The Jackie Orszaczky Music Lecture & Concert

The Basement, May 10


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Jackie Orszaczky

Were one sufficiently oversupplied with leisure to make lists of Australia’s finest and most influential musicians, the late Jackie Orszaczky would feature prominently. He would be on the shortlist of singers, bassists, arrangers, composers, band-leaders, producers, talent-spotters, mentors and (all to himself) piccolo bassists. Eight years after he died of lymphoma some commendable people organised a memorial concert and lecture that crammed the Basement to capacity with affection as well as people.

Although the tribute bands that have proliferated over the last 30 years have usually been among the more vulgar forms of musical endeavour, here was one that had a genuine reason for being. Fronted by Orszaczky’s partner in life in and song, Tina Harrod, nine musicians who routinely played with him (and relished the experience) were joined by co-lead singer Darren Percival and backing vocalists Jade MacRae and Mahalia Barnes.

Percival was an inspired choice to be the surrogate Orszaczky: relaxed, spontaneous and, like Harrod, a sufficient powerhouse to fly over a large, dense, super-funky band that was much too loud through the PA. (Orszaczky’s bands cooked, but they never burned the ears.) The beating heart of the music’s effectiveness was the rhythm section of bassist Dave Symes and drummer Hamish Stuart, around which a who’s who of Sydney’s music scene ebbed and flowed. Among the stream of fondly remembered originals one was struck afresh by the dazzling imagination Orszaczky brought to rearranging in his own image such covers as Living for the City and a scorching Summertime.

The concert was preceded by musician Brendan Gallagher giving a brief biography of this Hungarian who revolutionised the playing of African-American grooves in distant Australia. Then musician/broadcaster Lucky Oceans delivered the inaugural Jackie Orszaczky Music Lecture, which was essentially a lengthy, good-humoured manifesto on how to make honest, imaginative, engaging music. He spoke of Orszaczky’s disdain for the prefabricated solo, and gave us one of the master’s memorable descriptions of the process of performing: “In control, but on the edge of chaos.”