Posts Tagged ‘Freddie Hubbard’

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.

ishs allen1

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



Counterpoint in music is a lovely thing which seems to satisfy something in the listener. The intermeshing of disparate melodic lines to make a loosely woven rope of music – one with knots of harmony and dissonance detailing its length – has, since the Greeks, then Bach all the way through to Bill Evans/Scott LaFaro and even Ornette Coleman/Charlie Haden, always been a thrill that seems to hold some sort of underlying truth.

Maybe counterpoint is a symbol for the intermeshing of personalities that has always been a human ideal. Especially in Western culture, where the cult of the individual has been raised to the level of worship, the pleasure of intertwining with another is all too rare. Sometimes it seems to only exist in love, and in music.

In 1991, five leading lights of Australian Jazz performed a handful of gigs at South Melbourne Venue, The Limerick Arms. When the question arose as to who should be the leader, they all pointed at one another. Seeing the humour in this, they called the outfit The Hunters & Pointers.hunters and pointers

Recently unearthed, the tapes of those gigs – originally nicely recorded by Phil Georges in 1991 and polished digitally in 2014 by Hadyn Buxton – have been edited and released on CD as The Hunters & Pointers.

From the first few bars, the intermeshing of personalities is there. Trumpeter John Hoffman and alto Graeme Lyall start weaving lines around each other until Tony Gould’s piano joins them to bring in ‘Just Friends’. Ben Robertson’s bass and Tony Floyd’s drums play lovely and loose around Gould’s spiky solo.

The band rapport during Lyall’s solo and Hoffman’s relaxed answer to it brings to mind a recurring thought ­– that all jazz should be recorded live. It is ridiculous I know, but there often seems to be much more of a sense of the moment and the heady vibe of openended-ness than in many studio recordings.

The counterpoint pops up again during Lyall’s solo in ‘The Way You Look Tonight’; Gould talking back (and talking Bach) to his fleet bop lines. Gould’s sly comping under Robertson’s bass solo takes the music far away from the song  to areas of freedom and poetry. Throughout The Hunters & Pointers there is this feeling that there is all the time in the world, to do whatever we want with the music.

The tunes take their time to go where they will – ‘Just Friends’ is 18:23, ‘I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face’ (a lovely ballad reading built architecturally from Gould’s hymnal intro) is 12:10; Freddie Hubbard’s ‘Little Sunflower’ is 22.49.

‘Little Sunflower’ is the monolithic centre of The Hunters & Pointers, and not only for it’s size and scope. The simple 1967 Hubbard melody (with it’s lovely major lift) is the perfect bare bone frame for these five brilliant players to feed and flesh. Through Lyall’s eastern tinged exploration, via Gould’s quote-flecked meditations, on to John Hoffman’s teasing Hubbardisms and out through a surreal conversation between Robertson and guest drummer George Polyhronakos, ‘Little Sunflower’ is improvised music at its most cinematic and sumptuous.

All the time in the world, to do whatever we want with the music. Few players – though brilliant on paper – could make something this good out of such freedom. Chops alone can’t do it – in fact chops often work in the opposite way. It is the subsuming of the ego and the meshing of consciousnesses that will get the players, and we the fortunate audience, there. And, here, The Hunters & Pointers do it every time.

And if that is all a little mung-beans and spacey for you, you can at least enjoy the very funny joke that Graeme Lyall tells at the end of The Hunters & Pointers – a joke involving a bear, a hunter, some heavy weapons and some even heavier sex.


The Hunters & Pointers is available from


Published April 2104 on




It is only six short weeks into the new year and I feel I have heard the best jazz recording of 2013. But that sense of time dislocation is okay because the album I am talking about was recorded and released thirty-two years ago, in 1981.

Live at PBSFM 1981 by the Ted Vining Trio was originally released as an LP by Bill Hawtin of Jazznote Records. Long known, and discussed in reverent – and not so reverent – whispers, this legendary recording has been reissued by Newmarket Music on remastered CD. The sound quality is good, not great; the performances are sky-high motherlovin’ fantastic.

Ted Vining - pic Laki Sideris

For a music such as Jazz – which celebrates ‘the moment’ by its very definition – the live recording has to be the apex. MilesFour and More, Bill Evans’ and John Coltrane’s separate Village Vanguard live masterpieces, Keith Jarrett’s Köln Concert – their living-in-the-present immediacy has made for some of the form’s greatest performances.

Live at PBSFM 1981 deserves to be up there with these iconic albums. Drummer Vining, pianist Bob Sedergreen and bassist Barry Buckley – together with guest percussionist Alan Lee – whip up the excitement from note one and never let up. We hear it said all the time, but this gig truly sounds like the last one they will ever play, they play with such abandon – an abandon somehow reckless yet measured, the players simultaneously inside and outside the music.

Sedergreen’s McCoy-Tyner-flavoured piano intro to Trane’s ‘Impressions’ is physical, brutal and tangibly heated – he shows that poor piano no mercy throughout the entire recording; he rocks that box. And suddenly the band is there under him, flying breakneck down the freightTrane track. Buckley (who sadly passed on in 2006) has that compellingly raspy stringy bass tone here that is full of exclamations and percussive snaps popping out of his driving line. Vining of course is joy-in-drumming personified – his freedom is never at the expense of groove and vice versa – his short solo is a journey in and out and round again.

Blossom Dearie’s ‘Sweet Georgie Fame’ is three-quarter-time Gospel-soul that magically turns, at the coda, into a driving four-four, and back again into some fun play between the three. Live at PBSFM 1981 is brimming with these ultra-musical, extra-musical conversations between Vining, Sedergreen and Buckley – the three play, in every sense of the word. Peppered with vocal exhortations, affirmations and joyful egging-on between the musos, the album is as raucously cap-L Live as you can want.Ted Vining 2

Even Dizzy’s latin-Bop chestnut ‘A Night In Tunisia’ is exhumed, dressed in sharp new clothes and sent spinning round the block in a fast car. Dizzying stuff indeed, with Sedergreen’s elongated solo piano coda a particular high. ‘Little Sunflower’ is a 15:49 thrill-ride that has the trio and Lee taking every drop of musical material in Freddie Hubbard’s simple latin-jazz tune and twisting it, melding it and alchemising it into strange and sometimes alien alloys. It is a masterclass in making much out of very little – which is what jazz should be, n’est pas?

In fact, Live at PBSFM 1981 should be required listening for anyone studying piano-trio jazz at present and well into the future. As with John Coltrane’s best later work, it is an object lesson in what you get if you lose all inhibitions, stop thinking with the front-mind and just play and play and play – the result is something beautifully human, giddyingly spiritual and deliciously fullblooded.

Of course it does help to be Ted Vining, Bob Sedergreen and Barry Buckley – a trio that will live on through this remarkable album.

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Published February 2103 on 

The towering figure of jazz/funk trumpet superman Freddie Hubbard casts a very long shadow over the latest release by Melbourne’s Daimon Brunton and his quintet. Brunton’s fourth album – entitled Wha Sa (Chinese for ‘already done’) – was recorded live at Northcote’s Open Studio between November 2010 and February 2011, after a long gestation period involving various abandoned recordings and changing lineups.

It is no surprise that Brunton settled on this set of recordings and this lineup (Greg Lavell plays keys on three of the five tracks, Olaf Scott on the other two). The band is hot and cohesive, and the recordings sparkle with all the musical flashes that only a truly live performance can. The five track LP is warts and all, but with a band this ON, even their warts can be pearls.

Of the five, three tunes are Brunton originals and the other two are covers – Herbie Hancock’s jamming warhorse ‘Chameleon’ and Freddie Hubbard’s highly influential ‘Red Clay’ from 1970.

Of the Hubbard connection, Brunton says “After Sky Dive (1972) he seemed to move away to more pop-oriented music, but I was interested in exploring what might have been if Freddie had continued down the jazz path.” Brunton’s playing has all the snap, crackle and pop and Woody Shaw-style edge to his tone to carry this off, where a lesser trumpeter would get tangled up in the blistering runs or just plain lose their mojo. This is high-energy stuff. Maybe Brunton could have suggested a little more of Hubbard’s buttery lyricism now and again (check out ‘Delphia’ on the original Red Clay album) amongst the nuclear blasts, but it’s his call.

The same can be said of the moods and grooves across Wha Sa – they seem a little out of the same funky electric-jazz bag; a ballad or blues would be nice – if only to hear this superb quintet attack something more introspective.

That said, the places Brunton’s combo goes are pretty tasty – the impromptu boogie-shuffle (beautiful held by drummer Adam Donaldson) that grows out of the middle of ‘Chameleon’, Pat Farrell’s tasty bass intro to the same tune, Stella Skinner’s silvery guitar lines during her solo in the 13 minute closer ‘They Know Not What’.

In fact, apart from Daimon Brunton, it is guitarist Skinner that shines throughout Wha Sa – her bright Scofield-like lines during the opener ‘Wha Sa’, her neo-bop interjections during ‘A Happy Coincidence’s chase chorus with Brunton and Scott, the spaces she leaves in her ‘Chameleon’ solo – Skinner is a guitarist to watch.

Daimon Brunton uses words such as ‘firepower’ and ‘intense energy’ when talking about Wha Sa and says “This time it was all about energy, and that’s why we had to record it live.” So it is clear what the band was going for – did they hit it? I think you will agree they hit it hard – hard, bright and funky. Check it out.

Daimon Brunton and the band will be touring Wha Sa  nationally from 28 June through to 15 July. Details are at his website

Published June 2012 on