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reviews


Alister Spence Trio fit

’This is a massive breakthrough for the Alister Spence Trio; a collective leap of imagination far beyond anything the band has attempted before.

On most pieces, all vestiges of a conventional piano-bass-drums jazz trio are erased, replaced by three-way real-time composing, with a microscope placed on group texture, so that tiny contributions from each instrument become monumental parts of the enthralling music. The result is that Spence's piano and electronics, Lloyd Swanton's bass and Toby Hall's drums and glockenspiel emerge as utterly equal partners. Even when the bass and drums revert to rhythm section functions as on Five Hundred Suns, the piano is reined in and shares the misty foreground with Hall's glockenspiel.

The programming is also inspired, creating a narrative studded with contrasts.

An accompanying DVD contains films by Louise Curham to go with three tracks. While I admire Curham's work, it fails to dispel my suspicion that the video-music interface remains an artistic cul-de-sac.’
John Shand Sydney Morning Herald


Alister Spence/Raymond MacDonald Stepping Between the Shadows

**** (4 stars)

Alister Spence (p) and Raymond MacDonald (as, ss)
Rec. February 2011, Rufus/Universal RF095

’Alister Spence is one of the leading lights on the Australian jazz scene whose curriculum vitae includes work with the brilliant and often inspired Clarion Fracture Zone with Sandy Evans and Tony Gorman and the Australian Art Orchestra with Paul Grabowsky. With his own Alister Spence Trio he has made some fine albums such as Flux, Fit and Mercury and has been a frequent visitor to these shores where recognition has been in direct disproportion to his often luminous virtuosity. It was in the UK that he formed an association with the Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra and developed a strong musical relationship with saxophonist Raymond MacDonald. This is their first album together, recorded live at the Concert Hall, University of Glasgow in February last year. Clearly the planets were in the right conjunction in the celestial sphere and prompted some inspired music making. Spence, who can be a powerful and expansive pianist is content to reveal a more thoughtful and considered side to his musical personality such as the opening of ‘TransHemispheres’, as both he and MacDonald cautiously circle each other before the saxophonist produces a passage that evokes several instruments in earnest dialogue. MacDonald is again compelling on ‘Found On the Way (b)’ where he is largely performing solo, and on ‘Northern Window (b)’ where both pianist and saxophonist move the album to a thoughtful climax.’
Stuart Nicholson Jazzwise

Alister Spence Trio Far Flung
‘Art that allows us to be other than we are, even for a moment, is invaluable…this trio has learnt to defy gravity: to free music of time and defined space…Mesmerising.’
Sydney Morning Herald 

‘The variety over one and a half hours of piano trio music is impressive, the effects are never intrusive, while the glockenspiel adds a further dimension to the piano-bass-drums chemistry.’

Music Forum (AU) 

'Spence isn’t capable of writing an uninteresting composition, and all the pieces here offer something distinctive.’

International Piano (UK)

'The Australian pianist has already appeared twice on this side of the horizon, most recently in a duo with Raymond MacDonald and prior to that with the latter’s International Big Band, which recorded Buddy in Tokyo in 2008. The complete trio was also already involved in this, with Toby Hall on drums and Lloyd Swanton on bass, whose free leg this is – if one regards The Necks as his main pillar. Only 'Seventh Song' has any remote similarity with the repetitive minimalism of that group; for the rest Spence relies on diversity in his compositions, transcriptions, assemblages and the six collective improvisations – which have been left virtually raw.

Melodically-grooving pieces, such as the sprinting 'Flight Plan', 'Mullet Run' and the moody earworm 'Brave Ghost', alternate with others that put [the] sound effects into the centrepoint: a fluttering Swanton-loop and rummaging odds-and-ends (the post-produced 'Tumbler'); melancholic Spencer-tones, that withdraw like smoke: ('(With) Thanks', 'Life-Wish', '(And) Happiness'); glockenspiel ‚gepinge‘ and one-finger piano notes, between which a yearning Reverie develops ('Felt'); more glock[en]spiel, trilling glassily to plucked sounds, before a sleepy rustling appears via bow and brush (Drawing Breath'); a moving bass-solo, which then infects the whole collective with a catchy riff ('Sleep Under Water'); an arco drone and sounds of a saw provide the bordun [drone] for a Spencer-esque two-finger promenade ('Arc'); creaking sounds und rasping keys ('Lucid'); a musical-clock Intro and Outro, between which an Ariadne thread unrolls itself pianistically ('Threading The Maze'); shimmering chimes and backwards¬wooshes ('Circumnavigate'); vibrating inner-piano, chirping noises – and a humming, which grows and fades ominously ('Mt Solitary'); Music-box melancholy and glockenspiel/piano gamelan ('Lux').

Spence, who earned himself further ‚Like‘-points when he joined in with Ed Kuepper and his revitalised Laughing Clowns, was already collecting them through his thoughtful style of playing, that’s not wasted on superfluous bric-a-brac. Only geographically remote (far-flung), in all other respects, very close.’

Bad Alchemy Germany [BA 75 rbd]


Nat Bartsch Trio Springs, for all the Winters

John Shand story, Sydney Morning Herald

’...a piano trio from Australia led by Nat Bartsch’s quiet, stately piano that plays strong melodies with classical and folksy elements. “Revelry” is slow-building folk-country, “Uncertainty” is a dark, attractive ballad and “You put the Spring in Spring” shows a Bill Evans influence in its understated drive. A rare up-tempo piece, “Song for Mum”, has Bartsch playing cascades of notes over Leigh Fisher’s stormy drumming and shows what a cohesive and expressive trio Bartsch, Fisher and bassist Josh Holt can make.’
Cadence USA


5 + 2 Ensemble Invisible Cities and other works

‘One such excellent release on the [Rufus] label is trumpeter Peter Knight’s 5+2 Brass Ensemble... As one might gather, the group’s sound is powerful and strident, though the arrangements and instrumentation provide for a surprisingly wide timbral spectrum... Worth searching out, Peter Knight and his ensemble have created a riveting work.’
Jay Collins Cadence USA (Included in Cadence Magazine’s Critics’ Poll Top Ten Releases of 2007)

’The 5 + 2 refers to the composition of this group, predominantly horns plus bass and drums. It is an example of the seemingly boundless ability and willingness of jazz musicians to experiment. And in this case with fascinating results...The lineup offers considerable musical scope, which Knight and the others exploit widely as it ebbs and flows through a range of spaces, constructs and weights, each listening offering something new, as good music should.’
Michael Foster Canberra Times

’Like Calvino’s work, the music seems to breathe and change each time you listen to it. It’s a mix of sound and genre, a meeting point of jazz and orchestral – the opening bars seem to echo Bartok. The standout is the emotionally powerful four-part Invisible Cities Suite, full of tensions in the rawness and meticulously constructed layers spread across wide territory.’
Leon Gettler The Age


Tim Stevens Life’s undertow

‘Deeply reflective [and] totally absorbing.‘
Leon Gettler The Age

‘Where many solo piano albums fall into the trap of sounding similar throughout, Stevens has constructed a suite of ten pieces in which each has its own distinct character. It seems that with each piece Stevens has taken a different approach to the task of creating something from nothing. Even with the variety of moods on offer the album hangs together as a unified whole. This is not an easy thing to achieve.‘
Aaron Searle Music Forum

‘This collection of improvisations is thoughtfully introspective and impressive […]

It takes the listener into a varied and quite beautiful soundscape [and] has much to offer in terms of the pianist's perceptive originality.‘
John McBeath The Weekend Australian

Andrew Ford, composer and longtime presenter of Radio National’s The Music Show has written a very thoughtful and appreciative review of Tim Stevens’ latest CD Life’s Undertow:

‘It strikes me as one of the most original and radical recordings of improvised jazz I have heard. So if I tell you that it sounds neither especially improvised nor very much like jazz, that is not intended as a criticism, more an indication of just how original and radical it is.’


The full article can be found at http://inside.org.au/tim-stevens-undertow/


3ofmillions Abstruction

When 3ofmillions launched their second album in March this year at Venue 505, Cameron Undy’s cosy new jazz club in Sydney, they invited Chris Abrahams to play support. It was as if they were acknowledging the frequent comparisons that have been made between the Necks, pianist Adrian Klumpes’ previous group Triosk (formed in 2001 with Ben Waples and Laurence Pike), and this current incarnation. The event served to demonstrate how different they are, with Abrahams playing solo acoustic piano, and 30fmillions employing much more in the way of voice and electronic effects. Both groups employ extended minimalist keyboard techniques, layered textures, and are genre bending, although 30fmillions is arguably more influenced by post-rock and electronica, whereas the Necks remains within the boundaries of acoustic instruments. The breakup of Triosk, who were signed to the prestigious British ambient label Leaf, was a disappointment to me, and their successor’s self-released first album, Immediate (2008), struck me as dissonant and unfocused. Abstruction, however, is a satisfying combination of the ambient-electronic elements of Triosk, augmented by teenage drummer Finn Ryan’s often fierce percussion and bassist (formerly of Apoplectic Trio [sic]). All three musicians are credited with voice and electronics, and Klumpes plays Rhodes as well as piano.
 
The opening and title track establishes a shimmering groove which sets the tone for the album, perhaps suggesting both abstruction and construction. Versus Nature is slower, meandering and more melodic, the acoustic piano leaving space for Ryan’s bass drums and cymbals to adventure, and Cross’s bass to climb into improvising lead guitar-like regions. Rhodes and electronically distorted piano drive the brief and drifting Furniture, with Ryan sounding like he’s playing pots and pans in the background. Growling, demonic electric bass introduces the dramatic Nebuchadnezzar. Named after the king of Babylon to whom Saddam Hussein considered himself the successor, grinding arco bass and vamping piano paint a fitting portrait, with military-style drumming and vocal effects establishing a powerful choral crescendo. A bell-like electronic, motoric rumble is the main dynamic of What Are You Gunna Do?, and Glaciation features a slow-moving development which mirrors the title. The final track, Acquiescence, is a Brian Eno-like soundscape, with two notes recurring on piano, a lingering bass drone, skittering cymbals and drums, and organ-like chimes, all held together in a gorgeous, gently transforming sonority.
 
The album was the result of the ‘intensity’ of a week long residency at Arthur Boyd’s residence at Bundanon on the Shoalhaven River, and the influence of these surroundings is evident in its tranquillity, though Nebuchadnezzar alludes to a cycle of arresting and violent paintings by Boyd. Aaron Leeman-Smith’s minimalist mauve digipak artwork, with criss-crossed line designs and a felt bed for the CD, is also outstanding. Definitely one of the albums of the year.’


Tony Mitchell Music Forum

Andrew Dickeson Quintet Weaver of Dreams

‘As previously stated word of mouth has made and in some cases  killed a business or a recording artist. The buzz around drummer/  educator/arranger Andrew Dickeson and his latest quintet release is  all good because it swings like a beast!  

Live recordings are sometimes a gamble. Live recordings that are  predominately standards played by the wrong musicians can be the  equivalent of tap dancing in a musical minefield. Dickeson pulls off  a sublime smoker with chops and with the sensitivity and finesse  certain tunes call for.

Dickeson is an incredibly respected "sideman" and this live  recording has literally been 25 years in the making and explodes  with the right lineup and stellar arrangements of some marvelous  tunes. "Soy Califa" is a Dexter Gordon classic and tenor player  Roger Manins shines here as does the rest of the ensemble as they  put their musical chops on display for all to see. Again Roger  Manins does some stunning work on "Darn That Dream" with the  quintet playing "with" Manins and not "around" him allowing for that  true working band feel of musical synergy to make this live effort  pop! Closing out the live set is "Relaxin' At Camarillo" which is a 3  minute and 56 second unaccompanied master class on how to  swing as a drummer.   

Weaver of Dreams contains a marvelous ebb and flow from gentle  flowing standards to hard charging swing further proving if the chain  is only as strong as its weakest link then there are no weak links  here! Australia is giving the United States some top flight jazz talent  from Laura Kahle to JC Styles and now Andrew Dickeson! A quintet  of great depth and innate feel for what real swing is all about - the  groove. Hopefully Weaver Of Dreams is only a taste of what is to  come!’    

Brent Black Digital Jazz News 

‘Australian drummer Andrew Dickeson makes a strong recording debut as  leader with a well-chosen selection of standards. Dickeson has been a sideman  for over 25 years, having begun his professional career when he was 13. Born  into a musical family, he began playing the drums when he was 10. He moved  briefly to New York in 1991 where he studied with Art Taylor and Vernel  Fournier and was a finalist in the 1992 Thelonious Monk Institute International  Jazz Drums Competition. After returning to Australia, Dickenson graced the  rhythm chair for a host of musicians including Lee Konitz, Martin Taylor, Annie  Ross and Warren Vaché. After all of his experiences, he felt that the time was  right for this recording. With the concept firmly etched, he formed his band  and set out on his journey.  

Interpreting standards could well lead to comparisons, but they can stand on  their own and provide a fresh perspective as the music on this CD does. The  band is strong and evokes images that capture the imagination.  

Dickeson sets the pulse for “Ill Wind” which blows a lot of good. The  arrangement ushers in tonal shifts, the floating head settling down and then  gradually heating up through the tenor saxophone solo of Roger Manins. He  has a fluid sense of expression bringing in swing and tensile notes that bend  ever so deliciously in a fermenting pool of ideas. Trumpeter Eamon McNelis's  phrasing is taut and driving and while he gives the tune another edge, pianist  Steve Barry moves back into swing mode, with a light flexing touch. Dickeson  articulates the rhythm, as he commands the dynamics and keeps the groove  pliant in tandem with the beat steady bassist Alex Boneham.   

Billy Strayhorn's “Isfahan” is made all the more consummate by McNelis. His  tone is beautiful as it delves into the soul of the tune and makes it glow with  the warmth of his approach, letting the notes seep and linger or elongating  then with unbridled passion. Barry is the other wing, lending an accomplished  presence with his winsome playing.   

Dickeson and Boneham grab hold of Charlie Parker's “Big Foot” and turn it into  a happy interaction. Drums and bass engage in conversation, a little call and  response, before they go out on the lope together. It's downright engaging fun.  Parker's “Relaxin' at Camarillo” is a solo slot for Dickeson. Here is a drummer  who knows how to make rhythm stand up and exult. The patterns he creates  are bright and brisk with the traps and the cymbals singing in consonance.  Dickeson weaves his dreams with flair and imagination turning this first record  into a delight and the beacon for more.’ 

Jerry D’Souza allaboutjazz.com   

‘A stalwart of the Australian Jazz scene, drummer Andrew Dickeson decides to step out on  his own after a 25-year career as a sideman to such legends as Mark Murphy, Lee Konitz,  Red Holloway, Junior Cook and Johnny Griffin among others. He does so with a superbly  crafted debut album entitled Weaver of Dreams, recorded live at The Sound Stage in  Sydney, Australia, as part of a concert for the Sydney Improvised Music Association  (SIMA). Dickeson leads an aspiring quintet of players with veteran tenor saxophonist  Roger Manins who joins trumpeter Eamon McNelis in fronting pianist Steve Barry and  bassist Alex Boneham — all rising stars down under. 

Borrowing from the Great American Songbook, the drummer includes sparkling  arrangements from giants of jazz like the one and only Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon and  Billy Strayhorn among the mix. Written by Harold Arlen for the last show at the famed  Cotton Club Parade in 1934, “Ill Wind” starts the music rolling on the first swinging piece of  the album and the first of several lengthy tunes with this one clocking in at fourteen-  minutes plus. McNelis introduces and leads the music on Strayhorn’s ballad “Isfahan,” with  soft phrasings on the trumpet as the leader swishes the brushes on the first laid back tune  of the set.   

Playing a bit of Cuban descarga, the group gyrates to Dexter Gordon’s classic “Soy Califa”  with Dickeson’s strong percussive charge setting the beat on this one. Though the piece  begins in the Latin mode, it shifts to a more modern jazz number for most of its thirteen-  minute romp featuring a sizzling solo performance from the saxophonist. The band enters  calmly on the Van Heusen standard “Darn That Dream” with Manins’ strong tenor voice  leading the music once again on the other decidedly mellow tune of the set. 

Victor Young’s title song is perhaps the most ambitious number of the project clocking in at  over fifteen minutes in duration; this one is a Dickeson special arrangement as the leader  opens the tune on a three-minute drum solo followed by sprite solos from Manins and  McNelis respectively. There’s a playful duet between bassist Boneham and the drummer  on Parker’s “Big Foot,” while Bobby Hutcherson’s lively “Herzog” provides pianist Barry a  moment to shine, as the live set closes with a last solo dicey drum rumble from Dickeson  on the finale piece “Relaxin’ At Camarillo.”   

Though clearly a drummer’s album, Andrew Dickeson’s Weaver of Dreams takes pages  from the Great American Songbook and reinvigorates old warn out classic with an infusion  on modern jazz jam that is both bold and entertaining. The cheers and applause from the  crowd at The Sound Stage, affirms that the music on this impressive debut, give jazz audiences  everywhere many moments of musical pleasure.’ 

Edward Blanco Ejazznews

‘Few groups making their recording debut have excited me as much as  this quintet led by Andrew Dickeson, whose drumming is a byword for  taste, class and swing. Standards and little played compositions by  Charlie Parker and Dexter Gordon are reworked with imagination, fire  and excitement. Ill Wind is given an Art Blakey Jazz Messengers  makeover (a far cry from my favourite version by Ella Fitzgerald at the  Chicago Opera House in 1957) and Soy Califa, after flirting with the feel  of a Cuban descargo, takes off crackling with unflagging excitement.  Melbourne trumpeter Eamon McNelis is superb, especially on Isfahan,  his beautifully controlled horn sensitive with a singing quality. Tenorist  Roger Manins’ solos are full of ideas and pianist Steve Barry is another  fluent and absorbing soloist. Bassist Alex Boneham meshes beautifully  with Dickerson who gives a master class of jazz drumming on Relaxin At  Camarillo. An exceptional album!’ 5 stars 

Kevin Jones Limelight 

‘Sydney drummer, educator and bandleader Andrew Dickeson studied in  New York in the early nineties, appears on around fifty albums, and has  played with the cream of jazz talent in Australian and internationally.  Recorded live at Sydney’s SIMA Sound Lounge in April 2011, this  strongly swinging front line consists of tenor powerhouse Roger Manins,  who commutes between Auckland and Sydney, and Melbourne trumpeter  Eamon McNelis, who won the 2010 Wangaratta Jazz Festival National  Award. The eight tracks are all standards, but of a slightly unusual nature,  skilfully arranged by Dickeson. Harold Arlen’s Ill Wind is a fourteen  minute opener, where drums rhythmically emphasize the melody line  with the horns, ahead of two solo sets from all five, firstly with Manins’s  full-bodied, endlessly inventive tenor, superbly underwritten by pianist  Steve Barry and Alex Boneham’s bass. Isfahan features solo trumpet with  the rhythm section and McNelis delivers a sensitive ballad interpretation,  climbing chromatically into the upper register then dropping down to  tenderly caress the lower notes before a languid piano excursion. The  title track opens with highly intelligent, crash-and-bang free drums  followed by outstanding solos from everyone. Manins plays a wonderful  breathy tribute to Coleman Hawkins on Darn That Dream and bass and  drums provide clever exchanges in Parker’s Big Foot. For a live  recording this album quality is very good with no distracting audience  noises.’ 4 stars 

John McBeath The Australian

‘An auspicious debut...’

John Shand Sydney Morning Herald

Here is a range of great reviews  from the USA and here in full, quite a response:

http://m.theaustralian.com.au/news/arts/weaver-of-dreams-andrew-dickeson-quintet/story-fn9sulvf-1226157818594

http://digitaljazznews.blogspot.com/2011/12/andrew-dickeson-quintet-weaver-of.html?m=1

http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=40938

http://www.jazzandbeyond.com.au/cdreview.html#TheAndrewDickesonQuintetCD

http://www.jazzandbeyond.com.au/interview.html#AndrewDickeson

http://jasminecrittenden.suite101.com/interview-with-australian-jazz-drummer-andrew-dickeson-a398056

http://ejazznews.com/2011/12/13/the-andrew-dickeson-quintet-“weaver-of-dreams”/


Alder Brendance

‘In both compositions and improvisations, Alder’s attention to jazz heritage is obvious. The sound that he draws from his horns area synthesis of listening and performing experiences that range from traditional Dixieland trumpet to those evolved by modernists such as Freddie Hubbard, Clifford Brown and Woody Shaw. Alder’s own sound is a seamless amalgam of the styles that have attracted his attention. It is rich and deserving of emulation by young jazz trumpeters. Every solo is well crafted and stylistically sensitive. Nothing sounds forced, so that the overall atmosphere that develops is relaxed but exciting when it is meant to be that way. This is an album made by a group of musicians who are very experienced in this idiom. The resulting music exudes a sense of their enjoyment of playing together. I hope that they do more such recordings.’

Gavin Franklin Music Forum

McGann Wending

‘The opening saxophone notes of The Breeze and I will curl your hair. Their sound, impact, ideas and originality oblige this long-term Bernie McGann fan to reassess previous assertions that he is one of the three most distinctive living alto saxophonists (with Ornette Coleman and Arthur Blythe). McGann is among the most distinctive musicians of any ilk. Ever...Magnificent.’

John Shand Sydney Morning Herald

Manins Latitude

‘This is a classic blowing session. The tunes all run for somewhere between ten to twenty minutes, and typically the two saxophonists and Dewhurst stretch out in their solos, the bassist gets a taste, and then the soloists trade 4s with the drummer. It’s a tried—and —true format, to say the least, but one that can still deliver rewarding listening when the players are in the sort of form they display here.

I daresay a studio recording would have produced more concise performances on a broader range of material, but the live situation produces some inspired passages that may well have been elusive in the sterile studio environment.’

Adrian Jackson Rhythms

‘If there is any criticism to be made of this recording, it is the consistently up—tempo swing format, in which there is little light and shade. Nonetheless both sax players shine throughout, and Dewhurst’s comping is consistently incisive but not intrusive, his solos enthralling. And the bass and drums are certainly no slouches. A great advertisement for impromptu live recording, where the players really stretch out, often out—classing studio—based music.’

Tony Mitchell Music Forum


My Goodness, McGuiness! Insular Peninsular

‘The world doesn’t do blitheness any more. Pouting and grandstanding, yes, but the gentle art of carefree joy has faded. Yet Sydney’s My Goodness, McGuiness! Can be as blithe as bee in summer. Why, they even cover David Bowie’s Oh! You Pretty Things. Trombonist Lucien McGuiness’s own pieces mostly sustain the mood, as does the group texture...Like The catholics, they stop just short of overdosing you with jollity.’

John Shand Sydney Morning Herald

‘Energy levels rarely escalate, but the groove and melody are beautifully robust. There is an overarching pure squality to the McGuiness tone, coupled with a less—is—more approach, never overplaying.’ Four stars

Peter Wockner Limelight


SNAP Boggy Creek Bop

‘SNAP, a Sydney-based saxophone quartet, combines the firepower of four animated musical personalities – Phillip Johnston, Paul Cutlan, Sandy Evans and Nick Bowd (playing soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxes, respectively) – with the compositional prowess of Johnston (best known for his work with the Microscopic Septet) and Evans. . .the writing is brilliant, combining a sophisticated mix of unisons, chorales, solos, counterpoint and free-blown sections, which transition organically and come alive through the dynamic playing of each hornist.’

Tom Greenland The New York City Jazz Record

‘Broadly speaking, they follow the blueprint laid down many years ago by the World Saxophone Quartet (and others like Anthony Braxton or the Rova Saxophone Quartet, or even to some extent the Micros). That is to say, they operate as a self-contained band, with the soloists taking turns while the others sustain rich, dense harmonies behind them or suggest a rhythm (often with the baritone laying down a clear bass line)...Plenty of chops on display, and some imaginative playing and writing too, as the music stretches from tuneful to some passages just this side of chaotic.’

Adrian Jackson Rhythms


Tim Stevens Trio Scare Quotes

‘Some musical performances reflect the interrelationship between the players more tangibly than others...As a trio, [their] lyricism...is entirely co-operative, rather than being an asset radiating luxuriantly from the keyboard, alone. The overwhelming impression throughout is of players more intent on listening than asserting. When they improvise collectively they are like three brushes gradually covering the same canvas: prompting each other but never painting each other into corners of limited options. A sumptuous beauty permeates most of the music, sided by a wonderfully transparent recording quality.’

John Shand Sydney Morning Herald

‘This CD is the fourth release from the trio of pianist Tim Stevens, bassist Ben Robertson and percussionist Dave Beck. The album was recorded in a single session in mid-2010 and it exhibits the sort of spontaneity that comes from a group of like-minded musicians that clearly enjoy playing together. While the album displays a wide emotional range, the sense of joy running throughout is palpable.

Six of the album’s eleven tracks are new compositions from the pianist. The tunes are intricate yet sound deceptively simple. Stevens has many that very difficult trick of writing pieces that are fresh and original, yet instantly memorable...The other five tracks are group improvisations...

By placing the improvisations alongside the compositions, Stevens has effectively amalgamated the two approaches that characterised the earlier releases from the trio...and as a result, Stevens has made probably his most diverse sounding album to date. It’s also, in my opinion, his best so far.’


Aaron Searle Music Forum


Various Artists Samurai Spirit

‘being a caring citizen on our shaky planet is not the only reason to buy it. This is the most substantial compilation to date from Rufus Records, the beloved champion of the best in Australian jazz and improvisation. The breadth of music (from 70 players!) ranges from the most tender side of alto saxophonist Bernie McGann to the icy beauty of 3ofmillions; from the four unaccompanied saxophones of the mercurial SNAP to the lonesome country strains of the Field. It’s a brilliant overview of 20 years of local music and has been programmed to cohere as well as surprise.’ Four stars

John Shand Sydney Morning Herald

‘Samurai Spirit satisfies the soul and helps in a small way to address the catastrophe caused by the earthquake and tsunami at Tohoku north of Tokyo in March 2011, as a percentage of sales supports the disaster relief.

The two—CD set includes 25 tracks from 70 artists who’ve recorded for the Rufus catalogue. Each track provides a pleasant reminder of the classic Australian acts that have appeared on this label, such as Clarion Fracture Zone. Animus Part I is a scintillating post—bop signature by Tony Gorman and a showcase for a thunderous yet spatial Alister Spence, followed by Animus Part II, using the Bulgarian Martenitsa Choir in Gaelic tongue. The stellar selections also include Eulogy for a Friend from saxophonists Bernie McGann and Sandy Evans.

A subtle theme of “recovery” is ever—present over both of the discs, but the compilation is simply an exemplary representation of the label’s impressive catalogue.’ Five stars

Peter Wockner Limelight

 
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other news

 

McGann’s Wending RF113 was a finalist for this Year’s ARIAs Best Jazz CD award. It follows his four previous wins as bandleader, and another as band member with The Last Straw. McGann is playing beautifully in his 75th year, and planning is underway for more releases, including On Holiday, a CD focussing on the music of Billie Holiday plus his own material.

On birthdays, Rufus Records turns 20 on 1 March 2013 (judging by the date of the first release). I’m looking forward to many more releases of quality Australian music, but it will be a challenging time as from New Years Day, Universal Music will cease distribution of my catalogue.

I’m very confident of the quality and appeal of this music, so, then, Forza! and Ganbare!

Best wishes for Christmas and a fulfilling New Year.

Tim Dunn

 
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