Posts Tagged ‘ade ishs’

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of having lunch with Melbourne pianist, ade ishs. He was in Dad mode and we were surrounded by his family – his charming wife and three boisterous children.

During the meal we chatted about music, of course, and I discovered he was equally a fan of Pat Metheny and Irish pop sensations, The Corrs. This made sense to me as his music contains, in varying measure, both the cinematic artistry of Metheny as well as the Corrs’ accessibility, and – dare I say it – pop smarts.


His second album co-led with drummer Chelsea Allen, under the ishs/Allen Project banner, is Stories Under the Sky. In some ways it is a departure from – or evolution of – the sound of their impressive 2015 self-titled debut, and further back, 2013’s ade ish’s Trio, which also had ish’s longtime percussive foil, Chelsea Allen on drums.

This time, as well as bassist Paul Bonnington and trumpeter Ee Shan Pang, they are joined by reeds player Lachlan Davidson. The new colours this affords, as well as the use of various members’ vocals, adds a greater dimension across all these impressionistic pieces.cover_512x512

And impressionistic they are ­– ishs, the family man and all-round happy human, delights in life’s simple, unalloyed pleasures. The titles here express this daily joy: ‘Autumn Walk’, ‘Summer Morning’, ‘Blue Sky’, ‘Moving Forward’. As ishs never shies away from a ‘pretty’ melodic line or an accessible directness in composition and improvisation (“I’m not a big fan of chop-fests” he says), he equally titles these pieces with a simplicity that is disarming.

Which not for a minute suggest this is simple-minded music. As with previous releases, ishs and Allen consistently surprise with invention and verve. The 7/8 montuno of ‘Summer Morning’ (with a sharp Allen solo that chats with a short unison band riff); the indigo harmonies and almost 12-tone melody of ‘Shades’ (with its Miles Davis flavoured echo-trumpet intro from Shan Pang); the jumping latin-rock ‘Fragments of Truth’. This is not all only sunshine and orange juice.

The piano and voice duet ‘I’ll Wait Till You Arrive’ is a meditation on grief, inspired by the loss of a friend, and oddly for such a richly orchestrated album, its starting point for Allen and ishs.

Joy and grief and all in between: that is life. Again, I am charmed by the work of The ishs/Allen Project. With its direct emotional connection, even with the newly added colours and complexity in arrangements, it is what I dig about this group.

As Chelsea Allen says: “Most important to me, in this stage of music making and music writing, is strength and simplicity in the message and in the execution. Simple themes are so important and so relatable, and never cliché.”

What a pleasure it is to say, without any irony, “Amen to that.”


Stories Under the Sky is launched 17 August at The Paris Cat, Melbourne.

Album is available from


When I reviewed Melbourne pianist/composer ade ish’s Trio album a little over a year ago I said that his playing “reminds me – although they are vastly different players technically and stylistically – of Dave Brubeck (of all people). The smile that is across his solos, the sometimes pugilistic attack, the open-heartedness, never afraid to play pretty but also never afraid to drop a dissonance, sweet-and-sour – the things I love about dear departed Dave I also love about ade ishs.

That joyous Bru-vibe is reinforced on the eponymous debut album of his new project with drummer Chelsea Allen, who also played on the Trio recording. Reinforced, painted in higher relief and expanded upon.

The ishs/Allen Project has moved in a texturally tougher direction, bringing in electric bassist Paul Bonnington and brass player Ee Shan Pang. Yet this toughness gladly doesn’t bruise the music; it largely serves to add energy to the inherent exuberance of ish’s and Allen’s music.

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Drummer Allen’s influence across the ten tracks is marked as The ishs/Allen Project has a heart that beats deep rhythm thoroughout. The pretty “Welcoming Spring” jumps out with a bright Latin groove, moving in and out of odd time signatures with loose-limbed ease. ish’s solo here dextrously moves among the tricky pulses like a strong swimmer mastering changing ocean currents. Allen’s solo against the band’s figures is full-blooded and equally joyous.

“Above the Desert” has Shan Pang’s Miles-ish trumpet over a funky pedal-point groove, and “Little Flower” is a Steely Dan flavoured cousin to Freddie Hubbard’s “Little Sunflower”. Rhythm and groove abounds.

“Understanding” was a solo standout on the previous Trio recording, and here the arching melody gets the full band treatment, augmented by ishs’ and Allen’s wordless vocal texture. This device vocal (male and female harmonising in octaves) is also used on the rhapsodic “Handholding” to great effect – it reminds me of Jackie Cain and Roy Kral from the 50s and some of the vocal experiments of the 70s such as McCoy Tyner’s “Inner Voices” – balmy, warm and lush.ishs allen2

The uniqueness of the vocal thing shows the originality of the arrangements here – ishs and Allen use anything at their disposal to realise the tune at hand. “Science” opens with molecular piano notes under Shan Pang’s trumpet intro before moving into a robust diatonic melody (the sort Keith Jarrett used to do when his afro was bigger). “Train” builds its Latin groove a beat at a time until it rolls off under its own humid steam. “Veiled Beauty” takes the jazz ballad to a new place, more colour than shape – very sensitively done.

The closing tune, a nostalgic co-write between the band leaders titled “Guildford Lane” after where they met, has Shan Pang laying out. Piano and drums paint a sepia tone-poem that is emblematic of what is good and right about this group.

Too much current jazz can be wilfully challenging and self-consciously outré. Often this approach leaves emotion and human connection behind, as if in fear that simple and direct expression in some way devalues the art.

The music of ade ishs – and now the music he makes on this album with Chelsea Allen – is far from simple, yet the expression is direct and heartfelt. There are moments when it can become almost too pretty, but that is the risk one takes if making your music inclusive and not exclusive to your fellow human beings.

Dave Brubeck, when studying with French composer Darius Milhaud, was told by the modern master to never be afraid of a good simple melody. And that never did Bru any harm at all, either.

Published March 2015 on


The cover art for Melbourne pianist ade ishs’ new Trio album is of a dark deep lake, its surface untroubled, its edges calm and waveless.

Being a visual person, images often swim though my head while listening to music. This image appealed instantly as a perfect expression of the Trio’s music and especially of ishs’ playing – calm and settled on the surface, held in place by a spiritual gravity, its smooth face belieing the many cross currents interweaving and shaping the dark waters below.

Strength without force. Power without friction.

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Opener ‘Acceptance’ is a perfect manifestation. At first almost too pretty, it asserts its calm power beneath ishs’ sure fingers. Drummer Chelsea Allen and acoustic bassist Daigo Nakai supply warm undercurrents to the untroubled waters of ishs melody and soloing.

‘Night Birds’ (composed in 2002) heats the Trio with its latin-rock groove propelled by Allen’s snapping backbeat – ah, a jazz drummer who doesn’t mind a backbeat, kudos! Nakai’s bass solo on ‘Night Birds’ lowers the dynamic with no expense to the groove.

ade ishs (lowercase respectfully observed) says of the Trio: “I’m trying to avoid having the piano always the front liner. On this recording the bass and drums are all front liners on different tracks”. As well as a nice balance across the album between the three – as all good piano trios must have, from Bill Evans down – Nakai also features prominently on the driving waltz ‘For What It’s Worth’ and Allen delivers more of that tough backbeat on the short, sharp shock that is ‘The Differing Sky’.

ishs’ own playing reminds me – although they are vastly different players technically and stylistically – of Dave Brubeck (of all people). The smile that is across his solos, the sometimes pugilistic attack, the open-heartedness, never afraid to play pretty but also never afraid to drop a dissonance, sweet-and-sour – the things I love about dear departed Dave I also love about ade ishs.ade ishs 1

After several solo piano recordings, this is the pianist’s first with his Trio. The lovely solo piece ‘Understanding’ makes me keen to check his solo albums. Truly beautiful, the pace of this measured and deeply meditative performance slows the worlds to its tempo – the openness and poised spaces in its intro and outro are haiku, breath in winter, bare trees.

As the ade ishs Trio album begins, it ends. ‘Go On 3’ is, like opener ‘Acceptance’, a calm waterway of three currents moving through time and days. It carries its stillness with assuredness, both knowing but not knowing where it is flowing to. And that is what has always made great jazz.

Published November 2103 on