The Monash Sessions (Monash students and overseas artists)
- BY:JAZZ: JOHN MCBEATH
- From:The Australian August 31, 2013
THREE albums herald the launch of the most comprehensive global program of any tertiary jazz studies course in Australia.
Monash University’s Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music in Melbourne not only offers students the opportunity to study, play and record with visiting overseas headline performers, it also takes about 40 students annually to international destinations for this purpose.
The outstanding results can be heard on the first three albums of The Monash Sessions, consisting of performances with Brazilian multi-instrumentalist Hermeto Pascoal; Monash Uni Big Band plus three smaller ensembles with American tenor giant George Garzone; and various small groups of faculty and students from Monash and New York universities, plus other New York players.
Further recordings, including sessions in Italy with trumpet maestro Enrico Rava and Australian performances with esteemed vocalist Vince Jones, are scheduled for next year.
First in the series is an album of six tracks, all composed by Pascoal with various groups including students and faculty members, plus Australian specialist in Brazilian guitar Doug de Vries. Pascoal, known in Brazil as O Bruxo (the sorcerer), is renowned for using unconventional objects and on the opener, Bebe, he can be heard singing a surprisingly effective, bubbly scat chorus into a glass of water.
In another piece Pascoal joins the Latin rhythm ensemble with a speeding melodica after a powerful trombone solo from Jordan Murray and Dan Mamrot’s authentic-sounding traditional guitar. The Garzone collection has the tenor out front of the 19-piece Monash Uni Big Band, presenting several standards and one original arranged by Garzone’s long-term associate Greg Hopkins.
Horace Silver’s Nutville has Travis Woods’s vigorous driving trumpet over jabbing brass in addition to Garzone’s breathtaking solo. Five tracks feature Garzone playing his compositions with two smaller Monash ensembles. Three pieces close the session with the Small World Ensemble, including a spectacularly energetic version of I Remember You with just Chloe Dempsey’s drum accompaniment.
The album is a breathtaking display of Garzone’s virtuosic technique, his inventive chord shifts, effortless high-register excursions and strong swinging ability, against different backdrops of impressive talent.
The third album, of 11 tracks, Jazz in New York, is presented by six ensembles, and there are many remarkable moments and soloists appearing in these fine line-ups. Some groups include members of the NYU jazz staff and others use local jazz artists, such as pianist Sy Johnson, who played and arranged for Charles Mingus, and each combo contains high-calibre performances from Monash students.
Rob Burke, head of the school of music, and his supporting faculty are to be congratulated on establishing the Monash Sessions program, providing wonderful opportunities for students including international prospects, masterclasses and mentoring.
RATING: 4 stars
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