I feel compelled to put this out there. So here it is.
I’m a white Australian jazz musician. My whole career is based on and indebted to black American music and the people who created (and continue to create) it under unbearable systematic oppression. When I first saw the saxophone at high school it was indelibly linked with American jazz music and that’s when I knew what I had to do with my life.
I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have had the honour of performing and touring and recording with many Indigenous Australians, some of our nation’s, and indeed the world’s greatest performers and songwriters.
My obsession with Black American Music led me to study Black American History, And that in turn made me wonder how in hell I got to be 20 years old without knowing anything about Black Australian history. I began reading incessantly, trying to find the information that hadn’t been presented at school. I wanted to know the real Australian history, not just the back page.
When I was 21 I travelled to the USA for the first time. In New Orleans I met a trio of musicians from New York (a singer, a poet, and a genius who played Chapman Stick and drums) and they invited me to join them on stage. When I arrived in NY I called them up and they invited me to do a whole gig with them, this time at a Rock Against Racism in Union Square. It was packed and was one of the happiest days of my life. They were members of the Black Rock Coalition and M-Base and played music unlike anything I’d experienced in person.
They took me under their wing, showed me around their neighbourhoods, took me to gigs and parties, and treated me like a long lost brother. They schooled me in Black Culture – food, history, language, frankincense and sandalwood oil (for my tragically greasy long hair), how to roll a blunt, home cooked jerk chicken and rice, the educated son of a black Cambridge doctor, the streetwise eternal dude, the elder statesman poet, the record collecting civil rights historian… and the whole glorious sprawling diaspora of black American MUSIC.
Yictove, the poet in the group, took me to play duets and talk about Australia at his High School classes in Queens for artistically gifted kids who didn’t fit in the regular system. I couldn’t believe the Security Guard at the reception area where we had to sign in was dressed like a cop and had a gun! The classroom seemed to me to be right on the edge of chaos.
They invited me to jam at a Dub Reggae Session where I met Juma, the percussionist on Bitches Brew. They were fascinated by the Yidaki I had with me. I was a gangly, naive, wide-eyed, white kid from Australia and they really, welcomed me in to their homes with open arms and treated me like a little brother.
A year before that trip I’d joined Richard Frankland’s band Djaambi and spent three weeks travelling from Alice Springs to Darwin. We played in Papunya, Yeundemu, Tenant Creek, Elliott, Borolloola, Katherine and Darwin. At the age of 20, they were the first First Australians I got to know, and their generosity of spirit and sense of humour are what struck me the most. At the first rehearsal they told me that the initiation to the band was that I had to learn to catch a spear… with my chest. They were my Djungaii (uncles / teachers).
Everywhere we went on that tour was more intense than the last place. All the white folks in the band lost their shit because they had no idea that Australia was a third world country until visiting NT communities. All the city raised black men on the tour lost their shit at some stage because they were in communities where 14 year old boys had undergone manhood ceremonies, and as blackfellas growing up in white society, they hadn’t gone through that traditional initiation process.
The lessons I learned from that tour stay with me every day. It was my awakening to what Australia really means. Like I said, I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have had an experience (many of them now) and see a side of Australia that most non-indigenous Australians never get to have or see.
I toured many times with Archie Roach and Ruby Hunter and the Black Arm Band, from makeshift stages in remote outback communities to the Sydney Opera House, Singapore, Thursday Island, Taiwan, Nhulunbuy, Canada, Fitzroy Crossing, New York, Brazil, Wadeye. One of the greatest honours was to play at the 40 year anniversary of the handback at Kalkarindji for the Gurindji. We played at the anniversary of Nitmiluk Gorge handback as well. In Mexico City, Archie introduced Took The Children Away in Spanish and brought a full house at the concert hall to their feet.
We played a few days after Rudd’s apology in 2008 in Perth at an outdoor festival and the energy of hope and raw emotion was palpable. Many, many, many times I was brought to tears onstage performing these songs. But it really hit home when my first daughter was born. I was already tired and emotional at the rehearsal, but when Archie sung Took the Children Away I had to go and hide in the bathroom and collapsed in a weeping mess. Empathy involves imagining yourself in another’s shoes. And the concept of my beautiful baby daughter being stolen from me and never seeing her again just ruined me. The resilience of these people and the injustices they’ve had to endure is beyond belief.
“This story’s right, this story’s true
I would not tell lies to you
Like the promises they did not keep
And how they fenced us in like sheep”
I spent a small amount of time in Roper attempting to immerse myself in traditional culture to absorb traditional Wagilak Manikay. My family there visited me in Melbourne a number of times around the time my first daughter was born. Her yululumba (umbilical stump) is buried on their land. As Kutcha Edwards said to me, it’s my responsibility now to share those insights with those less fortunate than myself.
Those experiences are where music blossomed for me. I had an incredible amount of hope for where Australia and America could evolve and mature to, despite the ugly histories of both. I’m nearly 50 now. And I feel like we’ve gone backwards as a society.
As May became June this year and Corona Virus restrictions eased in Australia, National Reconciliation Week (bookended by Sorry Day and Mabo Day) coincided with a righteously furious national uprising in America, the likes of which the world hasn’t seen since Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination in 1968.
There are undeniable parallels between the USA and Australia. As this article points out, 28 years after Eddie Mabo’s historic win Mabo Day should be less a cause for self-satisfied back-patting from “non-racist” Australians and more a reminder to reflect on how far we still have to go.
28 years ago, watching Paul Keating’s famous Redfern speech, I felt that we were balanced on the edge of a tipping point in education, acknowledgement, reconciliation and respect in this country when he said,
“There is one thing today we cannot imagine. We cannot imagine that we will fail.”
It now feels like we’ve done an about turn and run from that opportunity with our fingers in our ears, wearing a white blindfold and screaming in self-righteous denial. A quarter of a century is a LONG TIME to go nowhere. Patience has its limits. The constant flame under the billycan has never been extinguished.
In 2015 Adam Goodes quit a brilliant football career in despair only a year after being named Australian of the Year.. He was so broken and disgusted that he couldn’t even participate in the traditional Grand Final Parade. Racism nearly killed him, and as he struggled to stand under the weight of it, White Australia jumped on his back and rode him in to the ground.
The whole world knows Colin Kaepernick.
Do they know who Adam Goodes is and what Australia did to him?
We need to reassess and reconsider the holes in our education, through both our own ignorance (even with the best of intentions and purest of hearts) and the consequences of the systemic racism we were raised with and are unconsciously surrounded by. When we deny it exists we are making a choice to perpetuate it.
Black Americans and Indigenous Australians (amongst many others, especially first nations peoples) have had to demand the fair go we boast about giving every citizen (peacefully, mostly, to their eternal credit) for way too long from a system that has literally, violently held them down while simultaneously pretending they don’t exist.
It hurts being told to speak up, then told to shut up because you’re doing it wrong. It hurts to realise that you may be so out of touch, that you don’t even know why it’s wrong.
But we have to swallow our (white) pride and LISTEN! Because we cannot even begin to fathom what it must feel like to live with the constant emotional battering of the daily bombardment of hypocritical, condescending, paternalistic, arrogant, ignorant, patronising, demeaning, infuriating, outrageously offensive and flat-out racist messages and actions (verbal, mental, physical, psychological and economical) that they have to deal with from the cradle to the grave.
I’m not advocating white guilt. I’m saying we need to seek out black knowledge. And do our best to empathise with the experience of those who have been treated differently.
I’ve gotten it wrong many times. And I will undoubtably make many more mistakes.
I have to constantly remind myself to seek the truth, watch and learn, ask questions – and actually listen to the answers – and act upon changes that must be made. For if I’m not part of the solution, I’m part of the problem.
I am not responsible for the actions of my ancestors; BUT I have inherited untold privileges (many of which I’m not even aware of) that the multitude of injustices of the past granted to my parents, and their parents. Yes. It’s not ancient history. It exists in our generation, right here, right now.
Ruby Bridges will turn 66 in 2020!
Brother Kutcha Edwards, a member of the stolen generation, is only a few years older than me.
David Duke is still alive and personally endorsed Donald Trump’s Presidential bid in 2016. He spoke at Charlottesville in 2017 and then tweeted directly to the President to “remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists.”
Gina Rinehart’s father, Lang Hancock reportedly had seven “half-caste” children but publicly advocated that “half-castes” should be sterilised by poisoning the water supplies so that they’d ‘breed themselves out’. These were his own kids! Many of them now work in his mines.
Like the dreamtime, systemic privilege and racism are here among us right now. And we are responsible for ensuring that our children are more educated and evolved than we were. So they can recognise and dismantle systemic racism when they see it.
Don’t let casual racism slide. The anti-terrorism slogan said:
“If you see something, say something”.
Racism is terrorism.
If you want to donate directly to organisations in Australia which support Black Lives Matter this page is a good place to start.
Or you can donate to the the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service.
Or the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation
Donations are tax deductible
With Love & Hope
for Peace & Respect
I’ve decided to add a blog to this news feed as somewhere to share and keep some (mostly music related) thoughts, away from Social Media. As many of you are no doubt aware, Facebook is not a healthy place for me. Many of the friendships are great, but I get super depressed when I go on there. The constant news cycle sends me batty, and often quickly results in me being angry and frustrated. And it kills my creativity and throttles my productivity.
So, in an environment free of the incessant scroll feed where every second picture is of some old white soulless ugly definitely-not-a-dude who makes my blood boil, here’s the good news about upcoming gigs in 2020. YAY 🙂
The quartet which recorded This World (Mike Nock, Jonathan Zwartz, Hamish Stuart and myself) will be touring Australia in the first half of the year. The first leg is in early February and includes Wollongong, Sydney, Canberra & Braidwood. The 2nd leg in late February includes Brisbane, Byron Bay, Uralla, Bellingen and Hobart. I’ll keep all the events updated here as best I can.
Last January was Big Band Month for some bizarre reason. (Really looking forward to hearing Vanessa Perica’s album ,which from memory was really spectacular, despite the preponderance of West Coasters on it. Hopefully the reality will be even better than my recollection!)
This year January is quartet season
I’ve just booked three Tuesdays at The Jazzlab in January which I’m super excited about. Last minute opportunities are so rare these days and Jazzlab is a great space to play in.
Jan14th is with SO, a project I started last year informed by my first sax hero, Dexter Gordon. (Carl Lewis was my first non-sax hero). I’ve written some originals for this group inspired by Dexter’s compositions. This quartet swings its arse off.
Mark Fitzgibbon – piano / Philip Rex – bass / Danny Fischer – drums
The 21st and 28th are with STOCK. It’s been a long time since we played at Bennetts Lane. I mean… These will be our first gigs at The Jazzlab and we can’t wait to give the room (and our tunes) a good stretching. There will be no repeated tunes (it’s only four sets. We’ve done whole months where we didn’t repeat a song)
Craig Fermanis – guitar / Chris Hale – bass / Hugh Harvey – drums
On Saturday the 17th I’m playing at Uptown with a brand new group initiated by Melbourne’s newest baddass guitarist Sorcha Albuquerque
Sorcha – guitar / Jake Mason – organ / Felix Bloxsom – Drums WooHoo. Make it FUNKY. I love playing at Uptown. On a really hot night I can easily lose 5 kilos up there. It’s like going to the gym, only FUNKIER
Monday the 20th. Celebrating Voice. This will be a wild one at Jazzlab. (Yet another) New initiative by the indefatigable Andrea Keller. (Sort of a quartet, but with three singers) Jacqueline Gawler, Natalie Carolan, Hannah McKittrick – voices Andrea Keller – piano / Ben Hanlon – double bass
Assuming that our family holiday to the South Coast of NSW that we planned and paid for last January is not going to be possible due to all the roads being closed (which seems like the most likely case scenario right now), I hope to be playing with John Scurry’s Reverse Swing at the Lido on Jan 11th and back at the North Fitzroy Pinnacle on the 12th with Fermanis (guitar), Sam Anning (bass) and Raj Jayaweera (drums). Not bad. Thanks. Here comes the teapot.
I’ve got some very exciting news about a potential Survival Day Eve event that I can’t quite share yet. It should be an annual event for these kind of occasions.
On January 31st, to mark the official release of STOCK on Lionsharecords via MGM we’ll be playing a private show at a secret location on Brunswick St (between Kerr St and the Rum Diary) which may be from from 5-6pm and may be open to the public and may be at Natural Selection Record Store. THIS IS NOT AN ALBUM LAUNCH> JUST A RELEASE PARTY> This is despite the fact that Natural Selection only sell LPs, and MGM are only distributing the CDs. It all makes perfect sense to me. I mean, hey, we’re finally releasing an album after 8 years, so we changed the name of the band and ditched nearly all our “hits” so nobody will even recognise us. HEY> Marketing GENII over here. That is the plural of Genius, right?
And, spilling over in to February THIS promises to be, something, rather
3 Is One
Barney McAll – Keys: PERCUSSION: ELECTRONICS
Julien Wilson – SAXES: ELECTRONICS
Leigh Fisher – DRUMS: PERCUSSION: ELECTRONICS
Three people delve into EFX overload, modular synthesis, Amazonian
percussion, three hundred keys on a string, bird wings ‘a flapping,
five gold rings of compositional coding and underwater treacle
I also just posted a rant about Community Spirit VS Corporate Greed. You can read it below if you have nothing better to do. (I promise I didn’t swear – much – I think)
Peace & Respect. And MUSIC – lots and lots of really good music. X
I tried to explain the Bandcamp VS Spotify scenario a few weeks ago on an Instagram post and made it more confusing than it should have been. Maybe it always will be because it’s more involved than my simple rule:
If it pays, it stays
If it blows, it goes.
Some people seemed to thing the pics I posted (like this one) were streaming figures. They’re not. This is a screenshot from the Bandcamp Artist App that keeps records of my Bandcamp sales and engagement. I’m not putting it here as a way of boasting about my numbers or showing off (although I am pretty happy with it for a tiny cottage industry label) but as a way of explaining how “Streams” VS “actual sales” works
“Plays” is just that – listens – no cash at all attached. And sales means somebody (probably somebody who listened to a track or two first) bought the album on the same page. Followers are people who have a Bandcamp Fan Page. Their avatar shows up under any album they buy, and they can leave comments on any purchase they’ve made. The great thing(s) about Fan accounts is, it shows support for the albums they buy, they get notifications when bands they follow release new albums (easily turned off if you don’t want that), and other fans can follow them too for recommendations on albums they might enjoy. It’s a great little ecosystem. I’ve bought a bunch of albums that I’ve discovered via friends’ fan pages.
466 Followers is a pretty modest number. But they are engaged “fans” of my music. Many of them have bought multiple albums I’ve released. Some of them come to my live shows. And some have even become great friends.
Here’s my Bandcamp scenario: I’ve had a label page there for 6 years. It’s tiny really. Just a handful of albums I’ve been personally involved in and want to share. Of course, I occasionally sell CDs at gigs. And I stock a handful of brick and mortar record stores on consignment too. And my music is available on iTunes – because I always felt like it had to be there to feel legitimate. But the income from it is pretty negligible these days. iTunes set the price of my album in different “territories”, which shits me to tears. And I’m beginning to wonder if it’s really “worth it”, especially considering where AppleMusic seems to be headed (streaming only/subscription model), and how well Bandcamp is performing.
Bandcamp is just part of my sales/promotional ecosystem, but it’s a big and important part. Some people find it confusing. From my perspective, it’s by far the best and easiest to navigate online music store. There are heaps of helpful help menus and explanations built in to the site for the uninitiated. Some people are turned off or nervous about having to “name your price” when you purchase an album. For me, that’s a huge plus. Fans can choose to pay extra! I love that. Some people are (rightfully) suspicious about being scammed online and don’t have a PayPal account. Bandcamp has a contact button built in to each page that lets anyone send the artist (or label) a personal message. They could send me a message and ask if there’s a brick and mortar record store near them where they could buy a copy of the album they’re interested in. Name another site that allows you direct contact with the band!? Some bands even list their upcoming shows right on the page so you can see where to find them live (and possibly buy their album in person). Again, name another site/store that does that.
SO, in 6 years my label page has generated 30,000 (totally unpaid) listens. I get nothing for those “streams”. But it has also created a gross income of $23,000 in direct sales. Obviously as a label there are expenses (the list is long, and manufacturing of the product is only a small part of the equation) but that’s money in my pocket. Bandcamp and Paypal fees combined are roughly between 15-20% per sale. I pay an extra very minimal fee per month for a PRO account. That lets me turn streaming on or off for each individual track (an option that seems to be increasingly discouraged by Bandcamp, but one that I find most pleasing – you can taste my product, but if you want the whole cake, I’d really appreciate you taking the gamble and buying a digital or physical copy. We can’t survive otherwise. It has to be a sustainable model).
Here’s the simple maths: $23k in sales divided by 30K listens equates to 70cents in sales per listen! People are NOT paying to listen. But listens DO translate to sales. And the money is in my Paypal account within SECONDS of a sale, not 6 months later.
Here’s the Spotify scenario. Forgive me if I’m slightly sketchy. I don’t subscribe to their model so my working knowledge is just based on CDBaby (a digital distribution partner) payments from (mostly) out of print albums I released on other labels.
Pay per stream is (ostensibly) how it works. But nobody really knows for sure. It seems like the bigger artists/labels may get a larger slice. 1 play equals $0.006 – $0.0084. Less than a cent. If you get a billion plays, that might work. But I’m making instrumental, improvised music, and the market for that is already tiny. Let’s say I got the same plays on Spotify as on my Bandcamp page. 30,000 plays (which pay nothing on Bandcamp) pay roughly $200 on Spotify.
There is no SALE button. There is no direct link to contact the artist. There is little to no information on who the musicians or other people involved in the recording are. The sound quality is … ordinary. As a streamer, I envisage that the more I listen to a track I love, the more the creator of that music is getting some of my ($10 p/month for all you can eat) money. But, there is no way of really knowing.
What we do know is this:
As a consumer, who wouldn’t like all you can eat for (next to) nothing?
Most musicians/producers/creators hate it. Or at best begrudgingly tolerate/accept it because they feel trapped and forced to have to do it. It’s a sex slave industry situation for musicians
Spotify run at a loss each year. And YET…
Daniel Ek is worth $2.6BILLION
That doesn’t add up. As a producer of content, leaving out Ek’s obscene profit if we can, Spotify VS Bandcamp….. it’s not even an equation. It’s like asking for an answer to 3 bananas minus 4MB. They shouldn’t be on the same page. And yet, it has created an entitled attitude amongst some consumers that if a musician doesn’t put their music on streaming platforms then they are greedy bastards who don’t deserve the fleeting attention and exposure that streaming consumers are kind enough to condescend to offer them. This attitude, unfortunately is very real and trying to influence it with reasoning or logic feels the same as talking to anti-vaxxers or climate change deniers or flat-earthers. It’s pointless. We’ve lost. Anyway…. Those people will probably HATE my music anyway, so, I’m not losing any sleep over the fact that they won’t be able to expose themselves to 30 seconds of the first track on my latest album before skipping to the next playlist or podcast.
If anybody is still reading, here’s my Streaming analogy explained in cake>
I bake cakes for a living.
I make cake. Somebody buys cake. I buy ingredients with money to make more cakes
StreamingBoy is upset because he doesn’t want to pay for my cake without trying it
Also, he’s upset because he opened his pantry at home, and he can’t find my cake in there!
He goes to his neighbours house and looks in their pantry, but my cake is also not in there.
StreamingBoy is now fuming.
How DARE I not put one of my cakes in every house he visits? Who the hell do I think I am?
Do I REALLY think my cake is THAT special?!?
StreamingBoy gets in his car and scans for cake.
NO CAKE THERE EITHER!!!!
Screw you, says StreamingBoy. I’m not going to eat your cake then. You’ve lost a sale
Ummm. No SB. I never had a sale.
You wanna eat my cake? You gotta buy a cake. Even if you loved the free sample of my cake (which I doubt) you’re 99% never going to buy one anyway. So, what exactly am I losing by not exposing my cake to you?
Hope that’s cleared things up. 🙂
If not, refer to my simple rule
If it pays, it stays
If it blows, it goes
And if it pays Dr Stream but not me, that blows
Why should my music help StreamingBoy support the purchase of Dr.Stream’s next mansion?
To summarize: Thankyou Bandcamp – I love what you have offered the music community. It feels like a real community!
And thank YOU if you have bought my music (or any music for that matter) in digital or physical format (or by paying an entrance fee and attending a live performance) in a situation where you know a decent percentage of the money you spend is going directly to the musicians whose music you are enjoying. We love you. We couldn’t continue to do this without your love and support and encouragement. It means the world to us. And we hope we can continue to keep sharing quality creations with you. I’m truly grateful for being able to do what I do, and your support helps me to continue doing what I love the most.
I’m not saying nobody should stream. We have a family account (that’s my dirty little secret) and I listen to music there occasionally. As a consumer it is an incredible product. Almost … “too good to be true”!?!
What I am saying, is I will not be streaming any of my own music on any platform in the near future. I continue to be a fan of radio, even if that means internet radio. I love being introduced to new music by knowledgable presenters. That has been one of the great thrills of my life and streaming just doesn’t push those buttons.
Lately I have been particularly enamored by radio presenters who have chosen to take the time to find a link directly to my Bandcamp page to place in their online playlist. A link to Bandcamp may equal a sale, and a new connection with a new fan who may become a fan/friend/colleague for life. A link to a streaming service like YouTube is not going to create any of those results. And all too often, that is what radio playlists lead to, Youtube, Spotify, Amazon. I mean, Amazon is a sales site… but do we REALLY need to give Jeff Bezos a slice of our pie if there are more equitable alternatives? I wonder if links to streaming is a choice, or just an act of laziness or lack of awareness by those in charge of compiling the online radio playlists. Surely, for the most part, that is a joyless and thankless task that many of those performing it must sometimes consider pointless. I make a point of sending an email to personally thank presenters when I realise they have linked directly to Bandcamp or my personal website. To let them know it’s not pointless or thankless from time to time. It is deeply appreciated. And it DOES make a difference. Like reviews in print or online.
Another great thing about Bandcamp is the immediacy of it all happening in real time. If I get 4 or 5 sales in one day, it’s usually a good bet that it’s because of a published review or radio play or an online publication or promotion and I can make direct links to what works. By not providing streaming alternatives for my music I hope that people will take a little extra effort and find the music in the place I choose to share it. Having and owning the choice about how and where to present your own product means a lot.
I can’t afford to buy all the music I like. And I don’t have time to listen to it all anyway. But where and when I can, I love to support creators I really admire. It makes me feel like I’m contributing to the wellbeing and development of my own community. And in these crazy times, community is everything. Bandcamp is the next best thing to actually coming out to share live music at a live music venue. Look forward to seeing you out there.
Wrapping up 2019 and looking forward to 2020.
On November 1st Lionsharecords released This World, the new album by a brand new cooperative group featuring myself and Sydney maestros Mike Nock, Jonathan Zwartz and Hamish Stuart. We’re all really happy with the way this turned out and it’s been getting some wonderful feedback so far. It’s included in the ‘Rhythms reviewers’ list of Best 10 Releases of 2019’ and shot to #1 on Birdland Records’ 2019 Best Seller list within just three weeks of its official release! We’ll be playing some East Coast shows in February and have some exciting plans for 2020.
The official release date for the long overdue STOCK debut is January 31st 2020, but we’ll be shipping out LPs on December 13th and CD’s a few days after that. Anybody who buys a digital copy before the official launch date will be sent a download code within a few hours of purchase. (12/12/19 EDIT: LPs have been sent out today and download codes have been provided to all those who purchased a digital only copy)
Thanks to everyone who has bought a copy of both these albums, either through Bandcamp or in a good old fashioned brick and mortar store like Birdland or Readings. The pre-order support has really blown me away – especially considering the fact that I’ve stubbornly refused to engage with the 21st Century concept of courting “exposure” through streaming services – So, Bravo to YOU for finding and supporting it. THANKYOU. Sincerely!
I’m actually surprised by how many people have chosen to purchase the 24bit/96kHz download of This World. I personally think that option is exceptional value if you have the stereo system to do it justice.
STOCK features the label’s first 32bit download. And also our first LP (I just picked up an advance copy and they look even better than I’d hoped.) The CD packaging is going to look amazing too. Tough choice! (Some people obviously haven’t been able to decide and have bought multiple copies in different formats, which really blows my small mind). Dale Cox’s art on this is EXCEPTIONAL. I’m still knocked out that he let us use these images – Thanks Dale; and Luke Fraser’s design work is as spectacular as ever. We can’t wait to get these in to your hands and eyes and ears.
Did I mention Craig and Chris and Hugh sound insanely good throughout the whole album? We’ve touched on this stuff live for many years, but the album is really the manifestation of the next step musically. I love it, and it couldn’t have been created with anyone else. I’m actually glad we waited this long.
Lachlan Carrick’s work from setting up the studio, to recording and co-producing, right through the mixing sessions and finally on to the mastering stage cannot go unrecognised either. He was a big part of getting the sound we were working towards and then pushing the envelope even further.
As of 12th December Northside and Natural Selection have LPs in stock. Northside added a nice post on their instagram page just hours after I dropped the records off “JULIEN WILSON comes in late with an album that is great! It’s a deep journey into contemporary jazz via some beautiful art. Don’t buy it because @hooliok is one of the nicest players in jazz in Melbourne, buy this because it’s a trip to a place that’s inaccessible by walking. It’s transcendental!!!”
I have a couple of cheeky gigs left in 2019. Looking forward to sharing the music with you live in 2020
Here are some words people have shared about This World so far:
“While the results of the two-day session are testament to their compositional skills, it is their tasteful interplay that remains with you. The album is a thing of soulful beauty, with the composition coexisting in happy juxtaposition. An essential addition to any Jazz collection.” John Fenton, JazzLocal32
“my 2019 album of the year” Frank Presley – Northside Radio
“While something which does not reject or radically depart from its artistic precedents may not have the convulsive beauty of something radically unfamiliar, it can offer up pleasure which is steady and lasting. In its cadence and stylings, it has the feel of early to mid-sixties Wayne Shorter Blue Note dates mixed with a sort of ECM label vibe. To say that the ensemble is steeped in (modern) tradition would be to oversimplify the case. The past is not rejected but avoided is the effect of an old house with merely a new coat of paint. This album has staying power since there is no importance placed on shock of the new or gimmick/novelty. Everything unfolds with an organicness where emotion is not sacrificed for technique. It will be great fun to see what this ensemble offers up to the ears of listeners in the future.” Maxwell Chandler, Our Man on the Coast
“music that improves with each successive listen. Enjoying it multiple times as I have done didn’t result in a different experience, but rather it tightened my mind’s perception of this new quartet. This ensemble is all class. Highly recommended” Barry O’Sullivan, Jazz&Beyond
“What’s immediately striking is the sense of calm and spaciousness found at the heart of this music. There are no fireworks on display, nothing is hurried or rushed. Instead, there is an intense focus on mood, on emotion, with each instrumental voice striving for an intelligent and restrained clarity. With its laconic tempos and breezy tranquillity, it joins several other recent albums, such as Sam Anning’s Across a Field as Vast as One and Jonathan Zwartz’s The Remembering and Forgetting of the Air, that point to a distinctly Australian approach to jazz. In a nutshell, This World is a sublime album performed by a quartet of stellar improvisers.” Des Cowley, Rhythms
“Thanks for the copy of ‘This World’ which arrived here in NYC over the weekend. Congratulations on a tasteful release. I was quite struck by the extent to which the writing of the four principals seems to converge for the album – I had been certain that ‘Riverside’ was by Mike, for example – and it turns out it was your tune. I guess you guys have known one another and played together for a long time, but even so – it is striking to hear the extent to which you play with one voice. It certainly invests the group with an identity- and not just ‘Mike Nock music’ either.” Norman Meehan, NZ pianist, composer, author
“You will surely be unsurprised to know that Kathy and I both love This World…as, I suspect, would just about anyone lucky enough to hear it. It is also a prime example of why punters really ought invest in a high quality physical copy of such a recording, and then listen to it properly, through good speakers.” Doug Spencer, (ex) Producer of The Daily Planet with Lucky Oceans (ABC Radio National)
“I’d summarize this sound as ‘Aussie ECM’ – the attention to detail, beautiful writing and overall vibe you’d get from an ECM record but showcasing four key voices in aus jazz right now.” Patrick Jaffe, AUS pianist living in Sweden
“I’ve just spent the best hour that I can recall having in a long, long time! I can’t say enough about the playing, compositions etc. Just the way you all fitted so well together sounds like a working band that has been together for a long time. I know that isn’t the case of course but boy, y’all certainly pulled it off!!!” Bob Bertles (Sydney Sax Legend)
“Music as prayer, hymn, dirge, paean; music of beauty and its contemplation, of recognition of its passing, and of the joy of play in its being. Music for this world, this brief and precious moment of light between the endless reaches of darkness. These four musicians are the dream quartet of Australian jazz. If you get just one Australian album this year, make it this.” Jazzozmentis
“This World is … fine contemporary spiritual jazz by some of our best musicians – the outstanding Australian album for this year. The landscape cover photo by Polly Ambermoon gives a sense of the music on offer here. This is beautiful, evocative music that conveys a sense of connection with and wonder at the vast Australian continent that we call home.” Sergio Morricone
“Although this band is a relatively new combo, each member’s experience shines through on this introspective and thoughtful album – with plenty of room for each soloist to make their mark. Some highlight numbers to keep an ear out for include Hamish Stuart’s ‘Any Heart,’ Wilson’s ‘Riverside’ and the title track, written by Jonathan Zwartz.” ABCJazz
“There’s nothing earth-shattering on this album, but that’s the secret of its charm” Eric Myers, The Australian
It’s been a while since there was any breaking news on this page. There’s been plenty going on though.
I just wanted to write here to assure anybody who cares to read that – shit is happening. Music is happening. Life is happening. Good things are happening.
This is a picture of me with the statue of Wiradjuri legend Yarri in Gundagai. The statue was unveiled on the 165th anniversary of the Great Flood that almost wiped out the whole town. In 1852, 89 residents of a population of 250 died in the floods. Yarri and JackyJacky (and others) saved 69 people from drowning, with a bark canoe, in raging floods that saw the river swell to over a mile across at some points and carry away whole trees and houses. For their efforts they “were allowed to demand sixpences from all Gundagai residents”.
The Great Flood was one of the largest natural disasters in Australia’s history and inspired possibly our nations greatest act of selfless heroism! So why had I never heard of it until this year??? I actively search for this kind of history. Until 2017 this story was largely unknown outside of local Gundagai folklore. How many other unsung heroes have there been like this? Ned Kelly’s a national legend. Everybody knows who Don Bradman is. (What did he do? Hit a ball!)
In recognition of possibly Australia’s greatest hero I’m making this my main page photo for a while. I encourage EVERY Australian to investigate the stories of Yarri and JackyJacky. And the great Wiradjuri warrior, Windradyne. And the Bathurst War; and the Paramatta Treaty of 1827. And Pemulway. And Jandamarra. And Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheener. Dig these stories up and celebrate them by sharing them.
And of course, don’t ignore our present day heroes and current legends. Too many to mention
The quartet album, (Fermanis/Hale/Harvey) recorded last August with assistance from the Australia Council for the Arts is slowly taking shape. And a very wondrous shape it’s taking too. A watched kettle never boils. It won’t be out in the immediate future, but it’s getting closer.
I’m writing music for a new project with Mike Nock, Jonathan Zwartz and Hamish Stuart. We have our debut gig in Sydney in May and plan to record an LP
Reuben Lewis and I have started an electroacoustic improvised duo to delve deeper and explore the outer limits of our pedal obsessions. We’ve performed the first of 3 concerts at Lebowskis as part of their DEVRES project. We’ve also been playing together with YID!
New Melbourne locals, and old friends, Felix Bloxsom and Cameron Deyell and I have started a trio together. We’ve been throwing a lot of ideas on the pile, and some of them are sticking in wonderful ways. We’re continuing to record our adventures
Andrea Keller has invited me to share the stage in a variety of her awesome projects lately. Five Below. The Composers Collective. Various trios with Theo Carbo, Stephen Magnusson, James Mclean, Sam Anning… We’re playing a Transients show in April to celebrate the first in a series of Transient recordings that Andrea is releasing.
I have a season of shows coming up in May and June with Vince Jones and an exceptional band. It’s a kind of Nowtrospective
I’m doing a few gigs at the upcoming festivals. A re-imagining of Kind of Blue by Ross Irwin. Sam Anning’s Sexytet. YID!
The two “homage” bands I started last year featuring the music of Sidney Bechet and Dexter Gordon have more shows coming up soon. They’re both great fun. For listening. For dancing. For drinking. For catching up with friends. Generally just a good time.
Eamon Dilworth has been hiring me occasionally to play with Ed Keupper and The Aints. Last time I was in Sydney I recorded some tracks for his new album, Crawfish PoBoy. It’s being launched in Melbourne in June
I recorded with the incredible Danny Barwick late last year and the album is now out. It’s called The Tigers> DEFINITELY check it out. Amazing. Unique. Visionary!> In a sea of superlatives, there’s a word I NEVER use. But Danny’s music surpasses all it’s influences and comes out sounding like only itself
Oh Yeah: Barney McAll invited me to play on a track called Sweet Fresh Water for a compilation album. It’s super fresh, and sweet, and… WET. DRIPPING!!! I have no idea how to even find that shit,,,,, but hunt it down. He’s got eyes that see shit nobody else looks for too. You dig!?
Without Sweet Fresh Water….. everything else means nothing! That’s as political as I’m going to get here.
WATER IS LIFE
I wrote some music under that title and posted it on my Instagram a while back. It’s part of a solo album I’m slowly collating at home using solo woodwinds and effects/loops. It’s a process I’m really enjoying. It feels like painting
At the other end of the spectrum: January was BigBandMonth. I made two recordings with amazing contemporary Big Bands featuring all Australian compositions and/or arrangements. One with the Andrew Murray Big Band and one with the amazingly complex but just as amazingly beautiful music of Vanessa Perica. That was really exciting. Hard work, but so exhilarating. I hope they’ll both be out later this year.
Speaking of looking forward, Martha Marlow has an album brewing that is going to blow some minds
Oh shit. I nearly forgot. Barney and I made a recording last year with Mike Jordan of his own compositions… with us accompanying him while the drums play the melodies!!! It was my first recording session with my FX rig and I brought all the toys. Mike’s music is unlike anything else I’ve done. Heaps of room for improvisation. And lots of beautiful melodies that speak of the homeland. He told me last week that the mastering has just been completed. Can’t wait to sahre it with you all. It’s fresh AF
I’m teaching ensembles one day a week at VCA this year, in the same room that Simon Star (Professor YID! himself) and I had our first-year ensemble in with none other than Mike Jordan. I’m loving the cycle of life. (And I’m loving cycling to town along the Yarra Trail. Getting to know parts of Melbourne I never knew existed). The comaraderie at the schools is really special right now and there are some amazing fresh talented cats coming up
Los Cabrones just broke a long drought. And 12ToneDiamonds are about to make the rarest of rare appearances…. with Naomi Jean!!!!
Right! Gotta write. Music.
Peace & Respect
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 email@example.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.
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