Monday, 30 May 2011

Valley Jazz

This past weekend saw the Valley Jazz Festival roll around. I have at times been known to bemoan the lack of a jazz scene in Brisbane, but despite that I had been very lax about planning to get along to a festival within a half hour walk of my apartment. Fortunately, on Wednesday Paul got me interested in a gig, which resparked my enthusiasm and got me more into the proper spirit of things. In the end, over the course of the festival I managed 5 gigs - all at the Judith Wright Centre, 2 wednesday night and 3 Saturday night.

The first gig Wednesday night was the Mark Isaacs Resurgence band, a 5 piece lead by Isaacs on piano. Their stuff was pretty good - I was particularly impressed by James Muller on guitar - amazing chops - and the drummer, whose name I don't recall, but who really had a good groove going, and did interesting things with his solos.

After that, there was a free gig in the Centre's Shopfront Centre by the Marialy Pacheco Trio. I had seen her play a gig last December, mostly solo then a couple of tunes with a percussionist, but I'd been looking forward to seeing her trio, with Pat and Joe Marchisella, both really good players who I've met and seen play through Paul. The format works pretty well, too - despite not being quite as invested in his music as he has been, Pat is still such a great and tasteful player. They had a really nice, and unexpected, adaptation of Sounds of Silence, just before we called it a night.

The first Saturday night gig was Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra with Kristin Berardi. Paul studied with Kristin, and used to gig with her when I lived with him at Ironside St in St Lucia - she has a wonderful voice, and has done some great things since that time, winning some competitions and generally becoming a better singer. The band itself was OK, a 17-piece (all male, strange!), but perhaps not quite up to the standard I had expected (Paul had hyped them up a bit) - probably only 4 or 5 of the soloists impressed me.

After that gig I had planned to see Misinterprotato's free set in the shopfront area, but it was full, so I had to wait for some people to leave before I could get in. I have an album or two of theirs - all 3 of them were at the con with Paul, and used to show up from time to time at Ironside St, although that was a long time ago. They're great players - Pat Marchisella, in particular, is one of my favourite bass players - but at times they can tend to be a bit atmospheric and not get as much of a groove going as I'd like. This concert was probably the best of theirs I'd seen though - Sean's composition has improved, I think, and they really got some nice stuff going - still very much at the quiet end, but not too lost in soundscape-y stuff.

The third gig, the Aaron Goldberg Trio, was far and away the best. Goldberg is such an amazing pianist, and Paul's forewarnings about his sidemen, Greg Hutchison on drums and Reuben Rogers on bass, being pretty famous, were well-justified. They played a mix of stuff off Goldberg's two most recent albums, plus a couple of blues bits, with a range of fast stuff that really let them show off - especially Goldberg and Hutchison - and some slower, often latin stuff, where Rogers really, really impressed me with his solo-ing. Overall, they really were a cut above, and I was glad that I didn't miss this.

I have some hopes of getting along to see Ron Carter in a couple of weeks, but if not, I can be happy that I've gotten a fill of good jazz to tide me over for a while.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Holiday Reading

Holidays are the best time to read. Even though this has already been a fairly fruitful year for me for reading, I still think that my recent four-week sejour in Europe saw a bit of an increase. It didn't start with departure, though. A couple of weeks before leaving, emboldened by my reimmersion into francophonie, I started reading Le Comte de Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas Père. This is my second attempt at what is a pretty voluminous work, but my last only managed a couple of chapters, and those with great difficulty. This time around seems much better - I finished off the first of four tomes not long after arriving in Europe, and am a couple of chapters into the second. I hope to continue and perhaps finish the whole thing by the end of the year.

Having finished the first tome, I decided that I needed some diversity, and decided to allow myself the luxury of reading an English-language book in parallel with Le Comte. My first effort was a short one. Some time ago I decided that having read very little poetry represented a gap in my greater education, and grabbed a bunch of "big name" poetical works from project gutenberg. So, looking for something short to fill a gap, I read Lamia, by John Keats. I quite enjoyed it, too - there's something very nice about the carefully chosen words necessary for the form, and I enjoyed the occasional side-quest to fill in context regarding Greek gods or the layout of Corinth.

Satisfied by my expedition into poetry, I next picked up a copy of Animal Farm that Em had lying around. I think I've said in the past how much of a fan I am of the novella as a form, and I wolfed this one down in about a day. I always think of Animal Farm in the context of 1984 (also Orwell), and Brave New World (Huxley), both of which I've read (although 1984 not as an adult), so it was high time that I completed the set. Its a good little analogy, pretty transparent but still a good yarn. I won't pretend I can summarize it better than it has been analyzed elsewhere - just go read it for yourself :)

After Animal Farm, I browsed through my collection and settled on The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde. I'd been vaguely familiar with Wilde's stuff through plays (The Importance of Being Ernest) and general witticisms, but I was keen to see what he did with a more weighty medium. The book starts out fairly lightly, a fairly loosely connected collection of witticisms around a couple of characters which seemed to represent the different aspects of Wilde's character. As the story develops, though, the trite sayings are fewer, and the subject matter gets darker. Wilde never actually reveals much of the depravity that he implies about Dorian (other than opium), but the drama builds nonetheless, and generally the thing works well as a narrative arc.

The last book I finished on the holiday was A Tale of Two Cities, by Dickens. I read my first Dickens, Great Expectations, a little while back, and enjoyed more than I had expected to, and AToTC had been recommended to me as perhaps his best book, so it was next on my list. Like Expectations, Dickens doesn't content himself with a study of a few characters - he makes a quite deliberate effort to paint the period as bigger than the characters of the story, to flesh out what is happening in the place and time in which the story takes place. I felt like he let himself explore his prose style more than Expectations too, with parts being quite ambitious. The story is good too, following the characters as they dodge across the channel between the titular towns, fighting off the threat of Madame Guillotine.

Although Cities was the last book I finished, it wasn't the last I started. I am presently about a third of the way through Moby Dick, by Melville. I'm not enjoying the prose style particularly, but following Orwell, Wilde and Dickens is a tough ask, I