Julien Wilson

Saxophonist

2017 – Europe

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2017 – Europe

It’s confirmed. Stu Hunter is taking The Migration, a ten piece ensemble featuring some of Australia’s finest musicians, to Germany to participate in Jazzahead in Bremen in late April. I’m putting out feelers for other opportunities to play my own music and collaborate with local musicians in Europe between Easter and early May. Please contact info@julienwilson.com if you would like to make enquiries or suggestions.   In the meantime, ARC, my new larger ensemble was launched during the last weekend of Melbourne’s premier jazz club, Bennetts Lane. Bennetts Lane will be re-opening in another venue mid 2017. ARC (the Autonomous Resilience Collective) is dedicated to celebrating music of struggle, resistance and revolution from around the world. ARC will have a different line up each time we perform but for the first concert it featured NY based British saxophonist Will Vinson, NY based drummer Rajiv Jayaweera, along with percussionist Javier Fredes, guitarist Craig Fermanis, electric bassist Chris Hale and pianist Sam Keevers.   My regular modern original quartet BforChicken are back at our 303 Residency on Wednesdays night through February and March. Admission is $10 On a more traditional note, The Stretchropolitans are doing some shows round town, a relatively new quartet celbrating and stretching music from the early part of last century. The Stretchos are Sam Anning (bass) Craig Fermanis (guitar) Matt Jodrell (trumpet and myself on various tubes. The Transients Trio with Anning and Andrea Keller continues to do some shows around town. School’s nearly back. See you out there. Watch out for ARC....

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2017: Try turning it OFF and ON again

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2016 came to a close (musically and personally) with an extended season at Bennetts Lane culminating in an all too rare gig with my trio aka ‘Julio & the Stevies’. 2017 is opening in a similar fashion: an extra special event and lots of gigs at Bennetts Lane. It’s going to be hard to top the first gig of the year. The 12ToneDiamonds reunion at 303 on Jan 4th was totally insane. Thanks to all who turned up to kick the year off in style. Hopefully Thai will come back from NY once a year so we can make it an annual thing. There’s still a lot of unrecorded material that we need to document. Here’s a visual document Who knows what the rest of 2017 holds, but it looks like it’s off to a positive musical start. Best to focus on the positives at this point. January 20th (an auspicious date globally) marks the end of an era of Radio National being a great place for contemporary Australian music. The POSITIVE NEWS here is that due to intense lobbying by the general public and the music industry at large, consolidated by the savernmusic campaign, ABC management definitely haven’t been able to ignore our voices and a number of politicians are taking notice and even taking a stand on the issue of representing independent Australian musicians. The Save Radio National Music! Campaign has created a strong unified voice of grassroots advocacy for musicians in this country. Something that has been sorely lacking for decades. Many, many organisations, institutions, venues, performers, promoters, festivals and fans have come together and stood up to be counted. Conspicuously absent throughout the entire campaign, despite numerous efforts to engage them and seek public support and endorsement are the Musicians Union. We as musicians need a voice to advocate for us, and that has unfortunately never been forthcoming from the Muso’s Union, at least during my career. On a POSITIVE NOTE this movement feels like the start of something much bigger. January is normally a quiet month but this year there’s lots to be excited about. Apart from the 12TD’s gig I just recorded with Osunlade for his next album on Yoruba Records, and there are heaps of wonderful gigs coming up, most of which are with the wonderful bassist (and extraordinary human) Sam Anning. We’re playing together regularly in a trio with Andrea Keller,...

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Julien Wilson Quintet review: No fake excitement: this was the real thing

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Julien Wilson Quintet review: No fake excitement: this was the real thing

REVIEW AUGUST 8 2016 John Shand JULIEN WILSON QUINTET Photo by Peter Karp The Sound Lounge, August 6 ★★★★½ Excitement can be faked, but this was the real thing. You felt the packed room of disparate souls knitting together in a shared response to exhilarating music. The Julien Wilson Quartet won much acclaim for swimming in the most central channel of the wide river called jazz. That band (with Wilson on tenor, pianist Barney McAll and bassist Jonathan Zwartz) boasted the much-loved Allan Browne on drums, and a year after his death this quintet line-up launched This Narrow Isthmus with drummer Hamish Stuart and guitarist Carl Dewhurst. Wilson formed the original quartet specifically to explore ballads, but it grew to be feistier than that on his original material, and this quintet further raised the energy stakes. To hear such a thrilling concert two days after witnessing the extraordinary Ornette Coleman tribute at 505 suggests Australian jazz is sunning itself in a golden age. Dewhurst played in both, here crafting fragile sighs and cries on Rainman, and on Weeping Willow dirtying up his sound and the music with a solo to singe the hairs in your ears. This piece had begun with astounding unaccompanied bass from Zwartz in which a kalimba-like motif of singing harmonics interacted with an earthier groove, so it became a dialogue between light and dark. The opening Cautiously Optimistic had Wilson building to torrential power, and on the gorgeous ballad Bernie (for Bernie McGann) his sound seemed to expand until it sprawled across the room in a great, warm airstream of sonic opulence. This piece also had McAll using octaves to fashion lines of such uncanny lyricism as could engender multiple new compositions. McGod contained volatile exchanges with Stuart and his round-sounding drums and brilliant cymbals that could explode like bombs in so many china shops. Earlier Laurence Pike created an enthralling 40-minute solo piece for drum-kit and sampler. This was a genuine duet in which the foreground shifted between electronics and drums, the latter played with a wealth of melodic, rhythmic, textural and colouristic...

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Breaking News

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Breaking News

Jan2016: 2016 has got off to an absolutely cracking start. Stu Hunter’s new Epic suite The Migration was launched at the Sydney Festival on Jan 9th. Andrea Keller, Sam Anning and I debuted the new Transients Trio at Lazarus Lane.  Zac Hurren and I toured Australia playing music from David Ades’ A LIFE IN A DAY, the first album to be released on Lionsharecords that doesn’t feature one of my own groups. There was some great press for Dave’s album and the gigs that I’ve placed in the news section below including a 5star CD review from the Sydney Morning Herald, a CD review from DowntownMusicGallery in New York, live reviews from the SMH, The Age and Adelaide Advertiser and editorials by Melbourne International Jazz Festival, JazzAustralia and the ByronBay Echo. Speaking of 5star reviews Jazz.org just published one for my latest quartet album This Narrow Isthmus. It’s being officially launched in March on the opening night of the Inaugural St Kilda Summer Jazz Festival. On top of that, Barney McAll played his first ASIO show as a Melbourne resident at Paris Cat and Virus Quintet have a new residency south of the river on Sunday afternoons from 3-6 at a great little restaurant called Osti. Lets hope the rest of the year can keep up with all the excitement! Nov2015: The follow up album to This Is Always has just been released. Recorded live in Sydney, This Narrow Isthmus is now available on CD and as a 24bit download. Australian alto sax legend David Ades’ final album A Life In A Day has been released concurrently through Lionsharecords. It features an 8 page booklet with liner notes, photos and art by Dave’s family and friends. ‘This is Always’ initial pressing sold out in less than a year. On May 1st 2014 Julien became the first recipient of three concurrent Australian Jazz ‘Bell’ Awards for: Best Australian Jazz Ensemble – Julien Wilson Quartet Best Traditional Jazz Album – This is Always Best Australian Jazz Song of the Year – Trout River Click here for recent CD...

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David Ades A LIFE IN A DAY Press

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David Ades A LIFE IN A DAY Press

CD REVIEWS FreeJazzBlog April 23rd 2016 David Ades – A Life In A Day (Lionsharecords 2015) ★★★★½ By Derek Stone       A Life In A Day was recorded on September 18, 2013. Three weeks later, alto saxophonist David Ades passed away, a victim to the lung cancer that he had been battling for nearly two years. Ades undoubtedly knew that any day could be his last, but he never allowed that knowledge to subdue him, to crush his spirits or pinch the glorious flow of notes that he’d been unleashing since he was 18. Recorded with saxophonist Tony Malaby, bassist Mark Helias, and drummer Gerald Cleaver, A Life In A Day is a testament to the transformative power of music – no, it might not be able to rid the body of disease or pluck us from the arduous situations in which we find ourselves, but it can lighten the load, lift us up, and give us hope. When listening to this recording, it’s clear that Ades dedicated himself to harnessing that power. During this session (as on uncountable others), he poured his heart and soul into his saxophone. Two years later, we’ve finally been given the chance to hear the wondrous sounds that were created that day. The first time this group got together, we were given A Glorious Uncertainty. That album was an exuberant display of the tight rapport between the four players, but its title is perhaps even more apt for A Life In A Day. While the pieces on A Glorious Uncertaintycould occasionally veer into boisterous, hard-driving territory, this album is relatively understated. The uncertainty here is in greater abundance – there’s an exploratory mood that manifests itself in gentler, more expressive playing. In other words, the tempest has been turned inwards, resulting in tunes that are more introspective. A lot of that is due to Cleaver: on the last effort, he roared out of the gate with rhythms that approximated rock in both tempo and style. Here, he tends to give more space to the two saxophonists, encircling their figures and melodies lightly, rolling along the outskirts. His percussion work has gotten more subtle, and it’s all the more effective for that reason. The first piece, “Slow Song,” illustrates this more subdued approach perfectly: it begins with the Ades’ lilting, earnest melodies, the soft skittering of Cleaver, and Helias’ esoteric constructions (reminiscent...

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Live Reviews – May/June 2014

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Live Reviews – May/June 2014

Julien Wilson Quartet review: Tenor sax proves he’s up there with the greats June 15, 2014 – John Shand, Sydney Morning Herald Rating: 4 out of 5 stars Springwood Presbyterian Hall, June 14 The tenor saxophone is so deeply embedded in jazz that the sound of Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster or John Coltrane is like the music’s conscience. The recent rush of international artists through Sydney brought the profundity of Charles Lloyd’s tenor and the quicksilver of Joshua Redman’s. Then along comes Melbourne’s Julien Wilson, the spiritual heir to Australia’s ultimate tenor players: Merv Acheson and Mark Simmonds. Wilson’s ‘This Is Always’ opus, which recently cleaned up at the Australian Jazz Awards, is his most conventional jazz album, played by a band drawn from Melbourne, New York and Sydney. Unfortunately health issues kept veteran drummer Alan Browne away, and Wilson opted for the polar-opposite Simon Barker. Where Browne upholstered these songs in velvet Barker overlaid rhythmic puzzles and heightened drama. At first his wilder extravagances seemed an imposition when Wilson, pianist Barney McAll and bassist Jonathan Zwartz were all playing within the expected, accepted idiom. But as the concert progressed, and the more fascinating Barker’s conceptual challenges became, the more the band adjusted to his radically different, imaginative and periodically thrillingly primal input. Sometimes Wilson played so gently that it was no more than breathing coloured by sound. A long melodic line would trail off so gradually that an outline of unheard notes seemed to haunt the air. On Ellington’s The Feeling of Jazz each note sprawled voluptuously from the horn, and on his Aberdeen Wilson built such tension that his tenor threatened to explode across the turbulence forged by the band. Wine and Water had the saxophone subsiding into utter desolation following an introduction from Zwartz that was full of mystery, and yet unfolded as naturally as the seasons. McAll then reminded us that as well as being among the most rhythmically buoyant musicians Australia has produced he has an equally rare ability to create crystalline states of suspended animation. Make no mistake: this band was just as exceptional and distinctive as Redman’s, and the tenor playing more so.    2014 Melbourne International Jazz Festival Excerpts “Melbourne saxophonist Julien Wilson won three prizes at the Bell Awards last month, so expectations were high for his quartet — and they delivered mightily in one of the best performances of...

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Killer review of Barney McAll’s CD Launch in Sydney on July 25th 2015

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Barney McAll review: The year’s most exhilarating night of music John Shand Published: July 26, 2015 Barney McAll’s ASIO 505, July 25 Duke Ellington wrote compositions with specific members of his magnificent orchestra in mind and Thelonious Monk wrote to suit his singular approach to the piano. Given that the jazz composer’s job is to inspire improvisers, Barney McAll has succeeded brilliantly with material primarily from the Mooroolbark album he was launching, with the first set of this concert among the year’s most exhilarating hours of music. Jendhi saw guitarist Stephen Magnusson build an engrossing solo starting with just the faintest cries. February had tenor saxophonist Julien Wilson boiling and roaring and then sliding something sly into the tumult, before returning to bulldozing the room with the most potent tenor to be heard in Australia these days. He stormed across Sigil with stupendous power, his sound so massive it seemed to threaten the structural integrity of the saxophone’s bell, before McAll cast such a spell at the piano that he even created the illusion of bending notes. The piece’s wildly rhythmic climax had the tenor and guitar sharing a repeated unison line blasted with punctuations by McAll, Jonathan Zwartz’s bass and Hamish Stuart’s drums. The energy reached such a pitch that the audience was spontaneously erupting in enthusiasm and disbelief. Then Non-Compliance had Magnusson sculpting another solo of such invention and beauty that it again broke free of gravity, fuelled by Stuart’s drums. The second set began with two new pieces written under McAll’s current Peggy Glanville-Hicks Composers’ Trust Fellowship. The first, a homage to the late Allan Browne, had a swelling and ebbing melody that seemed to melt time, its gentleness establishing the tone for much of the set. The second new one was more complex, and while the performance was far from assured, this did not prevent Wilson’s tenor erupting once more like some Indonesian volcano. McAll featured in the dream-like Nectar Spur and the rampant gospel of Apple Tree, which had a spirited, almost bludgeoning bass solo from Zwartz and typically infectious, galvanising drumming from Stuart. This story was found at:...

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The year’s most exhilarating night of music

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Barney McAll review: The year’s most exhilarating night of music July 26, 2015 – John Shand, Sydney Morning Herald Reviewer rating: 4.5*s Barney McAll’s ASIO 505, July 25 Duke Ellington wrote compositions with specific members of his magnificent orchestra in mind and Thelonious Monk wrote to suit his singular approach to the piano. Given that the jazz composer’s job is to inspire improvisers, Barney McAll has succeeded brilliantly with material primarily from the Mooroolbark album he was launching, with the first set of this concert among the year’s most exhilarating hours of music. Jendhi saw guitarist Stephen Magnusson build an engrossing solo starting with just the faintest cries. February had tenor saxophonist Julien Wilson boiling and roaring and then sliding something sly into the tumult, before returning to bulldozing the room with the most potent tenor to be heard in Australia these days. He stormed across Sigil with stupendous power, his sound so massive it seemed to threaten the structural integrity of the saxophone’s bell, before McAll cast such a spell at the piano that he even created the illusion of bending notes. The piece’s wildly rhythmic climax had the tenor and guitar sharing a repeated unison line blasted with punctuations by McAll, Jonathan Zwartz’s bass and Hamish Stuart’s drums. The energy reached such a pitch that the audience was spontaneously erupting in enthusiasm and disbelief. Then Non-Compliance had Magnusson sculpting another solo of such invention and beauty that it again broke free of gravity, fuelled by Stuart’s drums. The second set began with two new pieces written under McAll’s current Peggy Glanville-Hicks Composers’ Trust Fellowship. The first, a homage to the late Allan Browne, had a swelling and ebbing melody that seemed to melt time, its gentleness establishing the tone for much of the set. The second new one was more complex, and while the performance was far from assured, this did not prevent Wilson’s tenor erupting once more like some Indonesian volcano. McAll featured in the dream-like Nectar Spur and the rampant gospel of Apple Tree, which had a spirited, almost bludgeoning bass solo from Zwartz and typically infectious, galvanising drumming from Stuart. This story was found at:...

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Julien Wilson Quartet @ Stonnington Jazz Festival 2015

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Stonnington Jazz Festival: double bill a soulful celebration May 17, 2015 – Jessica Nicholas, The Age JULIEN WILSON QUARTET / KRISTIN BERARDI & JAMES SHERLOCK – 4 stars Malvern Town Hall, May 16 This time last year, saxophonist Julien Wilson scored a hat trick at the Bell Awards when his quartet album This is Always took first place in three different categories. The album is, on the surface, a no-frills, no-fireworks affair: an unrehearsed ballads session that happened to produce one of the finest Australian jazz recordings in recent years. Live, too, this quartet is more about burnished flame than blazing fire, as Wilson and his colleagues demonstrated in their splendid Stonnington Jazz set on Saturday. The double-bill show opened with a duo set from Kristin Berardi and James Sherlock, who managed to conjure a mood of intimacy in the capacious Malvern Town Hall. Berardi is a wonderfully creative singer, but her horn-like embellishments and variations are never at the expense of the lyrics or the sentiment behind them. Ode to Ollie ached with tenderness, while a playful Tangerine saw the singer stretching and condensing fragments of the lyric over Sherlock’s buoyant guitar lines. Like Berardi, Julien Wilson has a marvellously fluid quality to his phrasing that makes it feel utterly natural and unforced. He can create an air of majesty with a bold upward sweep on his tenor, or sustain a single, barely-perceptible note with the focus of a Zen monk. His quartet companions on Saturday (pianist Barney McAll, bassist Jonathan Zwartz and drummer Allan Browne) shared Wilson’s less-is-more inclination, letting each elegant, unhurried piece unfold without the need for showy or virtuosic displays. Towards the end of the set, the mood became more bluesy and propulsive – particularly on Weeping Willow, which developed a soulful, celebratory swagger before melting into an unexpectedly hushed coda. Read more:...

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Birdland Records Top 30 – 2014

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‘Swailing’ and ‘This is Always’ both made it in to the 2014 Best Sellers List at #8! & #2!!, along with Jonathan Zwartz’s ‘The Remembering and Forgetting of the Air’ at #3. Incredibly exciting news considering the record label was launched less than a year ago. Birdland Top30...

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Swailing Review – Jazzwise

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Swailing Review – Jazzwise

Julien Wilson Trio
 Swailing
 lionsharecords LSR 20142 ★★★ Julien Wilson (ts, b cl, ss), Stephen Magnusson (g), Steve Grant (acc) Swailing is a very Australian concept, a controlled burn of the bush aimed at promoting regrowth. In spite of the title, the music on this CD has a very European feel, at times reminiscent of an ECM recording, no doubt as a consequence of the unusual composition of the trio, no rhythm section but with an accordion. But there are important differences mainly flowing from song selection. After a delicious Wilson penned opening track, with the marvelously titled “I Believe This Belongs To You” comes Hermeto Pascoal’s “Little Church”, most famously heard on Miles Davis’s “Live Evil”. A little later, Gabriel Faure’s “Meditation”, Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust”, even Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz” and finally, Ornette Coleman’s “Chanting”, plus several originals. The trio benefits from having performed together over many years (their first CD, “Live” dates from 2007) as they weave in and out with a beautiful precision that only experience can bring. All three members both solo and provide accompaniment, the resulting music ebbs and flows producing a gorgeous sound. The occasional overdub fills out the music, most notably Wilson’s bass clarinet. Although mostly subdued, it is a strangely uplifting and enjoyable music. Grant is just fabulous throughout; Magnusson demonstrates that he is an all-round guitarist and in places squeezes out very un-guitar like sounds. All the while Wilson is sublime, at times his breathy tenor is reminiscent of Ben Webster. What makes this all the more impressive is that this was released together with a completely different album and band, the mainstream ballad collection, “This Is Always”, also on lionsharecords. On this album his Websterisms come to the fore. Michael...

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This Is Always CD Review – The Age

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This Is Always CD Review – The Age

The Age – March 23rd 2014 JAZZ This Is Always JULIEN WILSON (LIONSHARECORDS) ****1/2 A tenor saxophone making gentle, sensuous jazz is a grand tradition, like paddle-steamers cruising on wide, slow rivers. Ben Webster Plays Ballads remains one of jazz’s must-have recordings, and now Julien Wilson eases his own tenor into that tradition, in the process creating one of the great Australian jazz albums. This is music where the horn’s sound seems to melt before your ears, becoming creamy, viscous and rather sly. Sometimes it is so fragile that it fades to little more than pulsing breath passing through the saxophone, or that fragility may find release in a sudden cry. Wilson has all this in place and his phrasing is so relaxed that the tenor seems to massage you as you listen. The pieces are mostly ballads, of course, including some originals, and pianist Barney McAll, bassist Jonathan Zwartz and drummer Allan Browne are peerless at making them heartfelt, rather than just being pastiches. Any music becomes new, after all, when played with complete conviction. Wilson has simultaneously released a gorgeous album by his trio with guitarist Stephen Magnusson and accordionist Steve Grant called Swailing. Buy both. John...

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Swailing + This is Always – Double review in Rhythms

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Swailing + This is Always – Double review in Rhythms

Rhythms – February 2014 Julien Wilson Trio – Swailing Also Julien Wilson – This is Always lionsharecords Melbourne saxophonist Julien Wilson had an interesting 2013, the lowlight being a  minor surgery gone wrong, which saw him hospitalised for a couple of weeks (at one stage in serious danger), and unable to play for another several weeks. Happily, he bounced back in time to play some memorable gigs at Wangaratta Jazz (and then at Bennetts Lane), some of them promoting his recent recordings. Wilson made crucial contributions to recent releases by bassists Jonathan Zwartz and Sam Anning. But he has really excelled himself on these two recordings under his own name. Swailing features his long-running trio with Stephen Magnusson (guitar) and Steve Grant (accordion). They share a remarkable affinity, favouring a spacious sound, wherein the sighing tones of the two Steves cushion and embrace Wilson’s most attractive, yearning forays on the tenor sax. Or (which is a new aspect, for this trio at least) his playing on soprano sax or bass clarinet. There are 14 tracks here, many of them quite concise. Wilson and Magnusson provide several originals, and there are interpretations of pieces by composers as diverse as Ellington, Ornette, Waller, Hoagy Carmichael, Gabriel Faure and Hermeto Pascoal. The unusual, yet attractive, combination of instruments is perhaps the first thing you’ll notice, before you appreciate the rare skills of all three players, and their ability to combine their voices so seamlessly. This Is Always finds Wilson playing a program of standard ballads, leading what he describes as a ‘classic’ quartet: tenor sax, piano, bass, drums. It seems that Wilson avoided recording in this format until he felt ready. And he certainly was ready to play these songs – gorgeous ballads like ‘This Is Always’, ‘Body And Soul’, ‘Deep Night’, ‘Stairway To The Stars’, plus a few compatible originals – with a level of maturity, and a storytelling quality that place him proudly in the lineage of such great tenor balladeers as Lester Young, Dexter Gordon, John Coltrane, Stan Getz and Joe Lovano. Of course, it helps that he was joined by the very special combination of Barney McAll (piano), Jonathan Zwartz (bass) and Allan Browne (drums). The pianist has a long history with both Zwartz and Browne, but this was the first time the three had played together as a rhythm section. They combine as if they have been...

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This is Always CD Review on AustralianJazz.net

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This is Always CD Review on AustralianJazz.net

This Is Always (Lionsharecords)
 Julien Wilson Quartet Review by John Clare – Nov 21st 2013 These are curious and poignant days for those of us who have felt connections to a stream of Australian music that began flowing as far back as the 1940s with Graeme and Roger Bell and their colleagues (who in turn connected us to Rex Stewart, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll and all that has since transpired). Dave Ades and Bernie McGann – both great alto players, and also dear friends – have moved on, while others, including Julien Wilson and Allan Browne, have experienced extreme vicissitudes of health. It is easy to inflate what is in fact a small cluster of coincidences and the simple inevitability of people reaching a certain age – though some are in fact quite young – but very deep feelings have been tapped. It is easy to see omens in nature. Bushfires have raged in the Blue Mountains and charcoal and burnt sienna smoke has spread down over Sydney. The sun at some hours has burned through with the orange of an electrical element, and late in the day in a weird neon disc of hot pink. But firemen came from Victoria and New Zealand to help. Furthermore the rain is crashing down now at last and the black streets are splashing and shining in the night. On cue, as it seems, I have received This is Always, plus two others, reviews of which will soon follow. In the notes to this disc, Julien Wilson says, ‘This is my first recording with a Classic Quartet playing standards’. What, then, are standards in this context? Tunes that have become standard fare in a repertoire sometimes revisited often, sometimes rarely. ‘All Shook Up’ and ‘Slippin’ And A-Slidin” are rock and roll standards. They are perhaps my favourites in that area, speaking to me from my mid teens in the mid 1950s – the classic rock and roll era. Yet they are rarely played. This is true also of a broader stream of standards, but some of these are visited perhaps too often with too little attempt at understanding. This stream began pre-rock and roll and the tunes are usually in ballad form with the chorus leading and the verse forming a bridge (in recent pop the reverse is usually the case). These melodies may have begun their lives in movies...

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This is Always + Swailing – Feature Review in The Australian

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This is Always + Swailing – Feature Review in The Australian

This is Always Julien Wilson Quartet Lionsharecords 4.5 stars Swailing Julien Wilson Trio Lionsharecords 4.5 stars Review by John McBeath – Nov 16th 2013 MELBOURNE saxophonist Julien Wilson was one of the highlights of this month’s Wangaratta Jazz Festival where, among other appearances, he launched his quartet album, This is Always. Considering that only six weeks earlier Wilson had come close to death with anaphylactic shock during a hernia operation and has weakened abdominal muscles, his performances were remarkable. The new recording brings together a stellar group: New York-based pianist Barney McAll, Sydney bassist Jonathan Zwartz and Melbourne drummer Allan Browne. The title track opener, after McAll’s dreamy piano intro, descends deliciously into deeply moving tenor territory as Wilson delivers the theme in a beautiful re-creation of Coleman Hawkins. Then, as a perfect bass line and Browne’s subtly sophisticated brushes arrive, Wilson begins to softly explore with superb rhythmic sense, and the effect is everything a nostalgic, romantic ballad should be. Hawkins’s signature piece Body and Soul is reprised, or rather reinvented here at a slower tempo, and roundly imbued with a ceaseless flow of inspired ideas. Six of the nine tracks are wonderfully interpreted standards and the others are Wilson compositions, including a New Orleans style dirge, Farewell, featuring the leader’s excellent clarinet against bowed bass. There’s an infectiously swinging version of The Party’s Over and a slower, luscious rendition of Stairway to the Stars. On the Swailing collection Wilson’s well-established trio uses its rather unusual instrumentation, adding Stephen Magnusson’s expert guitar and the perfectly appropriate accordion of Steve Grant to Wilson’s reeds. Grant’s instrument offers melodic and harmonic contributions, and one of the pleasant aspects of this album is the way these components are seamlessly exchanged between guitar and accordion. There’s a sprinkling of standards, including an all-too-short taste of Stardust for just over a minute of superlative tenor, and a quickened, impressive soprano sax workout on Jitterbug Waltz. An almost symphonic opening to Ornette Coleman’s Chanting has guitar and accordion continuing a wash behind the tenor’s climb into high-register excitement. Wilson’s command of the bass clarinet is evident in his composition Midway, where he lays down an ostinato for the guitar’s melodic statement and later overdubs some inspired soprano sax. The sumptuous harmonies of Gabriel Faure’s Meditation are unhurriedly explored by meaningful meanderings of the tenor as accordion supplies a backdrop and the guitar adds important countering notes. Bass...

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Reviews of 2013 Wangaratta Jazz Festival

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Reviews of 2013 Wangaratta Jazz Festival

Excerpts from Ausjazz Blog Review by Roger Mitchell – Nov 6th 2013 and AddictedToNoise review by Des Cowley – Nov 19th 2013 WIZARDS OF OZ REVIEW: Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues, November 1–3, 2013 It’s not easy to sum up a weekend of music in a few words, but whatever else can be said about the 2013 Wangaratta Jazz and Blues festival, there was an abundance of imaginative playing and exemplary musicianship.  … I think this festival is best summed up by three themes: Ubiquitous Julien Wilson, piano prowess and the wizardy of Australian musicians, including those now living abroad. First, the weekend of gigs could have been re-named the Wangaratta Julien Festival in honour of the phenomenal playing by saxophonist Julien Wilson in so many line-ups. Julien recently had a close call during surgery in hospital, but recovered to play superbly. He seemed omnipresent. I heard him in five ensembles. In each his playing displayed almost all the qualities you’d hope to hear from saxophone or bass clarinet, from fiery blasts to deeply resonant mining expeditions or subtle soliloquies. As I write this I am conscious that at last year’s festival a standout concert featured Wilson with fellow reedsman David Ades, who is now seriously ill and in our thoughts. That concert stays with me. Many of Julien Wilson’s solos this year will also remain in my memory, among them his freakily good explorations in Rebellious Bird, which he dedicated to Ades. Among other highlights was his rendition, in his first outing in a quartet format, of Paul Desmond’s Wendy, performed in honour of the recently departed Bernie McGann, and a finely nuanced solo on Deep Night. Another came with drummer Allan Browne and bassist Sam Anning (on loan from the US) at the launch of their recent album Sweethearts. Empathy, warmth and understanding were evident as the trio members demonstrated how well they work together. It was a joy to hear this, though I had to leave early. The “high octane” Julien was on show in B For Chicken. And in the Jonathan Zwartz Ensemble, Wilson — dubbed Lazarus by the bassist — excelled in Wait Until the Morning.  … Other standout gigs featuring Australian artists were the Jonathan Zwartz Ensemble (much more compelling live than on the most recent album) and the classy Nock/Magnusson/Wilson. ROGER MITCHELL ‘There is no such thing as a bad Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival.’ WANGARATTA JAZZ AND BLUES FESTIVAL, 1- 4 November 2013 This year’s Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival was book-ended by two...

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Sweethearts CD Reviews

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Sweethearts CD Reviews

The Australian – Sept 7th 2013 EACH player in this trio is foremost in Australia on his instrument, although ex-Perth bassist Sam Anning has relocated to New York. Saxophonist Julien Wilson and drummer Allan Browne are long-term luminaries in Melbourne, where the album was recorded. The 11 tracks are comprised of five pieces by Anning, one by Wilson and five well-selected standards. With the solo bass opening establishing a lyrical melody on track one, Anning’s Cactus Flower, two things are obvious: the beautiful resonance of the recorded instrument and the consummate artistry of its player. Following that intro, shimmering cymbals preface the arrival of Wilson’s softly luscious tenor as Browne sketches an out-of- tempo mallets backdrop to produce a highly sensitive, beautiful ballad. The first of the standards, Little White Lies sets a swinging medium tempo from the start and as Wilson starts an absorbing, enmeshing solo and the bass walks to Browne’s impeccable beat, the effect is nearly transcendental. Wilson plays clarinet on his composition Farewell, with a pretty melody and a south-of-the-border sound that he ornaments engagingly with assistance from a climactic bass solo. Soprano sax and bowed double bass provide a noteworthy opening to Anning’s Through the Open Window and the bass clarinet makes an effective reprise of Cactus Flower. Wilson’s warm tenor tone brings a lazy, sunny mood to Billy Strayhorn’s Little Brown Book, gradually strengthening throughout, and the horn’s lower register is put to excellent effect in The Best Thing for You is Me, followed by very smart and fast solos by all three. A virtuosic trio collection using interestingly varied instrumentation. John McBeath ****1/2   AustralianJazz.net – January 7th 2014 When musicians play for each other rather than for themselves (or, worse, to impress) the instruments have a way of melting together, just as multiple ingredients become one dish. You hear it from the opening notes on Sweethearts, an album that in many ways is a throwback, and yet which carries the timeless relevance of three players hell-bent on praying before the altar of music, rather than before the many craven idols that easily sidetrack improvising musicians. I say ‘throwback’ because Sam Anning’s tunes and those he chooses to interpret are embedded in a jazz tradition that has precursors in all decades between the 1920s and now, with especially strong hints of the 1950s. But were this just another attempt to recycle some...

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