One of the most exciting programs in this years Melbourne International Jazz Festival is Overground, where some of the most innovative Australian and international experimental and improvised musicians take over the Melbourne Town Hall for six hours of musical chaos. I asked co curator Sean Baxter (Bucketrider/ Embers) to email me what to look out for, this was his response:
Initially, Sophie Brous approached Annalee Koernig and myself to curate a day-long event that would be representative of the avant-improv scene in Melbourne to reflect the diversity and caliber of stuff that happens here all the time on a weekly basis, at events like Make It Up Club and Stutter, etc. When we found out we’d have access to some of the international performers that MIJF was bringing out we were elated (particularly Brotz and Han). We thought: Okay, this is a way to unify the traditions of abstraction that have circumscribed improvised music over the last 40 years, and present them in a major festival that’s not only indicative of what is occurring at an international level, but also what’s been happening in Melbourne for years, and that, furthermore, isn’ going to be compromised by any agendas, apart from the logical possibilities of art. So, we devised a program focusing on collaborations and presentations that would accentuate the musical compatibility between genres from free jazz, to noise and grindcore, and avant classical and improv (and the musical potential inherent in such inter-generic conjunctions), that would both emphasize the quality of Melbourne’ extant avant-scene and contribute to its continued growth.
At first glance, the program screams of incongruity, especially for a ‘Jazz’ festival. However, the unifying principle is free improvisation, one of the most vital musical possibilities bequeathed to us by the ferment of the late 60s, particularly from that stuff happening in Europe in the late 60s, thanks to musicians like Bennink and Brotzmann. And in that sense, Overground is one of those festivals which “knows’ no idiomatic bounds. It celebrates the diversity of avant-garde improvisation. And in doing so, revitalizes the improvisatory traditions of â€œJazzâ€ and gives them a resonance for contemporary practices.
There’ some pretty fucked-up things happening! I’m even surprised myself sometimes when I have a look! But apart from the obvious, I’d draw your attention to the following collaborations, which I’m personally excited about: Turner/Plagne/Morris/Veltheim Quartet: So, Mick Turner from the Dirty Three and Francis Plagne on guitars with Evelyn Morris on kit and Erkki Veltheim on viola. Mick and Francis, I think, are the same people 20 years removed in terms of the way they approach the rock tradition with such an avant arsenal. Ev is the kind of musician we dream ofâ€”comfortable in the realms of abstracted indie rock with Pikelet, the screamo delight of True Radical Miracle, and any improv thing we can throw at her, and Erkki Veltheim has to be the greatest violist in Australia with his stuff for Elision, The Black Arm Band, the Art Orchestra and myriad avant-improv collaborations. Greg Kingston/Tarquin Manek Duo: One of Australia ‘ greatest guitar players, Kingston has been playing abstract guitar improv since the late 70s under the influence of Tourrette’ Syndrome, although you’d never know. He is to guitar what Kurt Schwitters was to the collage. And with Manek (one of the members of Bum Creek), he finds himself a partner of equal genius in the region of sublime absurdity, and musical ingenuity. Pure Evil Trio with Occult Blood: This is one of the reasons Annalee and I wanted to do this show. Because we could put on something like this! This collaboration is actually where it’s happening with free jazz these days. Pure Evil are a grind/free jazz-inspired trio from Sydney that have just as equal connection to the Brotzmann/Bennink Euro tradition as they do to things like Napalm Death. They’ve just reformed after a couple years hiatus, and Melbourne needs to see them (again)! With Occult Blood, Pure Evil are hooked up with the other side of the European free jazz’ legacy: brutal noise, tempered by the ambience of Black Metal and the abstraction of post-Xenakis/Jani Christou classical music. The dudes from Occult Blood are some of Australia ‘ most innovative, and open-minded (not to mention virtuosic) noise musicians in the country at the moment. They will be the people we listen to in 10 years time. Tomlinson/Ughetti/Fox: I know it’s obvious, but Robin Fox real-time processing two of Australia ‘ greatest orchestral percussionists is pretty amazing! As is Pateras/Bennink: Anthony Pateras on the Melbourne Town Hall Grand Rogan with none other than the greatest European avant drummer ever: Han Bennink! A couple other brief mentions: Snawklor and Bum Creek with Simon Barker: Sydney jazz drummer extraordinaire with 2 of Melbourne ‘ awesomest post-everything groups. A Vocal Ensemble featuring: everyone from modernist classical singer Jess Aszodi to Carolyn Connors (the greatest extended voice artist in the world), to Nik Kenedy (from Melbourne ‘ best grindcore band, The Kill), Sophie Brous, post-punk-post-posters Chris Hill and Alex Vivian, and grind-scuzz howler Pete Hyde ( Whitehorse , CTV, 731, etc.). And finally, True Radical Miracle with Golden Fur: Punk and Classical unite like it should do!
Bob Baker Fish