Barney McAll Photo: Roger Mitchell
IT is a sad irony that the Melbourne Jazz Co-operative is celebrating its 30th anniversary just as its annual funding from Arts Victoria has been withdrawn. The co-op has played a pivotal role in nurturing and promoting contemporary jazz in Melbourne, and the organisation says the loss of state funding will result in a 50 per cent cut to its paid performance program in 2013.
At Sunday's anniversary concert, the participating musicians spoke of their deep appreciation of the co-op, and voiced their concern over the cuts. But it was their performances that provided the most eloquent riposte to those who might question the value of supporting local jazz.
The concert opened with a superb set from the Keller-Murphy-Browne trio, where the players (Andrea Keller on piano, Tamara Murphy on bass and Allan Browne on drums) demonstrated the wonderfully intuitive rapport that makes their music so engaging. Keller concluded the set with two solo numbers, utilising loop pedals to construct intricately layered melodic and harmonic patterns.
In keeping with the co-op's spirit of innovative programming, the next act comprised three well-known musicians (saxophonist Julien Wilson, bassist Jonathan Zwartz and New York-based pianist Barney McAll) playing together as a trio for the first time. Wilson's compositions formed the bulk of the trio's deliciously soulful set, with Wilson switching to clarinet for a New Orleans-tinged Farewell. McAll also played a handful of riveting solo numbers, ranging from a jubilant Apfelbaum to a lightly bluesy take on Why Did I Choose You?.
The co-op's first concert program in 1983 included the Paul Grabowsky Trio, so it was fitting that Sunday's 30th-anniversary event should feature the two surviving members of that ensemble. Grabowsky and Browne were joined by bassist Frank Di Sario for a mesmerising half-hour of music incorporating two exquisite ballads - Abschied (dedicated to the late Gary Costello) and Love Like a Curse - an apt metaphor for the bittersweet nature of Sunday's celebration.