James Muller meets JMO review

Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra & James Muller
Randwick Town Hall, May 13. Reviewed by John Shand


This concert may well not have happened. The Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra, the country's pre-eminent large jazz ensemble, has just lost its Australia Council funding, and Randwick Council's commendable Twilight Concert Series may well be jeopardised by forced council mergers. So we should be grateful for an opportunity to hear one of the world's most exciting guitarists, James Muller, amid big-band scores created specifically to feature his playing by the German arranger Florian Ross.

Ross' Scratch gave the concert such a storming start that one's ears had to adjust to the venue's lively acoustics, before his through-composed, charming and rather filmic Okay included huge dynamic leaps from the ensemble. He also arranged four of Muller's own compositions, beginning with the gorgeous 7/4 lilt of Green Eyes, underpinned by Muller's finger-picked chords, although the arrangement diminished the piece's distinctive folksy flavour.

The slower, softer nature of Eindhoven (containing lovely horn sonorities and a lyrical solo from bassist Tom Botting) suited the room more, but a pattern began to emerge of Ross' arrangements (and the band's dynamics) committing the cardinal sin of crowding out the soloist. Turning up was not really an option for Muller, so we were often tantalised by superb playing that was partially swamped. Finally on the rapid Kaboom the guitarist became airborne, at one point having two melodic lines happening simultaneously, and hurtling towards each other with such velocity that they collided in a shower of aural sparks, out of which emerged sprightly soprano saxophone from the band's director, David Theak.

Chick Corea saw tenor saxophonist Matt Keegan produce an exceptional solo: beautifully measured in its space and phrasing, and ultimately towering in its intensity. The piece also contained one of Ross' most exciting arrangements, with a crunching conclusion. Pyldriver, penned and arranged by the band's lead trombonist, Dave Panichi, made the ensemble sound more lithe and flexible than much of Ross' work, however. It also prompted a Muller solo so astonishing that it was like the soundtrack to a supernova event.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/music/jazzgroove-mothership-orchestra-review-20160515-gov2sc.html#ixzz48o32i1Yu 



Tinkler vs Fiddes CD review

Reviewed by Eugene Ball for the Music Trust of Australia website

At first the idea of the musical union of trumpeter Scott Tinkler and the Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra might appear a little incongruous. One might wonder how Tinkler, whose music sits on the more ‘free’ side of the improvised music spectrum, might work within an ensemble that operates, of necessity, within defined, somewhat inflexible structures. The error here is to assume that Tinkler’s music is in any way unstructured or uncontrolled, or that the Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra is clinical and lacking in spirit.

Despite the implications of conflict suggested by the album’s title, Fiddes vs Tinkler is a very successful collaboration. The two forces work well with and against each other: Tinkler’s playing imbues the album with a sense of playfulness and adventure, while the structures within the ensemble writing frame Tinkler’s distinctive musical language in fresh and interesting perspectives.

It is difficult not to swoon about Tinkler, so impressive is his playing on this album. But impressive is an inept word here; it tells only part of the story. Sure, his ceaseless virtuosity is thrilling, but it is the scope of his expression that leaves the most lasting impression. From a foundation of sound that is rich, open, warm and generous, he draws upon a vast array of timbral variations and manipulations. There is a beguiling element of humility at play here, too – despite his command of the instrument, he is not too proud to let the sound wobble or break up, should the pursuit of an idea push him to the limit of control. Interestingly, Tinkler’s influences, the most notable of which is Kenny Wheeler, are more clear here than on other recordings.

Though he performs regularly with the Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra, Andy Fiddes has stepped out of the trumpet section and into the roles of composer, arranger and conductor for this album. His compositions generally operate within modal frameworks, and his treatment of them is largely textural (those looking for swinging, ‘changes’ driven jazz, look elsewhere). It is in the creation of these textures that Fiddes excels. Through intelligent use of mutes and woodwinds other than the saxophone, he weaves a broad palette of textures, many of which harken, inevitably, to the pioneer of such sounds, Gil Evans. In a welcome diversion from the blockish homophony that is such an overused facet of so much big band music, Fiddes’ writing is playfully polyphonic. He also has a wonderful sense of writing for low brass and winds, which is a great advantage when writing for big band given that the medium is inherently dense in the middle-low register.

Crucially, Fiddes has managed to weave moments for Tinkler to ‘do his thing’ seamlessly into the compositions on this album. Track 4, Gaffer Work, is a wonderful example of this, and arguably one of the strongest tracks on the album as a result. Here Tinkler’s freeplay and Fiddes’s composed moments appear with thrilling results as two sides of the same coin, not disparate, juxtaposed entities,

Now in its thirteenth year, The Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra has established itself as one of the most prolific contemporary big bands in Australia, and it is projects like this one that give the ensemble real ‘street-cred’. There are moments of beautiful ensemble playing on this album, but the ‘best section on ground’ award must surely go to the trombones: their warmth of sound, control, and close to flawless intonation impress throughout. At times the balance between and within the instrument sections is a little distorted (the lead trumpet is often lost, for instance), but this may be a recording issue, not a problem with the performance.

To close, I cannot resist buying into the analogy posed by this album’s playful title: In every stoush there must be a winner, and the winner here is… music!

"Speaking of resonance, Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra hit like a slammed door" - Australianjazz.net

John Clare reviews the first outing of brand new material from Andy Fiddes for Scott Tinkler and jazz orchestra,

judging from enthusiastic conversations I overheard, this was kingly playing.
It was also very impressive writing by Fiddes. Each piece had either strong emotion or enthralling atmosphere and texture, or all of that. A special night with the special feelings and resonances one can still experience in a connoisseur’s jazz club.

"exquisitely played... [a] magnificent performance" - offtherecord.com.au

...both Schneider and Argue drew attention to the magnificent performance of the Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra, who themselves looked somewhat dazed and incredulous to have just given their all playing the music of these two critically acclaimed contemporary composers and arrangers. It seemed the perfect way to crown ten years together.

Des Cowley writing at Off the Record, 11th June 2013

Source: http://www.offtherecord.com.au/reviews/def...

"Exquisite" - Sydney Morning Herald

Thursday's double bill must have been as daunting for the orchestra as it was thrilling for the audience. Two celebrated international composers; two programs of intensely demanding material. No wonder Darcy James Argue took his hat off (literally) to JMO leader David Theak at the end of the evening.

As a conductor, Schneider's gestures were more fluid and expansive than Argue's, encouraging the music (and the musicians) to breathe. The closer, Sky Blue, enveloped the audience as tenderly as an embrace, David Theak's soprano sax gliding and swooping over the swelling theme with impassioned grace. Exquisite.


Jessica Nicholas writing in the Sydney Morning Herald

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/music/...

"[the] Orchestra effortlessly rose to the task of interpreting Schneider’s sumptuous works" - theatrepress.com.au

The anticipation was palpable as one of the world’s foremost jazz musicians walked onto the stage. Yet she didn’t hold an instrument or approach a microphone. In fact she didn’t make any sound at all. She merely held up a hand, and with a few gestures created exciting, complex and subtle music.

This mysteriously silent musician whom everyone had come to see was arguably the premiere big band composer and arranger of the last three decades – Maria Schneider. And her instrument? An eighteen-piece jazz orchestra, that she played like a puppet master, pulling all the strings to elicit finely-tuned dynamics and expressive solos.

Anastasia Slipper writing at theatrepress.com.au

Source: http://theatrepress.com.au/2013/06/07/revi...

"The textures, orchestral voicings and raw energy carry the listener to places unimagined" - jazzlocal32.com

The first concert was at the Kenneth Meyers Centre and I watched with interest as the various musicians about town tweeted words like ‘freaking amazing’ and ‘wow’. The main Auckland gig was on the next night at the Auckland Jazz & Blues Club. By the time I turned up the venue was packed. Everyone there looked expectant, understanding that a rare treat was in store.

John Fenton writes at his blog jazzlocal32.com

Source: http://jazzlocal32.com/2013/06/03/jazzgroo...

"charmingly cohesive group - playful yet professional" - australianstage.com.au

Together the Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra make a charmingly cohesive group - playful yet professional. If there were any doubt about any of these qualities, the final number of the first set, called Mean MF, surely put them to rest. A powerful piece laden with piano and trombone, this gave the audience plenty to talk about during the break and made sure we were fully warmed up for the second half.
"It's a gift to have some of the most world-class musicians among us", said softly-spoken and completely charming club manager Megg Evans. She's right. If you get a chance, don't miss an opportunity to see the Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra, or as Musical Director David Theak suggested none-too-subtly several times, buy one of their CDs. It's big band jazz at its best.

Review by Danu Poyner in Australian Stage, May 4, 2009.

"Electrifying big blasts balanced by nuanced writing" - Sydney Morning Herald

After an opening, scything alto saxophone solo from leader Theak was lost at the mixing desk, the sound for the 17-piece band was sensational. Electrifying big blasts were balanced by nuanced writing, notably in two pieces by Evan Lohning, while baritone saxophonist Nick Bowd and trombonist John Hibbard enjoyed a soulful, slurring dialogue on a Nock piece arranged by Hibbard.

Jazz:Now review by John Shand in the Sydney Morning Herald, September 22, 2007 

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/news/music/above-bey...

"memorable music, bold arrangements...and a bevy of players who all deserve to be heard beyond the confines of Australasia" - allaboutjazz.com

Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra: The Mothership Plays the Music of Mike Nock  reviewed at allaboutjazz.com.

With the winning combination of Nock's memorable music, bold arrangements that are never brash, and a bevy of players who all deserve to be heard beyond the confines of Australasia, The Mothership Plays the Music of Mike Nock dovetails nicely with Nock's own Bigsmallband Live (ABCJAZZ, 2003), and is recommended for listeners who are looking for modernity in their large ensembles.

read the full review here

Source: http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.ph...