Jazz in Concert at The Gods 2017. Jess Green Quintet: The Tunes That Made Me! The Gods Bar and Cafe, ANU Arts Centre, February 7. Light meals available from 6pm, music starts at 7.30pm. Admission $22/$15 concession. Non-eating seats can be booked. 'Seating is limited to 80. Bookings essential on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Canberra jazz guitarist Jess Green looked to her musical roots to kick off the 2017 season of Jazz at the Gods.
While for some jazz musicians the original tunes can be a bit of a throwaway before moving into improvisation, Green says she likes to take the tunes seriously before jumping off.
"I realised to me it's important to get into the songs themselves," she says, "to study them at a deep level."
In The Tunes That Made Me!. as well as some of her own compositions, she a will, as the title suggests, play music by artists who have inspired her.
In this, she will be joined by four other Canberra musicians - Miroslav Bukovsky on trumpet, John Mackey on tenor sax, Eric Ajaye on bass, and Col Hoorweg on drums. All are past or current staff members at the ANU School of Music, from which Green graduated with a Bachelor of Music (Jazz Studies) with Honours in 2001.
After graduating from ANU, Green spent some time travelling then moved to Sydney and lived and worked there for many years, establishing herself there as a musician in both rock and jazz - performing, composing and teaching. After she married and had a child the family moved back to Canberra about a year ago. In 2016 she launched her project Pheno with a crowd funding campaign, and she is directing the Sydney Improvised Music Association Young Women's Jazz Workshops in Canberra.
She now teaches guitar at ANU herself as well as at Burgmann College, Radford College and CIT and performs nationally.
In this concert, Green says, "I pay tribute to Emily Remler, a female guitarist who died in the 1990s. She's probably the most important female jazz guitarist"
Remler, who was American, died in Sydney at the age of 32 in 1990. Green says the quintet will perform Remler's Catwalk.
"I feel instinctively she probably thought quite similarly to me," says Green, who is 37 and another female jazz guitarist who loves composing as well as performing. Remler's example inspired Green at the start of her musical career.
One of the other pieces Green and company will play is Peculiar by John Scofield.
"I can remember really enjoying when I first worked out how to play it. It's been 15 years at least since I first heard this and I still love this. It's a really cool thing. Some pieces of music don't wear out."
Then there's Bill Frisell's Blues for Los Angeles - "one of the first pieces I ever heard of his - it's not super fast choppy play. I never felt very comfortable at the super fast edge," she says.
But she related to the melancholic, bluesy feeling in Frisell's playing and was lucky enough to see him play live.
"It moved me."
George Benson's Bayou she included for a simple reason - "It's fun! - and because he's also a singer, like her, although she won't be singing in this gig.
Finally, Pet Methany's James was one of the first pieces she learned.
"He's an incredible composer who wrote some really beautiful pieces."
She also saw him play, an experience she describes as "extraordinary".
As well as these tributes to some of the guitarists who have inspired and influenced her, Green and her collaborators will perform five of her compositions from different stages of her career and apart from Scofield, revealing other musical influences including Charles Mingus and Dave Holland.
Green says her music has "a lot of ostinatos, a variety of different grooves - swing grooves, African-style grooves. It's contrapuntal, there are a lot of different things happening at the same time."
Jazz aficionado Geoff Page has curated Jazz at the Gods since 2003. This year's season contains a mix of local talent and musicians from Sydney and Melbourne.
On March 7, the Jonathan Zwartz Sextet will perform Sydneysider Zwartz's repertoire of original compositions including material from his previous two recordings, The Sea and The Remembering and Forgetting of the Air and also his most recent recording, which is yet to be released.
The Jack Beeche Quartet will perform Rebirth of the Cool on April 4. This is a tribute to "Cool Jazz" stars Paul Desmond, Gerry Mulligan and Lee Konit. Classic compositions from the period will be interspersed with tracks from Melbourne saxophonist Beeche's recent releases Golden Blue (2015), a trio and quartet exploration into counterpoint between guitar and saxophone and Beeche/Magnusson (2016), which further developed this "conversational counterpoint" in a series of duets with guitarist Stephen Magnusson.
Also from Melbourne, Ultrafox will be performing on May 2. They draw much of their inspiration from the Django Reinhardt / Stephane Grappelli band of the 1930s ," The Hot club of France" and have crafted their own take on the swinging "Le jazz Hot style" of the manouche (gypsy) tradition. The group is led by Peter Baylor (guitar and vocals) and includes Jon Delaney (guitar) , Jon Hunt (clarinet and saxophones) and Kain Borlase (bass).
American-born pianist John Harkins leads his eponymous Sydney-based Trio ( performing on June 6). Harkins majored in classical piano at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City and performs regularly at Foundry 616, where he launched his last CD, Cognition, last year. His new album also features his longtime bandmates, bassist Brendan Clarke (bass) and Andrew Dickeson (drums).
On July 4, Sandy Evans and Friends is a quintet performance by some leading young female talents in the Sydney jazz world. Evans, who plays saxophones, is the current recipient of an Australia Council Music Fellowship. Jessica Dunn, who plays bass, is the leader of The Sirens Big Band. Emma Stephenson, pianist, is the recipient of the 2016 Jann Rutherford Memorial Award, established in 2005 to develop opportunities for emerging female jazz musicians, and has already recorded her first CD in New York. Alto saxophonist Melissa Mony is a recent Sydney Conservatorium of Music graduate, Drummer Ali Foster drives the rhythm sections of the Sydney Women's Jazz Collective and The Sirens Big Band. They will play jazz standards and original compositions including some of the Indian Jazz material Evans is working on with The Sirens Big Band for their upcoming project, Bridge of Dreams.
The Ross Clarke Quartet will present A Night of Soul Piano on August 1, paying homage to the more melodic, Gospel-influenced tradition that emerged in the early 1950s in reaction to the technical, bare-bones approach of the Bebop sound. As well as Clarke on piano, the Canberra group features Mike Parker on guitar, James Luke on bass and Mark Sutton on drums.
On September 5, the 100th anniversary of the birth of Thelonious Monk will be marked by Canberrans Damien Slingsby and the Wayne Kelly Trio. Pianists Slingsby and Kelly will perform Monk tunes individually and as a duet along with drummer Mark Sutton and bass player Ben O'Loghlin.
Another act of homage comes on October 3 when the Canberra/Sydney Nicholas Combe Sextet performs Tribute to Charles Mingus, presenting some of his best-known compositions. It will feature Combe and Tom Fell on saxophones, Valdis Thomann on trombone, Damien Slingsby on piano, Simon Milman on bass and Luke Glanville on drums.That will be followed by two more tributes to finish the year: on October 3 vibes and percussion player Gary France will lead an ensemble celebrating the roots of Latin jazz in a tribute to vibraphonist Cal Tjader.
And finally, on December 5,. the John Mackey Quartet will celebrate the music of John Coltrane, 50 years after his death, with saxophonist Mackey joined by pianist Matt McMahon, bassist Jonathan Zwartz, and drummer Simon Barker.