Blue Turtles: The Music of Sting – Saturday November 21 2020

I saw Sting in concert, only once. I think it was 2010.  It was a great show.

But let me tell you… given the charm and intimacy of our small riverside venue, and the combined talent of these six great musicians, tonight’s Blue Turtles show at the Brisbane Jazz Club was just as entertaining as that show at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.

And from the very first note, it was just as memorable!!

‘So, Ladies and Gentlemen…for your entertainment this evening…bringing you the very best of Sting, via an eclectic mix of classics and lesser known gems…may I present The Blue Turtles…’

What a band!! What a HUGE sound!! And what a powerful contribution from everyone on our stage tonight!!

Cleon Barraclough’s dancing fingers got to every note on that grand piano…which will undoubtedly need a tune-up after that work-out!!

  1. A. (Marianne) McCarthy was right there in the pocket, on guitar and backing vocals.

Chris Pearson’s driving electric bass licks were perfectly Sting-esque…alongside Steve Francis, who gave us the best of Stewart Copeland and Vinnie Colaiuta on the drum kit.

Weaving and stitching it all together, with his tenor sax, soprano sax, keyboard and backing vocals, was Musical Director and multi-instrumentalist Neil Wickham. And, as maestro of the special effects, he also had all the atmospheric pops, clicks and tinkles…in all the right places.

And right at home, there sat the heart of it all, was the glamorous and glorious lead vocal of Renae Suttie.

When Neil first approached Renaeduring the creation of the show, her initial response was, ‘Really? You want a chick to do the songs of Sting?’

Well, yes he did!! And the result is magnificent.

This repertoire…these songs and arrangements…can challenge the very best of vocalists. And Renae, who could be rightly called, Renae Sultry, absolutely nailed it…delivering every note, every word, every emotion…with a beautiful, clear and ringing, deep, soulful, true-to-Sting style.

And of course, her shining, open face, beautiful smile and sparkling personality, are a big bonus!!

As she explained with that smile, ‘While most of Sting’s songs are in an alto/female range…when you see me sitting down, you will know that I am digging deep…for the lower stuff.’

Across the night, the Blue Turtles show featured songs from several albums,  including….

From Sting’s first solo album, Dream Of The Blue Turtles, they gave us ‘Love Is The Seventh Wave’, ‘If You Love Someone, Set Them Free’, ‘Children’s Crusade’ and ‘Consider Me Gone’ .

They opened the second set as a quartet…Cleon, Chris, Steve and Neil… with the instrumental title track, ‘The Dream Of The Blue Turtles’.

From Ten Summoners Tales, came ‘She’s Too Good For Me’, ‘If Ever I Lose My Faith In You’, ‘Shape Of My Heart’, ‘Seven Days’, and ‘Stronger Than Justice’.

And Low Pitch Alert!!  Renae was on the stool for ‘Fields of Gold’ and ‘It’s Probably Me’. 

From …Nothing Like the Sun, there was a personal favourite of mine…‘Englishman In New York’, an up-tempo version of ‘Fragile’, a boppy, funky version of ‘We’ll Be Together’, and the lesser known, ‘Be Still My Beating Heart’, of which, Neil said, ‘It was not a hit. But it was one we just HAD to play!!’

From Mercury Fallingthey gave us ‘I’m So Happy, I Can’t Stop Crying’.

From The Police album, Outlandos d’Amour, there was ‘Roxanne’, with Renae’s soaring, crystal-clear vocal. And wow!! That BIG note at the end!!

And they sent us home with a haunting soprano sax solo from Neil, at the end of the band’s final song of the night, ’When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What’s Still Around’…from The Police album Zenyatta Mondatta.

These are not easy songs to perform…play or sing. And this band brought them all home perfectly. Funky at times. Clean and creamy smooth, when called for. Powerful lead vocals, with sweet two and three-part harmonies, when needed.

Six talented musicians. Rich, Sting-quality arrangements and instrumentation. Vocals that hit every piercing high and touched every rumbling, growling low. All with an unmistakeable Sting feel, touch, tone and inflection.

Thank you, all six of you, for a great Saturday night by the Brisbane River.

The Brisbane Jazz Club is an historic, iconic venue. But without players like you, we are nothing but an old boat shed with a million-dollar view!!

Alan Smith

Brisbane Jazz Club


Craig Martin presents ‘The Beatles to Buble’ – Sunday September 27 2020

Who needs the Fab Four? Today’s sweet Sunday sunset session saw us swinging into Spring with The Sensational Seven.

The seven are Mr. Craig Martin, the crooner who left his heart in San Francisco Liverpool, and his Little Big Band; the sparkling Rhythm Section of Red Lopez on piano, Pat Farrell on electric bass and Reuben Bradley on drums, and the blazing Horn Section of Josh Hatcher on alto and tenor sax, Clint Allen on trumpet and Ben Young on trombone.

Up front, Craig is Mr. Personality, with his comfortable lounge suit and tie, light-catching, black patent leather shoes, the Big-Easy voice and an engaging, chatty style at the mic.

Craig grew up and came of age as a musician in Liverpool, and so it is no surprise that The Beatles were an early and powerful influence on him and the Covers band he was singing with in his teens.

And then one day he was introduced to his grandfather’s first love, Swing, when he heard, and was instantly hooked on, the songs and style of Frank Sinatra and Bobby Darin. A little later, he was further inspired by the interpretations of these songs by Michael Buble and Robbie Williams.

So, by the time he arrived in Oz/Brisbane in 2009, Craig was perfectly primed for a career that has since seen him become one of Brisbane’s favourite crooners.

From those early days, he resolved only to work with the best of local musicians. And the wisdom of that decision was evident today, as together, this Magnificent Seven enjoyed being back at the Brisbane Jazz Club, to present these great songs to an appreciative audience.

Now, the theme of the day was ‘The Beatles to Buble’. So, to help set the scene, please, for a moment, close your eyes, and…picture yourself in a boat on a river…with tangerine trees and marmalade skies…

…and come with Craig and the band on a fascinating journey through a colourful landscape of the best of The Beatles…among them…Please Please Me, Revolution, Till There Was You and Lady Madonna. All swung like you won’t get to hear them performed anywhere else!!

And OK. This was Beatles songs without a guitar in sight. So not a spot for a George or a John. But Pat more than held his own on bass, in place of Paul. And hearing Reuben at the drum kit, would have surely brought a tear to Ringo’s eye.

But then, it wasn’t all Beatles.

No. Laid out between those tangerine trees, was a Favourites playlist of crooner classics from the greats, including Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, Ray Charles and Craig’s namesake, Dino. All swinging, of course. And all performed a la Michael Buble.

Then, as an extra touch, Craig blew us away with a hot little harmonica solo on the Bryan Ferry hit, Let’s Stick Together.

And at the end of this super-cruisy Sunday afternoon, as the lights of the CBD were beginning to flicker across the Brisbane River, Craig and the band took us out with a powerdrive version of I Saw Her Standing There. And in a rousing encore of audience participation on Hey Jude, they had us all singing the ‘Na. Na. Na. Na na na na’.

Thanks guys.  When next you come back to the Brisbane Jazz Club, so will we!!

 Alan Smith

Brisbane Jazz Club



Aaron West Delivers The Blues – Friday September 18 2020

No, tonight was NOT Jazz.

But, remembering that Jazz has its roots firmly anchored in The Blues, we were very, very happy for Aaron and his band of virtuoso players, on this one night, to change us from the BJC to the BBC

And up there, on our stage, it was not so much The Blues Brothers, but The  Blues Brotherhood…as there were NINE of them, in various Covid-safe combinations across the night.

At the heart of this dynamite music machine was enough guitar chops to sustain an industry and populate a museum…

Aaron West with 3 custom Fender Stratocasters and a Dobro.

Matt Smith, lead guitarist from Thirsty Merc, with his red 1966 Epiphone Casino.

Kirk Lorange, with a mid-60’s Fender Stratocaster, purchased in London and set up by fabled luthier, Seymour Duncan.

Kirk’s long list of album session credits includes Aussie headliners such as Keith Urban, John Williamson, Renee Geyer, Kevin Johnson, Dragon, Richard Clapton, The Reels, Debbie Byrne and Doug Ashdown.

Louie Shelton on a 1952 Fender Telecaster.

Inducted into the Nashville Musicians Hall of Fame in 2007, the Who’s Who of artists whose singles and albums Louie produced and/or played on includes Marvin Gaye, John Lennon, Boz Scaggs, Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond, The Carpenters, Ella Fitzgerald, John Lennon, Joe Cocker, Simon & Garfunkel, Whitney Houston, Kenny Rogers, Joe Cocker, The Monkees, The Jackson 5, The Mamas and The Papas, Seals and Crofts, Diana Ross, James Brown, Sammy Davis Jnr, Whitney Houston, Lionel Richie, Glen Campbell, Nancy Sinatra, Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder…to name but a few!!       

At various times across the night, those guitars screamed, squealed and wept in combinations of two, three and four.

Four powerhouse players trading licks, sharing lead duties and delivering soaring solos; each in their own distinctive sound and style.

And alongside them, providing the oxygen that kept that heart pumping, were…

John Whyte on piano and electronic keyboard.

Chris Pearson on a 1972 Fender Precision electric bass.

Mr. Super-Cool, James Sandon – on tenor sax and drums.

Shufflin’ Joe Delalande on drums.

And harmonica player, Mark Doherty, who regularly stepped up out of the audience, with his little silver case of blues harps.

Aaron started the gig on the drum kit, and with his distinctive deep and bluesy voice, provided most of the night’s lead vocals.

Kirk was lead vocal at times. And there were several great Aaron-Kirk duets.

So, if you weren’t in the house tonight, you missed a big, roaring Blues Train which rumbled, rolled and wailed through the Brisbane Jazz Club, in three-four time…carrying the music of Blues luminaries such as Robert Johnson, Son House, Lightnin’ Hopkins, T-Bone Walker,  Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter,  Robben Ford and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

And at the end of a memorable night of homage to those masters, the band sent us home with a smokin’ encore of the classic, Kansas City. Ears ringing. Bodies vibrating. Hearts burning. Souls on fire. Wanting more!!

Thanks again guys. All nine of you!!

Alan Smith

Brisbane Jazz Club


The Pockets – Sunday January 19 2020

To get a little taste of what we had for Brunch this Sunday at the Brisbane Jazz Club, listen to The Three Sirens in ‘Oh Brother, Where For Art Thou?’. And then listen to some classic Andrews Sisters harmonies.

And that is just a little of what was on the menu today. For this was a Variety Show. A Showcase of styles and arrangements. All expertly crafted by the combined talents of four great musicians, The Pockets, who are, (L to R):

Kellee Green – vocals, piano, melodica, concert ukulele and kazoo. (Kellee switched between the piano and the stage, when the melodica and/or kazoo were required).

Kylie Southwell  – vocals, melodica and baritone ukulele.

Joyclyn Vincent – vocals, tenor ukulele, banjulele, melodica and kazoo.

Samuel Vincent – Double Bass, uBass (which has a surprisingly deep and sumptuous resonance, for an instrument so small), occasional backing vocals and a little bit of whistlin’.

While individual band members have been playing together in various combinations for much longer, they first got together as a quartet in 2011. And since then, memorable engagements have included the Woodford Folk Festival, the Brisbane Cabaret Festival, the Brisbane Fringe Festival and the Melbourne Ukulele Festival. And, of course, the Brisbane Jazz Club!!

And here, at the Brisbane Jazz Club, we have signs advising patrons that we are a listening Club. Sometimes we have to reinforce that with a reminder from the stage.

But not today. Not one ear wanted to miss a note of those oh, so clean, tight, wrinkle-free and ear-catching, three and four-part harmonies. Bee-eautiful!!

The three ladies skilfully shifted and shared lead vocal duties and harmony parts through their three-set performance, as The Pockets took us on a memorable journey through some great original songs, (lyricist on many, David Megarrity, was in the audience), and a selection of imaginative, Pocket-ised arrangements of well-known and lesser-known covers.

They opened with an original, ‘You May As Well Smile’.  And smile we all did, as we were instantly captivated; attentive and ready to join them for memorable performances of songs such as ‘I Got Rhythm’, The Kinks’Sunny Afternoon’, a piano/cruisy double bass feel for ‘On The Sunny Side of the Street’, and ‘After You’ve Gone’, which started with a chilled finger snap.

There was a uniquely atmospheric arrangement of Paul Simon’s ‘Hazy Shade of Winter’, and a swinging version of Tom Waits’ ‘Rain Dogs’.

And one of many highlights was the Anita O’Dea-inspired arrangement of ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’, which featured Samuel’s whistlin’, three ukes and a melodica, to end the second set.

More originals, including ‘Old-fashioned’, ‘Champagne and Dirty Martinis’ and  ‘Unaccompanied’, were laid between harmony specialities ‘Go to Sleep Little Baby’ and ‘Bushel and a Peck’; the latter moving abruptly away from its Andrews Sisters styling, when Kellee brought in her kazoo!!

And finally, to complete the circle; having brought us in with a smile, they took us out and sent us home with ‘When You’re Smiling’.

Gentle and soothing at times. Energy to burn when required. The Pockets shared with us a rainbow of colour and song selection, their love of their music and their joy of performing together. And their talent.

They gave us an inspiring, heart-string plucking Sunday Brunch session.

And left us with a big smile. Thank you.

Alan Smith

Brisbane Jazz Club

The Best of Men About Town – Saturday January 11 2020

Lock up your grannies. ‘Men About Town’ are at the Brisbane Jazz Club tonight, to celebrate five fun years as ‘the jazziest, snazziest guys around’.

The three wise-cracking, crooning mates, Alan Western, Peter Vance and Duncan Read, settled comfortably on to our stage, to share a night of their favourite songs with a very enthusiastic BJC audience. The audience had come primed and ready to dance and sing along. They were not disappointed.

Providing the perfect foundation for these three amigos, were the tight and bright, FourTunes Quartet, with Rockin’ Red Lopez at the keys, ‘El Shauno’ Shaun Ballagh on tenor sax and flute, Cruisin’ Amby Dowdeswell on bass, and Gentleman Jim Howard on drums.

That’s seven musicians; all of whom are very well known About the Kangaroo Point end of Town.

Alan is the Brisbane Jazz Club’s long time, hard-working Vice President, Life Member, and Manager of, and vocalist with, the Brisbane Big Band.

Peter, a BJC Life Member, is a passionate supporter of, and contributor to, the local music scene, including his regular performances at our Jazz Singers Jam Night, and as a generous sponsor of our annual Vocal Jazz Festival.

Duncan is a long-standing Committee member and lifetime music-lover. And he is almost famous for his unique and idiosyncratic on-stage gyrations for the dance numbers!!

Red, Shaun, Amby and Jim all perform regularly at the Club; each appearing in several different line-ups across our calendar.

The songs on tonight’s set-list were selected from the combo’s previous ‘themed’ shows, and they were presented in every possible combination of solo, duet and trio vocal performances.

From their Latin night, came classics such as ‘Mas Que Nada’, ‘Girl From Ipanema’, ‘Volare’ and ‘Livin’ La Vida Loca’. Woven between crooner favourites such as ‘The Lady is a Tramp’, ‘Stardust’ and ‘Dindi’, the guys re-traced the steps of their ‘Travelling’ show, with songs such as ‘Georgia’, ‘Hotel California’ and ‘Viva Las Vegas’.

And at the end of the evening, they had us all on our feet for a punchy encore of Sinatra’s ‘Chicago’ and ‘New York, New York’.           

So, thanks guys, for a night of fun, and for your singalong, ‘just gotta dance’ arrangements of everybody’s favourite tunes. We loved ‘em all.

Alan Smith

Brisbane Jazz Club



Aaron West presents The Blues – Saturday January 4 2020

Open the doors. Open the bar.  Turn down the lights. Turn up the cooool.

Roll out the Good Times.

Get ready for a night of classic Blues…from a band of Brisbane’s best players.

Aaron West led the way with his rack-full of guitars, including a Telecaster, a baritone-tuned Stratocaster, a Coodercaster, (named for Ry) and an acoustic.

He provided much of the lead guitar and vocal across the night, but surprised us by switching to the drums for the Huey Lewis number, ‘Bad Is Bad’.

He was obviously very happy and at home behind the kit, while Chris Stevenson and his locally modified Kinman Strat, took over on lead guitar and vocal duties.

Aaron’s stint on the drums gave James Sandon the opportunity to get back to his first instrument, the tenor sax. (James was switched on to drums at the last minute, when the original drummer, Terepai Richmond injured a shoulder in a surfing accident). James’ drumming was great, but oh, it would have been nice to have heard more of that sax!!

But wait. There’s more. The band had the luxury of a third guitarist, in Kirk Lorange, (No apostrophe!!), who helped to power this great night of guitar-driven, gravelly-voiced Blues, by playing slide on his Strat and chipping in on lead vocal for a couple of numbers.

Rounding it all out beautifully, were John Whyte on keys and Chris Pearson on electric bass. And towards the end of the evening, Dr Bob (Harley) stepped up for a guest appearance, on bass for Jimmy Reed’s ‘Bright Lights. Big City’.

Running an eye across our Brisbane River-backed stage, it was obvious that these guys, each looking so casual and cool, were oh, so comfortable together. And although they were playing for the first time in this configuration, their seemingly, oft-unscripted mix and match approach came off. It worked. Really well!! (Although I wondered how they decided who should play lead guitar on any given tune, with three great players to choose from!?!)

The night was billed as, ‘Aaron West returns to his roots, with a night of Blues. From the Delta sounds of Robert Johnson, Son House, etc, to Lightning Hopkins, T-Bone Walker, Chicago Blues of Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter…to the modern take of Robben Ford and Stevie Ray Vaughan’.

And that is exactly what they gave us.

The full house, capacity crowd of Brisbane Jazz Club Blues fans, just loved it.

And so did I!!

Alan Smith

Brisbane Jazz Club