PERTH JAZZ SOCIETY: In the atmospheric surrounds of the downstairs bar at His Majesty’s Theatre, an intimate audience soaked up every note of this seamless performance.
Downstairs at the Maj in Perth – Australia’s only working Edwardian theatre – is a great intimate venue decorated in black and red. Not as atmospheric as previous incarnations of the downstairs bar in this spot, but certainly versatile, it allows for a range of cabaret, dance and jazz performers to be heard and appreciated by a small but keen audience.
Following on from the Cabaret Soiree Season, the Perth Jazz Society recently presented a series of piano-based concerts Downstairs at the Maj, concluding with Tom O’Halloran’s original jazz trio; masters of their art who had their audience members soaking up every note.
Over two sets, the trio performed nine pieces, and mostly hit the mark on all of them. I have to admit to not enjoying their slower, more meditative pieces as much as the other works – maybe it was just the cold Perth winter’s night and my still lingering flu that made me warm to their more energetic numbers.
Perth-born O’Halloran is a multi-faceted musician, composer and conductor, recently nominated for an APRA Australian Art Music Award, who has played numerous international gigs. Rounding out the trio are Pete Jeavons and Daniel Susnjar.
The three musicians played together seamlessly, the sporadic time spent rehearsing together not at all evident. They were a delight to watch – especially Susnjar on drums, so full of natural joy one couldn’t help but be involved in his music making.
The trio’s superb technique was evident across the range of styles performed, whether referencing Latin jive, an almost Bartokesque rhythmic drive, and some exquisite intermingling of double bass and piano riffs.
There were a few standouts, including ‘Get Me to the Village’, which had a palpable sense of pushing through the city streets in the driven but controlled drumming and bass line, and the excitable melodic structures and chord progressions of the piano. It was a truly visceral performance.
Closing the show, the moody ‘Tone Poem’ dragged you in with chunky bass bowing (hearing some of the wood) as well as the paper on the open strings of the grand piano giving textural momentum. ‘Tone Poem’ has a haunting and compelling quality, the three musicians so in tune with one another as they played it that it almost seemed as if they were creating a 3D sound sculpture.
It was a pleasure to be sitting in a Perth bar with such world quality jazz music on offer and it’s a shame there weren’t more people present to appreciate it. To hear more of the Tom O’Halloran Jazz Trio, check out their CDs, including We Happy Few, winner of an ABC Limelight Magazine award for best jazz achievement in 2009, and next time they’re on the menu, make sure you grab a seat.
Rating: 4 ½ stars out of 5
The Perth Jazz Society Presents: The Piano
Tom O’Halloran Jazz Trio
Tom O’Halloran (piano), Pete Jeavons (double bass) and Daniel Susnjar (drums)
Downstairs at the Maj (His Majesty’s Theatre) Perth