Monthly Archives: September 2011

Bull and Walford come to town

LAST Saturday night – 24 September – Geoff Bull (trumpet) and Gary Walford (piano) both from Sydney came to Melbourne to play for the Victorian Jazz Club at the Clayton RSL. This is the second visit to the VJC in less than 12 months for this massively talented pair.

Geoff Bull

Geoff Bull

Gary Walford

Gary Walford

Geoff Bull is one of Australia’s  best New Orleans style jazz trumpeters, with 50 years of playing and touring experience  in Australia, Europe, Japan, England, New Zealand, and of course New Orleans where he is a welcome visitor and performer.

Gary Walford, the piano-man,  is a Sydney icon where he has been playing at the Unity Hall Hotel, Balmain for 40 years,  give or take a few, and graces many a festival and jazz club stage.   His style is   a mixture of boogie, stride, New Orleans and swing, but whatever he plays,  it’s electrifying.

And  to add to the joy of the evening, the supporting band was made up of local heroes Dave Hetherington (clarinet/ tenor sax), Hugh de Rosayro (trombone), Peter Grey (double bass), Ashley Keating (banjo), and Allan Browne (drums).  Here’s a group portrait of the band taken by Ron Jobe, photographer to the stars.
Geoff Bull and Gary Walford with local heroesYou could write a book about any one of them.
And here’s a video of them playing ALWAYS. Look out at the end for Allan Browne’s individual drumming style. He is a “legend” in several different jazz genres and is always moving into fresh fields, both as a musician and as a composer.

Tuba Skinny in New Orleans

Ian Smith and Michelle Whelan

Ian Smith with Michelle Whelan at the Amora Hotel

HAVE just been listening to one of my favourite radio programmes – Ian Smith’s MAINLY TRAD – broadcast every Tuesday from 2.00 pm to 4.00 pm on 96.5 INR FM radio from Warringal Shopping Centre in Heidelberg, Melbourne.

Ian’s special guest today was Bob Whetstone.  Bob brought along a selection of CD’s to play  and talk about, and any of you who know Bob will know that his talk is worth listening to.

One which caught my ear was a recording of a street band  called TUBA SKINNY playing in New Orleans  while Bob and Marcia were there in 2009.  Bob was very taken with the quality of their playing, particularly Shaye on trumpet and Erika, the singer.

That marvellous invention YouTube has now let me relive a performance of TUBA SKINNY just as Bob and Marcie would have experienced it.

Piano lunch at the Rosstown

Rosstown Hotel Carnegie ON the last Thursday of alternate months, starting in January, that fine old watering hole, The Rosstown Hotel at the corner of Koornang Road and Dandenong Road, Carnegie presents a smorgasbord of piano players from 12 noon to 3pm.

One definition of  “smorgasbord”:   It is typically a celebratory meal and guests can help themselves from a range of dishes laid out for their choice.

Well that seems a fair description of what you can expect on Piano Lunch days.  From 6 to 12 of the town’s best piano players (depends on how many turn up on the day)  take turns at the baby grand to entertain you over lunch.   It’s a free concert; all you pay for is your meal and drinks.   To book ring 9571 1033.

The next PIANO LUNCH is on Thursday 29 September.   Musicians you might hear include Rex Green, Kim Harris, Graham Coyle, Keith Stevens, Michael Llewellyn, Jeff Bartrum, Neville Turner, Kathy Connor, John Adams, Ken Cowan or Jo Abbott.

Kim Harris

Kim Harris

John Adams

John Adams

Special guest this month will be Barrie Boyes on tenor and alto sax.

Barrie Boyes

Barrie Boyes



Reality Check: back to the real world after Noosa

HERE we are back home after Noosa, and the real world clicks in straight away – no time to record posts of the last week’s music, which will have to wait until later.

We’ve already been to two gigs:

Clayton RSL, home of the Victorian Jazz Club

Thursday 8 September at the Clayton RSL (home base of the Victorian Jazz Club)  for an out-of-routine session with Ray Lewis’s DIXIE HEROES, including special guests – Lindsay Meech (trumpet) on his annual pilgrimage from New Zealand, and Paul Martin (reeds) who is now settled in Tasmania, but was a resident of Melbourne and Sydney where he played with such bands as the Yarra Yarras, Red Onions, Frank Traynor and Roger Janes amongst others from the 1960s to the 1980s.

The lineup was:
Ray Lewis, leader on trombone
David Allardice, piano
Richard Mander, string bass
Paul Martin, reeds
Lindsay Meech, trumpet
Ron Hayden on drums, depping for Lynn Wallis who was unfortunately ill.

Ray is sporting (if that’s the word) a short, chemo hairstyle which he dubbed “Geoff Bull’s Revenge”. It’ll grow again Ray! Musos Frank Stewart, Kay Younger and Ken Farmer were in the audience to catch up with old mates.

I hadn’t heard Paul Martin live before so this was a treat. His deceptively simple presentation is a disguise for a masterful technique – no in-your-face bird trills here.

One of the early numbers was a lovely smoky version of King Oliver’s 12 bar blues, SNAG IT. The whole front line did their bit, and David Allardice was splendid on that less-than perfect piano. I video’d their version of JAZZ ME BLUES later in the program which sounded a lot better in real life: I was too close to the drums, too far away from the piano and clarinet, but it will give you an idea of the style.

This was a lovely night of Chicago-style jazz played by a mix of fine musicians who don’t play together often, but who melded well – ain’t it always so with class acts.

dancers at Caulfield RSL

Dancers at Caulfield RSL

ON the following night, Friday 9 September we enjoyed Johnny Cox’s MELLOWTONES at the Caulfield RSL.

This is one of my favourite venues – small enough to be friendly, but big enough so as
not to be sitting on each other’s lap. The food is upper-class RSL fare, the staff is friendly, and you can see the band from all points of the room, even when the dance floor is full (which is usually is).

More importantly, the quality of bands is always high since Big Bob Whetstone has taken over programming duties. Bob is not only a great chooser of bands, he is a noted horn player and vocalist, whose band – THE MAPLE LEAF JAZZ BAND – had an ardent following at The Spreadeagle, The Anchor and Hope, The Portsea Hotel and other enlightened pubs during the roaring eighties.
Bob Whetstone and Doug Rawson
Here’s Bob, with Doug Rawson on keyboard, at a memorable reunion of The Maple Leaf held in April 2010.

But back to the MELLOWTONES: led by John Cox (guitar/banjo) the band includes Mike Edwards on clarinet and alto sax, Bob Venier on trumpet, Dan Gordon on string bass/tuba, and Ben Rushworth on drums. They have been playing together for a couple of years, but all have been seasoned in other groups.
I asked John what was the musical personality of the Mellowtones, and he said, “We just chose tunes the members liked”, but whatever they play, all are totally comfortable in their music, crafty in their musicianship which comes from talent and experience.
Here’s a video of them playing MR SANDMAN at the Matthew Flinders motel last year. They played this on Friday as well, but with a different arrangement.

Don’t you love that tuba! Dan is one of the few tuba players I’ve heard who can carry the melody as well as the rhythm, and how well it travels with Johnny Cox’s swinging, swooping banjo.  We are lucky in Australia to have some of the best banjo players around – in addition to John Cox, Peter Hooper, John Withers, John Scurry, Peter Allen to name just a few.

THE MELLOWTONES will be playing again on Wednesday 5 October at the Clayton RSL, Carinish Road, Clayton between 11.00am and 2.00pm as the Victorian Jazz Club’s contribution to Seniors’ Week. $6. Bookings 9553 3850.
And then on Thursday 6 October they will feature in Melbourne’s Greatest Seniors’ Variety Show at the Melbourne Town Hall. 7.00pm to 10pm. Doors open at 6.30pm. Tickets $20. 9560 6144 for bookings.
On Sunday 9 October, they’ll be at the Rosstown Hotel, Koornang and Dandenong Roads, Carnegie. Lunch is from 12.00 noon. Music from 1.30pm to 4.30pm. Bookings are essential. 9571 1033. This is The Mellowtones first time at the weekly Rosstown jazz lunch.
And if you think that all this emphasis on Seniors’ Week means that THE MELLOWTONES are over the hill, here they are to prove it isn’t so!:

The Mellowtones

Ben Rushworth, Bob Venier, John Cox, Mike Edwards, Dan Gordon. (photo: Ron Jobe)

Tastings on Hastings @ the Noosa Jazz Festival

SHOCKING news!! The sun doesn’t always shine on the Sunshine Coast – but it did on Friday 2 September for the public opening of this year’s Noosa Jazz Festival. (Last night was the Welcome Party for the signed-up delegates – more of that later).

Round about 11.00 am Hastings Street was closed to motor traffic, waiters were setting up tables and chairs outside their restaurants for the Tastings on Hastings long lunch for gourmet jazzers, and there was a buzz in the air waiting for the parade to begin at 11.30,  Not a massive one – a lot of the musos were saving their puff for the music marathon to come – but I did see Peter Gaudion, Jason Downes and Ian “Smithy” Smith from Melbourne doing their bit.   Here’s a brief clip of the parade:

We were booked in at Cato’s Restaurant of the Sheraton Hotel, so we took our seats and got stuck into the fine wines and chatted with fellow guests, and passing celebrities:

Catos, Tastings on Hastings, Noosa

Cato's table, Tastings on Hastings, Noosa Jazz Festival

Ron Jobe, photographer

Ron Jobe, jazz photographer, front & back view

Ron Jobe has been photographing jazz musicians for 30 years, amassing an archive of photos destined for the Victorian Jazz Archive.  I’ve included a front and back view because Ron is wearing his precious HOTTER THAN SIX shirt, memento of earlier jazz tours.

Manuel aka Neil Bidner

Manuel, the waiter

“Manuel” is a regular at the Festival. His alter ego is Neil Bidner, “one man – many faces”. See some other faces on his website.

The Little Tramp

The Little Tramp takes it easy

Another celebrity who made an unexpected visit took liberties with Graeme’s shoulder!

A number of stages were strategically placed along The Street where various groups played for the entertainment of the diners and peds.

strolling band, Noosa festival

Strolling Band

In addition, strolling bands moved up and down amongst the throngs. Richard Stevens on sousaphone and Ian Smith, on washboard, were in one such band.

Richard Stevens was gracious enough to let Graeme try out his lungs on the sous.  He produced a sound like a bull seal!

Richard Stevens' sousaphone

Graeme tries the sousaphone



Noosa Jazz Festival

Here we are  in beach resort  Noosa Heads, Queensland, for the 20th Noosa Jazz Festival – and after cold, wet Melbourne it’s great to see the sun.

Our apartment (Positano Beachfront Apartments)  is on the main drag – Hastings Street – which is alive with music and the passing crowds day, and particularly, night. Out the back are the pool, the beach, and the boardwalk which is heavily used by joggers, strollers and the odd musician.

Noosa Heads beach

The beach at our back gate, Noosa Heads

Across the way is the lively Rococco Restaurant which features great crowd-attracting music into the wee small hours.  (More of this later).

The Festival originated in 1992 as the brain child of the fabled Frank Johnson, leader of the Fabulous Dixielanders, and Richard Stevens of The Jazz Factory, and this year runs for four days from 1 to 4 September.

Tragically Frank died in Noosa in 2000 as a result of a traffic accident.

For old time’s sake, here’s a recording of the Dixielanders playing Forty and Tight.

The Festival program includes:
– a Welcome Party at Bicentennial Hall
– a street parade down the infamous Hastings Street
– a long (in duration and length) lunch , Tastings on Hastings, where restaurants vie with each other to provide the best food and drink for about 600 revellers who are entertained with jazz from strategically placed stages, and by strolling bands
– jazz river cruises
– afternoon and evening performances in restaurants and other venues
– a free outdoor stage in the Noosa Woods at the end of Hastings Street highlighting some of the fine local youth (and other) bands.

But the focus for us is the NOOSA JAZZ PARTY held in Bicentennial Hall – 6 hours of jazz for 4 nights from the cream of Australia’s musicians, in the tradition of the original Noosa Show of 1992.  Many of these musos are leaders of their own bands who come together in Noosa to play in different groupings and in different trad styles.

The Party is being organised and funded by the Noosa Heads Jazz Club under the leadership of President Richard Stevens..

By my reckoning there are about 25 musicians involved, so by the end of the Festival, they will certainly have earned their keep!!