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:
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.
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.
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!: