Australian Jazz Album Round-Up March 2015

A typically slow start to the year, fuelled by yet another long hot summer, paved the way for a flood of new releases in February and March. This against a backdrop of Festivals and the associated Fringe plus Womad, resulted in too many shows and concerts (including a jazzified version of the Who’s Tommy, directed by Charles Mingus’s son, Eric). We’ll kick off the year with three piano based albums, two featuring the prolific talents of Casey Golden and the third from a new group, ishs/Allen Project with a delightful album.

– Michael Prescott, Jazz Presenter 5MBS, Australia


casey-goldenCasey Golden Trio


Self Release  ★★★★

Casey Golden (p), Bill Williams (b), Ed Rodrigues (d). Rec 6 August 2014

It took Casey Golden five years to follow-up his debut album, “Clarity”. He used the time well as on the strength of this album, he has become a composer of note, presenting on this sophomore release eight very distinctive and melodically strong tunes. The quality screams out in tracks such as “Paralysed” and “Home” with almost classical flourishes appearing throughout. On this fine album Golden is supported ably by Ben Williams and Ed Rodrigues. Rodrigues really stands out as a drummer to be closely watched. Here, he eschews the standard trio rhythmic fare; rather at times he seems to be all over the kit and playfully dances with the beat and in so doing provides a fresh range of colours to the trio format. A prime example can be found in “Paralysed”. On the basis of this release there is no doubt that this trio has a golden future and this will probably be confirmed when the trio release a live album in June. In an age where the merest suggestion of a melody or rhythm can be the vehicle for improvisation, Golden stands out as a musician who places the composition first and improvisation second. On the evidence of this album, that’s no bad thing. The only criticism is that at less than 40 minutes one is begging for more at album’s end.

Info & samples:


hannah-jamesHannah James Trio


Self Release ★★★★

Hannah James (b), Casey Golden (p), Ed Rodrigues (d). Rec. 24 May 2014

A year ago, on this site, I reviewed with much enthusiasm, James first release, “Effigy” and predicted a bright future for this young bassist / composer. Now comes her second, which confirms the promise demonstrated so clearly 12 months ago. She has also taken the bold step of introducing her new compositions in a live setting, recorded at Sydney’s Sound Lounge. There is a sense of déjà vu with the album reviewed above, Casey Golden and Ed Rodrigues return to complete the trio. Despite this, it is James who is the clear leader here, penning 5 of the 6 tracks; the remaining track is Golden’s “Six”. As with her debut, she features a strong sense of melody and compositional skills, providing the perfect vehicle for Golden’s simply luscious piano. Rodrigues is again outstanding on percussion and I suspect it won’t be long before he achieves greater recognition for his different take on the role of the drummer. He is certainly one of the most innovative drummers around today. Golden further cements his reputation as a pianist of sheer class and brings life and passion to James’s compositions. This is a very worthy follow-up to her debut and confirms the promise so clearly evident on that album.

allen-projectishs/Allen Project

ishs/Allen Project

Self Release ★★★

Featuring; ade ishs (p, voc, glockenspiel, melodica), Chelsea Allen (d, voc), Paul Bonnington (b), Ee Shan Pang (t, f, voc). Rec 5, 6 November, December 2014

The ishs/Allen Project is a very different beast to the above 2 albums. Led by pianist ade ishs and drummer Chelsea Allen, with all but one composition by ish and the remaining track co-composed with Allen, the Project have produced something not very common in jazz, an album that reeks of a positive vibe, very uplifting, almost joyful. The common theme of this month’s releases is very melodic and expansive themes. Here they are in vogue again but this time with a greater range of tonal colour. The themes are stated by ish, and Pang’s trumpet / flugelhorn augmented by the judicious use of wordless, atmospheric vocals, mainly from Allen, soaring over the melodic base. Interestingly, Pang’s role appears to be more concerned with theme enhancement than soloing. This she does with great effect, her restrained approach just adds to the overall sense of joy. “Welcoming Spring” is a good case in point. This is not an album that relies on innovation and pushing boundaries. There are many other albums that do that very successfully, but frankly, that’s not the objective here and it’s all the better for that. The end result is a an album that finds itself repeatedly being slipped into the CD player

Info and samples:

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