David Theak is an accomplished saxophonist whose passion and excellence have underlined his involvement with the Australian jazz scene since the 1990s. On Thursday 14 September, Theak was joined by the West Australian Youth Jazz Orchestra (WAYJO) MinterEllison Monday Night Orchestra (MNO) for the first stop on its regional tour.
These talented individuals came together in the Mandurah Performing Arts Centre’s Fishtrap Theatre to perform the music of Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra and more in their exciting collaboration, Don’t Get Around Much Anymore: David Theak Meets WAYJO. WAYJO MNO’s classic repertoire is heavily inspired by the big bands of the 1930s-60s. Musical Director, Ricki Malet, who teaches at the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), has decades of performance experience and numerous studio albums under his belt.
The set began with songs like Stan Kenton’s’ Eager Beaver’ and Sidney Clare and Sam H Stept’s ‘Please Don’t Talk About me When I’m Gone’, most recognisable from Frank Sinatra’s 1961 album, Swing Along with Me. Duke Ellington’s ‘I Got it Bad (and That Ain’t Good)’ (featuring Titan Tran on alto saxophone) slowed things down with sultry sax and long lazy notes.
From the beginning, it was clear that the musicians were – in addition to being exceptionally well-practised – genuinely feeling the music. Rio Berryman’s smooth vocals rang out in vintage style across a range of pieces, all of which were warmly received by an enthusiastic audience. Impeccable timing did not come at the expense of artistic expression, as these masters of music leaped into action, transporting their audience to bygone eras and formative memories with rousing melodies.
Featuring Ray Prasetya on alto saxophone, Curtis Mayfield’s ‘Woman’s Got Soul’ lifted the energy with a lively sound, its richness held together by the standout work of Kevin Huang on drums.
David Theak’s swinging sax featured in ‘Pennies from Heaven’, a 1936 song by Arthur Johnston and Johnny Burke. This has been performed by everyone from Billie Holiday to Doris Day, Louis Armstrong and Frank Sinatra, although younger audiences may be more familiar with Seth MacFarlane’s performance in the 2016 film, Sing. Joining the ranks of these illustrious performers, Theak and WAYJO leaned into the strength of a hearty aural build-up, uplifting the mood of all in attendance with cheerful synergy.
Quincy Jones’ ballad ‘For Lena and Lenny’, opened with a swirl of sounds that settled on Theak, whose saxophone’s sonic qualities enhanced the aural richness emanating from the orchestra. Pianist Valentina Macias shone throughout the titular song ‘Don’t get Around Much Anymore’, a jazz standard first recorded by Duke Ellington and his orchestra in 1940, and performed by many greats since.
One of many performance highlights was the sonorous scatting of Berryman and Theak, who bounced beautifully off one another’s performances. There were multiple moments in which attendees clapped along with the beat, compelled by the reciprocal brain-buzz the right kind of jazz can imbue in an emotionally engaged audience.
After intermission, Oli Blyth on trumpet featured in Ellington’s ‘Take the A Train’, bringing the audience back onto the musical realm. Berryman returned for ‘I Won’t Dance’ with Theak on tenor sax, before ‘The Shadow of Your Smile’ lulled the audience into a dreamy state of bossa nova reverence.
‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat’, a hypnotic jazz instrumental written by Charles Mingus, showcased Theak’s superb ability as a saxophonist. Sam Markham rocked the bass like the start of a storm, with notes subtle-like-raindrops and low-like-thunder, intensity rising as the orchestra built to a languorous but all-encompassing sound-swell.
Phoebe Cameron was outstanding on the tenor sax alongside Theak in ‘Evil Man Blues’, which incited much toe-tapping. Similarly, the energetic finale ‘Jumpin’ at the Woodside’ had the audience clapping along once again, leading to an encore that signalled a perfect ending to an impressive set.
Lightly punctuated by Malet’s entertaining banter, this engaging performance was characterised by expertly expressed dynamics merged with an impressive aural fluidity to convey – not just competence – but genuine passion.
Fishtrap Theatre, Mandurah Performing Arts Centre
WAYJO MinterEllison Monday Night Orchestra (MNO)
Musical Director: Ricki Malet
Featuring: David Theak
Alto Saxophones: Ray Prasetya, Titan Tran
Tenor Saxophones: Phoebe Cameron, Isabelle Cranley Dixon
Baritone Saxophone: Ethan French
Trumpets: Monique Rossi, Oli Blyth, Noah Hawke, Sophie Burrows
Trombones: Morgan Ineson, Emily Scully, Adrian Visser
Bass Trombone: Angus Lawrie
Guitar: Rohan Guy
Piano: Valentina Macias
Bass: Sam Markham
Drums: Kevin Huang
Vocals: Rio Berryman
Don’t Get Around Much Any More was performed on 16 September 2023.