Jam Session: A Contemplative Effort

Or whatever. Sunday rolled around, yet again, and a motley crew of musicians fronted for a bit of ballad mangling on a variety of instruments. Around 20 musos, and, for a change, singers, most of whom did Summertime.

As jam sessions go, this one had its moments, nothing got broken, and nobody died. Several perpetrators tried music, either in concert with the saxophones, or fighting over the top of the massed ranks.

The Captain was inclined to let them go. We tried Monk tunes, swing tunes, the blues, the beer and the bossa – it wasn’t pretty but it was entertaining. One of the joys of a jam session is to see musos playing together – although there may have been occasions when it became a bit of a competition – Satin Doll played in Dm from the lead instrument, whilst Am from everyone else simultaneously may not have been the pinnacle moment. As none of us were listening, it didn’t matter a bit.

Stick to the inherently lower cost black notes. See ya Sunday?
TW

Carruthers thinks it is too quiet…

And he don’t like it when the natives get restless. Interesting session at the Gold Street Gossip Shop last Sunday – around 20 musos turned up, gentle ballad mangling was the order of the day, and a rather pleasant afternoon ensued. Col T of the Fourth Punjab Light Horse (retd) was in particularly good form – he even sat out for a while – probably needed a break from piano to recover, but it is reassuring to know that every key on the Roland works.

Yet again, Ponytail Pete (bass) held the rhythm section together, and Neil (guitar), back from a good night at the Royal Standard Hotel (see below) added a touch of class. A couple of new guitarists turned up at Col T’s suggestion and acquitted themselves well.

In the middle of which, Kevin Blaze turned up and didn’t play, whilst Ann Craig (flute) turned up and did… to a standard which encouraged others to join in, whether they had something to offer or not.

Drummers, saxophones, guitarists aplenty made for a cheerful cacophony, but singers were in short supply. The natives may be out in force this Sunday. And will you be scoffing phat chips, taking some social lubricant as a light refreshment, before hauling some tired old bebop tune into the 21st Century.?

Ya wouldn’t be dead fer quids. See ya Sunday
TW

Jammers attempt music. Not too much audience consternation

Music! Good theoretical concept and as no-one realised this was being attempted, no real harm done.

At least I got there on time, to find Ponytail Pete bassing up a storm, Michael Happysnaps Findlay hitting things in the corner, Glen putting free munchies on the Bar which we ate whilst encouraging the usual flock of self entitled saxophonists to play some more…

Sadly, I had to leave somewhat early, so I missed Kay (piano) Susy V and La Smiff singing, probably missed the usual clear concise and contradictory instructions from Col T as to how each piece should be played, and left the jam to Captain Chaos’ tender mercies.
TW

Jam Session goes well

But we are working on it. This was a medium to heavy session, with a large group of musicians from WA, none of whom got up and played. Possibly didn’t realise we were playing music.

Jeff, sax, gets better and better, Will is starting to sound a lot more fluent, and the rest of us (Peter G, Cathy, Kay and meself on piano, Michael F on drums, Ponytail Pete running hot for a while, Ivan doing abnormal things to an otherwise innocent latin rhythm, Taariq on everything else and Neil (guitar) the pick of them. There were six saxophones there, all put in the shade by Murray’s miniature trumpet. Nice one.

Personal highlight of the arvo was a very nervous Manal getting up and singing with a band for the first time – props to Kevin for guiding her through it, and hopefully she will be back for more.

See ya Sunday?
TW

Back to Normal

It would seem that the jammers have spread themselves all over the state, what with Castlemaine, Merimbula, Mornington and the rest.

So it was with a sense of coming back together that the stalwarts presented for the Gold Street Tea Roomes weekly bash once more.

The afternoon started innocently enough, with young Roger alternately sucking and blowing on his black satin finish medium sized saxophone. He looked positively Adonis like in his bebop with tight jeans. Of course, Adonis has been dead for around 2100 years, so it is not necessarily a good look after all.

Enough of the shenanigans, we all thought, and on with the ballad mangling.

Of which, although numbers were low, there was plenty to be had.

Jeff the pick of the saxes, Chloe and Susie singing, Brian providing a fine take on Georgia, the rest of us just mucking about really. A pleasantly relaxed jam session, nothing got broken, and nobody died.

Spiffin! See ya this week?

TW

Castlemaine done and dusted

The Fourth Annual Castlemaine Jazz Bash went off without a hitch. Several people commented on the generally higher standard of music this year, and at least two of us thought that the Criterion Hotel was the pick of the venues. Certainly heard some good music there.

This year’s Committee had its moments, and by the time the Festival opened there were only four or five of the original 12 members still standing. In the circumstances, a fine effort.

It was great to see the quirky Run Rabbit Run back and packed, the Church hosted some fine music, and the Old Castlemaine Gaol was pumping all weekend. I must confess I ran out of time and didn’t get to Faulder Watson or the Cumberland; and the policy of consolidating the performance spaces rather than using more outlying venues seems to have been well received.

Hetty Kate’s master classes were well attended and the Dinner Dance on Sunday night sold out. Phew!

And the bands? Loved the Jazzsisters, Tim Nelson Band got better and better, Nadira Farid was a smash, Stomperoo was fun, and on a personal note, it was gratifying to see Katerina Myskova and Joys Njambi both play to full houses.

Lots of Jammers played, or volunteered or both. A fun weekend.
TW

The Leinster Jam: One last Hit Out

Wandered into the Gold Street Gossip Shop, to find very little going on. After a suitable period of sitting around the Lunatic Lounge doing nothing, we got up and got started. Many thanks to guitarist Ben for calling Wave, and expecting the piano to play the head, comp the rhythm and throw in the bass line for good measure.

At least things could only get better. They didn’t, and we lurched, staggered, dribbled and fell over any number of jazz standards – 22 desperates in search of the lost chord.

A coupla highlights: Vlad (guitar and purple hat) got a spot at the Royal Standard this week – with Joys’ Castlemaine band; and Banjo Joe, played some neat banjo finger pickin’ style, and then sang in an outrageous falsetto – apart from my just enjoying it, there was the additional amusement of seeing some of the more traditional folks choking on their beer. More please!

Phil contributed a lively set on keys – Dinah, Lulu’s Back in Town, and I think Bill Evans’ Waltz for Debby. for reasons that had escaped me by the time they finished. The six saxes were noisy in a good natured way, and the drummmers were, as ever, immaculately well behaved.

This week’s Jam will be run by pianist and singer Peter Garam. As ever when the more pretentious musos are away, the B team will step up and have a ball.

If you can’t make Castlemaine, the Leinster is a pretty good substitute.

Toodlepip!
TW

On Council Largesse, and why employing musicians is a bad idea…

One of the special joys of inner city living is lying in bed listening to the rumble and clatter of the garbos at about 6 o’clock in the morning.

The other one is getting the rates notice. It is about at this point that you realise you are not just lying in bed listening to the rumble and clatter of the garbos at about 6 o’clock in the morning – you are also paying for it.

And you may console yourself, humble jazz musician, with the thought that at least Councils are major employers of musicians – Stonnington, Yarra, COPP and others all have programmes of jazz, generally free.

We recently carried out a Feasibility Study for an all-day Jazz event in Melbourne. Great site, good location, lots of pluses. We did a survey of live music prices, and similar offerings elsewhere. We looked at higher priced bands as well as a volunteer/low cost model. Whichever way we cooked the books, the proposal would not, could not, stack up.

And the reason? All those “free” concerts, jazz in the park etc. etc., mean that no commercial operator will go near a jazz festival – unless there is a substantial grant of public money. And so we have the edifying spectacle of professional musicians bemoaning the lack of opportunity, whilst complaining about their lack of earnings, and trousering the Council pay that ensures there can be no other commercial opportunities.

Council largesse could kill the music scene.
TW

Where did it go?

My apologies to the avid readers of the Newsletter – it has been a bit thin for a while, and we are deeply appreciative of the continued support of both of you, in the absence of any suitable insult. Bendigo Towers, world headquarters of the Melbourne Jazz Jammers’ flagship organ, is bestirring itself once more, in the hope that we can all get taken over by a hedge fund, or at least employ a gardener.

Jam Session 1.01: start here…

Winter already. Time to burn the furniture, and race to the back bar of the Ludicrous Arms. Some may claim to have been lost, others would have walked into the Leinster under their own steam. Whatever, another pleasantly diversionary jam session was in prospect, with about six saxophones to one of anything else.

As it should be… Yet again, the assembled incognoscenti failed to recognise the full Garrett protocol, which, as an opening gambit, leaves little to be desired, and even less to speculate upon. The good Captain, dispensing with such dreary conventions as following the form, conducted a lively rampage through Morning, or at least parts of it, before L Savage tackled Yesterdays, beating it also to a satisfying pulp. Noel confounded the Captain by playing well in tune; and Paul, Gentleman JC and the troops threatened real music for a while, before descending to the level to which the rest of us aspire.

Several peeps, Chaos one of them, remarked on the lack of competent singers. Others remarked upon the lack of competent anything, and were it not for the fact that we were all having a good time, one might have been tempted to call the whole enterprise something of a schemozzle.

I must own up to staying until less than stumps, pleading exhaustion and a surfeit of pills. A fun afternoon, nothing got broken and nobody died.

And the band played on – ’til well past the hour.
TW

The Jam Sessions: What to expect…

Quite why anyone in their right mind would want to attend a jam session remains a mystery. One day someone sensible will turn up and all will be revealed. No Hortense, that is not what I meant at all…

So supposing you read the ad in Melband, or google “Melbourne jam session”, or take the advice of someone who really doesn’t like you, or get lost on your way to the Municipal Bottle dump in the hope of a windfall, just what could you expect when you stumble through the green door?

Well, musical tragedies, the most appalling racket, and disharmony for a start. And that is just the saxophones warming up in the back room. Despite all this furtive practising, they still manage to come out and play the head approximately three poofteenths of a semitone flat, before launching into a solo which sounds like it is based on the chords for Epistrophy in 5/4 time, but probably isn’t, before playing over the singer, presuming to play the head one last time and then repeating it to make sure no one else gets a go.

But why just bag the saxaphones when there are richer pickings in the Back Bar?

Drummers... We all like the extended drum solos in between every number, and the slap and rattle jockies rarely let us down. The appalling racket ensures that no one can hear what song, key or tempo the singer or soloist might be calling for, and that gives us at least three excuses for getting it wrong.

Bass players: there are two types of bass player who come to the jam: Taariq in his bebop mode, and everyone else. ‘Nuff said.

Guitarists. Few people know that the guitar is a direct descendant of the mid fourteenth century left handed lute. This is because it isn’t true. Or is it? Whatever, we can only be amazed at how the guitarist can play a melodic line, comp a million chords and put in the bass line all at once, without ever interfering with the tempo and rhythm being set by the bass and drums.

Singers: these fall into three categories: singers who are so inexperienced that they know no better, singers who are so experienced that they should know better, and singers who used to know better, but have forgotten. The Divine Miss Smith falls into all three categories.

Captain Chaos: He maintains he carefully orchestrates the musician changes so that everyone gets a fair turn; and he never gets the least bit irritated when anyone just presumes they can get up and barge in because they feel like it. Or wants to play just one more tune, or doesn’t want to get up because they are waiting for a more accomplished line-up.

The Pianists: Anyone who has read this far will be wondering about the pianists. Most of them are good looking, modest, talented to a fault, and generously hold the whole thing together. The other one is still malingering in Hospital, lazy sod…

Freda Trout is writing the newsletter this week. Gawd help us.
TW

Jamming at the L: A Touch of Class, or something

Upon reflection, probably something. Another fine arvo of cocking up all the good bits, and enjoying the dross. This was a remarkably busy session – mainly because we had five bass players ( Colonel T, Ivan, Matthew, Chris and Pony Tail Pete) and only three saxophones .(Captain Chaos, Luis, and Peter Cole). Continue reading