Review of Intangible Asset Number 82 for Jazztopad’s ‘Movies on Jazz’ series:

One of the favourite motifs of the masters of Chinese painting was a miniature figure of a wayfarer travel- ling through misty mountain tops or surrounded with precipitous, forest-covered mountainsides, as the traditional Confucian worldview does not differenti- ate between nature and man, much like between an individual and society. In the Korean music culture such beliefs led to the establishment of an aesthetic that is both close and distant to the improvised music of the West.

Intangible Asset No. 82 from 2008 by Emmy Franz is a film that seemingly has the least to do with jazz when compared with other films scheduled to be presented at Jazztopad and maybe that’s what makes it fasci- nating. I said seemingly, as surprisingly many of the most precious values for performers of Korean music are fundamental also in jazz – with a characteristi- cally defined sense of community and improvisation at the forefront.

A renowned Australian percussionist Simon Barker has studied the music of the Korean drum master and sha- man Kim Seok Chul for many years and discovered that it contains everything he wished to know about per- cussion and rhythm. Despite numerous trips to Asia, the plans to meet the elderly musician remained to be just a dream. That is until Baker received a short mes- sage from Korea reading: “The process has began”.

In the journey through Korea to the mysterious sha- man he is joined by another percussionist Dong-Won Kim, who by acquainting the Australian with local mu- sicians introduces him into the secrets of Korean mu- sic, aesthetic and worldview in general. At that point Intangible Asset No. 82 becomes a road film, a study of nature and landscape as well as a philosophical debate all in one. Only in such context we can fully enjoy these particular scenes in this artistically-refined documen- tary, in which music may only be imagined through suggestive images, without actually hearing it.

When we – along with Barker – compose ourselves from the amazement at the news of the existence of “non-rhythm”, the percussionist’s guide says the words “rough beauty”, as the shortest description of the essence of Korean art. This automatically points us towards Thelonius Monk, whose famous compo- sition “Ugly Beauty” practically became a two-word artistic manifesto for many improvisers, from Anthony Braxton to Evan Parker.

“I feel like I’m watching something I shouldn’t be watching” – said Baker at one point during his journey. I do not have such doubts – it’s a film that every jazz enthusiast should watch.

Intangible Asset Number 82 is reviewed in New York’s most widely distributed Jazz Magazine, the New York City Jazz Record

“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.

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