By John Hardaker
Trumpeter and composer, Ellen Kirkwood is a Sydney jazz artist I always look forward to hearing more of. She first made me prick up my ears with the all-woman Sirens Big Band, whose catholic orbit happily included her Balkan/jazz/blues mashups (check her ‘Balkanator’, the opening track on Siren’s LP Kali and the Time of Change). Her first album under her own name (ok, Captain Kirkwood), was a jazz/spoken word retelling of the ancient Greek legend of Theseus and The Minotaur. She also bobs up with Mister Ott and Serge Stanley’s On The Stoop, as well as others around town, including David Sattout’s grisly Zappa-flavoured Facemeat. The binding quality of her music and her collaborations is that is consistently has one foot firmly in jazz and the other trailing in the waters of a tangy broth of blues, rock, gypsy swing, klezmer, reggae and you-name-it.
Her new release – under the band-name of Fat Yahoozah – titled I Don’t Care, is no exception to her unique catalogue. Maybe a bit more fun, maybe a little more raucous, but as smart and brightly arranged as anything that has come before. And she adds the arrow of vocalist to her quiver. The title track, ‘I Don’t Care’, has Kirkwood singing a world-weary lyric over a breezy pop song (Lotte Lenya goes to Bondi?). Simon Ferneci’s trombone solo is light and grinning before a lilting horn/voice ensemble riff. ‘Klezmore’ (get it?) is a drunken wedding waltz with a dark lyric of childhood foreboding. Even though I am reviewing this album in dry July, I look forward to listening to this tune (hopefully live) after maybe one too many shiraz cabs. Once again, beautifully balanced and heartfelt horn arrangements paint the picture. ‘Translation Day’ has Ruth Wells’ soprano intro-ing with some Eastern European blues before the ensemble clips along on a lovely village polka; Jessica Dunn’s bowed bass singing like Grandpapa. The tune accelerates and accelerates until all the winter leaves are blown off the trees. This tune made me realize how vivid the sound pictures are on the album; how much Soul it has.
The band Kirkwood has assembled helps paint the pictures beautifully. She has smartly drawn the players from her previous and current collaborations – Wells from the Sirens and Facement, David Sattout on guitar, Serge Stanley on sax and accordian, Ferenci, The Sirens’ Dunn on bass with Evan McGregor on drums and percussives. I know the band has been knocking everyone out playing live around town – it’s a killer one-two punch: jazz chops with gypsy party moods that anyone can love. It’s awfully good to drink to, but even better to listen to. I recommend you do.
Ellen Kirkwood – trumpet, vocal, composer
Ruth Wells – soprano and tenor sax
David Sattout – guitar
Serge Stanley – baritone sax and accordian
Simon Ferenci – trombone
Jessica Dunn – double bass
Evan McGregor – drums and percussion
Fat Yahoozah launches I Don’t Care at Lazybones Lounge, Marrickville on Saturday July 11.