“Something from everyone, with plenty of Sculthorpe influence”

JAZZGROOVE SUMMER FESTIVAL GALA NIGHT Tom Mann Theatre, January 14 (Matt McMahon’s Paths and Streams, Intangible Asset Number 82 screening, Ben Hauptmann’s BOB)

Reviewed by John Shand January 16, 2012

THE influence – direct and indirect – of Peter Sculthorpe loomed beneficently over this night in several ways. One of the pieces constituting Matt McMahon’s Paths and Streams, the Jazzgroove Summer Festival’s centrepiece, was drawn from Sculthorpe’s Piano Concerto. McMahon and his collaborator Phil Slater also studied with Sculthorpe, who impressed on them the value of drawing influences from Australia and its near neighbours.

Recorded in 2005, Paths and Streams is McMahon’s celebration and reinterpretation of diverse Australian compositions that have touched him, usually via working with their composers. These were scored for jazz quintet and string quartet, and many sub-groups contained therein.

Three pieces came from composers within the band: James Muller (guitar), Slater (trumpet) and McMahon (piano). Dovetailing with McMahon’s improvisational instincts, most pieces were lyrical, drawing out that side of Muller’s boundless powers of invention.

Slater, Brett Hirst (bass) and Simon Barker (drums) added drama and tension. The use of the strings was creative but understated, with McMahon’s title piece scored just for strings and improvised percussion, offering Barker a wide-open setting to draw out his kit’s dynamic, textural and dramatic potential.

This was in-the-flesh evidence of the creative wisdom Barker gained on his journey of discovery depicted in Emma Franz’s mesmerising documentary Intangible Asset No.82, which screened at the evening’s outset.

The title is the official Korean designation of Kim Seok Chul, a shaman and master musician sought out by Barker. Beautifully shot, the film is heart-warming and insightful, and the Korean musicians who overcame their suspicions of Barker’s motivations to take him under their wing have become key collaborators for him (and McMahon and Slater on occasion).

Again, Sculthorpe would approve of this immersion in a drumming tradition from our region, where most unthinkingly fall under the thrall of US musicians.

Sculthorpe may even find something to admire in the eclectic array of influences at work in BOB, an octet led by the guitarist/composer Ben Hauptmann. Besides two bassists and two drummers, BOB featured the wordless singing of Gian Slater, producing airy, summery melodies and improvisations carrying echoes of Brazil.

But then African-sounding motifs, crunching rock and the lean country style of Johnny Cash were also stirred into this colourful dish, atop which Hauptmann’s guitar was like a scorching chilli.

This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/music/something-from-everyone-with-plenty-of-sculthorpe-influence- 20120115-1q14f.html