Thursday, May 22, 2008

Joe 'n James

In the set break, rushed back to the Malvern Town Hall after the Tim Stevens gig at Chapel off Chapel, driving past all the High Street shops with the fabulous wedding frocks and what have you... I didn't speed, but it's an easy enough drive and I managed to catch a little bit of the end of the Mark Isaacs Resurgence Band! The first time I've heard them live, and loved it, particularly energised as I was by the previous gig and the drive between venues! Mark on the piano, Brett Hirst on bass, Tim Firth drums, Matt Keegan saxophone and James Muller on guitar. If the rest of the set was like the last bit then it was a [insert superlative here] set.

A little chit chat, the shaking of some hands, the kissing of some cheeks and of some air, then the lights dimmed and Joe Chindamo meets James Muller. (see my interview with Joe Chindamo on the Jazz Australia website a few weeks before the concert if you want more stuff!)

Before we get to that - a small observation. When they're dimming the lights at the bar at the town hall before a set starts, they use a type of remote control that I haven't seen since I shared a terrace house in Newtown (Sydney) with a couple of beer drinkers and a very old television in the late eighties. A very long stick, operated with some precision, is used to turn the lights off. In much the same way as Bill changed channels on the TV from across the room in our cosy loungeroom. A small wave of nostalgia for my lost and impecunious youth...

Ahem. But back to James. One of my favourite musicians. The first time I heard him play was with Vince Jones, and the way he played the guitar on Hallelujah broke my heart or something very like it. I've really enjoyed his playing, his 'voice' and his compositions ever since. There's a song he wrote called Adelaide that appeared on his Thrum CD and I catch myself humming it from time to time. Not many tunes stick with me like that...

Anyway, James was teamed with Joe and the big drawcard here I guess was meant to be that these two very gifted players and writers would be a good combination. Joe was in charge (i.e. he was the one talking into the microphone). The set included a couple of compositions that Joe said he wrote especially for this gig, so inspired was he by the idea of doing a concert with James. It was a real pleasure to see and hear the two of them, and particularly with the extra blessing of Brett Hirst on bass and Tim Firth on drums backing them up.

The two new Joe Chindamo pieces were It is what it is and one that is yet to be named and will probably remain that way :-) We heard a couple of James' compositions including one called Beethoven, and then a couple of tunes from Joe's recent Duende: The Romantic Project CD. The piano - guitar duet was something I want to hear again. I'm not sure what I feel or think about it... didn't enjoy it as much as some of those other tunes. But I feel like I just wasn't concentrating the right way or something. I couldn't hook in.

What did work was in the final tune when Joe played just with Tim and there were some conversational moments in there that I loved - partly at least because of the interesting combination of drums and piano alone.

I was very grateful for two things in this concert. I got to hear alot of James' playing. It's been a while and I was hanging out for it. It's a corny thing to say no doubt but that guitar actually sings, like with a voice... And I was also grateful that Joe brought his piano accordion. He did a Morrisonesque thing (you know what I mean, when James Morrison puts a trombone up each nostril and a trumpet out his bottom and plays them all at once...while swinging from a chandelier and mopping his brow with a hankie held between his toes) playing the piano with his left hand and the piano accordion with the right hand. Why don't we hear more of the piano accordion. I wish we could.

And there was some smiling going on. Quite a bit of it actually. Down in the dark where i was sitting and up there with all the lights.

Thanks to all of you space-changing, mood-lifting, smile-making music makers!

Photos courtesy of Stonnington Jazz. Top to bottom: Joe Chindamo, James Muller, Tim Firth, Brett Hirst

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