Gig review: Evan Lohning Jazz Orchestra

Evan Lohning Jazz Orchestra
Foundry 616, September 3, 2014

Review by Sam Cottell

After a long day at the Conservatorium, listening to countless academics approach music in very strange ways, I set out for Sydney’s newest jazz venue, Foundry 616 which is just shy of celebrating its first year on the scene. Tonight the venue was presenting the Evan Lohning Jazz Orchestra, which hadn’t performed live since their performance at Paddington RSL in late 2013.

At the club I was greeted by a dimly light vibe. The raw energy of the room built as an A list of Sydney’s finest jazz musicians, either chatting or warming up their instruments, prepared for two sets of jazz big band music.

The hum drum sound of cutlery on plates slowly dimmed and Lohning appeared on stage to introduce the band. Beginning the set with a medium number, Lohning left lots of room to build to a stunning crescendo with his signature tune, ‘Bondi Rocks’, a driving arrangement with colourful chords reminiscent of the Thad Jones sound, was clearly an audience favourite. Several stand-out solos from trombonist Dave Panichi set the audience and band members with that nodding of their heads, followed by rapturous applause. This tune was contrasted by another Lohning original, ‘Caliante Cabesa’, a Latin tinged piece, filled with some tasteful piano lines and bass statements.

Evan Lohning Jazz Orchestra with Susan Gai Dowling | photo by Sam Cottrell
Evan Lohning Jazz Orchestra with Susan Dowling | photo by Sam Cottell

Special guest singer, Susan Dowling wowed the audience with her beautiful rendition of the Bacharach song, ‘What the World Needs Now’ and later closed the set with a lively, up tempo version of the Cole Porter classic, ‘In the Still of the Night’. Her voice added a bright contrast to the band and gave the audience something more than they perhaps had expected.

Never failing to deliver, the orchestra played slow ballads with the lush cream of the trombone sections creating a beautiful layer on which saxophone and trumpet solos dripped. There were moments of exhilaration where the full forces of the band played their loudest and the true vibe of the big band sound we all know appeared. This band has a sound that combines all the sounds of the great big band leaders of history and delivers with a punch rarely seen by contemporary jazz orchestras.

Lohning, who is also teaching arranging as part of Sydney Conservatorium’s Jazz unit, describes his band as being in the tradition of the austere jazz orchestra in which the leader’s personality is reflected in the arrangements themselves. Like every good band leader and writer his instrument goes beyond the piano and becomes the band. In his writing, Lohning allows plenty of room for the soloists to have their say with their own voice and – often playing understated piano – would at times rise from his place at the keys and direct the band with enthusiasm. His arrangements had the audiences tapping their feet and applauding. A general feeling of happiness and well-being filling the room, particularly after Lohning’s composition in the style of Count Basie, ‘Stand Up and Be Counted’, which concluded the first set.

This is a jazz band that deserves more accolades. Lohning and the band’s long list of musicians are top-notch players and their music ranges between new jazz compositions and familiar tunes that many in the audience appreciated. This is the kind of jazz orchestra that ticks all the boxes. It is only a shame that we don’t get to see this orchestra more often.


Evan Lohning Jazz Orchestra on SoundCloud





Evan Lohning – Piano/Composer/Arranger
Susan Gai Dowling- Guest Vocals


Evan Harris – lead alto/flute
Murray Jackson – alto 2
Jason Morphett – tenor 1
Nish Manjunath – tenor 2
Andrew Robertson – baritone


Dane Laboyrie lead
James Power
Warwick Alder
John Fielding


Dave Panichi lead
Mark Barnsley
Brendan Champion
Iain Howick – bass bone


Max Alduca bass
Andrew Dickeson drums