Archive for April, 2022

“Open Mic” at the Taproom.

April 30, 2022 - 3:19 pm No Comments

Thursday nights are Open Mic nights at The Taproom, which is part of the Shedshaker Brewing Company. This is a boutique pub specialising in craft beers. You can find it on 9 Walker Street at the entrance to Castlemaine’s Mill, roughly behind Das Kaffeehaus. It’s on the other side of the road from Castlemaine’s Botanic Gardens.

The Taproom is a good venue. The staff is always welcoming and the beer and pizzas, delicious. You can count on at least one good musical turn of a Thursday night, but this last one—April 28—offered an excellent line-up.

It was a late start because a Book Club talk was on before the Open Mic and apparently the customers there just didn’t want to leave. But finally a trickle of punters made it out through the glass doors and we shiverers in the garden claimed their still-warm seats.

Scott Sanders started the proceedings with a few of his own interpretations and then handed over to the Lorettas. These two ladies have lately been making quite the favourable impression on the ‘Maine. They pleased the crowd at an art opening  at Lot 19 a couple of Sundays ago with Nic Lyons accompanying them on his  bass ukulele. Then, as on this evening, they played Stevie Nicks and that song for our age written by the wonderful Lanie Lane, “What Do I Do?”

Angela from the band called “Angela and the Doc” sang solo tonight, accompanying herself on guitar. She produced a lovely folksy sound with “Grandma’s Hands” and “I Go back.”

Stefan Brown also sang solo with guitar accompaniment. He performed “I Dreamed of Your Green Hills in Winter” a song he said he would have liked to have performed on ANZAC Day just gone. “Ninety Miles an Hour Down a Dead-end Street,” the Bob Dylan song, was next and then “Red Guitar” by Loudon Wainwright the Third, about a guy who smashes up his instrument in a fit of pique. It was a confident and accomplished performance and very enjoyable.

A surprise awaited us in the form of a young gentleman called Rowan Nichol. He normally works behind the bar but Thursday night also got up on stage and performed for us. He did well.

However I have to say that the highlight for me was “Judy and the Upright Gentlemen.”

This is a group whose music I have enjoyed before at the Guildford Hotel (which apparently doesn’t offer live music any more—a new-management decision I find utterly astounding and rather self-destructive) and various events organised by the Grumpies’ Car Club.

Judy—Jude Warren—is the vocalist who also plays guitar. The “Upright Gentlemen” are two fine guitarists, Steve Cole on lead and Russell Mackenzie on bass.

They started with the J.J. Cale song, “Sensitive Kind,” Steve vocally harmonising at the beginning of the song and then providing some bluesy riffs with Russell for the rest of it. Jude introduced the next song as “a little ditty about dementia based on the Dr Seuss book.” 

This is pure, unadulterated charm. Called “Waltzing with Bears” it was performed with a very pronounced 1—2—3 waltz beat and contains such lines as “I’m sure Uncle Walter’s been waltzing with bears. . .” and “There’s nothing Uncle Walter won’t do so he can go waltzing, waltzing with bears.”

Their third item was “Open Up Your Heart” by G. Wayne Thomas, an upbeat, feel-good song. “It’s a start, open up your heart. Try not to hide what you feel inside.” 

Judy articulates clearly when she sings so you hear her every word. Her “Upright Gentlemen” did great credit to her with their lush, equally beautifully-articulated accompaniment.

Looking forward to their next gig.

Django Lingo at the Northern Arts Hotel

April 24, 2022 - 1:28 pm 4 Comments

So back to the New Northern on Saturday night (23/04) for a sumptuous feast of some of the best live music I’ve ever heard!  DJANGO LINGO, named for Django Reinhardt of course, the guitarist with the gypsy soul who made a gift of it to a world so very much in need of it at the time. 

Django Lingo. . . rolls off the tongue, hinting at Romany magic realism wrapped in  exotic language made flesh by the supreme competence of its communicators who are: Gillian Eastoe, vocalist and percussion and Terry Murray, Howard Malkin and Nic Lyon, guitarists extraordinaire.

So the gig begins with Cole Porter’s “Night and Day,” upbeat, Django-ised and featuring the three brilliant guitar soloists. This followed by George Shearing’s beautiful “Lullaby of Birdland” explicated in Gillian’s smoky-bourbon voice. “I’ll See you in My Dreams” with more virtuosic guitar and then a light-hearted Billy Holiday as Gillian singing “Nothing Can Be Done”, Terry imitating the patter of rain at her words, “comes a rainstorm.”

We were then given a very high-energy version of “Concrete and Clay” (“My feet begin to crumble”) and then the gaspingly glorious rendering of the Beatles song, “Norwegian Wood.” Nic’s haunting bass guitar was accompanied by what seemed like celestial bells from Terry’s lead. Pure magic. Transporting.

Tonight I realised “There’ll Never Be Another You” is actually “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square”—or they’re so close it doesn’t matter. I’m open to debate on this one, of course. This was pure Django and pure Howard. Terry started playing mandolin on his guitar, while chatting—musically of course—to the rest of the gang. Was it Satchmo who said that jazz was a form of gossip? Well I heard a fair bit of gossip going on in this number, an intimate conversation between friends. This, it suddenly occurred to me, is what Django Lingo is all about. It is  perfectly named.

The Stevie Wonder song, “Isn’t She Lovely?” gave us more of Gillian’s wonderful voice, plus an explanation of just what the song meant to her. Then, after a short break, Howard started the conversation again. This time Nic was on Double Bass—well it has been said that Nic can play any musical instrument he wraps his hands around—with Terry offering Hawaiian-style riffs. Once again Django Lingo made it seem so effortless, so e-a-s-y.

“Bossa Derado” had Howard playing up such a storm he could easily have been given a standing ovation, but we were all so besotted with the music no one wanted to interrupt it. Gillian gave us a gutsy rendition of “You Don’t Know Me”, her feistiness making it all her own song and then the boys launched into Duke Ellington’s “Stompin’ at the Savoy.” It was simply the best version I have ever heard.

But then Gillian offered her sweetly agonised “Cry Me a River” which would no doubt have left other chanteuses known for this song themselves weeping—or fulminating—and once again, Howard’s solo was amazing.

“Fascinating Rhythm” was sheer virtuosity and then “Heaven, I’m in Heaven” revealed a new Gillian, exuding happiness with Terry offering a cheeky wolf whistle on his guitar at the mention of  kissing.

The next number apparently came from a French jazz band and Howard carried this one with some more musical commentary from his friends. “Honeysuckle Rose” completed the set.

And what a set! It was exceptional concordance of brilliant musicianship and generosity which would have absolutely thrilled their beloved Django—as it did indeed thrill us.

Great Gig at the New Northern

April 9, 2022 - 9:20 pm No Comments

Castlemaine is blessed with two extraordinary jazz venues—the Maurocco Room in the Midland Hotel (about which I have been known to wax lyrical) and the New Northern Hotel at the top end of Barker Street, near where Johhny Baker used to hang out.

So what is it about these two brilliant venues which never seem to fail to get the creative juices flowing for a lot of locals and out-of-towners? 

For a start they’re warm, welcoming spaces with great decor reflective of the sophisticated, eclectic tastes of the proprietors. Next, I guess, it is the sort of people they attract—musicians, artists, writers—the kind of people who pursue the Muse rather than the moolah—and those who support them. 

It has been said that if you want a decent Chinese meal, go to a restaurant where the clientele is mostly Chinese, since they’d know much more about their own cuisine than anyone else. The same can be said about live music. Last night at the New Northern was a classic example. 

The Anticlinal Fold was performing. This is a group of very accomplished local musicians. In the audience, however, were quite a few other accomplished musos. I won’t mention any names but I can recall at least three amazing pianists—or keyboard players if you like—in the audience, a virtuoso violinist who can apparently play anything else he puts his hands around, plus diverse guitarists, singers and  wind players. 

After some lush sound testing, the opening song was “I Love Paris,” delivered by the Fold’s chanteuse, Kate Vigo, accompanied by Nigel McLean on electric fiddle, Jeremy Challenor on piano and Dan Bendrups, the leader from Thompson’s Foundry Band—who usually plays trombone—on drums. Kate then told us that they were missing their double bass player  because he had to run someone to hospital and their usual drummer couldn’t make it because his babysitter hadn’t turned up. A terrifying prospect for some, yet these musicians seemed to take this difficult situation on board with an equanimity which appeared to me almost Zen-like.

An electrified violin tremolo with a slow, primal drumbeat then took us into “Autumn Leaves” —an unearthly sound with Frank Veldze’s installation of pulsating jellyfish gloriously gyrating across the screen behind the musicians, adding to the overall effect. Nigel then used his violin to create a double bass accompaniment, which, combined with Dan’s trombone solo and Jem’s free-wheeling piano, became, in the best possible way, a haunting.

But there were many more delights to come. Like Kate’s easy, relaxed delivery of every song she sang.  She was the torch singer in ”At Last” and “Lover Man” and appropriately accompanied by explosions of flowers opening  on the screen behind her in “Love for Sale.” There was the gorgeous instrumental rendition of “If you Go Away” plus a lot of thrilling solos, riffing and extemporisation throughout.

Though The Anticlinal Fold thought it had finished its performance at the end of “Love for Sale,” the audience wouldn’t have it. Therefore it graciously launched into that oldie but goodie and jazz standard “Honeysuckle Rose.”

As the very happy audience filed out of the doors of the New Northern, the fiddle player from Malmsbury smiled contentedly and said, “That was real jazz tonight. That is what jazz is all about.”

And believe me, that’s a bloke who knows what he is talking about.