Monash Art Ensemble: Monash Art Ensemble (2013)

sub-titled: Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music & The Australian Art Orchestra present…

Monash Art Ensemble

Track list:

01. Introduction
02. Theme
03. Variation 1 ‘The Ugly’
04. Variation 2 ‘Too Cool For School’
05. Variation 3 ‘Prongs’
06. Variation 4 ‘Dark Magus’
07. Variation 5 ‘Interstellar’
08. Variation 6 ‘Skies Of Clayton’
09. Variation 7 ‘The Mizler Jam’
10. Variation 8 ‘To Infinity & Beyond’
11. Ngukurr, Mon Amour
12. …And A Bier For Young Arnie
13. Wacky, Zany, Madcap


The Australian Art Orchestra:
Scott Tinkler – trumpet
Eugene Ball – trumpet
Tony Hicks – tenor sax
Lachlan Davidson – flute, piccolo, alto sax
Erkki Veltheim – five-string electric violin
Frank di Sario – bass
Dave Beck – drums

Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music:
James Macauley – trombone
Paul Cornelius – tenor sax
Brendan Toohey – Bb, Eb clarinets, bass clarinet
Dan Mamrot – guitar
Shanie Klas – percussion
Joesph O’Connor – piano, harpsichord

Directed by Paul Grabowsky.
All compositions by Paul Grabowsky.
Electonica in ‘Variations’ created by Mitchell Mollison.

Recorded: October 29/30 (2012) at the Music Auditorium, Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia.
Released: 06 September, 2013
Label: Jazz Head – Head171

Produced by Paul Grabowsky
Recorded, mixed and mastered by: Ross Cockle

Mixed at Allan Eatons Studio, St Kilda, Melbourne, Australia
Mastered at Sing Sing, Richmond, Melbourne, Australia

Special thanks to: Andrew Vizard, Ed Byrne, Rob Burke, Merryn Tinkler, Lena GanGan, Phillip Rex and Lizzy Welch.

When I formed the Australian Art Orchestra in 1994, one of my goals for the ensemble was that it should explore the rich territory which lies on the border of improvisation and notation.

When I was given the opportunity to work with the talented students at the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music at Monash University, I saw this as a chance to continue along this pathway, by bringing these worlds together, playing music in which both notation and improvisation are held in a mutally re-inforcing balance.

The first fruits of the collaboration are evident on this recording. Two works are performed: ‘Variations (d’un goût étranger) on a theme of Marin Marais (1999) and ‘Tall Tales’ (2010).

The Variations, based on a beautiful melody writeen by the great gamba virtuoso (and improviser) Marais, from his fourth book of pieces for viols, published in 1717, presents a series of highly personalised portraits of some composer/musicians who have influenced me in particular was. I was attracted to bringing the work of a virtuoso from long ago into a dialogue with material drawn from sources far from his world, in a kind og conversation across time and space.

After an initial introduction against the backdrop of Mitch Mollison’s electronica, Eugene Ball sounds the theme, followed by trombonist James Macauley. There follow the variations: ‘The Ugly’, inspired by Ennio Morricone, ‘Too Cool for School; (Lennie Tristano, ‘Prongs’ (Cecil Taylor), ‘Dark Magus’ (Miles Davies), ‘Interstellar’ (John Coltrane), ‘Skies of Clayton’ (Ornette COleman), ‘The Mizler Jam’ (JS Bach), and ‘To Infinity and Beyond’ (Oliver Messiaen). For the most part, the variations are fully or largely notated, with solos or group improvisations occurring between the,.

‘Tall Tales’, a three movement work, looks at three different types of musical language. The first section, ‘Ngukurr, Mon Amour’, is inspired by the manikay songforms of the Yolngu people of Northern Australia, songs of identity, spirit and place which occur in extreme bursts of energy punctuated by periods of inactivity.

It is the energy of manikay which is evident here, as various layers of activity become superimposed, building the intensity until Joe O’Connor comes charging out of the scrum with an exciting piano solo. After a duet between Erkki Veltheim, electric five string violin, and Frank di Sario, bass, the second section begins. Called ‘…and a Bier for Young Arnie’, it evokes the arch lyricism and complex harmonic langage of Arnold Schoenberg, particularly his pre-serial compositions.

The alto solo played by Lachlan Davidson, is completely notated, the trumpet solo, by Scott Tinkler, improvised. Finally, ‘Wacky, Zany, Madcap’ is just that: a wild ride and a blowing vehicle for Tony Hicks (tenor), Lachlan Davidson (alto) and James Macauley (trombone). ‘Tall Tales’ is dedicated to the great Australian filmmaker Fred Schepisi, on the occasion of his seventieth birthday.
~Paul Grabowsky