Archive for May, 2014

Jim Moginie is perhaps best known as a member of iconic Australian band, Midnight Oil. His musicality and vision helped shape the sound of the Oils – taking them far from their early pub rock thunder into a highly original and sophisticated soundworld, incorporating avant-garde elements side-by-side with jangling guitar Pop-classicism.

It is this same head-in-the-stars/feet-on-the-dancefloor (or maybe in the Maroubra surf) that informs his recent performance The Colour Wheel. Performed at The Campbelltown Arts Centre, the work was commissioned by The CAC as part of the Aurora Festival of Living Music.moginie1

Moginie’s ensemble of six electric guitars played through his suite of tone poems –­ each inducing a particular colour or hue – while the painters coloured in segments of a huge circular panel until they had completed a colour wheel (a kind of circular rainbow designed to show art students the relationships between colours… and a beautiful thing in itself).

Moginie’s spoken introduction explained the seed of the idea – the revolutionary concepts of the early 20th century which sought to find linking structures between visual arts and music. Paul Klee, Kandinsky as well as Australian pedagogue Roy de Maistre developed theories on these links that fed back into their art with astonishing results. And this is what The Colour Wheel was to attempt to do over the next hour or so.

moginie2; cacThe tone poems brilliantly conjured each colour as the painters blocked in the corresponding hue on the Wheel. The musical pieces went from the obvious to the conceptually opaque. Red was gnashing discord and flaming shards of guitar; Yellow, sunshine pop; Green, a rural country ramble.

It was during the pieces that attempted to sonically ‘paint’ the in-between tones and hues where it got really interesting – and showed Jim Moginie’s smarts and wonderfully balanced ensemble writing. Turquoise, neither green nor blue, had a faintly Arabic feel, conjuring Phrygian minarets but not only that, new pictures too; Orange was equally miasmic, burnt and warm, but alien; Purple/Mauve was whole new thing, dense with a language that was new, a language that had wine on its breath, a new wine.

moginie3; jan beggThe ensemble ­– two clean guitars, a baritone, a bass, a distortion guitar and an atmosphere guitar ­– worked with barely any effects apart from distortion and reverb, exploring the chiming tones of the instruments themselves. Moginie explained he was taking the role of ‘surf guitar’ (these days he plays with surf-artniks, The Break) and it was his glorious Fender Jaguar tone that led the pieces, nostalgic but Now, here airily bell-like, there roaring strange blues.

The Colour Wheel set out to explore the connection between colour and music and achieved it beautifully, giving the audience a spiritual thrill ride based upon the wonder of being human and the miracle of our senses. By the end of it all, we could ‘see’ sounds and ‘hear’ colours – something synesthetes have known for centuries.

Synesthesia is, of course, the neurological phenomenon whereby one ‘sees’ (or hears) colours in music. Moginie’s 6-guitar ‘orchestra’ and three artists made us all synesthetes for a short while that rainy afternoon.


Published May 2014 on





I recently was transfixed while watching my dog running around and around the yard. He appeared to be running purely and simply for the joy of running; the joy of his muscles and his velocity and the ground rushing beneath him.

Children also often tumble or jump or yell purely for the joy of the thing; as adults, this simple joy of the moment is gradually sullied and boxed in and all but eradicated.

Greening Tam2Artists have always seen the value of keeping that joy fresh and pure, jazz artists especially. Trombonist James Greening has always been one of our most joyful and joyous players. His very choice of instrument is joyful – the whinnying, hallelujah-ing of the trombone and the jovial flatulence of the sousaphone just bring a grin to your soul.

Greening’s latest project – with his super-septet, Greening From Ear to Ear (yes, a joyously silly what-the-hell pun…) – is Tam O’Shanter Tales. The compositions were inspired by a network of ideas centred around the natural beauty of Tasmania and the coastal community of Tam O’Shanter, but including the experience of Hazaran refugees settled in Tasmania, as well as thoughts of the hopes, fears and life-struggle shared by all humans.Greening Tam3

The six-track album was recorded last June at Sydney’s Sound Lounge, live in front of a buzzed-up audience – and I am so glad it was.

The joy springs up immediately from opener ‘Parallel Lines’ ­– Brett Hirst’s bass harmonics grow into a Afro-Cuban groove driven by the drums and percussion of Hamish Stuart and Fabian Hevia. A bristling ensemble section opens out to a Greening solo – joyous of course­ – and Andrew Robson’s snaky alto.

Next up is the happy NOLA march-blues, ‘Lumpy’ which has Greening blasting some rumbling sousaphone and Paul Cutlan abstracting the air with bass clarinet Dolphyisms.

‘I’m No Monk’ channels the joy that is Thelonious – pianist Gary Daley’s solo is aptly splay-fingered and righteous.

‘Hazara’ is the centrepiece of the album – spiritually and musically – as Greening gained inspiration during a period of ‘deadlock’ from the novel, The Kite Runner. The asymmetrical 17/8 groove is rendered surprisingly symmetrical by the band’s authority. The mood becomes one of a dance, a proud dance, a quiet celebration of the victory of living another day. Gary Daley’s  accordion sounds like women’s voices, Cutlan’s bass clarinet like a sirocco.

The accordian is also used, now in cluster-chords, to introduce the languid ballad ‘Sleeping Beauty’, which lulls us with watercolours of Tasmanian greens and olive-blacks and mist breathing off a river’s silver surface.

Greening Tam1Greening closes Tam O’Shanter Tales with the loping waltz-time blues ‘Early Morning’ the vibe of which suggest a wry eye on the world and hope for a new morning after darkest night.

James Greening may be a joyous man but he is no clown ­– it is one of the noblest human attributes to know life and the world in all its cruelty and compromise and still remain positive and bright; it is a daily battle for anyone who thinks at all.

In Phillip Johnston’s spoken intro to the recording, he says “Here we are firmly rooted in the present; one foot in the future and maybe an elbow in the past…”, echoing the kind of spiritually-centred mindfulness by which James Greening lives (and plays) and which informs the heart and deep soul of Tam O’Shanter Tales.


James Greening’s website is


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