Castlemaine’s Jazz Jam

July 4, 2021 - 10:04 pm 5 Comments

The Maurocco Bar at the Midland Hotel would have to be one of my favourite places in all of Castlemaine, Victoria.  Not that I’m much of a drinker. . . but what I am is a live music tragic and this venue presents some magnificent live music on the first Sunday of the month at 2.00pm. 

Also known as the Castlemaine Jazz Jam, it is a gathering of fine musicians who perform together in bands or who come together singly from the local area or from Bendigo, Ballarat and even Melbourne just for the afternoon.

Currently the Midland is undergoing a bit of refurbishment. There’s scaffolding around the outside of the building. But inside, in the Maurocco room, it’s like you just stepped into Rick’s bar in the film Casablanca. 

Last month, because of Lockdown in Victoria, the jazz jam was cancelled. This Sunday, July 4, it was restored to its usual standard of excellence. There were 9 bands or sets  playing three numbers each.

First up was the edgily named Running with Scissors— the moniker adopted as a tribute to muso Russell James who coined it, but who passed away some eighteen months ago. Don Calvert sang “The Way You look Tonight “ and played bass guitar, with Bronwen Algate on keyboard and Brian Paulusz on lead guitar. Bronwen sang the heartrending “I’ve Got a Right to Sing the Blues” and added flute to their third number, “Samba d’Orfeo.” A great start to the afternoon.

Next was Norm Gray who sang and played trumpet with Bronwen again supplying the keyboard accompaniment, Bill Thomson on drums and Rene Rulin, the double bass. They performed a sweet version of “A Foggy Day in London Town,” “I Remember You” and “The Lady is a Tramp.”

Maine Course followed with Jaz Stutley doing the vocals, Bill Thomson on drums, Brian Paulusz on lead guitar, and Don Calvert, bass. Starting with “Young at Heart”, they played the gently meditative “Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars,” and then the delightful—if little-known—Billie Holiday song, “My Mother’s Son-in-Law.” Jaz always comes up with just the right song for her voice and relaxed, cheeky presentation. I always look forward to her performances and am never disappointed.

Number 4 on the bill was Blue Tango. Singer Lynne Gough was accompanied by Dave Richard on guitar and Pip Avent on tuba.  Some of the audience couldn’t resist joining in their version of “Shine on Harvest Moon” before they presented a 1910 ragtime number called “The Oceana Roll” which was featured in a film made in 1952. From here they invited more audience participation in a song from that Hillbilly Shakespeare Hank Williams, called “Mind Your Own Business.” It was really good fun.

Mining Cole came next and no, there is no misspelling of an environmental anachronism here, for this band was mining Cole Porter. They sang “I’ve Got You under My Skin,” “I Love Paris” and “Just One of Those Things.”

Vida Jazz, featuring singer Tania Petrini, Bruce Millar on bass and Bronwen again on keyboard, had three more excellent musicians with them today: Leigh Benewith on trumpet, Julian Harrison on flute and Bill Thomson on drums. They performed “Indeed I Do,” “All or Nothing at All” and the deceptively difficult but beautifully presented “One Note Samba.”

Philip Cheek and his tenor sax were next, accompanied by Bronwen on keyboard, Bill on drums and Bruce on bass. They played “Infant Eyes,” the Charlie Mingus number “Nostalgia in Times Square,” followed by Horace Silver’s song, “Nica’s Dream.” Phil is another muso who will stretch the limits of your musical knowledge with his choices of material and will often surprise you.

The Maggie Jackson Quartet may have been one musician down today but they played with their usual seamless style and savoir faire, Maggie singing and on keyboard, Bill Thomson on drums (yet again) and Rene Rulin on double bass. Maggie sang “I Get a Kick Out of You” then switched to vibraphone to play “In a Sentimental Mood” which had to be one of the highlights of the whole afternoon because the three players were in perfect sympathy with each other. They finished off with “Pennies From Heaven” before inviting the ninth act today, Steve Howard, to join them. Steve ended a wonderful gig with “My Baby Just Cares For Me,” “Around the World” and “All of Me.”

Since the depredations of COVID-19 are still being felt even in Castlemaine, we were missing a few of our regular musicians today. So many thanks to those musos who filled in for the people who couldn’t be with us. Bill Thomson was our only drummer—we usually have at least three—and he did a sterling job playing for anyone who needed him. Likewise Don, Bronwen, Brian and Rene stepped up to the mark and helped out other players. Thank you too, you were all wonderful!

5 Responses to “Castlemaine’s Jazz Jam”

  1. Gwynn James Says:

    Great review Cheryl…love your reference to Rick’s Bar in Cassablanca!! It really does have that feel and is the perfect setting for jazz music. Ann and Mauro are great hosts and we are so lucky to have a venue like this in Castlemaine. We were concerned initially about how the afternoon would go because we had a lot of cancellations among the musos for a variety of reasons, and, as you pointed out, those who turned up, very adequately filled the gaps… the very essence of a jam…sharing music together. If Bill hadn’t been there, we would have had no rhythm for the entire afternoon!! Such generosity is the real joy of running the jam for me and in the difficult times we find ourselves at the moment, it is a real source of comfort. Not to mention how the music itself, both playing and listening, lifts one’s spirits!!

  2. cheryl Says:

    Thank you for your comment, Gwynn. I agree that the Maurocco Bar is the perfect place for the Jazz Jam. Our host and hostess are lovely people and so supportive of the Castlemaine music scene whilst the decor complements the music and helps create that special atmosphere we all so love. Long live the Maurocco Bar!

  3. Jaz Stutley Says:

    A great review of the entire afternoon, Cheryl! Wondered if it’d be ok to quote your review of “The ‘Maine Course” on my FB page pls? Will await your answer. (BTW, FYI: Bill doesn’t have a “p” in his surname, and Brian’s is spelt Paulusz.) jaz

  4. cheryl Says:

    Always.I love your work, Jaz and I have to say Bill and Brian were pretty wonderful too, weren’t they?

  5. cheryl Says:

    Of course I should have mentioned Don’s excellent part in your set, too, Jaz. And thanks for the heads-up with the spelling.

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