Tonight at Melbourne Town Hall, Paul Grabowsky played his piece Shirley Avenue, commissioned by the Melbourne International Jazz Festival and played with an interesting band... Niko Schauble (drums), Scott Tinkler (trumpet) and Genevieve Lacey (recorders).
It was a Friday night concert and Friday night is always interesting from a listening point of view because the working week has drained me. I'm always tired on a Friday night... and tonight was no exception so I closed my eyes from time to time in order to listen better, though I was fascinated by the grand organ and could not resist craning to see it from time to time.
And I should mention here that as a punter I really appreciated Paul's wry "You've been very patient," comment as he started the concert. We'd just been treated by some breathless speechettes by three lispy whispy girls associated in various ways with the jazz festival and a speech by a City of Melbourne councillor whose enthusiasm outweighed her ability to read or pronounce. Clap clap clap. Now let's hear some music.
Shirley Avenue is a tribute to the street in suburban Glen Waverley that Paul Grabowsky used to live on. We started with the organ. Notes so high they would have made my cat's ears flatten back and her eyes go all starey (she's asleep near the fan on my computer as I write this so she pops into mind... I can't help it!)
A few minutes in I recognised this as music I wanted to be in. I wanted it in headphones or to lie between two speakers on my loungeroom floor, surrounded by the sounds.
This was dark prose; the round woodwind sounds of the recorder rendered a dark forest. Scott, Niko and Paul play so wonderfully together and Genevieve's sounds added a layer of beauty that fit beautifully (from where I sat) with the piece. It was fascinating to hear the difference between Paul's touch on the organ and that of Chris Abrahams when I heard The Necks at that wonderful The Necks Unplugged concert in the same venue a couple of years ago. I was intrigued by now and decided to travel out to Shirley Avenue sometime soon. If it as this music decribes, it is a street in a dark forest, a road to where the wild things are.
Scott's trumpet, which he played for a little while in water, evoked summer... further enhanced by what else was going on including a recording of [tune forgotten] over the trumpet. Somewhere in there was a shift from light and happy backyard swimming pools and sprinklers of youth to something darker but still wet. Nursery rhymes and the happy shouts of children at play... but the darkness never far away.
I told you I was tired.
Driving home, much later and I had heard a great deal of music in the intervening hours but Shirley Avenue had stuck with me. I want to hear it again. Up close, in headphones. If nothing else because I could hear in it my own childhood. Even the choice of a recorder--which may have been a purely musical decision--rocketed me back to 1969 when I started school, picked up and played a recorder for the first time and started my philatelic collection (now long gone) with an enormous commemorative stamp of man's first walk on the moon.
Like I said, we bring ourselves to what we hear, I guess. And I still want to hear it again.