Roger Mitchell’s 2010 Top Five

Roger Mitchell blogs about the music he hears, at His essay ‘Facing the music: the critic under review’ was awarded the editor’s choice award in the 2009 National Jazz Writing Competition and was published in Issue 3 of extempore. Click on the pictures in his top 5 to read more from Roger about the music he’s described below!

1. Nock, Anning, Browne at Bennetts Lane on Day 3 of the Melbourne International Jazz Festival

Mike Nock and Sam Anning
Mike Nock & Sam Anning - photo by Roger Mitchell

I had been in the big room at Bennetts to see Han Bennink — the gentleman with the red, striped tie who I’d seen that afternoon at a Wheeler Centre forum — become the drummer with the spotted red bandanna and the vicious sticks. Bennink took on Cor Fuhler, then Scott Tinkler, then Erkki Veltheim in mortal combat. I sought respite in the smaller room next door. Mike Nock, Sam Anning and Allan Browne played wearing their hearts on their sleeves. They joked; they had fun. Their music was so beautifully played — not only in quiet ballads, but in vigorous pieces and lively takes on standards — that it was impossible to avoid it penetrating to the core. In the third from last piece a Mike Nock solo had me almost weeping. This is what music is about — feeling.

Other highlights during MIJF included Overground in Melbourne Town Hall, Charles Lloyd New Quartet at Melbourne Recital Centre, Miles Davis: Prince of Darkness at the town hall, the Claudia Quintet late at Bennetts Lane, and Sangam: Charles Lloyd With Zakir Hussain and Eric Harland at Melbourne Town Hall.

Ben Robertson - photo by Roger Mitchell
Ben Robertson - photo by Roger Mitchell

2. 2010 A Bass Odyssey at Yarra Edge, NMIT on Day 6 of Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival

I believe it was Tamara Murphy’s idea to have three quite different sets with a bass emphasis. Ben Robertson’s third solo piece on acoustic bass was Mist of Morning, in Mixolydian mode and accompanied by his “assistant” — an Indian drone device. I felt this music physically. Those notes were the essence of deep. I longed for more of this solo bass in the Carnatic tradition. Still do.

Other MJFF highlights included the APRA Commission Concert on Day 1: Gian Slater’s Gone, Without Saying, and MOVEable Feast on Day 7, with John Taylor Guitar Quartet, Xani Kolac and the NMIT Laptop Orchestra.

3. Zac Hurren Trio at Chapel Off Chapel on Day 9 of Stonnington Jazz

Zac Hurren Trio at Chapel off Chapel - photo by Roger Mitchell

Bassist Sam Anning seemed to be omnipresent before he left for New York. On this night he had to be in two places, changing moods midstream, dashing from the Chapel to Malvern Town Hall for Joe Chindamo’s Coen Brothers Project. Both gigs were highlights, but when Zac Hurren fired up his saxophone, joined by Anning and Sam Bates on drums, I felt a burst of energy was fired into the universe — or at least the Chapel. It was cathartic. Yet Hurren did not just blast away, Bates did not merely smash and crash, and Anning did not just drive his bass notes remorselessly through the audience. There was an element of that, but all three displayed sensitivity. They were totally cohesive. The result was primal, penetrating deeply into the body and the soul. What it was like for Sam Anning to switch vibes and venues fascinates me.

Other Stonnington Jazz highlights included the Chindamo project, Way Out West on Day 7 and Ten Part Invention on Day 8.

Sandy Evans - photo by Roger Mitchell
Sandy Evans - photo by Roger Mitchell

4. Sandy Evans Trio at Bennetts Lane on June 6

A cold, wet Sunday evening shortly after Melbourne’s jazz festival season meant few came out to hear Sandy Evans (tenor and soprano sax), Brett Hirst (double bass) and Toby Hall (drums).

Sandy’s trio began its second set with ‘Bhairavi Tillana’, by Sarangan Sriranganathan, which was influenced by the Carnatic Indian tradition commonly associated with the southern states of the subcontinent.

I found myself entering a kind of trance and feeling as if I could listen for hours and be absolutely absorbed by the intricate rhythmic and melodic patterns.

5. Stu Hunter’s The Gathering at Wangaratta Jazz on October 30

James Greening sent me the album of this suite and I loved it, but this was my first chance to hear it live. The Wangaratta performance was an experiential feast and an engrossing journey. When, much later, I wrote about it for the Ausjazz blog, it seemed appropriate to adopt the present tense.

Stu Hunter - photo by Roger Mitchell
The Gathering ensemble - Stu Hunter, Julien Wilson, Matt Keegan, Jonathon Zwartz, Simon Barker and James Greening - photo by Roger Mitchell

The music was alive and active and taking me places. Breathless and totally engrossed, I was in the moment and yet excited about what would follow. When the high point came (for me), it instantly recalled Stephen Magnusson’s playing during the Tim Berne’s Adobe Probe Melbourne gig during the 2009 Melbourne International Jazz Festival. Then, in Untitled, Magnusson produced ghostly, almost human sounds and cries. This time, at Wangaratta, Greening’s trombone produced sounds visceral, alive, animal. In guttural gravel, his ’bone was crying out, wailing and shaking as if driven from within. Suddenly soft, then blaring forth, the sounds were primal, earthy, as if from the beginnings of life. This twisted, bent, tortured and throat-clearing horn seemed to be quintessential brass.

Other Wangaratta Jazz highlights included Jef Neve Trio, Johannes Luebbers Dectet and Mike Nock New Quintet.