Wangaratta Jazz

Early reports indicate that the Wangaratta shenanigans went well, with performances at the Bulls Head featuring the sprightly Miss Smiff. As in previous years, the Sunday market was the peak event for the band of jammers who went up. This Sunday morning event should be a sideshow, but has always attracted a goodly crowd who are appreciative of the music.

Props to Huich (violin) at her first Wang bash – she impressed, as did another first timer, Andre, who dropped in for a fine stint on the drums.



Halls Gap: The Chaos Files

A number of regular, part-time and past jammers attended the 3rd Halls Gap Jazz and Blues Festival last weekend. In favourable weather more than 100 bands assembled in the fantastic Grampians environment to perform before a good number of jazz devotees.

John Curtis, Annie Smith, Steve Bray and Doug Kuhn presented their highly entertaining Annie and the Bossa Boys. Jeff Harris was invited to play with a Blues Band (40 Thieves Blues Band) and wowed the audience with his performance. Mike Hirsh, Alan Richards, Keith Hughes, Tina Ayris,  Gillian Sealby,  David Lakeman and Brian Paulusz were also making great music over the weekend.

My personal high was to get to renew acquaintance and play with David Lole from Canberra who joined us two years ago when he spent a few months living in Melbourne.


Sunday Jazz at The Junktion Hotel: The B Team smashes it

The Set Up: By the time I got there, Fermin and Neil had the set-up well in hand. We all waited with bated breath to see if a drummer would turn up and set up the drum kit, but alas Salah managed to darken the door about 15 seconds too late.

The record: What followed was a classic B team effort – that is, sixteen musos had a lot of fun, and broke our all-time record for most musos playing together – 12 at one stage, and they sounded damn good. Not many people in the audience for quite a while, and in the absence of the Halls Gap crew, we played, umm, about two instrumentals all afternoon, and had a ball, with tonsil artistes Jane, Ashley, Debbie and Carol all getting more singing time than usual. (16)


Singers Carol, Jane and Ashley

Musos Props to Salah, Ashley and newcomer Russell Stringer for some immaculate drumming, Julian for nearly blowing up his amp and then ditching it and fluting beautifully anyway, Huich for some extended violin, Malcolm for taking over piano and staying to help pack up. Ivan, Neil and Fermin for the best rhythm section we have had in ages, Calamatta and Will for a sweet saxophone section…


Great Rhythm Section – played all day

And Don (piano) who attempted anonymity to avoid adverse newsletter comment. As if. He last came on April 22nd 2015, also a week when the Captain was absent.. and played hot. Is a pattern emerging? We could consider a whip round as he clearly can’t afford a barber.

Going Home: We pulled stumps at 7.30, which required going round the room and apologising to diners and drinkers who had wandered in for the last stanza, but the rhythm section was truly knackered.

Sunday Jazz at The Junktion Hotel: The Restaurant Experiment works again

An enjoyable Jam: second week in the Bistro, wandered in somewhat late and the set up went smoothly again… leaving us ready to start by, ooh, maybe 15 minutes late. Steve Bray set up the percussion, Fermin came early and set up the amps, closely followed by Neil. Only two pianists all day (meself and Malcolm) and Huich, alternately spelt Guichi excelled again. But a fine sunny day in tropical Kew promised a good crowd, and so it was, although not as many as we had hoped. The day was enlivened by a coupla new and returning musos, as well as a smattering of locals – Ben Stewart all class on guitar,

Jazz anyone? We kicked off with a few instrumentals from the Captain Chaos chart books whilst the room filled up, and followed this up with singers Debbie, Carol, Jane and later on the lads, Brian and Kev, as well as the late Miss Smith who went all modern on us with interesting results. Bacharach with his trademark 6/4 bar stuck in the middle of a 4/4 tune threw the lot of us. Jane could have sung a few more, but her selection of swing tunes was the liveliest part of the afternoon. Carol gets better and better.

Drummers to follow Steve included Bill Swannie, John Perri and later on Andre… he seems to have improved and played a decent set.

Train wrecks: probably the pick of them was Misty, with which we all struggled with a choice of tempos and the occasional dropped bar, in a key which may not have been Debbie’s first choice. Ah well, they are always fun anyway.

The audience dropped off noticeably as the afternoon wore on and we ended on a quiet note (it may have been F#, but I had left by then, so I can’t be sure.)

Teaser of the week: Some interesting discussions on possible future developments – stay tuned and we will bring this to you in due course.

Halls Gap Festival this weekend, the Captain, Curtis, Annie Smith and Jeff Harris will be there, amongst other Jammers. So the B Team will be taking over next Sunday 28th October. Always assuming there is a B team and it turns up.

And if anyone wants to help set up, feel free to turn up a bit early – see ya Sunday?

Sunday Jazz at The Junktion Hotel: The Restaurant Experiment: Dodgy Dave’s bright idea

Greeted Dodgy Dave at the door – no one in the bar setting up, the Captain De Chaos upstairs perhaps?. Turned out Dodgy Dave had decided we should try transferring to the restaurant. There ensued some interesting furniture re-arrangement. Steve Bray was up for setting up the drums, we put down the Mike Hirsh Formal Carpet, and then managed to put the speakers at the back, the piano at the side, the Behringer foldback upstairs thankfully, and no one got in anyone’s way. Could this layout be a goer? we asked ourselves, which was just as well as there was no-one else to ask yet.

As it transpired, the sound was way better, the room worked a treat, and we had around 18 musos and a bit of audience type peeps to enjoy an afternoon of what we laughingly refer to as “jazz”.

Nice one Dodgy D! He may even advertise dinner and jazz next week – we shall see.

Only complaint received was one muso missing the foldback. Obviously all the others listen to each other and did just fine. Props to Steve, nice work from the Hirsh, on his carpet for the first time. Smooth set from Carol. Floot from Jeff, mammoth stint from Ivan, then Anton took over bass. Sweet contribution from Guichi (violin) and a bunch of others. 

If ya missed it, tough – but we will encore this week.

 Halls Gap Festival coming up next week 27th October – click on the “Jazz Festivals” tab for details

Sunday Jazz at The Junktion Hotel: it gets like that, from time to time

Someone once observed that, even though all the jam sessions were essentially the same, how did I manage to write something different each week… the ensuing writers block eventually wore off.

The more I thought about it, the more I realised that every jam session has its own special character… and there have been some very special characters over the course of the 480 or so reviews that have, miraculously, hopefully avoided the dreaded cliche.

Last Sunday’s jam was a classic of its type – no great musicianship perhaps (competence, as ever, well concealed as a kindness to others) but as enjoyable an afternoon as we have had in quite a while.

After the usual stumbling instrumentals, we got Debbie up to sing – she lit up the room as only Debbie can, in front of a crowd that included a good smattering of locals, some new musicians and the regulars in fine form.

The Captain set the mood with a coupla ballads, Sala the mystery drummer returned and played effortless latin rhythms, Fermin has been practising hard, and excelled himself with a fine rendition of his “go to” tune – Corcovado. Jeff reprised Out of Nowhere and Dave the Bass played with increasing confidence.

A brace of rather good first time singers (Jane, I think, and Bonnie) really lifted the standard. My Funny Valentine a standout. Do come again.

As the evening drew to a close, what made this session so enjoyable was the balance between ballads and charge-ahead bebop numbers – Straight No Chaser the pick of them. Variety is the spice of life, 481 identical reviews notwithstanding .

It gets like that, from time to time….

See ya Sunday?

Threat Identification Chart: A guide to musical instruments

Threat Identification Chart: A guide to musical instruments


Low flying saxophone. Do not pick one of these up, they are liable to explode and spray shattered egos everywhere


Incomplete drumkit. Complete drumkit is a mythical concept, apparently. Barely adequate for the average drummer, often ruined by the use of drumsticks. Extra carpet required for M Hirsh esq.


Eclectic guitar. This is perfect in every way, especially as it doesn’t have a lead.


Two handed piano. This instrument has 88 keys – a lot of choices, all of them wrong.