Contemporary Jazz Performance George Duke - After Hours; Pat Metheny Group - Imaginary Day; Marcus Miller - Live & More; Yellowjackets - Club Nocturne; Joe Zawinul & The Zawinul Syndicate - World Tour
Best Contemporary Blues Album Marcia Ball, Irma Thomas & Tracy Nelson - Sing It!; Buddy Guy - Heavy Love; Etta James - Life, Love & The Blues; Keb' Mo' - Slow Down; B.B. King - Deuces Wild
Best New Age Album Will Ackerman - Sound Of Wind Driven Rain; Clannad - Landmarks; Alex Degrassi - Water Garden; Kitaro - Gaia; John Tesh - Grand Passion
THE WINE AND JAZZ APPRECIATION SOCIETY NEWS, VOL 5, NO 3, 17/2/99
The earth may spin faster on its axis due to deforestation. Just as a figure skater's rate of spin increases when the arms are brought in close to the body, the cutting of tall trees may cause our planet to spin dangerously fast. Good Science
The rarely sighted band My Friend the Chocolate Cake appeared at Eyton-On-Yarra as predicted. Great outdoor venue, fantastic summer evening, pretty good sound, enthusiastic large crowd on rugs and chairs - saw most people glad they came - though some were bemused by the musical style and instrumentation employed by the group. As they perform so rarely these days, the tunes chosen for the set were pretty much as expected, but well played nevertheless, belying a probable minimum of rehearsal. New chum, Dean Addison on bass, known for his band The Hidden Charms, had no difficulty adapting as one might expect of an accomplished jazz player.
An odd feeling to return to what was a favourite haunt in the early Eighties - The Troubadour. A predecessor of The Continental, it was a music venue cum restaurant (of sorts) that enabled the visits of many fine artists to our shores. It was able to present them in the relaxed setting of the restaurant, rather than in the sober formality of the Town Hall, Dallas Brooks, or Athenaeum Hall - the major venues at that time. The Troubadour had a fiery demise in the late Eighties, and a Twentieth Anniversary Festival was held Last year at Kyneton, as described in these pages.
Now known as The Planet Café (Brunswick St), this upstairs venue now looks smaller than I recall it, and has even more of a Seventies flavour than it did originally. Ultra-violet fluoros ignite garish fluorescent-paint murals around the room, whilst candles in glass vases provide the incandescent illumination. The carpets are impossibly dirty - I suspect they were salvaged from that quintessential bloodhouse, The Corner Hotel in Richmond, when it went upmarket.
A goodly crowd for a double-header session. Tuesday nights are devoted to sort-of experimental, free-form styles of jazz - terms that normally evoke in me that avoid-at-all-costs feeling. Tonight, the farewell of a group recently reviewed here, SNAG, about to embark for a Swiss tour. Rather confronting, all original tunes, shades of Ornette Coleman, lots of arpeggios and impassioned tenor sax wails, a superb 6 string electric-bass solo. An aural work-out in two parts. Sandwiched was the Will Guthrie-Ren Walters duo - playing, you guessed it, sort-of experimental, free-form styles of jazz. Hooly Dooly! Ren appears obsessed with how many weird and tortured sounds he can induce his space-age signal processor to add to the natural tones of plucked guitar strings. Apart from the cacophony, I find his continuous attentional focus on the foot-pedals to be distracting and overly distancing of the musician from his audience. Will hit everything in reach to support and provoke Ren's playing, and even the sound of the balls on the back-of-room pool table added to the percussion. Two numbers (I think) they played.
The long-awaited multi-media release of the Hoodangas' new CD Astronaughty will occur at The Royal Derby (Brunswick St) on March 3. Visiting US drummer Billy Cobham and tenor player, Randy Brecker will appear at The Continental 25/2.
THE WINE AND JAZZ APPRECIATION SOCIETY NEWS, VOL 5, NO 4, 24/2/99
If an infinite number of hoons riding in an infinite number of utes fire an infinite number of shotgun rounds at an infinite number of highway signs, they will eventually produce all the worlds great literary works in Braille. Good Science.
I Last saw The Amazing Rhythm Aces at the Corner Hotel in Richmond in January 96. Prior to that I saw this group on their first tour in 1980 at The Palais, and have been a fan since the early 1970’s. They are a very special band, playing a sophisticated blend of country, jazz, and blues. The ARA re-formed after a hiatus of fifteen years yet their music remains fresh - they are not living in the past as are some touring names - their tunes continue to be written at a productive rate, and maintain a high standard. The good crowd at The Continental appeared to be around my vintage and represented the strong following this band has always received in Australia - their popularity here always exceeded their success at home in the US. As at The Palais years earlier, it was evident at The Corner that yes they could play brilliantly, but sadly the event was compromised by the generally excreble sound-mix. I had assumed on each occasion that the local sound mixers were to blame - the sound was a typical loud rock & roll mix; in essence it meant that bass tones were over-amplified (to the point of abdominal assault), and Russell Smith's wonderful voice was submerged in the resulting aural soup. Surely, at The Continental (renowned for its crisp sound) we would hear the group's subtlety, harmonies, vocal light and shade, and great lyrics. Bugger me! Now I realise it’s the band that is responsible for this awful sonic travesty - I assume that they want to be rock'n'roll heroes when playing live. The same overly loud, restricted dynamic range, shouted vocals, thumping bass. Then, just when I was promising never-again, they dropped into a sensitive, quiet, beautifully modulated piece in which the instruments were individually discernible, and Russell's singing was clear and compelling. Like a golfer who keeps coming back because of the one good shot in their round, so The Amazing Rhythm Aces left me wondering if I could bring myself to again pay for dross in the hope of the occasional gem. Listening to one of their marvellous CD's in the car on the way home left a feeling of a missed opportunity - what could have been.
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