Shannon Marshall, The music of Cannonball Adderley – Friday November 16 2018

When five of Brisbane’s finest musicians come together to share their mutual love of the music and style of a Jazz legend, history is recreated. History is re-lived.

Tonight, with the Club’s Time Machine set to New York: 1960’s, Shannon Marshall, Brad McCarthy, Wil Sargisson, Nick Quigley and Paul Hudson stepped on to the stage and led us on a flawless journey through the Soul Jazz of alto sax man, Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley.

Brad on alto sax, was blowing hot for Cannonball.

Shannon on flugelhorn, was just as hot for cornet-playing younger brother, Nat Adderley. Shannon also provided vocals on several Ernie Andrews songs. (Ernie, still with us in 2018, and now in his early 90’s, was a sometime singer with Cannonball).

Wil was sublime at the keys for Joe Zawinul. Nick and Paul stood in perfectly for several bass men and drummers from various Cannonball-led quintet and sextet combinations.

Tonight’s performance came to be because Nat Adderley was a major influence on the development of Shannon’s own musicianship and style.

This influence, and Shannon’s love of the music, led him to dream of one day putting together a combo with the skill and shared enthusiasm to faithfully recreate the Cannonball Adderley music and feel.

Shannon was always ready to step into the role of Nat, but he desperately needed a Cannonball. Brad and Shannon had played together years earlier and shared their enthusiasm for the music…so who better than Big Brad McCarthy?

But Brad headed south to Melbourne. Shannon’s dream was parked…until Brad eventually returned to Brisbane.

After tonight, the rest is Brisbane Jazz Club history!!

And what a night!!

The skills of these five musicians and their shared enthusiasm for the music, were powerfully evident in a performance that was classy, tight and seamless.

The power and precision that Nat and Cannonball epitomised at their peak, was at centre stage tonight. Shannon and Brad poured their souls and their skills into an outstanding performance, weaving a night that was unmistakeably and absolutely true to the spirit of the Cannonball legacy.

And not only were they great to listen to…they were fascinating to watch, too.

Every inch of Brad’s frame was on the move, as he blew out those Cannonball classics.

Shannon, was his usual cool, whether blowing or singing. And when grooving along with a fellow band member’s solo, his why-would-I-be-doing-anything-else smile was beaming!!

Wil was at his smiling, immersed and connected best on the keys. Known as a master of New Orleans stride piano, tonight he showed us just how much at home he is with these Funk and Soul Jazz styles.

Nick was calmly, gently intense and in touch on the upright bass, while the often dour Hitman Hudson, was almost dancing on his stool behind that drum kit.

The band’s set-list included many of their idol’s best known tunes, including…

  • Cannonball Adderley’s ‘Sticks’.
  • Nat Adderley’s ‘Fun’ and ‘The Work Song’.

In introducing ‘Fun’, Shannon remarked, ‘I’m glad I’m not in the Rhythm Section for this one’ and laughingly called for a paramedic at the end of it.

  • Joe Zawinul’s ‘Walk Tall’, ‘Mercy Mercy Mercy’ and ‘Yvette’.

The latter introduced as Shannon’s favourite Cannonball ballad.

  • ‘The Jive Samba’ and ‘Groovy Samba’.

The band started at the top of their game, yet somehow managed to get better as the night progressed.

And at the end of the evening, when the audience screamed for an encore, a clearly cooked Shannon remarked, ‘None of you have ever played trumpet, have you?’

The reply?    ‘How hard can it be? You make it look soooo easy’.

The band relented and finished with the oh, so funky ‘Mini Mama’. It blew the roof off!!

Audience comments from BJC regulars included, ‘Some of the most exciting Jazz that I have heard here for some time’ and ‘One of the most enjoyable nights at the Jazz Club, for ages’.

Eventually, we had to reset the Time Machine to 2018…and send them all home happy!!

Alan Smith

Brisbane Jazz Club

The Balkanics – Saturday October 20 2018

At the Brisbane Jazz Club, we pride ourselves as being Brisbane’s Home of Jazz. However, we are always willing to expand the horizons of our musical community, by featuring other genres, such as blues and world music.

And so it was, that on Saturday night, October 20th, our stage felt like the beat-beat-beating heart of a small Romani community that had set up camp by the Brisbane River.

On to that stage, stepped five sublimely talented and colourfully dressed musicians, The Balkanics. They were here to deliver a showcase of the distinctively seductive, ululating music of Macedonia and the Balkans.

Linsey Pollak couldn’t be missed in his screaming, bright and multi-coloured chequerboard suit, vest and grey pork pie cap. While his main instrument was the soprano sax, he also skillfully played two self-designed and constructed instruments:

  • A clarini, which looked, (from a distance, at least), and sounded like, a deeply resonant tin whistle.
  • A zurna, a woodwind instrument which produces a loud, high pitched, sharp, and piercing sound, typical in the music of the Balkans.

After studying Macedonian music in the 70’s, Linsey has been playing it, in various combinations of musicians, for 30 to 40 years.

Ric Halstead, on tenor sax, was very stylish, both on his instrument and in his black pants and shirt with the shimmering, shiny gold-patterned vest.

Tunji Beier, the Serge Gainsbourg lookalike with his long wavy hair, cool grey suit and cravat, was the drummer.

And oh, what a drummer. His touch, feel and precision, even on the most complex of time signatures, (and Balkan music has many, such as 22/8!!), was exquisite, and provided the perfect foundation for the other musicians.

Philip Griffin was on electric bass, looking as good as he sounded, in his red and black pin-stripes pants, brightly patterned black shirt, skinny sky-blue tie, and a sparkling sequined purple jacket.

Anthony Pizzica, playing his self-designed/built rezouki, (resonator bouzouki), was understated cool, in his blue jeans, blue shirt, vest and Fedora.

A sixth player, Brendan Hook from The Impulse Orchestra, stepped up with his tenor sax, as a guest on one piece.

As The Balkanics, this combo has been playing together for two years.

I must confess, that after the first two numbers, I was beginning to wonder if it was all going to be a bit ‘samey’. But then the third tune started with Philip’s soft, sweet bass solo, played high on the fretboard, trailed in by the gentle, ethereal tones of Anthony’s rezouki, and eventually joined by the tenor and soprano saxes.

The night was well away, and never looked back.

Of course, had you walked in tonight, expecting to hear classics such as ‘Take The A Train’ or ‘Mack The Knife’, you would have been surprised and impressed by The Balkanics’ set-list of two-thirds originals, one third traditional Macedonian tunes. And, like me, you may have stumbled and stuttered over titles such as Stipski Cocek, Sao Roma, Odjovo, Igrate and Banjski Cocek.   😊

The music and culture of Macedonia was influenced by the Ottoman empire. The music of Macedonia and the Romani people inspires The Balkanics. And The Balkanics left their mark tonight at the Brisbane Jazz Club, with a driving and colourful performance, which was a delight from start to finish.

Alan Smith

Brisbane Jazz Club

PS  Tonight was a Double Bill, but sadly, I missed the first act, The Impulse Orchestra, who were just finishing to rapturous applause as we arrived.

Bepi D’Amato and Tony Pancella – June 20 2018

Tonight, the Glory of Rome marched into the Brisbane Jazz Club. Or to be more precise, the Glory of the Adriatic coast. That is where Italian Jazz maestros, clarinetist, Bepi D’Amato and pianist, Tony Pancella hail from; the neighbouring cities of Pescara and Chieti, respectively.

This was a lightning visit, as the two musicians came all the way to Australia, courtesy of the Italian Institute of Culture,  for a few days and two performances only; one in Sydney and one here at the Brisbane Jazz Club.

Ah, but Bepi and Tony, (the latter in big blue glasses that Elton John would envy), poured all that lightning into a captivating and memorable performance of sublime, swirling, gentle, soul-touching Jazz. And they did it with all the characteristic charm, smiles and personality of Italy; a country that has laid so many milestones on the timeline of the world’s history of music, and must be proud to number Bepi and Tony among her sons.

These long-time friends have been playing together and collaborating for 41 years, and it showed from the moment they stepped on to the stage. With no set-list and an on-stage communication comprising little more than subtle glances, nuanced smiles and a slice of telepathy, they glided spontaneously through exquisite arrangements of the music of Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk and others.

They did it without drums, bass or vocals; two soul weavers with a silky-skilled musicality and engaging stage presence, sharing their talent, experience, chemistry and the love of the music.

They did it with a charming sense of humour.

When a mobile phone cut in at the end of a Billy Strayhorn tune, Bepi remarked with a smile, that ring-tones always sound the same; illustrating it by playing one of the more popular on his clarinet. When the fridge at the back of the room kicked in with a hum, Bepi played on, noting that the fridge was in tune. ‘Smart fridge’, he said with another big smile.

And they did it without Benny Goodman.

Bepi explained, ‘While I have a great respect for Benny and his musicI am from the other side of the moon; Artie Shaw.’ At the age of 6, after hearing his father’s new Artie Shaw record, he was hooked, and on his way to becoming one of the few Italian musicians to have performed at New York’s Carnegie Hall.

Tony grew up immersed in classical and renaissance music alongside his father’s beloved Jazz influences, such as Oscar Peterson and Erroll Garner. At the age of 24, he attended an intensive and inspiring Max Roach workshop, where, of all the workshop participants, the great drummer chose Tony to accompany him for the final concert.

Since those early days, the list of performers with whom this pair have played, individually and/or together, is a roll-call of contemporary Jazz giants, including Lee Konitz, Buddy De Franco, Larry Willis, Tony Scott, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Jon Faddis, Bobby Durham, Phil Woods, Ray Mantilla, Charles Tolliver, Jimmy Owens and many more.

Now, to the long list of countries and venues in which they have performed, they can add Australia and the Brisbane Jazz Club.

And about tonight; think Ferrari. Think Lamborghini. Think a Fiat Bambino tootling past the Colosseum. Think a glass of smooth, deep red Negroamaro from Puglia. Think a spellbound audience and the cruisy atmosphere of our low lit riverside Jazz venue.

Think a night to remember; a classic. A night that will be absorbed and assimilated into the 46-year history of Brisbane’s home of live Jazz. A night that has added more waves to the vibe that you can’t help but feel whenever you walk into this Club.

Blink and you missed their whirlwind visit; one that was well worth the effort that Bepi and Tony made to get here.

If you missed the pleasure and privilege of this performance and would like to know what you missed, check them out on YouTube. And then join the chorus to bring them back to Oz and the Brisbane Jazz Club. Soon.

Grazie gentiluomini.

Alan Smith

Brisbane Jazz Club

Dale Pengelly – Friday May 5 2018

This was a challenging gig for singing dance man, Dale Pengelly and his two sidekicks, Maureen Bowra and Jenny Usher; a brightly lit hall, a cavernous, all but empty stage, and sound desk settings that had the vocals overwhelming the backing music; ear-piercingly so, towards the end.

The trio rose to the challenges, and with a combination of personality, talent and charm, took us on a bright and lively tour of Dale’s sparkling career, through favourite songs, visual memories and entertaining anecdotes.

We sang along with Sinatra, Dino, Nat King Cole, Bobby Darin, Tony Bennett and other classics from the Crooner’s Songbook. We tapped our feet to songs from Dale’s illustrious stage career; from shows such as Hello Dolly, Hot Shoe Shuffle, Singing In The Rain and The Boy From Oz.

We ooh-ed and aah-ed at his stories of meeting the Queen, and of backstage catch-ups with celebrity audience members. A highlight was his telling of a performance of Hot Shoe Shuffle in London’s West End,  when they were joined on stage by Harry Nicholas, of the fabulous 1930’s tap-dancing duo, The Nicholas Brothers.

Yes, we sang, tapped and smiled our way through a very entertaining evening of all-time favourite tunes, as we got to know more about this talented, charming Aussie song and dance man, from Gladstone in Queensland.

Oh, and we got to sing a cheery and grateful Happy Birthday to him at the end of the night. Thank you Dale, for a great night out.

Alan Smith

Brisbane Jazz Club