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Reviews/Music

New music swings big band

28 October 2021

The future of jazz is in good hands, says Garry Lee after witnessing the new compositions emerging from the WA Youth Jazz Orchestra.

“The Modern Masters”, WA Youth Jazz Orchestra ·
Lyric’s Underground, Maylands 22 October 2021 ·

The WA Youth Jazz Orchestra’s (WAYJO) composers in residence program is now in its 14th year and this year the two young composers are Brendan Keller-Tuberg and Reece Clark.

In the aptly titled “Modern Masters” show they presented six original compositions performed by WAYJO’s Wednesday Night Orchestra. Unfortunately Keller-Tuberg was not present due to COVID restrictions. He resides in the ACT so the role of conducting his three pieces fell to the more than capable hands of trumpeter and WAYJO Musical Director Ricki Malet.

Added to WAYJO for the premiere of these new pieces was tenor saxophonist Jamie Oehlers who commenced his jazz career with WAYJO about three decades ago, gained an international profile by winning the 2005 World Saxophone Competition and is now considered one of Australia’s finest jazz musicians. His inclusion was an inspired choice enhancing the already high quality of musicianship displayed by the members of WAYJO.

Keller-Tuberg’s Weathering Song introduced Oehlers and his virtuosity and experience was evident, but trombonist, Will Pethick, also made a significant contribution. The soloing of pianist, James O’Brien, James Chapman (trumpet) and Mitch Wilmot (tenor sax) on Keller-Tuberg’s Jotunheim was also of a high standard. Just Can’t Seem To Get Out Of My Head featured Chapman and Wilmot again as well as guitarist Samuel Forster.

Composer in residence Reece Clark conducts his compositions with the WA Youth Jazz Orchestra. Photo: Josh Wells

Reece Clark was able to conduct his three pieces which together formed Storm Suite.  The first movement “Silhouettes Of A Ripple” again showcased the exquisite tone of Oehlers. “Shadow Currents” and “Maelstrom” achieved Clark’s aim in exploring the interaction between water and light. WAYJO’s vocalist Lucy Iffla, who is fast emerging as one of Australia’s leading female jazz vocalists, was featured in “Maelstrom” and she enhanced the overall sound of the orchestra.

The pieces presented by both composers were contemporary and of a very high standard. Their complexity deserves repeated listening to totally absorb the many subtle nuances that rapidly followed one another.

The second half of the concert consisted of the Wednesday Night Orchestra performing arrangements by some of the world’s leading jazz composer/arrangers – Maria Schneider, Bob Brookmeyer, Jim McNeely and Ed Partyka. Brookmeyer’s arrangement of Irving Berlin’s How Deep Is The Ocean featured a most assured vocal by Lucy Iffla and a highlight of the evening was Partyka’s arrangement, without rhythm section, of Tom Waits’ Time which again featured Iffla plus the mellifluous tenor sax of Jamie Oehlers.

The art of composing has altered significantly in recent decades. Music composer/arranger programs like Sibelius and Dorico allow for a composer to quickly document their musical thoughts and immediately hear back the harmonies, allowing the composer to “experiment” with sometimes superb results.

However one area where music technology seems to frequently come undone is the sound mix. It still requires the sound mixer to have an understanding of each music genre. At many times during the concert the bass drum or kick drum was too loud. I have been fortunate enough to hear live Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Art Blakey with Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk and on all occasions the bass drum (in fact the entire drum kit) was not miked. A bass drum too loud obfuscates the sound of the double bass and impacts upon the balance of the entire band.

Lyric’s Underground is becoming an important venue for live music of various genres. It may be timely for the venue to invest in a spotlight for when artists and compositions are being introduced. However Friday evening’s concert proved once more that, with WAYJO and the jazz program at WAAPA, the future of jazz in Perth is in excellent hands.

WAYJO’s next performance is “WAYJO Swings – WAAPA Sings!” on 27 November 2021.

Pictured top: Jaime Oehlers and WAYJO’s Wednesday Night Orchestra to perform new music by Reece Clark and Brendan Keller-Tuberg, Photo: Josh Wells

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Author —
Garry Lee

Garry Lee has played jazz vibraphone and guitar for over 50 years. He was a founding jazz teacher at WAAPA has also been a jazz writer, jazz composer/leader, Churchill Fellow and artistic director. Born in Essex soon after WW2, his favourite playground equipment was dismantled tanks and cannons.

Past Articles

  • WAAPA serves up a slice of NYC jazz

    In a retrospective performance, jazz virtuoso Barney McAll draws on the traditions of his genre while pointing the way to the future, writes Garry Lee

  • Jazz young guns offer glimpse of future

    A quartet of next generation local jazz musicians impress our writer Garry Lee with their musicality and strong grasp of the traditions of the genre.

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