Ten Australian Jazz CDs To Listen To This Summer

Courtesy of Jeremy Rose Quartet - Sand Lines Album Launch
Jasmine Crittenden
| December 21, 2015

Spend your summer in the company of Australia’s finest jazz musicians. These ten CDs represent a cross-section of some of the most beautiful, exciting and dynamic music released this year – from the vocal stylings of Kristin Berardi and Vince Jones to the exquisite piano playing of Matt McMahon and Barney McCall to the hard-swinging bop of saxophonists Nick Hempton and Michael Griffin. Two of our late, great talents are also remembered – drummer, poet, bandleader and composer Allan Vincent Browne and saxophonist David Ades.

This sparsely arranged, drum-free recording surrounds Kristin Berardi’s supple, enchanting voice with space. Supported by Steve Newcomb (piano), James Sherlock (guitar), Julien Wilson

Kristin Berardi

Kristin Berardi

(tenor saxophone) and Sam Anning (bass), she introduces us to four originals, alongside interpretations of songs by Leonard Cohen, Pat Metheny, Rodgers and Hart, and others. Stand-outs include an extraordinarily haunting version of Cohen’s ‘Suzanne’ and a lovely, lilting rendition of ‘Young At Heart’. Released 02/10/15 on ABC Jazz.

 Unsurprisingly, this powerful, lyrical, searching work is the most-awarded Australian jazz CD of 2015. It won an ARIA Best Jazz Album, an AIR Award for Best Independent Jazz Album and an Age Music Victoria Award for Best Jazz Album. Named after Barney McCall’s Victorian hometown, the album features nine originals, reflecting on 50,000+ years of indigenous history, the “joyous trip” of childhood and 17 years spent living in New York City. With Jonathan Zwartz (bass), Simon Barker (drums, percussion), Hamish Stuart (drums), Julien Wilson (tenor saxophone, alto clarinet), Stephen Magnusson (guitars), Mino Cinélu (percussion) and Shannon Barnett (trombone). Released 05/06/15 on ABC Jazz.

 The Australian jazz community lost one of its most energetic, encouraging, witty and inspiring people when drummer, poet, composer and bandleader Allan Vincent Browne OAM passed away in June this year. One of his many projects was a trio with pianist Andrea Keller and bassist Tamara Murphy, formed out of his Monday night residency at Melbourne’s Bennetts Lane Jazz Club. Recorded over two gigs in February 2015, this moving album captures their spontaneity, strength and mercurial beauty. Released 04/12/15 on JazzHead.

This beautiful, self-assured album represents more than thirty years of Australian jazz history. Pianist Paul Grabowksy and vocalist Vince Jones first collaborated in the 1980s, when the former worked as the latter’s musical director. Here, they meet again in the most intimate of settings, as a duo performing a series of ballads, ranging from ‘The Parting Glass’, a traditional Irish song, to ‘Rainbow Cake’, a Jones original. Released 16/10/15 on ABC Jazz.

Melbourne’s Joe O’Connor recorded Praxis with Mal Stanley at the ABC after winning the 2013 National Jazz Award for Piano. It’s a challenging, exploratory album that’s filled with space and light, yet retains a compelling, dramatic tension. As they travel through six original tracks, O’Connor and his trio – bassist Marty Holoubek and drummer James McLean – ask questions of one another as often as they give answers. Released 03/15. Independent.

A Life in a Day is David Ades’s final album, recorded in New York’s Acoustic Recording Studio just a few weeks before he passed away in November 2013. It’s a coming together of Ades with musicians and friends, Tony Malaby (soprano and teno saxophones), Mark Helias (bass) and Gerard Cleaver (drums), whom he described as representing ‘the essence of musical wisdom, freedom and expression’. Always vital, always direct, Ades’s sound here is as urgent, passionate and stirring as ever. Released 01/11/15 on Lion Share Records.

Pianist Matt McMahon named this solo album after recording it. Having played freely through twelve improvisations, without any master plan, he listened back. It was then that he noticed his Irish heritage, ‘not necessarily in the foreground, but somewhere underneath or behind the sounds [he] was hearing’. As the title suggests, the piece seem to move through the vicissitudes of travel at sea – from the dreamy ‘Embarkation’, with its floating suspended chords that bring to mind Debussy’s compositions, to the wild, relentless rhythms of ‘Tempest Within’. March 2015. Paths and Streams Records.

Saxophonist Jeremy Rose, winner of the 2015 APRA AMCOS Professional Development Award for Jazz, has been playing with his quartet for ten years. Part of what gives this album its magic is that he wrote the Sand Lines suite specifically for its members: Jackson Harrison (piano), Alex Boneham (bass) and James Waples (drums). Over a decade, they’ve developed a striking level of musical empathy that, like any successful friendship, involves both familiarity and surprise. Track four, ‘Mind Over Matter’ is fittingly spirited tribute to the late David Ades, who Rose describes as ‘a mentor, friend and fellow surfer’. November 2015. Earshift Music.

Adelaide-born saxophonist Nick Hempton is now a permanent resident of New York. His fourth album, Catch and Release, was recorded with his working band in the city’s famous Smalls Jazz Club after hours, and released experimentally – one track at a time, every six weeks, for a year. Now it’s been remastered for CD. It swings hard, it’s packed with great melodies and it makes you want to move to New York immediately. With Dave Baron (bass), Dan Aran (drums), Jeremy Manasia (piano), Rossano Sportiello (piano), Tadataka Unno (piano, Peter Bernstein (guitar), Jerry Weldon (tenor saxophone) and Bruce Harri (trumpet). Released 2015.

Lauded by jazz legends Jimmy Heath and Vincent Herring, and a semifinalist in the 2013 Thelonious Monk International Saxophone Competition, alto saxophonist Michael Griffin shows why he’s worthy of the attention in his debut album, Unexpected Greeting. He blazes his way through six originals, as well as a handful of standards, including ‘As Times Goes By’, ‘Embraceable You’ and ‘Almost Like Being in Love’, featuring singer Briana Cowlishaw. His hard-swinging bop sound shows the influence of the blistering standards set by the likes of Charlie Parker and Cannonball Adderley, but at the same time, contains a bright, contemporary, essential vigour that’s all his own. With Dane Laborie (trumpet), Chris Long (piano), Brendan Clark (bass) and Tim Geldens (drums). Released 01/05/15 on ABC Jazz.


  1. Aidan

    I’m almost certain Steve Newcomb played piano, not guitar, on KRISTIN BERARDI’s album. He taught piano when I studied there, and continues to do so to my knowledge.

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