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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

It’s that time of Year.. The Gossip Shoppe goes Autumnal

Autumn, it would seem, is somewhat late this year, but upon us nevertheless. As I ambled through the doors of the Gold Street Gossip Shoppe at the unusual hour of 4 o’clock last Sunday, there was the palest glow of feeble sunshine, the first chill breeze of the season, and stuff all going on inside.

A quiet session seemed in prospect, starting with pianist/drummer Gentleman John Curtis as gentlemanly as ever, and the McCue de Bendigo getting better and better on the ivories. It took a while for the joint to fill, but fill it did, and by the time 24 musicians had turned up, tuned up and joined in, it would be fair to say that this was one of the busier sessions. And not a little musical from time to time, although the habit of playing real jazz on a Sunday afternoon sets a dangerous precedent and is to be discouraged…

There were plenty of good moments in between the occasional debacle. Colonel T of the Fourth Light Punjab Horse (retd) absent mindedly played bass rather well. Fortunately such an experienced old hand will not let that put him off his game, and he will surely be back to stomping on the ground so hard the floor shakes in no time. No time being the operative phrase. Anyhoo, he got things moving along rather nicely. Possibly because there was also a very good bass player, Matthew Birtchnell, who started rather hesitantly, and by the time Katerina got up and ripped the joint apart with Summertime and All of Me, was absolutely flying. More please.

Lewis, the guitarist for whom 1000 notes is never enough, was back, and in great form, Ben “Twang” Stewart produced some fine solos, and Luis (soprano saxophone) played some ace bossa.

Brian, Kev, Vlad and Kay all sang: Brian’s Ab chart for That Old Black Magic a ripper, Kay as entertaining as ever, Kev making it look easy, and the rhythm section playing Killing Me Softly in totally the wrong key for Vlad.

Michelle, Bill and Andre drummed, Julian flooted and presiding over it all was a benevolent Captain Sensible. Who, in a spirit of consistency, decided not to call fours, and therefore failed to produce his customary 5 bar magic. Stolen Moments was fun, although pianist Kay stole the show on that one.

So… a really enjoyable afternoon of ballad mangling, and by the time Landlord Glen produced the party pies, I think everyone was well mellowed.

Autumn is a good time of year…

And we will do it all again, especially the debacle bits … at The Leinster Arms, Gold Street Collingwood, Sunday 2nd April 2017, at 4.00pm.
TW

It was just one of those things…

Strange little jam session last Sunday: started with lots of casual sax, only one bass player all arvo, a coupla singers, three drummers, and the usual complement of guitarists and pianists. As the good Captain remarked, there were times when it almost sounded like music… which is another way of saying there were times when it didn’t.

Hortense, I am almost certain, was not there – she has been much distracted of late Continue reading

Well, That Was Kind of Comfortable

Audience confused, of course, but the regular jammers set down for a regular jam, playing around with some fairly standard songs, with predictable results. Like a pair of old slippers, it was all decidedly comfortable – saxophonists (there were three) leading the charge in a born to rule kind of way, pianists (two remarkably good ones dropped in on the regulars (Curtis, the Don, and meself), and Findlay whacking away at the drums to the point of exhaustion, whereupon Il Duce took pity and spelled him for a bit. Matt Berg took over later on, played beautifully.

As has been the case in recent weeks, Bass players were a bit thin on the ground, with Ponytail Pete and Colonel T shouldering the load. Fermin, Brian and later on Chico all slotted in some nice guitar work.

It is afternoons like this that give you time for a yarn with a few old friends, the occasional social lubricant, and some light banter with a slightly manic Colonel T of the Fourth Punjab Light Horse (retd), who took it upon himself to direct proceedings from time to time. The results were predictable, although perhaps the rendition of Black Nile was a bit special, as it was spectacularly shredded, demolished and stomped into the carpet. Musicians who were there will know what I mean, and the funeral will be announced once the pieces have been gathered up and bagged.

The late Miss Smith turned up at her usual hour, and lifted the mood considerably – still basking in plaudits from her Friday night session. And Ponytail Pete got booked for his first session at the Royal Standard Hotel this week, so at least some of us are progressing well.

Kind, comfortable, what more could you want. Don’t answer that Hortense…

Melbourne Jazz Jammers – a bunch of musos getting together to play random toons. Sometimes we all play the same tune at the same time. Doesn’t make much difference.

Second opinions will be sought at The Leinster Arms, Gold Street Collingwood, Sunday 4th March 2017, at 4.00pm.

Hush!

In light of the buzz around the joint the previous week, it was only reasonable to expect things to be a little quieter – and in that expectation, those of us who wandered into the Gold Street sheltered workshop at 4pm on the dot were not disappointed.

The afternoon would evidently start with three pianists and a saxophone… Izzo, Curtis, and meself, debating as to who should stuff the first stanza by playing drums. We opted for Curtis – Continue reading