Free Parking for improvisation in multiple environments.

Monday, February 28, 2005 a burning thing...

So on Saturday night I dreamt I was playing trumpet in Johnny Cash's band at the Aotea Centre (playing the hornline from Ring of Fire).

We finished the concert with a rendition of Ring of Fire (of course) and then Johnny's encore consisted of going down into the audience and playing some solo stuff. Tennessee Stud, and probably some other songs off his American Recordings album (1994). I ended up crying because of the generosity of Mr Cash's gesture to his audience - actually going and down and sitting with them and singing songs.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Karneval for Auckland

And so we embark into Auckland's second true Arts Festival - AK05: a project that has been a long time coming to this city, and has suffered innumerable setbacks over the years. Brian Rudman made some good points in the Herald on Friday... as the Auckland Festival moves into the future, we should be playing to our city's strengths as a city in the Asia-Pacific.

My thought was - the AK05/07/09 festivals are scheduled to take place in February/March every two years - that's Karneval season in cities around the world, from Rio to New Orleans to Nice to Köln. Why not turn the bloody thing into an Auckland Karneval... incorporating aspects of the Pasifika Festival, the Chinese Lunar New Year, the Secondary Schools Maori and Pacific Islands Festival and European-style Carnival/Mardi Gras.

AK Samba- In Wellington, of all places

So many of the elements are already in place: the city has a samba school, we've got kapa haka, dragon dancers, Polynesian performance groups of all ethnicities, brass bands, and maybe we could attract some hippies from Coromandel to do fire poi. This would make for one mother of a parade. So much of this stuff is already "operational" and loved by Aucklanders at events such as the Grey Lynn Festival, the K Road Karnival, Pasifika and the Lantern Festival. We could run the parade as the centrepiece of the arts festival. Close the city for three days and party. It would rock. Let's do it.

Saturday, February 26, 2005


A capacity Friday night crowd greeted The Hot Grits last evening at the first installment of the Auckland Festival Late Lounge at the Wintergarden. They are a really fun band, and had the punters filling the dancefloor in about 3 seconds flat. A nice set of Meters-inspired funk and several large, extended dollops of Afrobeat (what's with the rise of Afrobeat Orchestras in NZ at the moment? The Grits here in Auckland, Scribes of Ra in Wellington. There's an audience out there for it too...)

Some Grits at Float bar, August 2004

Since the Grits dont have any records available, its a good thing they've put some of their songs online.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Breakin the Beat

Broke n'Beat Radio - respect. Now I'm not always the biggest fan of dance/club music, but there is some stuff I can really get to: for example, the stream of work represented by artists like NuSpirit Helsinki, King Britt, Mark de Clive-Lowe and New Zealand's own Thisinformation. Broke n' Beat Radio is one of the best places I've found to sample this sort of stuff, an outfit out of Philadelphia that has great DJ sets available online in mp3 and streaming realaudio. Normally there's a new mp3 every week or so.

They also have a some nice photos and some styley wallpapers... this one particularly grabbed me of course, the cross-colonialism going on here is quite mind-bending.

Tumeke !

For the most part, the stuff served up on Broke'n'Beat is pretty intelligent, and very concious of its roots - whether that's Sun Ra, Curtis Mayfield or Sugarhill Gang. Nice groovy listening.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

one million dollars in Sydney

So here are some photos taken during our successful trip to Sydney. We played two gigs at the Beach Road Hotel in Bondi, who also kindly provided us with accomodation for our stay. Thanks also to Claudia (Sugarlicks Australia), Vitamin Records and everyone who helped the gigs happen !

The Band and Support Crew

Some guy playing flugelhorn - Beach Road Hotel

Beach Road Hotel, Sunday 20th February 2005

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

"Sound City" Part Two - Brass Ensemble

Here are a few images from our performance on February 4th in Freyberg Place, downtown Auckland. The band was essentially made up of members of the Brassouls, (probably the closest thing Auckland has to a Guggamusik), and we played game pieces, free improv and undertook guerilla raids into local bars... lots of fun in the subtropical heat !

All Together Now

Sam Hamilton

Al McMillan

Parting Shot

"Shotgun Golf was invented in the ominous summer of 2004 AD, right here at the Owl Farm in Woody Creek, Colo. The first game was played between me and Sheriff Bob Braudis, on the ancient Bomb & Shooting Range of the Woody Creek Rod & Gun Club. It was witnessed by many members and other invited guests, and filmed for historical purposes by Dr. Thompson on Super-Beta videotape.

The game consists of one golfer, one shooter and a field judge. The purpose of the game is to shoot your opponent's high-flying golf ball out of the air with a finely-tuned 12-gauge shotgun, thus preventing him (your opponent) from lofting a 9-iron approach shot onto a distant "green" and making a "hole in one." Points are scored by blasting your opponent's shiny new Titleist out of the air and causing his shot to fail miserably. That earns you two points.

But if you miss and your enemy holes out, he (or she) wins two points when his ball hits and stays on the green.

And after that, you trade places and equipment, and move on to round 2."

-Hunter S. Thompson, (1937-2005) from his final article, written for

Demo Recording - January 29th 2005

Yes, I'm back from a long weekend in the Lucky Country, and I've got my photos developed. (Still a slave to analogue technology...) So to start with, here are some photos taken at the band's demo recording at Hotel Vermont Studios (Tom's garage) at the end of January.

Richie Setford - El Presidente

Ben Anderson - Percussion and Enthusiasm

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Discovery of the Day: Silex

I have nothing better to do these days than read David Fenech's audioblog, which is a constant source of surprises, rude noises and welcome discoveries.

Today's post - Silex, a sort of melodic Chris Knox
à la sauce normande-parisienne. Superb. You can listen to many of his songs online - my favourites so far... Le Temps Soustrait la Vérité and Tout est des Chaussures.

OK, enough for today. Tomorrow, the band flies to Australia ! All going well, there should be a report and photos on the blog next week.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


OK people, here's a silly mindless post. Gizoogle is a "gangsta" version of Google. You can load webpages into it and they come out like this:

Many hours of fun can be had by translating sites like BBC News and Project for the New American Century. (Pages may take a while to load).

Destiny Church:God is say'n it is time ta be a thugz of tha Kingdom.

George W. Bush's State of the Union speech: "America's actions will result in tha spread of democracy in tha broada Middle East - an important step that W-to-tha-izzill provide an alternative ta terror n violence doggystyle. To promote peace in tha Middle East , tha President believes we miznust continue ta confront those who is still mackin' terrorists n shit."


Monday, February 14, 2005


A near-capacity crowd greeted DJ Krush's midnight set at Studio on K Road on Friday night. I went along with a friend of mine, not exactly sure what to expect, knowing the Tokyo-based DJ and producer more by reputation than by his music. Krush has been around since forever, (along with Massive Attack and EBTG he was a name to conjure with when I was still at school ten years ago). It seems that he's remixed just about everybody. So I was curious and, I hope, open-minded enough to accept whatever Krush dished out.

DJ Krush

Darkness and crushing basslines was what he served up, and very skilfully done, too. This was hip-hop, Jim, but not as we know it in New Zealand. Few vocal tracks, and nary a melody in sight. For about 2 hours, Krush surfed a dangerous wave that threatened to tip over the edge into drum and bass, but was pulled back from the brink at the last moment. It seemed to me that Mr Krush was playing his own little joke on the crowd, seeing how close he could push the jungle barrier without crashing through it. For most of the party people there, it was an exciting ride.

The set ended with Krush getting his photo taken by one of his crew (Japanese culture profers certain obligations), before returning to the decks for a short encore of breaks-oriented soul: providing the most melodic moments of the night.

Like Kid Koala a few weeks earlier, DJ Krush is an ace pilot of his three turntables and effects rack, and he reminded us kiwis that while we have many skilled DJs in this country, there is a yawning gap between the merely skilled and the truly great. What was most satisfying was that his set made great musical sense, from overwhelming passages of cut up breakbeats and scratching to a couple of abstract and ambient moments which flirted with sound-sculpture. DJ Krush-san, arigato gozaimasu!

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Moon River

Yay! I've found an online version of Kid Koala's Moon River mix. Thanks to the mind-bogglingly huge BBC website! For me, this routine was the highlight of Kid Koala's show in Auckland in January. It really is a little jewel of perversity. I don't know what I like better - 5 minutes of scratching without beats, or the concept of mashing up Henry Mancini.

Wayne Shorter's 4/4 arrangement of Moon River for Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers (Buhaina's Delight -Blue Note, 1962) is also a lot of fun.

En plus, merci à M. David Fenech, who thought my blog was vraiment tres bien.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Incredible Jimmy Smith, 1925-2005

Jimmy Smith, the man who almost single-handedly launched and defined the Hammond B-3 organ as a serious instrument in jazz, died peacefully at his home in Arizona on Tuesday 8th February.

The ever-excellent Soul Sides appeared to be the first site to note the event late last night NZ time, a good 12 hours before the mainstream media sites started posting obituaries.

At a personal level, Jimmy Smith is significant in my early musical awakenings. One of Dad's favourite albums is Jimmy Smith's "The Cat" (Verve, 1964), recorded with the Lalo Schifrin Orchestra, and this LP was one of the first jazz records I ever heard. I still remember how exciting that record sounded, with its distintive red cover featuring an out-of-focus black cat on the prowl. There was something in that sound that sang of constrained agressivity, passion bubbling under the surface. Even for a three year old kid dancing round a sunny living room in suburban Auckland in 1981 , it sounded,

It is little exaggeration to say that Jimmy Smith is jazz organ for the second half of the twentieth century. Geoff Alexander has written the best history of jazz organ, freely available online, and it accurately divides the evolution of this subgenre into pre-Smith and post-Smith. Indeed, any organist today who denies being influenced by Jimmy Smith is flat-out lying. It's a bit like a trumpet player saying that they haven't been influenced by Miles. From Lonnie Smith and Brother Jack McDuff through to John Medeski, all modern organ players have had to assimilate Smith's innovations before moving onto new territories.

As organist Joey DeFrancesco put it well in a Reuters interview last year: "Anyone who plays the organ is a direct descendant of Jimmy Smith. It's like Adam and Eve -- you always remind someone of Jimmy Smith."

Jimmy Smith's mana was amplified over the years by a high calibre posse of collaborators, particularly in the late 50s and 1960s: Kenny Burrell, Oliver Nelson, Ike Quebec, Wes Montgomery, Lou Donaldson, Stanley Turrentine, Jackie McLean and Lee Morgan. His work lies at the grassroots of much soul and gospel influenced jazz and groove music. Smith's considerable back catalogue will likely be sampled and reconstructed by producers and turntablists for decades to come, but there will never be another Jimmy Smith.

"Sound City" Part One - Conch Ensemble

Here are some photos of Kingsley Melhuish and the Conch Ensemble performing on January 30th at Freyberg Place in downtown Auckland. There were 9 of us, each calling and replying from rooftops and various vantage points around the square. All part of the Auckland City "Living Room" events being held this summer. With events like this and Vitamin S, the Auckland sound-performance scene is in good health...

Kingsley Melhuish

Kingsley on the Roof

Yes, that's me! More rooftop conch madness...

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Spinning in Infinity?

Over on Spythoughts, Nick has posted a piece on the species-centrism of mankind.

I thought I had a good comment to add to his post, but then as I started to explain myself I realised my train of logic was leading me off the edge into a void. However, I'll post this anyway because it's probably just as good as any of my other silly posts recently.

Yup, I think that humans as a race tend to be fairly species-centric. Then again, cheetahs would be cheetah-centric in their understanding of the universe, just as hammerhead worms would be hammerhead worm-centric.

Mmmm, no, I won't do the dishes today...

So we view the universe in the context of what makes sense to us as a human species. This is the same for our cultures and societies. People tend to view can categorise the world based on what is 'familiar' and 'normal' to them based on their life experience.

When I was in Vanuatu last year, one of the people in the village where we stayed told me about her trip to New Zealand. She thought it was really funny that all the cars and trucks in Auckland were told what to do by electric lights that changed colour. There are no traffic lights in Vanuatu. And similarly, I, the visitor from neatly-mown suburban Mount Eden, thought it was very strange to have pigs and chickens wandering wild past my house all day. What do you when you are woken in the morning by a pig's snout pushing through the door?

I think we're often afraid to go outside out box. Our comfort zone is tiny, and it can be scary (or exciting) to realise that we're just a small part of an unimaginably vast black void that defies our understanding. The December Tsunami demonstrated that even on our tiny blue-green dot, the forces of nature can wipe us out in a moment. We are infinitely fragile, and the universe is so big. But surely this is part of what a journey of faith is about - stepping outside the spaceship, daring to peer through that telescope?

I think we tend to avoid looking outside our box because the enormity of the universe and our apparent insignificance could numb us into complete inaction. In the grand scheme of expanding quantum particles, stardust and galaxies, what's the point of taking the rubbish out, getting an education, or starting a family? None of these human activities seems to make any difference at all in this context.

But maybe a wider consciousness of our miniscule-ness (OK that's not a word) in the face of creation could have some positive effects on mankind. I found this quote from Arthur C. Clarke:

"It is not easy to see how the more extreme forms of nationalism can long survive when men have seen the Earth in its true perspective as a single small globe against the stars."

Another Clarke quote I found on the same page seems to sum up the awe we can sense when we start to think beyond the realms of what we know and understand.

"Sometimes I think we're alone in the universe, and sometimes I think we're not. In either case the idea is quite staggering."

OK, so this post hasn't really resolved anything does it? No. I didn't think so. Righto, I better go and do something incredibly small minded and typically human-centric. Like make a pizza.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Vitamin S @ Odeon, Monday 7th February 2005

The Vitamin S collective kicked off 2005 (2002 edition still audible online here) with several bangs, burps, scrapings and whimpers at the Odeon in Mount Eden last night. The evening was a bit of a free-for-all, with a bunch of players turning up with their weapons. Names were added to the imaginary hat, and 5 trios/quartets were created. Reformed Pom Paul Buckton is doing a great job pulling it all together in Drew's absence.

I was selected to open proceedings with Nigel Gavin on banjo and Erykah Lindsay on vocals, then a quartet including Matt Brennan (the velvet smog), Paul Winstanley (electric bass, whistle, cymbals and electric toothbrush) and John Kennedy (floor tom and signal processing) pushed things towards darker, more muscular territories. A rather lovely chamber trio then took to the floor in the form of Bucko (guitar), Trudy Lisle (flute) and Sam Hamilton (broken cello and car keys). Tim Sutton (bass trombone) and bandito tenor Eamonn Deverall performed the tango of the dying swans, with Attenborough-style commentary provided by Phil Dryson on christmas stocking novelty guitar and noisily deflating balloon. (Mr Dryson's bursting of the balloon in a climactic final staccato was an unforgettable coup-de-théâtre.) The ultimate quartet of the night tilted at windmills, harnessing the massed forces of two basses, clarinet and Phil Dadson on prepared piano.

If this first outing is anything to go by, Vitamin S 2005 should be most interesting and the Auckland improv scene seems as vital as ever. The collision of past masters with new blood promises fun and entertainment for the whole family. Be there at the Wine Bar in St Kevin's Arcade next Wednesday 16th Feb to witness the start of the formal(dehyde) programme of trios!

Despatches from Raglan

All reports from this years Soundsplash have been overwhelmingly positive. One friend who was there provided some photographic evidence. Trinity Roots final out-of-town gig ever, I'm sorry I missed it. It sounded epic.

Trinity Roots -Raglan, 5th February 2005

Trinity Roots II

Freddys- Warren M, Toby L and Jo L

The Black Seeds

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Shrine @ Rising Sun, Saturday 5th February 2005

Why oh why do events in Auckland start so darn late? (Or perhaps I should be asking why punters in this town only turn up after midnight...) Anyhow, a respectable reporting time of 10.45pm saw just myself, three others and several DJs rattling around in Rising Sun. Had everyone gone to Raglan for the weekend? Uncle Barney and Selecta Sam gamely filled the void on decks until the place started filling up just before 12. Team Natural Disasters were the first jockeys to actually get some punters onto the dancefloor. (DJ Shagpile steps in as usual with his signature tune, Deee-Lite's Groove is in the Heart, Godzilla trundles out his old standby, a 7-inch ska reggae version of Ring of Fire). Boogie woogie indeed.

Fine Shrine

Despite the low turnout, most of the town's funk intelligentsia seemed to be in attendance (several fellow Dollars, at least three Piping Hot Grits and their pimped-out white suited gogo girls, representing like extras from a Cyndi Lauper music video). Unfortunately my committment to actually getting some things done in daylight hours this weekend meant I bugged out at just after 1am, leaving the gathering crowd to dance the night away... hope it was fun.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Advanced Australian Fare

Finally, our album is out in Australia, thanks to Vitamin Records...

In Australian stores now!

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Miraculous Blogs

Have you ever tried clicking the "next blog" button on the top right of most blogspot sites? This is a great little trick if you ever have five minutes to spare and fancy some random web surfing. Very occasionally you come across a blog that is truly stunning (stunningly good, or stunningly bad, or a blog that really requires some other adjective that you can't quite put your finger on). Anyway, here are a few that I came across in a short ten-minute "Next Blog" journey last night....

Sheepworld is a great site run by Youssouf, a fluffy toy sheep from the Netherlands. It is all about....sheep. Really.

The Commuter is a new project by an Auckland commuter, "observations from a bus window". Given the state of traffic in our beautiful town, I imagine that they will have a lot of time to collect their thoughts.

Blogosauri - in all shapes and sizes

Cheryl-Cherry. This eye-watering effort is either a txt version of Finnegan's Wake, or was created by Jackson Pollock hovering over a rewired keyboard. I'm tempted to run it through Babelfish to see what it all means.

Dominion Road. OK, so I didn't find this via the "Next Blog" button, but the concept of a localised restaurant review blog seems pretty sound to me. A pity that Kelsey doesn't deign to eat north of Balmoral Road, since this would render the site more relevant to where I live.

And probably my favourite, if just for it's earnestness: Ajay Sethi's attempt to understand relationships between mobile internet requirements and knowledge management and information retrieval methods. Righto.

And if all this leave your brain hurting, the rather good Grace Pages offers some great practical advice on how to avoid the tempation of using your brain.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Islands in the Stream

What is going on at Radio New Zealand? There seems continuing trepidation to move into the early 21st Century and provide live streaming of their programmes. Andrew Dubber, currently on secondment to sunny Birmingham, writes a good open letter to our public broadcaster. Unlike Radio New Zealand, fear of infringing copyright is not holding back such notorious IP pirates as the BBC, CBC, Radio France and ABC from providing live access to their programming via the web.

Radio NZ is one of the constants in my life, (Japanese radio in my car means that it's one of the few refuges on the AM dial that I can listen to without breaking my head open in frustration). Its often excellent programming deserves to be available on the Internet. You could even be having dinner in London and listen to Sean Plunkett rip into Don Brash.

While ruminating on radio, the disgracefully ageing Martin "Bomber" Bradbury seems pretty supportive of the Kiwi FM concept, (OK he has a vested interest as longtime Sunday night talkback host). But his support seems more based on his pride as a kiwi than on any commercial reality. As I've pointed out previously, unless somebody points me to a decent business case, I can't see the 100% Kiwi format working myself.

Disgracefully ageing, too, are The Insider's landlords in Christchurch. Ah, how refreshing it would be to be 23 again, untouched by the sweet tyranny of a corporate salary and receding hairlines, ready to lead that life less ordinary. Us 26 year olds have so much to teach the younger generation.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Voices from the Imagined Past

I made sure I saw Les Choristes on Friday at the Academy in Auckland, (yes, it has finally reached New Zealand cinemas!) I was interested to see why this particular film and its music has become such a phenomenon in France. And yes, this is a very enjoyable film, due in no small part to the magnificent soundtrack performed by Les Petits Chanteurs de Saint-Marc, providing a very happy retour aux sources for this erstwhile chorister.

Other people have liked it, too. But some decried the film's nostalgie nauséabonde.

Gérard Jugnot in Les Choristes

Beyond the music, the film's greatest strength is its lightness of touch. While dealing in a nostalgia for the imagined rural childhoods of la douce France, Les Choristes is never sugary sweet. This ability to embrace wholehearted sentimentality while keeping ones feet on the floor is a trait Les Choristes shares with many other French films of recent decades, including Amélie and the sun-drenched Marcel Pagnol adaptations Jean de Florette/Manon des Sources and La Gloire de mon Père/Le Château de ma Mère.

However, Les Choristes could have benefited from another 20 minutes of narrative exposition and development of character. I was disappointed somewhat by how the adult characters were portrayed as little more than archetypes, and even the central character of Claude Mathieu (Gérard Jugnot) seemed thinly drawn.

The kids were also lacking in any sense of a past or a future: they are inmates of a harsh reform school, yet we are permitted to discover only the barest details about why they were there. The angel-voiced Morhange (Jean-Baptiste Maunier) seems brooding and resentful, probably in need of a father figure and some family stability, but little more. The bespectacled Boniface appears just waywardly precocious rather than an urchin in need of discipline. I found it difficult to empathise with the situation of any of the boys, except perhaps the diminutive war orphan Pepinot, (Maxence Perrin, son of Jacques Perrin), who provides the best performance of any of the young actors in the film.

In this light, the harsh treatment often meted out to the boys seemed to lack much context. For a far more convincing (and moving) depiction of life in an orphanage, I highly recommend the 2001 film Torzók ("Abandoned") by Hungarian director Árpád Sopsits.

I was confused by the cursory way in which the tragedy of the delinquent, cynical and sadistic teenager Mondain was handled. Mondain arrives, and he consistently eschews the redemption offered by Mathieu and anyone else in authority. The events surrounding his banishment and subsequent return to the reform school that "sparks" (*wink*) the final drama of the film are told in a perfunctory manner, and do little to illuminate the other events in the film.

Despite my reservations, I was very glad I went to see Les Choristes. It's light viewing, highly enjoyable, avoids schmaltz and it will make some people cry. And I can safely say that the singing is quite, quite exceptional.


Just got an email from an old school friend Joe, who has been travelling in Sarawak (the Malaysian part of Borneo). He sent some nice "steamy" photos of their tropical adventures, including these jungle pictures of a tree frog and a hammerhead worm.


Hammerhead Worm