Friday, July 30, 2010

Evelyn, a modified dog

Evelyn, a modified dog
Viewed the quivering fringe of a special doily
Draped across the piano, with some surprise

In the darkened room
Where the chairs dismayed
And the horrible curtains
Muffled the rain
She could hardly believe her eyes

A curious breeze
A garlic breath
Which sounded like a snore
Somewhere near the Steinway (or even from within)
Had caused the doily fringe to waft & tremble in the gloom

Evelyn, a dog, having undergone
Further modification
Pondered the significance of short-person behavior
In pedal-depressed panchromatic resonance
And other highly ambient domains . . .

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Zappa interview

As part of this concert at the Globe, I recently did an interview with Dan Condon for Timeoff Magazine. He asked me the following:

1. Last time we spoke you hadn't yet performed this Zappa show; how do you feel it has gone down?

There really has been an overwhelming response – the Zappa Big Band debuted in late January at a sold-out Brisbane Jazz Club where we were forced to turn around 70 patrons at the door, who were unable to squeeze into the packed venue. It was a really interesting audience – a mixture of people who were there for the jazz, but also a heap of Zappa fanatics (many with Zappa t-shirts on!), which was really fantastic to see!

2. You're playing another show on the weekend, can we assume that we'll be seeing more of this group in the future?

Yes, we’re headlining one of the Sunday Jazz gigs at the Brisbane Festival (in the Spiegeltent on Sunday 5 September) and then another show at the Brisbane Jazz Club in early December.

3. I hear you've prepared some new charts; what informs your decisions as to what tunes you choose to perform?

I really wanted to feature our wonderful vocalist, Stu Fisher, a little more. A lot of people know him as the big guy in the Brisbane Broncos Jersey who features in that classic NRMA television commercial. What people don’t know is that he is a very fine jazz singer – it’s an absolute pleasure having him in the group. Of course, I’m also looking for charts that feature some of the amazing soloists in the band – “Spider of Destiny” features Matt Carpenter on guitar whilst “Dwarf Nebula” features the freakish Scott Griffith on alto sax.

4. Has it been difficult getting all of the players together to perform again?

Sure – it’s always tricky co-coordinating 19 musicians, but I’ve been really lucky to have a lot of support from the band. They all really want to be there – I think they realize it’s a pretty unique opportunity to play music by one of the most underrated composers of the 20th Century.

5. What can we expect from your live show this time around?

Quite simply, a bigger sound in a bigger venue to a bigger audience! The band has also been working on a heap of new charts like “Village of the Sun” and “Evelyn A Modified Dog”. As well, we’ll be featuring an old friend of mine this time – DJ KATCH (Hydrofunk / 2 Dogs) – we played in the Resin Dogs together for many years, so it’ll be great to have him perform on the night as well!

6. What are your plans for the near future?

My plan is to keep increasing the repertoire of the band, and to inform as many people as I can in Brisbane about this extraordinary group. It’s not often you can walk into a club in the valley and see a 19-piece band grooving on stage. I think those days are possibly over, so I’m hoping people come out to check this one out!!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Zappa Big Band in rehearsal

So, the Zappa band has started rehearsing once more! Last night, some of Brisbane's most well known musicians read through a heap of new charts ("Village of the Sun", "Spider of Destiny") and revisited a few tricky ones (such as "Moggio" and "Echidna's Arf").

I'm always a little apprehensive about doing projects like this - you never know just how quickly the music is going to come together!! But it's been wonderful to have had so much support, not only from the musicians, but also from the public who all seem quite eager to hear a little Zappa in Brisbane! Can't wait till the next rehearsal.....

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Sympatico, an ensemble that I (co)-formed late last year consisting of trumpet, piano and percussion, started rehearsals today. We're intending on performing a recital of new works by composers Daniel Hamburger, Dafnis Prieto and Tom Green. The concert, scheduled to take place on Saturday 28 August at the Queensland Conservatorium, is part of the New Music Network's 2010 Concert Series, which can be viewed online here:

It's a wonderful group, which features two friends of mine - Dave Kemp on percussion, and Kellee Green on piano. It's always a great pleasure to play with those two musicians.

Dave and I are performing Dafnis Prieto's Trail of Memories (for C trumpet and percussion), which was commissioned by the New Trumpet Consortium in 2005. Also on the program is Dutch composer Daniel Hamburger's Reminiscences of Laura, scored for trumpet, piano quatre mains, percussion and electronics (which I run using MaxMSP on my MacBook Pro). Daniel Hamburger is a young, versatile composer who creates music for the stage and for multidisciplinary projects. Being a graduate in music technology, he organically integrates electronics in his compositions. Reminiscences of Laura, composed in 2003, received the public's prize in the final of the Henriette Bosmansprijs, a competition for young composers. We'll also be premiering a new four-movement work by Tom Green, which also features electronics as well. A draft (midi) version can be listen to at his website:

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Zappa Big Band

So I now have a blog. How did this happen? I’ve never really thought I’ve had anything worthwhile to say, and besides, who has the time to actually say it? In the past, I’ve had fantasies of being a writer – spending time in some cold deserted cabin writing eccentric stories, similar to JD Salinger’s Glass family or Jaclyn Moriarty’s tales. Of course, this is just me being fanciful, but I’ve come to realise that writing a blog might be able to act as a type of online reference, or at the very least, a way to clarify a sense of direction when planning different projects, or even further research.

So I write this on a cold winter’s day, my toes freezing inside my socks, and wondering whether the milk in my coffee was okay to drink. Does “Use by July 2” really mean that, or do they just put it there as a guide?

I always say this about every year, but the first half of 2010 has been extremely busy. It feels like a lot of this year has been dedicated to finishing my masters dissertation, but the truth is that there has been a lot going on. My friend and colleague, Jon Nelson has been in Australia where we worked on a few projects including an ensemble that played Jon’s arrangements of music by Zappa, Beefheart, Radiohead, King Crimson, Webern and Yes. Other groups that I perform with, such as Hot Mambo, Soundscapes, Bassboy, have all been busy as well. Sympatico, an ensemble (trumpet/piano/percussion) that I formed with Dave and Kellee was successful in obtaining a New Music Network grant, so we’ll be performing a recital at the Queensland Conservatorium at the end of August. Tom Green has composed a new four-movement work that we’ll premiere there. Which reminds me….I need to start practicing the tricky thing!!

So what’s next? My next project is the Zappa Big Band, a 19-piece big band that will perform at the Globe Theatre (in Brisbane, Australia) on Saturday 24 July. The late Frank Zappa worked in a variety of mediums including rock, jazz, classical, electronic, orchestral and musique concrete. It is this diverse nature that drives my belief that this large jazz ensemble can attract an audience that appeals to a wide demographic. This type of group not only gives tribute to Frank Zappa, but breathes new life into his innovative body of work. The band debuted in late January this year at a sold-out Brisbane Jazz Club where they were forced to turn away scores of enthusiastic patrons unable to squeeze into the packed venue! Brandon Stewart, an admirer of Zappa’s music attended the gig at the Brisbane Jazz Club (, wrote:

“So, what gives with Zappa’s music in a Jazz Club? Truth is, it really belongs on any kind of stage because Frank was never restricted to any one musical style. If you can imagine how an 19-piece orchestra might appear, precariously squeezed into your lounge room, you will have some idea of how tiny the Brisbane Jazz Club’s dimensions looked on Sunday night. Our table was up front, with the horn section literally two feet away. Suffice to say, we didn’t miss one glorious note. Could I have been any more impressed? Under the circumstances, I very much doubt it. Clint Allen might well be able to sweat for Australia, but The Zappa Big Band did him proud on Sunday night and if they ever play in Brisbane again, I’ll be first in line for a ticket.”

I’ll finish my first blog by posting an interview I recently did for Time-Off where I talked about the band:

1. Can you tell us how the idea for this project came about?

I’ve always had a great love for the music of Frank Zappa. I’ve always respected that he was a rock musician, but also admired avant-garde classical composers such as Edgard Varese, Igor Stravinsky and Bela Bartok. The idea of combining musicial influences and creating very hip confluent music really appealed to me – I think Zappa was really ahead of his time there.

A few years ago, I came across Ed Palermo, a New York saxophonist who had started arranging the music of Zappa for a large jazz group of 17-players. His group had been playing them to large crowds at the infamous Iridium Jazz Club in Manhattan (New York). After hearing the band, I knew I had to bring Frank Zappa’s back home to Brisbane! After a little negotiation, these innovative charts have made it down to Australia, and so the band will be performing them for the very first time this Sunday night (31st January) at the Brisbane Jazz Club.

2. How did you go about recruiting the players?

I’ve had the great fortune of working with some amazing musicians both in Australia and overseas during the past few decade. Some of the guys in this group, I’ve known since I was 17 years old when I did my music degree. I’ve always been interested in playing adventurous, intricate complex music and so, for those projects, I’ve asked the top players around town to play. This incredible band brings all of these players together – such as the incredible Scott Griffiths on also sax, drummer Joe Marchisella (who regularly plays with trumpeter James Morrison), Michael Rogers (who fronts the bands Doch and Miguel) and pianist, Kellee Green, a rare performer who is equally brilliant playing jazz and contemporary classical music! This is by far, the cream of the crop – every musician in this band is a virtusoso on their particular instrument – and it’s an absolute pleasure to get everyone together on stage at the same time.

3. Was it difficult selecting what material you would play?

Frank Zappa released about 80 albums during his lifetime, so there was PLENTY of material to choose from! I’ve tried to include songs from as many of his records as possible, such as “Hot Rats” (1969), “One Size Fits All” (1975), and “Jazz From Hell” (1986). Also, it was important to try to choose material that would feature the musicians too. I think the audience is really going to enjoy classical Zappa charts such as “Echidna’s Arf”, “Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance”, “King Kong”, “G-Spot Tornado” and “Peaches en Rengalia”.

4. How have people responded to the idea of this project so far?

Zappa himself once said, “Jazz isn’t dead….it just smells funny”. People have responded very positively to the idea of this project. Ticket sales have been strong so far. I think that although people aren’t sure of Zappa’s music, they know that it’s often fiendishly difficult. Zappa has a certain element of cult status about him; it’s not often that you get to hear Zappa music these days!!