Jazz: NOW Wired, August 15


Ellen Kirkwood gets it. She understands that this composing lark isn’t  really about just stringing notes and harmonies together; that, at its heart, music is a narrative art, and therefore the three simplest rules of story-telling apply: establish expectations, fulfil them and subvert them. Here she did exactly that with five duets for her own trumpet and Hillary Geddes’s guitar.

Ellen Kirkwood and Hillary Geddes. Photo supplied.

Post Apartem set up a sepia-toned sound world that became creepy in the way it modulated and accelerated, and almost disorienting in the way it inverted expectations. The sparse head did not prepare one for the guitar’s rapid bass lines, while Kirkwood’s solo heated up until it was blistering the music’s surface. The harmonies on Ponder were also like tripwires for the listener, thickened by Geddes’s distortion.

Given its title, perhaps the mock-baroque To You, Room resulted from hours of practicing Bach in lockdown. The inherent surprise factor was amplified by Kirkwood singing the melody wordlessly, and if her intonation quivered here and there, there was a child-like charm to it. After she played the same line on trumpet, the piece unravelled to a splintered dialogue.

Spooky One was actually more agitated than spooky, with unsettled guitar arpeggios capped by Kirwood’s most intense playing, her notes fraying and fracturing. As Geddes began to use looping, the arpeggios became such a tangled labyrinth it was as if the piece were tearing itself apart from within, and the freer it became, the more it burned itself into the consciousness. The final Dig Up, by contrast, was jazzy, dirty and gritty, like New Orleans music that hadn’t been to bed for two days, and then slept in its clothes.

The 2001 archival footage in this instalment of the SIMA’s Jazz: NOW Wired series contained five boiling Starfish Club performances. Highlights included David Symes’ bass solo on a blues with the Aaron Ottignon Quartet, before Roger Manins turned the piece on its head with a wild-man entry on tenor. The late alto saxophonist Dave Ades was exhilarating in the high-energy FATS, with trumpeter Scott Tinkler, bassist Thierry Fosmale and drummer Simon Barker. Tinkler and Barker returned in the Elliot Dalgleish/Scott Tinkler Quartet, completed by bassist Euegen Romaniuk, and Dalgleish (on alto and keening sopranino) offered a reminder that he was among the most thrilling improvisers we’ve had.