Australian Jazz Album Round-Up


Jazz in Australia has a very long history; back to the 1920s when the country fell for the many visiting Americans. Today jazz is alive across the country, but with a distinct focus on the population centres of Sydney and Melbourne. Here the best-known venues are The Basement near the quay in Sydney and Bennetts Lane in Melbourne. Although making a living is difficult, there is a thriving network of labels, co-operatives and venues. Rufus, home of the late Bernie McGann, Jazzhead, Newmarket, Jazzgroove and New Zealand’s Rattle Records, to name but a few, are all releasing and promoting excellent, and often innovative, jazz. But most notably, there is vitality and a thirst for new directions, evident in the following albums.

– Michael Prescott,
Jazz Presenter 5MBS, Australia

Anton Delecca Quartet
The Healer
Jazzhead Head 192

Anton Delecca (ts), Luke Howard (p), Jonathon Zion (b), Daniel Farrugia (d) Rec. Date not stated

Anton Delecca has been a working musician for over 20 years and in that time has played with Odean Pope, Arthur Blythe, a host of popular and rock artists and has also been a member of many jazz groups. Despite a relatively long career, “The Healer” is only his third as leader.

Although the Luke Howard Trio (see below) provide the backing, this is Delecca’s album with the leader composing seven of the ten tracks featured here. Delecca possesses a mature expressive tone and on this album he deservedly gives himself plenty of space to explore and he uses this to show considerable improvisational skill.

The album kicks off with a Klezmer sounding “The Ark” and from there presents two standards, “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” and “Love For Sale” and one from bassist Zion. The interest is not the standards but the new works. “Hectic” is up-tempo featuring an excellent Luke Howard solo and so proving that although best known for his spacious approach, he can also play faster and fuller, whilst on the ballad “Hokusai Says” Delecca delivers a sensitive, thoughtful solo.

The album would probably have been that much better if Delecca had the courage to forgo the standards. With tracks like “The Lake” there is simply no need to revive old well worn works.

Nonetheless, an impressive and enjoyable album.

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Andrea Keller Quartet With Strings
Wave Rider
Jazzhead    Head 191 

Andrea Keller (p), Eugene Ball (t), Ian Whitehurst (ts), Joe Talia (d), Erkki Velthiem (v), Helen Ayres (v), Matt Lang (viola), Zoe Knighton (c). Rec. 6 & 7 December 2012

Let’s get one thing clear from the start, the description “with strings” is misleading, there’s absolutely nothing saccharine about Keller’s scoring. Here the strings, in the form of a classic string quartet, are an integral part of Keller’s compositions; they perform with and almost inside her quartet.

This takes talent and it is obvious that Keller has that in abundance. This is totally original music; by that read no one else composes anything like this. If you have heard Keller’s previous discs, this is no surprise, especially her previous album of solo piano; “Family Portraits” another superb album.

This is something else again, complex with themes weaving in and out and Keller’s often dark and foreboding piano evident throughout. Her talented quartet handles this difficult music with aplomb, Ball and Whitehurst are exceptional while Talia adds rich tonal colour. The absence of bass is not an issue, so expertly are Keller’s tunes composed and arranged.

There is great variety here, with 15 tracks varying from just 49 seconds (the title track) to over 10 minutes (the brooding “Patience”) but nowhere does the interest flag, a true indication of the album’s success.

Andrea Keller should be known throughout the jazz world, one can only hope that this album raises her international profile to where it should be.

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LukeHowardTrioDoveALoinACoastLuke Howard Trio
A Dove, A Lion, A Coast, A Pirate
Which Way  WWM 018  ★★★

Luke Howard (p), Jonathon Zion (b), Daniel Farrugia (d). Rec May 2012

This album never really gets above mid-tempo. Normally that could be a negative, but not here, Luke Howard is so in command that anything thing else would disturb the whole fabric of this superb CD.

From the sublime opener, “Oslo” this music utilises space as a musical instrument with Zion and Farrugia, listening intently to their leader adding colour and depth throughout.

Recorded at Oslo’s Rainbow Studios with renown engineer Jan Erik Konkshug this disc does evoke, but definitely does not imitate, another well known visitor to that studio, Ketil Bjornstad. Zion’s three tunes blend in seamlessly to the other nine tunes, all penned by Howard.

What stands out here is the beautiful lyricism of Howard’s piano, a reflection of his excellent compositions and almost hummable tunes, the title track being a case in point.

As you would expect with Konkshug at the helm, the recording is so natural that at times one is tempted to look toward the speakers to confirm that the band really is in your living room.

This album works on all levels, the enthusiast will love the sheer musicality and invention whilst the casual listener will fall for the simple beauty of this music. This is an album that not only can withstand repeated listens, but calls the listener back again and again.

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HannahJamesGroupEffigyHannah James Group
Self Release

Hannah James (b), Ed Rodrigues (d), Casey Golden (p), Tim Clarkson (s) Dave Rodriguez (g)

Rec 20 July 2011

It can be difficult for young artists to get a break no matter how talented. Hannah James was lucky, as the winner of The Jann Rutherford Memorial Award for promising female jazz musicians, she was able to record this album at the ABC’s studios. Even so she still had to release the CD herself.

But, despite her youth, this is a mature group album with the leader, aside from a few thoughtful solos, for the most part taking a back seat to Golden, Clarkson and Rodriguez.

James has said that she has been influenced by the New York scene, referencing Aaron Parks and that is certainly a good reference point, especially on Casey Golden’s ”When The Talking Stops” evoking Parks’ 2008 album, “Invisible Cinema”

For her debut, James has assembled a crack band with guitarist Dave Rodriguez and Casey Golden on piano being particularly impressive. Rodriguez possesses fine technique, delivering intelligent and interesting solos. Hannah James also proves to be a fine composer, particularly the opener, “Morning Glory” and the title track.

This is a very strong debut and points to a bright future as a bassist, composer and leader. It will be interesting to follow her development as she further defines her own voice.

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JulienWilsonTrioSwailingJulien Wilson Trio
lionsharerecords LSR 20142

Julien Wilson (ts, b cl, ss), Stephen Magnusson (g), Steve Grant (acc)

Swailing is a very Australian concept, a controlled burn of the bush aimed at promoting regrowth. In spite of the title, the music on this CD has a very European feel, at times reminiscent of an ECM recording, no doubt as a consequence of the unusual composition of the trio, no rhythm section but with an accordion.

But there are important differences mainly flowing from song selection. After a delicious Wilson penned opening track, with the marvellously titled “I Believe This Belongs To You” comes Hermeto Pascoal’s “Little Church”, most famously heard on Miles Davis’s “Live Evil”. A little later, Gabriel Faure’s “Meditation”, Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust”, even Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz” and finally, Ornette Coleman’s “Chanting”, plus several originals.

The trio benefits from having performed together over many years (their first CD, “Live” dates from 2007) as they weave in and out with a beautiful precision that only experience can bring. All three members both solo and provide accompaniment, the resulting music ebbs and flows producing a gorgeous sound. The occasional overdub fills out the music, most notably Wilson’s bass clarinet.

Although mostly subdued, it is a strangely uplifting and enjoyable music. Grant is just fabulous throughout; Magnusson demonstrates that he is an all-round guitarist and in places squeezes out very un-guitar like sounds. All the while Wilson is sublime, at times his breathy tenor is reminiscent of Ben Webster.

What makes this all the impressive is that this was released together with a completely different album and band, the mainstream balled collection, “This Is Always”, also on lionsharerecords. On this album his Websterisms come to the fore.

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