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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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, in Barney McAll’s ASIO, in Sam’s Sextet and with the Stretchropolitans, a more traditional quartet with Matt Jodrell and Craig Fermanis all of which are immensely enjoyable.
LIONSHARECORDS NEWS: We applied for three recording grants and the Melbourne Music Prize last year, all of which were sadly fruitless, but we’re hoping that continued perseverance in 2017 will bear some financial juice to enable us to create some new recordings. Birdland Records released their Top30 releases of 2016 just before Christmas, only 7 of which were Australian titles. Listing just the local releases, the top two were re-releases of albums from 1960 and 1962 respectively from two of our greatest pianists. #3 was one I’m very proud of having been involved in from another great pianistic mind and 4 & 5 were Lionsharecords albums. Best place to get these is at Birdland in Sydney, Readings in Melbourne, or straight off Bandcamp.
Birdland’s Top Aussie Albums of 2016
#1 Mike Nock / The Three Out – Move
#2 Judy Bailey Trio – You & The Night & The Music
#3 Stu Hunter – The Migration
#4 David Ades – A Life In A Day
#5 Julien Wilson Quartet – This Narrow Isthmus
#6 James Muller – Neurotica
#7 Way Out West – Way Out West
Stu Hunter has secured funding to take The Migration to Jazzahead in Bremen, Germany in April. This is very exciting. It’s a ten piece band and it’s been ten years since I was last in Germany. I’m itching to do some playing with local musicians too.
Looking forward to sharing some live music with you this year.
AUGUST 8 2016
JULIEN WILSON QUINTET
Photo by Peter Karp
The Sound Lounge, August 6
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 ideas.
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
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 the festival. Wilson’s luscious, after-midnight toned tenor swung into Duke Ellington’s bluesy The Feeling of Jazz for a mood-setting opener. New York based pianist Barney McAll, bassist Jonathon Zwartz and drummer Allan Browne all fitted the genre perfectly: old school influences in an intelligent, modern context.” John McBeath, The Australian
“Wilson seemed genuinely delighted to have New York-based Barney McAll (piano) and locals Jonathan Zwartz (bass) and Allan Browne (drums) beside him on stage. This was a ballad-heavy set showcasing Wilson’s sublime saxophone tones. Heartfelt tributes to recently passed jazz identities Bernie McGann and Gil Askey were a noble gesture applauded fervently by the audience. Whether by stick, brush or hand, the much-loved Allan Browne was intent on being a team player, forever complementing his band members’ contributions. His impulsive calls of ‘yeah’, added real personality and warmth to the music. To end, Wilson swapped from saxophone to clarinet for ‘Farewell’, a beautiful and fitting ballad.” Greg Phillips, AustralianJazz.net
“The finish of this narrative is probably fairly obvious by now. Julien Wilson on clarinet and tenor sax joined Barney McAll (over from New York) on piano, Jonathan Zwartz on acoustic bass and Allan Browne on drums and cymbals to complete a dream line-up. I had lost any urge to dash off to Bennetts Lane to hear Django Bates Beloved play Charlie Parker. Another time. I wanted — wait for it — food for the soul, and this was the quartet to provide exactly that.
They began with Ellington’s The Feeling of Jazz, then Deep Night followed by a new ballad, Bernie, in honour of the late great Bernie McGann. Weeping Willow followed as a tribute to recently departed Gil Askey. There were great solos by Browne and McAll in this. In particular I loved how the quartet ended this and the previous piece, allowing them to gradually slip away. It was appropriate, I thought, to have such peaceful departures for these two characters of jazz.
From the opener, Wilson showed again that he continues to play with assurance and to draw on deep inspiration that is clearly a sustaining force. They played another new piece, Rain Man, and ended with Farewell off the album This Is Always as an encore. McAll seemed attentive rather than flamboyant on the night. He later said how much he appreciated Browne being so zen at the drum kit. This concert was good for the soul.
It was the perfect ending to the penultimate day of MIJF 2014. Roger Mitchell, Ausjazz.net
Julien Wilson Trio
July 23 2014, Michael Prescott – Jazzwise Magazine
The Promethean, Adelaide May 8th
The venue is somewhat unique, a small intimate space (with a bar of course, this is Australia!) that only opens when there is a gig. On this occasion Julien Wilson was there with his trio to promote his excellent new CD “Swailing”, recently reviewed on this site. In the company of guitarist Stephen Magnusson and Steve Grant on accordion the trio mesmerised the gathered with tunes from 2007’s “Trio Live” and a sizeable chunk of the aforementioned album.
The music, with is ECM like qualities, was perfect for this space, lovely, flowing accordion flourishes, subtle guitar lines and the leader’s luscious tenor sax washing over the enthusiastic audience. The absence of a rhythm section only made this music more sensuous and inviting. Whilst Magnusson and Grant covered rhythmic duties with controlled subtly all three musicians contributed solos of eloquence and passion.
Wilson is possessed of a glorious Ben Webster like tone which he uses to great effect during his improvisational flights; he appears unable to play an ordinary solo. Likewise, Magnusson’s gorgeous tone and judicious choice of notes led to series of solos that blended in seamlessly with Grant’s accordion. On the strength of this performance I can only hope that the many demands on Wilson’s career will not mean that we have to wait another 7 years before this group reconvenes.
Tenor saxophonist Julien Wilson leads jazz trio with sublime tonal concordance
May 9, 2014 – John McBeath, The Advertiser
Julien Wilson Trio
The Promethean, May 8
Fresh from a record achievement taking out three of eight categories in the 2014 National Jazz Bell Awards, Melbourne saxophonist Julien Wilson brought his unique trio to Adelaide. It wasn’t a hard-driving concert; there were no drums or bass, just tenor sax, Stephen Magnusson’s guitar and Stephen Grant on piano accordion. In this unusual combination they played a program of songs, some of quite dreamy elements, and mostly from their new album Swailing.
It was a varied collection ranging from their own compositions to jazz pieces by Ornette Coleman and Hermeto Pascoal, to a light classical piece: Massenet’s Meditation. All were skilfully interpreted at a virtuoso level of musicianship and delivered with extraordinary tonal concordance, as the lead and inspired solos were passed seamlessly between the three instruments.
A pulse wasn’t always necessary, but arrived for a dynamic version of Duke Ellington’s Creole Blues, with grooving guitar, stabbing chords and frills from the accordion, while Wilson’s tenor poured out a definitive blues using elegant high-register harmonics flowing right down to the low end of the horn. One of many highlights was a finely crafted presentation of Wilson’s signature tune Rebellious Bird with its memorable melody line of aching beauty.
There is no ego content in this trio. Each player is equally supportive and contributing importantly to a sublime performance.
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: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/music/barney-mcall-review-the-years-most-exhilarating-night-of-music-20150726-gikmcr.html
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: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/music/stonnington-jazz-festival-double-bill-a-soulful-celebration-20150517-gh3fzj.html#ixzz3h5krBPLK
‘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 2014
Julien Wilson Trio – Swailing (lionsharecords) Buy
Overdue follow up to Trio-Live & while you were sleeping
Recorded by Niko Schauble. Mixed and Mastered by Lachlan Carrick.
Available as cardboard gatefold CD package and 96k/24bit digital download.
Official 2014 CD Launch Tour Dates
Julien Wilson – This is Always (lionsharecords) Buy
Ballads album featuring Barney McAll, Jonathan Zwartz and Allan Browne.
Recorded by Ross Cockle. Mixed and mastered by David Darlington.
Available as cardboard gatefold CD package and 44.1k/24bit download.
2014 Australian Tour Dates
Sam Anning/Julien Wilson/Allan Browne – Sweethearts (ListenHearCollective)
Collection of excellent Anning originals, special standards and one Wilson original. Officially launched at the 2013 Wangaratta Jazz Festival. Available now online here Recorded by Ross Cockle. Mixed and mastered by Dave Darlington
Jonathan Zwartz – the remembering and forgetting of the air (Planet/MGM)
Available through Birdland Records. Officially launched at the 2013 Wangaratta Jazz Festival – beautifully recorded, amazing collection of Zwartz originals performed by Jonathan Zwartz, Barney McAll, Phil Slater, Julien Wilson, James Greening, Richard Maegraith, Steve Magnusson, Hamish Stuart and Fabian Hevia. Winner of the 2013 AIR award for Best Independent Jazz Release and 2013 ARIA Award Finalist.
Julien Wilson Trio
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.