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Maurocco Magic at the Midland


It was one of those days: colder than it has been lately and mostly overcast. But it was also the first Sunday of the month, which means, my friends, jazz and jubilation at the Maurocco Bar!

Bernard Boulton and Pip Avent kicked off the afternoon with Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag”—Bernard on keyboard and Pip on tuba.  A delightful beginning.

Cathy Boerema then headed up an impromptu band which contained Brian Paulusz on guitar, Bill  Thomson  on drums,  Don Calvert on bass guitar and Bernard on keyboard. They eased their audience into a bossa nova—that uniquely Brazilian genre based on the samba, which was developed in the 1950s, early 1960s. . .a lovely, languorous sound. Next they launched into an upbeat, swing version of “Nature Boy” with Cathy supplying vocals and fiddle and Bernard and Brian doing some fine improvisation on their instruments. “One Note Samba” was their third offering, played very fast, yet the singer missed not one single syllable of the song. It was a bit of a shock to learn afterwards that Cathy has had COVID. She was complaining of breathlessness this afternoon, yet none of this was apparent to us, her audience. She sang beautifully today. I don’t think I’ve ever heard her perform better!

Julian Harrison and company were next with “Blue Bossa”: Lee Benewith  playing trumpet, Chris Imfeld on guitar, Bernard on keyboard, Gerard on drums and Julian on flute. Very spacey, very cool. The Van Morrison song, “Moondance” followed with a lovely keyboard introduction and Julian playing the melody. Lee played the next solo with a bit of flutey flutter-tongue from Julian in the background. Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Corcovado” or “Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars” started with a pristine trumpet solo from Lee which was as pure as white moonlight, followed by Julian’s meditative flute. This peace was sustained until Brian’s more assertive guitar solo which picked up the tempo. Lee’s muted trumpet produced such a sweet sound in its upper register it was as mellifluous as Julian’s flute-playing. They are an excellent combination.

The Maine Course was the next band, with Jaz Stutley doing the vocals, Bill on drums, Brian on guitar and Don, bass guitar. They started with “Desafinado” (a lot of South American influence today) and Jaz telling us that “like the bossa nova love should swing. . .” They then launched into “Mad About the Boy” which Noel Coward apparently wrote about Rudolf Valentino. Now while I love Noel Coward for writing that song, the poor old darling could never have sung it as Jaz did today, with those sultry low notes, her signature vibrato and just the right amount of passion and regret. I’ve not heard a better version than this. “Besame Mucho,” their last song, showcased  Brian’s guitar solo. “Each time I cling to your kiss I hear music divine. . .”  a good, strong ending to an excellent set.

But there was more to come.

Pip produced his tuba and he also produced his voice, singing “I’m Confessing That  I Love You.” With Brian again on guitar, Don on bass guitar, Andrew Dunne on drums and Bronwyn Algate on keyboard, there was a lovely contrast of sound, Bronwyn playing cheeky honky-tonk to accompany Pip’s deep-throated tuba. “Without my walking stick I’d go insane,” then opined Pip, reviving the wonderful Louis Armstrong song with Brian and Bronwyn providing some glorious solos. Drummer Andrew then sang “All of Me” to conclude the set.

The last band to perform today before Julian’s multi-faceted jam, was called Running With Scissors. This band name I particularly like because it is redolent of the edginess—if not the actual terror—of playing live with a bunch of musos you may never have played with before and you may not see again until next month—if then. This time, bass player Don sang “You Took Advantage of Me,” the Rogers and Hart song. Bronwyn sang a lusty version of Duke Ellington’s “Got Nothing But the Blues” as she played keyboard and Don sang the 1927 song, “Indeed I Do” with Bronwyn and Bill accompanying him.

Now the actual jazz jam started some time after 4 o’clock. There was a brief interval of hustling for vocalists as a couple had gone home, then Siobhan, the mellow-toned lead singer of a group called Blue Diamonds launched into “It’s Almost Like Being in Love,” from Guys and Dolls. Once again, there was Bill on drums. Julian on flute, Lee on trumpet, Don on bass, Bronwyn on keyboard and Frances on violin, but Bernard was this time on trombone. They followed with the instrumental, “Cute”, then “Paper Moon” with Cathy and Siobhan providing the vocals. “Taking a Chance on Love” and “On the Sunny Side of the Street” completed the jam.

It was a wonderful afternoon and a high-energy offering. Everyone took risks with their performances today and the risks paid off, creating that unique atmosphere that the best impromptu jazz brings, the kind of tension and aftermath that a competently-written crime thriller will give you (am I mixing my metaphors too much?): tension, resolution and release. . .  

And as the man said, “Isn’t that what jazz is all about?”

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  1. Mr M

    There is no doubt there are two classy music venues in Castlemaine and they are either free or at virtually no cost where anyone can relax and hear some real quality music. Now I have spent time at both the Maurocco Bar and The Northern Arts Hotel, both excellent and safe venues ,the above Blog gives a fantastic understanding of the Majic that happens at both these venues. Check them out.

  2. Cheryl JORGENSEN

    Thank you Mr M. They are both exceptional venues, aren’t they?

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