October 2011

Arts & Letters

Jazz masterpiece

By John Clare
Ten Part Invention - ‘Unidentified Spaces’, 2001

Ten Part Invention is a Sydney band formed more than 20 years ago to perform Australian jazz music. It still has a solid, often ecstatic, following. This album has a wealth of writing from two band members who are among our greatest composers: Sandy Evans and Miroslav Bukovsky. Evans is represented by the title work, a suite whose four sections range across a wide spectrum, from bursting rhythmic permutations to static limpidity. Bukovsky’s ‘Folk Song’ is a vast expansion of the possibilities of a Romanian melody. It billows out in high, transparent and eerily oscillating harmonies, and coalesces in hard, driving sections of great intensity. Here alto saxophonist Bernie McGann and double bassist Steve Elphick produce some of their greatest improvised statements.

Ensembles such as this (ten pieces in this case) have made some of my favourite jazz. Allan Browne, Stu Hunter, Sam Keevers and Paul Grabowsky have also recorded outstanding examples, where the writing creates architecture and atmosphere – a cityscape if you like – which is populated by some of our most distinctive and brilliant solo voices. Evans and Bukovsky are amongst those in Ten Part: likewise trombonist James Greening, trumpeter Warwick Alder, baritone saxophonist Bob Bertles and drummer and founder John Pochée. The towering figure on the day is Bernie McGann, whose fire and melodic beauty are marvellously showcased.

—John Clare

John Clare
John Clare is a journalist, reviewer and the author of Bodgie Dada, a history of Australian jazz.

The members of Ten Part Invention, founded by John Pochée (third from right).
Cover: October 2011
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