‘If you’re going to do anything in life you just have to say, “Well, I’ve just got to make my little patch of garden over here”, and if I’m improvising, try and be faithful from one moment to the next. That’s all I can try and do, otherwise you go crazy.’
Instead of perpetuating the importation of American models of jazz, James McLean went and soaked up the ideas and attitudes of someone who had stepped out from that giant shadow decades ago; someone who might help him find his own path into the music – Phil Treloar.
“There’s a focus with jazz drummers that when they’re experimenting with new ideas it has to be able to work in a standard song-form context. That’s something I’ve thought about a lot and felt that I was willing to let go, and see if it can just be music for itself.”
So by the time he turned 20 his palm was etched with a future as both player and composer, as jazz artist and classical. This puts Isaacs in a very select company – Don Banks, Bruce Cale, Phil Treloar, Mike Nock and Paul Grabowksy come to mind – of Australian artists whose work has been taken seriously in both idioms, and he sees the twin careers as being mutually beneficial.
Concepts aside, one of Grabowsky’s most significant contributions to creative music has been to popularise the pooling of players from different Australian states. Common enough in the 1960s, the practice had waned until Grabowsky did it with the Wizards of Oz, the band he co-formed with saxophonist Dale Barlow in 1986.
Just as the album’s title is both brooding and punning, so the music is in a constant flux of what, were it writing, we would call ‘tone’. Grabowsky can seem to create a pastiche of an idiom out of which a deep truth will grow in the improvising, while a more solemn-sounding piece will spawn sly asides and dramatic jolts from the players, or perhaps contain an unexpectedly curdled harmony.
Bertles remains imposing, and perhaps it was always a big man’s absence of timidity – a crash or crash through mentality – that made his playing so compelling
He went backstage at a Miles Davis gig in LA to say hello to Dave Holland and Chick Corea. When they started talking about Scientology to him, he had Miles Davis wink at him and say to the others, ‘You’re not telling a grown man that shit, are you?!’
Article by John Shand Banner image Harry Sutherland Trio with guest Jessica Carlton. Photo: Scott Burgess. To say he polarises people could be a lame pun on his ethnicity. To describe him as bullish is to invite an analogy that Sydney’s jazz scene was sometimes a china shop. But by nature we like ‘what if’ …
Rivett has broken cover not with yet another musical artefact from a schooled and accomplished improvising musician, but with a true work of the imagination.