Archive by Author

5 Star Review for ‘The Bitter Suite’

JAZZ

Bitter-Suite-cover-300x297The Bitter Suite

Paul Grabowsky Sextet

ABC/Universal

5 stars

IT’S a tribute to the composer’s prodigious talents, and a source of wonderment, that Australian jazz legend Paul Grabowsky wrote and scored these eight originals, plus an arrangement of a classical piece, in a couple of weeks. He says the music draws on everything from the Rolling Stones to Rachmaninoff, with fluid, rhapsodic solos and tight rhythmical grooves.

The non-original is an arrangement of Scriabin’s Piano Prelude, Op 74 with a stately and mysterious solo piano introducing an intriguing, saggy, dragging ensemble theme, topped with Andrew Robson’s soprano saxophone. The opener Paradise also has a classical connection, with quotes from Brahms’s Symphony No 1, in a jaunty medium tempo contemporary piece featuring piano solos that achieve flowing classicism and brief elements of dissonance in a swinging framework.

Cameron Undy’s bass swings in to open Try the Veal, with the piano’s gentle chordal assistance, before the ensemble arrives with Robson’s alto leading and then sooling lyrically. This precedes the authoritative tenor of Jamie Oehlers, James Greening’s declamatory trombone and a swiftly moving bass solo. An up-tempo, post-bop Vexatious showcases Simon Barker’s quickly intelligent drum work, plus the saxophonists’ and muted trombone solos, all underscored by Grabowsky’s always important but never controlling piano.

Bringing together some of the strongest players on the Sydney jazz scene, plus Oehlers from Perth, this album, one of Grabowsky’s best, features inspired solos, rich complexity and a silky smoothness in superb interpretations of imaginative compositions.

John McBeath

 

The Bitter Suite

cover of Bitter Suite by Paul Grabowsky SextetThe Bitter Suite is my new jazz recording, out now on ABC Jazz. There are nine pieces for jazz sextet in the suite, including an arrangement of a piano piece by Alexander Scriabin, a visionary, eccentric Russian composer who died in 1915. The pieces are a response to music I wrote more than 20 years ago for the albums ‘Tee-Vee’ (1992) and ‘Viva Viva’ (1993) and mark a new direction for me in terms of ensemble writing.

The playing on this recording, made by James Kennedy at the ABC studios in Sydney in November 2012, is simply extraordinary. With Jamie Oehlers on tenor saxophone, Andrew Robson on alto and soprano saxophones, James Greening on trombone and the killer rhythm section of Cameron Undy bass and Simon Barker drums, I could not hope for a better band.

The pieces are not exactly easy, with some strange metrical things on top of strange harmonic things, but it is supposed to be fun to play, and fun to listen to. I think of the pieces as self-portraits in which special figures in my life, both living and long gone, are hovering in the background.

Purchase Bitter Suite at the ABC Shop >

Words and Pictures

This new film, for which I have composed the original score, is directed by my dear friend Fred Schepisi and stars Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche. It is a lovely romantic comedy with a serious message about the value of art and literature, and by implication, all creative matters, to our lives.

The score, written mainly for small orchestra, was conducted by another mate, Ben Northey, who is regarded as one of the rising stars of the orchestral scene. It’s always good to work with a conductor who has first hand experience of jazz; Ben was a saxophone player, and gets the rhythmic subtleties and shifts which make jazz music what it is.

The score also features a closing titles song set to beautiful words by the film’s writer Gerry DiPiego, sung by Melbourne singer Gian Slater.

‘Words and Pictures’  was released in the US in May, with Australia following in June.

Listen: I am a small poem (instrumental)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Listen: I am a small poem (featuring Gian Slater singing)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 

The Eye of The Storm

Directed by Fred Schepisi, The Eye of the Storm is a film based on the 1972 novel of the same name by Patrick White, Australia’s sole Nobel laureate. It stars Charlotte Rampling as the dying Elisabeth Hunter, who is visited on her deathbed by her two children, Basil, an actor whose career is on the skids, (Geoffrey Rush) and Dorothy (Judy Davis), recently recovering from a failed marriage to a French blueblood. It’s a wonderful film, with a score featuring my friend Branford Marsalis, who also plays on ‘Tales of Time and Space”. The soundtrack album will be available soon, with extra tracks which feature jazz performances of the various themes. The music is scored for jazz trio, an orchestra of strings and winds, and guests Branford M, Julien Wilson and vocalist Gian Slater. The film is playing now, so please check it out!

Official film website >

Prelude:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

The Storm:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.