All posts by Eugene Ball

Alister Spence and Raymond MacDonald. Stepping Between the Shadows

Alister Spence, piano and prepared piano; Raymond MacDonald, alto and soprano saxophones
Improvisation, Jazz
Rufus Records, RF095
Reviewed by , September 1st, 2015

Two musicians improvising together can be imagined as a Venn diagram, where the distinct ‘musicalities’ (think personalities expressed through music) of the individuals partially converge in moments of shared experience. This is not to suggest, however, that improvisers working in this format concern themselves primarily with expanding the zone of intersection: On the contrary, playing… continue reading »

Big Sea

Arrow. Paul Derricott, drums; Hugh Barrett, piano; Dale Gorfinkel, vibes; Simon Ferenci, trumpet; Mike Majkowski, bass
Jazzgroove JGR057
Reviewed by , July 1st, 2015

We live in an age where diversity is the key to a successful and happy life as a jazz/contemporary musician. Consider then, the challenge for such musicians when the time comes to release a debut recording: How does a diverse player represent her/himself on a single recorded artefact? For some, the problem results in a… continue reading »

Fiddes vs Tinkler

Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra. Andy Fiddes – composer and conductor; Scott Tinkler – trumpet soloist; David Theak – soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, clarinet; Aaron Michael – alto saxophone, flute; Evan Harris – tenor saxophone, flute; Matt Keegan – tenor saxophone, alto clarinet; Nick Bowd – baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Darryl Carthew – trumpet, flugelhorn; Dane Laboyrie – trumpet, flugelhorn; Ray Cassar – trumpet, flugelhorn; Simon Ferenci – trumpet, flugelhorn; Dave Panichi – trombone; Eleanor Shearer – trombone; Ben Gurton – trombone; Justin Kearin – Bass trombone; Carl Morgan – guitar; Hugh Barrett – piano; Tom Botting – contrabass; Jamie Cameron – drums and cymbals
Big Band, Jazz, Music
Rattle Records, New Zealand
Reviewed by , April 1st, 2016

At first the idea of the musical union of trumpeter Scott Tinkler and the Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra might appear a little incongruous. One might wonder how Tinkler, whose music sits on the more ‘free’ side of the improvised music spectrum, might work within an ensemble that operates, of necessity, within defined, somewhat inflexible structures. The… continue reading »

Giraffe Solos

John Encarnacao
Experimental Music, Improvisation
Psychopajama Records #PJ 4911/ PJ4911CD
Reviewed by , May 1st, 2015

Giraffe Solos is a collection of wholly improvised pieces performed on a prepared steel string acoustic guitar. To help contextualize this, the latest release from John Encarnacao, it may be helpful to consider a little background on the link between the practice of preparing musical instruments and free improvisation. Since the middle of the 20th… continue reading »

Lounge Suite Tango

The Umbrellas. Peter Dasent, piano, organ and accordion; James Greening, trombone, pocket trumpet and sousaphone; Andrew Robson, alto and baritone saxophones; Andrew Wilkie, vibraphone and marimba; Zoe Hauptmann, double bass; Toby Hall, drums
Armchair Records ARM 01
Reviewed by , October 1st, 2015

I listened to this recording several times before I learned anything of the project leader and composer behind it. I must admit I was at first a tad bemused. Before my ears was a series of short, cartoon-esque tunes, but amid the caricatures were glimpses of deep, gritty improvising. It was tricky to know how… continue reading »

Matthew Sheens. Untranslatable

Matthew Sheens, piano, with Sara Serpa, vocals, Michael Mayo, vocals, Mike Moreno, guitar, Linda Oh, bass, Kenneth Salters, drums, Rodregio Boccato, percussion, Stefani Collins, violin 1, Francesca Dardani, violin 2, Yumi Oshima, viola, Hiro Matsuo, cello, Yanni Burton, double bass
ABC Music
Reviewed by , May 1st, 2015

Compositions that employ straight (not swung) quavers, complex meters and complex harmonic sequences have been heard in jazz for decades and are very much in vogue today. This is not surprising given that many young jazz musicians are heavily influenced by ‘popular’ music (straight quavers), and are conservatoire trained and as such, often drawn to… continue reading »

Melodious Thunk

Abbreviations Orchestra. Andrew Garton, alto saxophone; Dan Quigley, trumpet; Joe Roberts, tenor saxophone; John Carpenter, trombone; Bruce Woodard, guitar; Phil Jack, bass; Nathan Goldman, drums; guest: Zac Hurren, tenor saxophone
Self-release, available for free digital download
Reviewed by , November 1st, 2015

While the Abbreviations Orchestra is not (by definition) a ‘big band’, its debut album Melodious Thunk is certainly situated more in the realm of highly composed music than the world of improvisation. Though improvisation is a significant component, it is the execution of the notated material that takes precedence here. Happily, the notated material is… continue reading »


Arrow. Paul Derricott, drums and compositions; Eamon Dilworth, trumpet and compositions; Thomas Botting, double bass; Ben Hauptman, guitar
Alluvium Records AR003
Reviewed by , August 1st, 2015

Navigator is the second release from drummer Paul Derricott under the ensemble name Arrow. Given that he penned over 50% of the album, however, perhaps credit belongs equally to Derricott’s long-time collaborator, trumpeter Eamon Dilworth. Navigator is, in fact, a recording built on the notion of collaboration. This is not an album of tunes that… continue reading »

Seasons of Love

Gian Slater, Eddie Perfect, Tony Gould and Graeme Lyall
Move MD 3365
Reviewed by , April 1st, 2015

Jazz musicians have been recording with strings for some time now. Though dance bands of the 1940s often employed small string sections, it was the albums of the 1950s featuring the most prominent instrumentalists of the day – Parker, Clifford, Dizzy, Wes – that truly established the tradition in which Seasons of Love sits. While… continue reading »

The Denominators

The Denominators. Paul Derricott, drums; Brendan Clarke, bass; Hugh Barrett, rhodes; Dave Jackson, saxophone. Guest: James Muller, guitar
Reviewed by , December 1st, 2015

I am reticent to generalise, but I am confident that many of you will agree that the notion of excitement in music has something to do with the relationship between accuracy and risk. While we like to hear music that is executed with precision, perfection is not the end-goal. While this is arguably true of… continue reading »

The Sweetness of Things Half-Remembered

Rafael Karlen, tenor saxophone; Steve Newcomb, piano; Rebecca Karlen, violin; Eugenie Costello-Shaw, violin; Alice Buckingham, viola; Danielle Bentley, cello
Classical, Jazz, New Music
To purchase, go to
Reviewed by , February 1st, 2016

I faintly recall a time, which might be called the Ignorant Ages, in which some champions of composed music looked upon improvised music with disdain, and deemed it devoid of the nuance and complexity of composed music. At the same time, some devotees of improvised music derided composed music, declaring it uncreative, unimaginative and unadventurous…. continue reading »

Volume Two

The Cope Street Parade. Justin Fermino, tenor saxophone and vocals; Ben Panucci, guitar and vocals; Aaron Flower, guitar; Sam Dobson, double bass; Grant Arthur, sousaphone, trombone and backing vocals
Jazz, Traditional
Yum Yum Tree Records YYTR 016
Reviewed by , April 1st, 2015

Early jazz styles have a long and rich history in Australia. Though their popularity has repeatedly waxed and waned, the tradition remains very much alive in Australia today. There is, however, a dilemma with which most contemporary musicians who look to the past for inspiration must grapple, which lies around the false dichotomy of imitation… continue reading »

About Eugene Ball

Multi-award winning Australian trumpeter Eugene Ball has received widespread national and international recognition throughout a professional career that has featured performances with some of the biggest names in music. Eugene is also a prolific composer, music director and arranger as well as an in demand educator. Eugene currently lectures at Melbourne Polytechnic, Melbourne University Faculty of VCA and MCM, and Monash University.

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