Backstage Club with Libby O’Donovan at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival

Backstage club

I am not going to lie. Probably some of the most stressful gigs I have done in recent times were last weekend at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival in the Backstage Club. I got to be part of the backing band behind Libby O’Donovan and her long list of guests. Stressful but ultimately rewarding.

Why stressful? Well, you never know what is going to happen. If you are lucky the artists will give you music the day before. Or they will come to the afternoon ‘soundcheck/rehearsal. Or they might show you the music before you go onstage. Or give it to when you are onstage just as you are about to perform it. Or maybe there is no music and you have advance notice and get to learn it from youtube. Or it gets called as you are onstage and you just have to hope that you have a vague idea about how it goes.

Anyway, we got through it and played for Kate Fuller, Amelia Ryan, Michael Falzon, Jane Cho, Amity Dry, Beccy Cole, Naomi Eyers, Kate Ceberano, ZacTyler, Marty and some others I can’t remember. Some great moments onstage, and a few terrifying ones. Like when someone accidentally took Jamie the bass player’s music off his stand just before we were playing for Naomi, and I had to yell out the chords to Jamie for the entire song (It was not a country song….)

Good to feel alive. Glad to have a night off.

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Beccy Cole and Libby O’Donovan: The Cowgirl and the Showgirl at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival

One of the most fun shows I have had the pleasure of working on is Beccy Cole and Libby O’Donovan’s “The Cowgirl and the Showgirl.” These two performers from very different worlds have teamed up to create a really amusing show where they poke fun at each other’s genres while presenting some good quality Country, Jazz and Music Theatre. Libby has created some pretty impressive medleys (the opening one lasts for nearly 10 mins and moves through 22 songs). Great to work alongside Jarrad Payne, drummer extraordinaire in many of my projects and two great country and pop/rock musicians from Sydney; Mick Albeck on violin and Sean Rudd on bass. It is good to learn more about the country vibe from them.

Shows in the Backstage Club/Banquet Room at the Festival Theatre June 11, 12 and 13. All sold out months ago.

Beccy Cole and Libby O'Donovan

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Amity Dry: “The Block to Broadway and Beyond” at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival

I have been working as Amity’s MD for maybe 5 years, most frequently in Mother Wife and the Complicated Life. This new show tells Amity’s story from her teenage dreams of mega stardom, to her temporary C-Grade star status thanks to The Block, to obscurity again, back to Reality TV and onto our work in NYC. It is quite weird being involved in a show where some of the stories involve me, especially the NYC ones from last year where things were rather stressful. Amity has written some new songs, and on one  I got to create quite a fast country-ish accompaniment—I quite like it. I have been doing a fair bit of arranging work here and we have created quite a neat version of ‘Empire State of Mind.’

Shows are at the Artspace June 12 and 13.AMity

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Carla Lippis, Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2014

 

Carla LippisCertainly one of the most intersting shows I am playing for in the Adelaide Cabaret Festival is ‘Brenta’s Bad Thing’ featuring Local Alt Country Superstar Carla Lippis. My good friend Steve Pederson is the MD, playing guitar, mandolin, and pedal steel, alongside Afronaut Kevin Van Der Zwaag on drums. I haven’t worked with Steve in years.

The show is really trippy but a lot of fun, mixing Italian wedding songs, 60’s Italian Pop, Country and an over-the-top 80’s power ballad where the whole band have to sing top A’s and Bb’s in full voice (falsetto not allowed).

Fun at the Artspace June 6, 7 and 8 in the Cab Fest.

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Vale Mike Stewart

The last month has been one of the busiest and most challenging for me and for the jazz community in Adelaide. I think I may have broken a few personal records with the number of different shows I was involved with, but the month was shattered by the shock and aftershocks of the untimely passing of our friend, colleague and all-round good guy, saxophonist Mike Stewart.

I met Mike back in 1996 and he was a key member of my band Marmalade Circus from its inception til the time he left for NYC in 2003. Since he returned in about 2006 we have worked together on numerous projects, most notably the JAZZSA Youth Superbands and the JAZZSA JazzCamp. We travelled around NZ with him and his then partner Jo Lawry back in early 2000, we performed at the Thredbo, Manly and numerous Glenelg Jazz Festivals together, and the Sydney Festival. Mike house-sat for us on many occasions and was a great friend of our dog

Mike was a great teacher, a great encourager and a great motivator. He helped to establish a scene here in Adelaide through his own Big Band, the JAZZSA Youth Superbands, the JAZZSA program in general and his other small bands, most notably the Airbenders who still play every Tuesday night at the Gilbert Hotel.

I posted a recording of an early incarnation of Marmalade Circus playing my version of A L Webber’s ‘Memory’ featuring Mike on soprano sax at http://youtu.be/2s-wugODiJs  I just loved Mike’s soprano sound. I think the last time I heard him play it was on a corporate show called Illure a few months ago; he made that horn sing. We had to do that show again 5 days after Mike died—tough gig.

Mike had commissioned me, through JAZZSA, to write two sets of arrangements of Radiohead tunes for my quartet which we first performed in November 2013. It is fitting that it was just as we were about to go onstage, to do another performance of the show (this time for COMA) that we found out that Mike Stewart had passed away. We spent that gig on auto-pilot, (but I am thankful that I had done a lot of practice so that I could have an autopilot). We were in complete disbelief, and I think most of us still are.

Mike’s funeral, wake and Memorial gig at the Gov the following week were incredible events where musicians from across the country came to pay their respects to this dynamo of the scene. We have all been so clearly reminded of how fleeting life can be, and to focus on those things that are most important. One of Mike’s greatest skills was in ‘the hang,’ that time before or after a gig where you just talk (OK they would drink too) and this is an area where I need to take a leaf out of his book (minus the beer).

We are all missing Mike and the things he did.

 

 

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Orquesta Mermelada @ Nexus, Adelaide, May 30 with Kone Express

So this is what I have been doing with my time, arranging for my new band—Orquesta Mermelada—a 19-piece Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, featuring Fabian Hevia on congas. Below is our spiel, and line-up… Pretty darn excited!

Fabian Hevia and Mark Simeon Ferguson from Orquesta Mermelada—image by Andy Rasheed

Fabian Hevia and Mark Simeon Ferguson from Orquesta Mermelada—image by Andy Rasheed

With the grunt of a full Big Band and the groove of a Latino dance band, Orquesta Mermelada pack a powerful punch. In the spirit of the Arturo O’Farrill’s New York City Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, the newly formed Orquesta Mermelada play tunes from leader Mark Simeon Ferguson (Marmalade Circus) alongside a few favourites from Tito Puente and Eddie Palmieri. The band features Fabian Hevia, one of Australia’s leading latin music experts on congas, alongside a bunch of young and hungry players and a few veterans of the latin dance scene. Expect Mambo, Salsa, Rumba Colombia, Cumbia, Guaguanco and a bit of Boogaloo.

Featuring:

Fabian Hevia-congas,

Christian Cifuentes-percussion/vocals,

Wade Nixon-timbales/drum kit,

Shireen Khemlani-bass,

Liam Garcia Hardman-tres/guitar

Mark Simeon Ferguson-leader/piano,

Alex Musolino-alto sax,

Daniel Gibbons-alto sax,

Alex Ioakim-tenor sax/flute,

Tom Bastians-tenor sax/clarnet,

Dustan Cox-baritone sax,

Sean Helps-trumpet

Sam Hick-trumpet

Hayden King-trumpet

Luke White-trumpet

Alex Taylor-trombone

Steve Bickely-trombone

Aaron Deanshaw-trombone

Cass Pope-Bass trombone

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Optimistic: The Radiohead Project for COMA, Monday May 19

We get to do this great project again!

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Here is the spiel:

Commissioned by JazzSA as part of their 2013 Remix project, Mark Simeon Ferguson’s Optimistic: The Radiohead Project takes the music of the indie rock heavyweights for a spin. Big guitars, slamming drums and some jazz stuff but no hint of marmalade…

Featuring James Brown on guitar/effects, Shireen Khemlani on basses, Jarrad Payne on drums with leader Mark Simeon Ferguson writing the arrangements and playing keyboards.
Thanks to COMA the group are getting another chance to smash out some tunes on May 19 at the Wheatsheaf alongside the excellent improvisers Moose and Squirrel.

Moose and Squirrel and Radiohead Project

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Libby O’Donovan at Greg Cooley Wines in Clare

Great to play up in my home town (Clare) with one of my favourite singers, Libby O’Donovan. We played two nights over Easter in Cabaret mode. And yes she did audience requests again….. the first night it was all cool, but the second night someone called out for ‘I am Woman’ so I launched into it with gusto, Libby sang…. and then… the bridge… thankfully she kept singing…. might need to make sure I know that one for future gigs.

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Mother Wife and the Complicated Life in NYC again

 

MWCL

We went back to New York! Amity and Phil managed to get the show a gig as a side-event at the Unites Nations Commission for the Status of Women conference. It was a pretty interesting experience. But importantly we also performed at the fantastic cabaret venue 54 Below, and a bunch of very influential producers etc were there. Things are looking good for the future of the show. The season in Norway February 2015 is going ahead and there is a substantial Australian tour in the works in 2015.

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Wilpena Under the Stars with Deni Hines

For the second year in the a row I had the privilege of travelling up to Wilpena Pound to perform at the Wilpena Under the Stars fundraiser for the Royal Flying Doctor’s Service. This year we played a party set and backed the fascinating singer Deni Hines. She is certainly a character, but what a great time feel and such groovy phrasing.

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