Friday, March 27, 2009


It's not often that I listen to a record, and then immediately, without hesitation, without considering doing anything else, start the record again. It's also not often I get a record like this.

DAORUM, ladies and gentleman, is the new release on Simon Barker's Kimnara label. It is a documentation of the collaboration between Korean traditional musicians Bae Il Dong and Kim Dong Won, and Australian musicians Matt McMahon, Phil Slater, Carl Dewhurst and Simon himself.

Multi-cultural collaborations in music often end up sounding fragmented and conceited, and usually are pitched as more of a gimmick than anything else. Underneath they seldom carry any real emotion through to the audience; any chance of that being thwarted by the musicians efforts to hurriedly put something together without taking into consideration the depth that comes with the traditional music of other cultures. You can probably deduce who I think is to blame in most incidences.
DAORUM is nothing of the sort: this is some of the most hair-raising music I've heard. There are points on the second track, "Calling" (at 2.20 and 9.10 particularly) when my skin-crawls. The intensity of emotion on this whole record is amazing, and amazing genuine. I know for a fact Simon has been researching and practicing branches of traditional Korean drumming for years, and you can hear his respect for the traditional in his careful arrangement of the traditional elements amongst the more improvised contributions by the Sydney musicians.
At no point does this music sound like a collaboration: it is truly original music made by two groups of musicians from different backgrounds working towards a common goal.
I should also mention that the sound production on this record is immaculate.
Get this record at the Kimnara website, and look out for Emma Franz's documentary "Intangible Asset Number 82" mid 2009. A trailer is on the site.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

3 different...

I'm currently preparing three very different programs of music for two CD launches and a gig for the Melbourne International Jazz Festival.
The first is a launch of my solo record: Polar, April 19th at Bennetts Lane.
The second is a trip to Sydney on April 3rd and then Cd Launch at Bennetts on April 12th,
and the third is playing with Tim Berne on April 29th.
All of these performances involved learning some difficult music, but all of very different kinds.
In all I have to play some intense notated music: varying from Jelly Roll-Morton, to Tim's original (and lengthy) originals, to some 'Contemporary Classical' music by Queensland composer John Rodgers (who is currently living it up in NY, lucky bastard).
What is striking me to most about all of these things is that, even though they are incredibly different in style, they all deal with the same things that I love in music.
They are all seriously rhythmic, and can't be played properly without addressing the intricacies of their respective rhythmic 'natures'.
They all set up a great world of sound that you can move around in. When a composition does this, the improviser can really have a good time running around inside (or outside) that world. It's usually easy for jazz players to only improvise in the sound of the composition they are playing. Often, this just leads to 'playing in style', or them playing what they thing should happen. Most of the time this result in cliche and boredom.
I know I've been the victim of the gravity of history before.
But, if the compostion is strong enough, and the player is strong enough, the player can come to terms with the sound of the tune, and play it in his/her own way.
Just listen to the Miles quintet play 'Stella by Starlight' on disc 8 of "Live at the Plugged Nickel"!
They really own that tune, the tune is right in the band sound.