Friday, January 28, 2005

New review of CD

The following review of my new CD, written by Jenny Game-Lopata was just published in Music Forum magazine.
Keeping The Standards was recorded live at the Basement in Sydney marking the culmination of a collaboration between Isaacs, Nussbaum and Anderson that took them to Finland in 2002 for the Pori International Jazz Festival. The same year,they performed for the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz. Primarily known to us as a composer and performer of his own compositions, Isaacs delivers a stunning performance of jazz standards. Isaacs takes the listener on an exhilarating journey that reaches the far corners of twentieth century jazz repertoire with fluidity and unpredictability. The result is a definitive contemporary statement. Anderson lives up to his reputation with an omnipresence that fulfils much more than a support role. His ideas contribute significantly to the direction and mood of the music. Regardless of the twists and turns Isaacs takes, Anderson is right there suggesting possibilities and directions. The five well structured tracks display ample contrast to sustain the listener’s interest.

Skylark opens with a soft unmetered piano improvisation that eases into a sensitive interpretation of this classic ballad. Isaacs soon moves his solo convincingly into double time and a swing feel that takes the piece to a dizzy climax peppered with the blues.

In Gone With The Wind Anderson and Nussbaum reveal the fruits of their long collaboration trading eights, fours then twos with great humour and dexterity. Isaacs then tears in to his solo with energy - a highlight for me has Isaacs playing semiquavers with his right hand and an atonal countermelody in crochet triplets with his left.

Footprints has an easy tempo and opens with an unaccompanied, contemplative bass solo. Anderson’s phrasing is well constructed and melodic. It is interesting to note that Wayne Shorter, composer of this classic jazz standard, released an up-tempo live version of this piece on his acclaimed Footprints-Live CD the same year Isaacs recorded his version. Isaacs places his own stamp on the tune characteristically building his solo from sparse to intense and utilising surprising contrapuntal and rhythmic ideas to propel this modal classic.

A solo unmetered piano head shifts unexpectedly into a 2/4 interpretation of the fast waltz Falling in Love with Love. Isaacs’s impeccable technique allows him to execute his multifarious ideas with breathtaking accuracy. You can relax on the roller coaster ride with this trio, confident that all the structures are sound – it’s well worth the experience.

The moving finale, Somewhere is perhaps the least well-known track on the CD. This tune in particular reveals Isaacs’s twentieth century classical influences, as he allows them to filter freely through his improvisations. Nussbaum displays a keen timbrel and dynamic sensitivity throughout the pedal vamp that concludes the piece.

Isaacs, Nussbaum, and Anderson are doing more than Keeping the Standards, they are surely raising them.

(A compendium of quotes from all the reviews to date here).

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

May international tour

I'm excited to have confirmed two concerts in Turkey at Istanbul's premier jazz club Nardis, Friday May 13 and Saturday May 14. I will fly to Instanbul directly from Bucharest following my Romanian concerts, it's quite close.

Finished editing

Well, after many individual converations with all the members of the Tankstream Quartet mostly by phone and email I have finally finished all the edits to my String Quartet No. 3. Now to binding the score, extracting parts and sending them over!

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


I am now into the process of doing some editing of my string quartet as feedback starts coming in from the players. Particularly in the first movement even my eyebrows were raised at a couple of things I wrote, as regards their technical feasibility. I put them in the first draft anyway just in case they weren't that hard, one can always pare back. From the comments I am getting there are certainly a few things I have written that are either impossible or very impractical. With the latter I would much sooner find a solution that keeps the musical integrity and intention but is technically facilitated so the player can put more energy into interpretation and sound rather than surmounting an extreme technical challenge for no sake but its own.

Friday, January 07, 2005

International tour for May

I have begun working with presenters regarding my international tour for May this year. The last three years I have toured internationally in July, the summer season in the northern hemisphere and so a spring tour will be a pleasant change. Central to the tour will be my performances in Bucharest, Romania at the International Music Festival Jeunesses Musicales Bucharest. I am also talking to presenters elsewhere in Europe (Germany, UK and the Baltic States) as well as looking at stopovers in Korea and the USA for concerts. I feel blessed with the many varied countries that have welcomed me to perform: in the last 3 years I have performed in Russia, Finland, China, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, USA, Latvia and Estonia and now to add places like Romania is very exciting. I am also lucky enough to travel regularly and extensively in my own country.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Transition to new project

Had my piano tuned, a couple of broken strings replaced and other adjustments to the beast today. Tomorrow I will start exploring some ideas for a cycle of solo piano pieces. In the last few days I have been catching up with a backlog of administration and correspondence as well as dealing with computer gremlins and home appliance failures. Yesterday a couple of my lovely young jazz player colleagues came by especially to play with me. Their suggestion, no projects in the offing and it was great fun. Haven't been feeling very connected to jazz playing of late so it reaffirmed my connection there.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Tweak Tweak

In the last 48 hours I have found a handful of small revisions to the string quartet - a bar here, a bar there - that smooth out a few wrinkles where I have had just too much repetition in some of the inner parts or not enough variety in the modulations. It is a fine line to balance repetition - effective when used judiciously - with the ear's need for refreshment and variety. I was tinkering away until about 7pm on New Year's Eve and all day today New Year's Day. Obsessive.