Tag Archives: featured

Crossing Roper Bar 2: The Ghost Dances

Crossing Roper Bar is a project I began in 2004 when I first visited the community of Ngukurr on the Roper River in S.E. Arnhem Land. Ngukurr is a fascinating and beautiful place, on a bluff overlooking the river valley, and was a traditional meeting place for the local nations. Many languages are spoken there, and the men I work with are Wägiluk speakers, part of the Yolngu language group. The Young Wagiluk Group has had a varied membership over the years; on the new CD Benjamin Wilfred leads, with Daniel Wilfred (a major talent) on supporting vocals and David Wilfred on yirrdaki (more commonly known as didjeridu). These men sing up an area called Nyilipidgi, a special place to the north of Ngukkur, and its creator, the spirit Djuwulparra, who has various incarnations, including the plover.

CRB is a dialogue based around the form and content of the traditional material; over the years the two cultures have formed a miraculous blend based on the two principles of improvisation: listening and trust. To have been allowed to embark on this journey has been a highlight, maybe the highlight of my musical career, and the AAO players who have given this concept so much substance are a uniquely talented crew. Niko Schäuble co-produced the CD and played drums, Phil Rex mastered it and played bass, Tony Hicks brought his countless skills on various woodwinds, and master musicians Erkki Veltheim and Stephen Magnusson remind us of why the are two of the most valued members of our musical community.

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)

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

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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:

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The Storm:

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