Joseph Tawadros, yeahyeahabsolutelynoway and Paul Grabowsky plus Martin Taylor live in Australian Jazz Round Up

It was another busy month here in Oz, with more great releases to savour. The diversity of Australian jazz is very evident here, from twin guitars, the oud and a piano-led sextet, all deserving of a listen. Also this month we were graced with the presence of Martin Taylor performing in an intimate setting.

– Michael Prescott, Jazz Presenter 5MBS, Australia


Joseph-TawadrosJoseph Tawadros

Permission To Evaporate             ABC Music / Universal            ★★★★

Joseph Tawadros (oud), Christian McBride (b), Mike Stern (el g), Matt McMahon (p), James Tawadros (p). Rec 14 &16 February 2014

Joseph Tawadros arrived in Australia from his native Egypt in 1986 at the age of 3. Born into a musical family, he was destined to become a musician and he is now a master of the oud. The oud in jazz is not new, Ahmed Abdul-Malik, Dhafer Youssef and Anouar Brahem to name but a few have utilised the instrument in a jazz setting. Nor is Tawadros new to playing with the best jazz musicians, his previous albums have featured John Abercrombie, Jack DeJohnette, John Patatucci, Bela Fleck, Joey De Francesco and others. This album is set against a background of grief, Tawadros having lost both his parents in the last few years. He has channelled these emotions in a search for more innovation in his music and this album represents a step forward in that quest. The influence of Fleck and bluegrass is readily apparent from the opener “Bluegrass Nikriz” but more than this is the sheer virtuosity that hits you from the opening blast. It is this that distances Tawadros from other jazz inclined oud players, he a constant source of invention and melody, without losing the instruments unique character. As expected from a bassist with the class of McBride, he is immaculate throughout, whilst Stern, although not appearing on every track, adds a complete tonal contrast. By utilising the considerable percussive skills of his brother James instead of a standard drum kit, the overall feel of the album has a world music colour but there is no mistaking the fact that this a jazz album, and a damn fine one to boot.

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Um...            Rattle Jazz            ★★★

James Brown (g), Sam Cagney (g), Stephen Neville (d). Rec. Dates 30 September to 3 October 2013

This album represents the first foray by wonderful New Zealand label Rattle Jazz into Australia. In many ways this is a brave choice, two young electric guitarists and drums with no bass. Despite the limitations of the format, these young guns manage to pull it off with smart compositions and full on attack. Make no mistake this is a guitar album, there is simply no letting up over the whole 59 minutes from the twin guitar front line. It is evident that the band has its roots in rock but its feet firmly planted in jazz. The resulting noise, whilst harking back to the good old days of fusion, goes to another place altogether. The album kicks off with some very attractive tunes, “Howl” and “Why Sleep?” before launching into a more experimental mode with “Ouff” and “A Perfect Day For Bananafish”. The pace is slowed with the bluesy “Shetland Dream 1863” and “Look At You”. The CD closes with some fine funk with “Down Home”. Throughout Cagney and Brown swap roles constantly, from rhythm to lead and back enabling both to solo on the same tune. Both guitarists are inventive and behind them is the reliable and sympathetic‎ drumming of Stephen Neville, who provides a solid foundation for the guitarists. An audacious, but largely successful, debut from a young and interestingly named band.

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Peter-Grabowsky-SextetPaul Grabowsky

The Bitter Suite             ABC Music / Universal            ★★★

Paul Grabowsky (p), Jamie Oehlers (ts), Andrew Robson (as, ss), James Greening (t) Cameron Undy (b) Simon Barker (d). Rec date not stated

Grabowsky has been at the forefront of the Australian jazz scene for many years, with an occasional jaunt to the Big Apple. A man of many talents, In addition to his various groups he has found time to score films and TV plus direct various Festivals. Normally at home in a trio setting here he expands the palette by adding an impressive front line in a return to a format he has not utilised since the 1990’s. Grabowsky composed the 9 originals and arranged Scriabin’s Piano Prelude op 74 no 4, all in the space of a few weeks. He then assembled a powerful group to perform his new works. Oehlers and Robson are formidable soloists and the addition of Greening gives the sound a fuller texture and a sense of fun. The album kicks off in grand style with a reggae infused “Paradise” and continues to offer tasty treats all the way through, with the exception of ‘Sisyphus”, which to these ears falls flat and dirges its way for 10 long minutes. That said, the remainder is all class with excellent solos from the leader ably supported by his front line. Grabowsky again shows why he is at the forefront of Australian jazz.

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Martin Taylor

The Gov, Adelaide

martin-taylor-live-picThe Gov is a small pub, one of a few brave venues still promoting live music of all genres, including jazz. This was Taylor’s second gig at this intimate venue and a welcome return. The show kicked off with a display of guitar virtuosity from support Mathew Fagan, covering a truly alarming range of styles and concluding with a fabulous demonstration on how to take the novelty out of the ukulele. As soon as Taylor commenced his set it was apparent that here is a master. From the opening “Old Fashioned” his fretwork was clean, his choice of notes judicious and the use of space sublime. This was followed by a Jamaican influenced piece so authentic you could almost hear the steel pans! Not content to play a bundle of standards, Taylor showcased his virtuosity, firstly straight ahead jazz with “Someday My Prince Will Come”, a demonstration of “stride guitar” with “I Got Rhythm”, a touch of Celtic, “One Day” and a song he performs with Tommy Emmanuel which he also performed for inmates of Fulsom Prison, “True”. Taylor happily informed his audience that so impressed were some guitar players amongst the inmates that they have taken it upon themselves to learn the piece as a guitar choir. Interspersed with these Taylor rattled off songs with sheer class and style, leaving a small but very satisfied audience.


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