2 October 2018
We have returned from Africa and are settling back into routine, such as it is. I read A Secret Country by John Pilger whilst away, amongst other things. It is still a somewhat infuriating read because it would seem that nothing in the country has really changed. In fact, in some instances, we are going backwards. It is an indictment of the Liberal National Party and the damage they have wilfully done to Australia out of greed and ignorance but at the same time it doesn’t let the Hawke/Keating Labor Government off the hook either. Everyone should read it. On the other side of the reading coin, I also read a Peter Corris Cliff Hardy book. Talk about chalk and cheese! Peter passed away not too long ago and I had the great pleasure of speaking to him at length in early 2016. Because of his failing eyesight he had begun to listen to Audiobooks (or Talking Books as they’re also known) and had discovered my narration of Morris West’s The Ambassador and contacted me to talk about the process, which he wrote about in The Newtown Review of Books.
20 August 2018
On the eve of heading overseas for a few weeks. Of late I have been immersed in electric Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock et al. Reading has been sporadic but whilst away I intend to re-read John Pilger’s A Secret Country, which I have not read again since it was first released in 1989. It will be interesting to see what I think of it now with all those years in between and to see whether his observations are still relevant to Australia today.
13 July 2018
Re-visiting the Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi project ROME. There’s always something somewhat comforting about the album. perhaps it’s the retro appeal of the old instruments used and the musicians involved – old studio players from the Italian movie soundtracks of the past. A good article about the project can be read here.
29 June 2018
Listening to the wonderful Wayne Shorter album Native Dancer. Imagine Weather Report with Herbie Hancock in place of Joe Zawinul with some added Brazilian influences via Milton Nascimento. Beautiful album.
28 June 2018
Have seen two very contrasting plays over the last two nights. First up was Dresden at The Kings Cross Theatre and last night Air at The Old 505 in Newtown. Dresden is a rich play, full of ideas and, for the most part, very well acted. A review that sits close to my response can be found here. Air is another kettle of fish altogether, a play that riffs on grief and loss, much simpler than Dresden but no less effective. Some further dramaturgical work would make it a stronger piece. A review can be found here.
15 June 2018
Listening obsessively to Magnetic Works, a collection drawn from three albums by the wonderful Norwegian jazz pianist Jon Balke that I bought recently. This is music that is by turns exciting, spiritual, ethereal and powerful. A wonderful listening experience and an immediate desert island disc.
31 May 2018
Listening to the extraordinary young Japanese pianist Hiromi Uehara, particularly these three albums…
Still kicking myself that I’ve missed her whenever she has played here. That’s something I hope to rectify soon. Also worth checking out is her Duet album with Chick Corea……and to hear her in another acoustic jazz setting you can’t go past the wonderful Jazz In The Garden album where she plays alongside Lenny White & Stanley Clarke in The Stanley Clarke Trio.
3 May 2018
Almost finished Season To Taste by Molly Birnbaum. This well written book chronicles the author’s reactions to her loss of smell and taste after a bad accident and the steps she takes to understand and accept what has happened to her. This was a gift from my brother who thought I might find it interesting given that I am in the same position, having had my own sense of smell and taste severely curtailed by a major bronchial infection almost two years ago. The book is worth reading by everyone, if only to make you deeply appreciate what you have, and trust me, the book is way better than the cover might make you think. It is packed with interesting research and written in a very readable yet fully informing way.
When I get a chance, in between rehearsals for the current play, work on the Dr. Max docu-drama and general life commitments I am listening to some classic Miles Davis, in particular the Complete Sessions series of the three classic albums that introduced fusion and funk into Miles’ repertoire: In A Silent Way, Bitches Brew and A Tribute To Jack Johnson. These three box sets contain not only the original albums themselves but also all of the other music recorded at the respective sessions, much of it previously unreleased. A treasure trove of exciting listening.
18 April 2018
Just finished reading George Saunders’ Lincoln In The Bardo, a very clever and imaginative novel. The mixture of real historical voices with invented ones is almost seamless and makes for a compelling read. Ultimately a little unsatisfying in its philosophy it is still a very clever book and well worth all the attention that has been lavished on it. Watch the author speak about the book here and watch a beautiful video from the New York Times about the book here.
Thanks to the good folk at Birdland, the best Jazz music store in Sydney, I am listening to Cannonball Adderley’s The Price You Got To Pay To Be Free. Long unavailable on cd it’s now re-issued by Real Gone Music and Dusty Groove.This eclectic disc is late period Adderley, recorded not long before Zawinul left to form Weather Report. It was the first jazz disc I ever bought, back when it was newly released. I was about 16 and it started me on a backward journey through Cannonball’s oeuvre which naturally led to Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane et al. Probably not the place for someone new to Adderley to start nowadays but it worked for me at the time. Back in March 2013 (see way below) before it was available on cd I wrote: I swapped the first Grateful Dead LP for this back in Albury when I was 16. The other kid I swapped with was desperate for the Dead album and by way of inducement offered me this brand new recently released DOUBLE album in its place, assuring me I would love it because it had soul, funk and grooves aplenty even though I had never heard of the artist at the time. How right he was. I fell in love with it and played it incessantly as those loping grooves and its loose swing, along with the whole party atmosphere of the thing, fizzed in my teenage brain. The sweep of styles contained within its four sides as funk, be-bop, folk, soul, electric jazz and a lot more melded together into one tasty gumbo was an eye and ear opener for me and started a love affair with Mr Adderley that continues to this day. I still have that original vinyl, which is a good thing as it is not available on cd but you can hear it by following this link. Open yourself up to it. As they might have said in the day – it’s a blast!
Also been listening to another newly acquired Adderley disc Music, You All, which I bought at Red Eye. Music, You All was recorded at the same time as the extraordinary Black Messiah sessions. All three albums were produced by the legendary David Axelrod. His work is worth searching out, both as a producer and band leader/composer. Seriously Deep and his rock Messiah are good places to start.
29 March 2018
Some more recent viewing: Whitebox Theatre’s production of Richard Benyon’s The Shifting Heart, a little-seen Australian classic. The play is still very relevant and in many ways resonates much more than The Summer Of The 17th Doll, which has become a museum piece, albeit a much loved museum piece. This production, directed by Kim Hardwick, was blessed with a great cast and they & Ms Hardwick made it a very good night in the theatre.
The Square. I loved this film. Slightly over-long, slightly over-indulgent in the set pieces, but really a work of great accomplishment. Unsettling, amusing, downright funny in parts and always intelligent, provoking and unafraid. Deserves to be seen by a wide audience. Watch the trailer here, but really – just go see it!
27 March 2018
Some recent shows: The Book of Mormon, which was a delight. An extraordinary and very gifted cast giving their all in a musical that is high energy fun from start to finish. I’d have liked it to be even more irreverent and scatalogical but we still loved it. The Wolves at The Old Fitz (where I will be appearing myself in May/June in Stalking The Bogeyman) was also a delight. The well-drilled and uniformly excellent cast made it a very satisfying night in the theatre.
Some trips up the coast have given me the opportunity to get some good reading in, including these books: Max Decharne’s Vulgar Tongues, which is a fascinating yet fairly prosaic history of English Slang; Eric Rasmussen’s The Shakespeare Thefts, an interesting but fairly dry overview of the search for and discovery of Shakespeare First Folios; and James Shapiro’s The Year Of Lear – Shakespeare in 1606, which is a compelling and detailed look at an extraordinary year for both England and Shakespeare. Perhaps the most enjoyable read was Jim Sharman’s memoir Blood & Tinsel. This was an engrossing autobiography that I had been meaning to get to for years and was glad to have finally done so.
6 December 2017
Enjoyed the 2 part series Friday On My Mind on ABC TV (and not only because I had a small role in it!) It captured the mood of the time and the joy of the music with great success.
Recently we saw Beautiful – The Carole King Musical and loved it. Stunning performances from a hugely talented cast, right across the board. Highly recommended.
14 September 2017
Reading? I seem to be falling behind as the days pass. But I eagerly read Meanjin magazine when it arrives in the letter box. I subscribe to this great publication and I’d encourage anyone who has in interest in Arts, Politics, Memoir etc to do so too. I also subscribe to the Australian Poetry Journal and look forward to it arriving each time.
15 June 2017
Saw Kinky Boots last week, a wonderful story of love and acceptance. Some of the structure is a bit dodgy – why does that character turn on that other character out of nowhere, particularly when they’ve sung a song of acceptance together? – but overall a great night and a great cast at The Capitol Theatre.
13 May 2017
Reading: Spent a week recently at the shack up the coast and did nothing but rest and read. I finally read the controversial Ian McEwan novel Amsterdam, controversial for winning the Booker Prize when it appears there were far better books on the list. It is indeed a slight read, enjoyable in its own way but certainly not one of the best books of recent years and not even one of McEwan’s best.
I also made great inroads into Murikami’s The Wind Up Bird Chronicle. This book had somehow eluded me until now, despite many good references from friends & family (and the critics!) I am yet to finish it but it is a fascinating tale told by a master of his craft.
Listening: Beethoven, Beethoven & more Beethoven. Why? Does one need a reason?
Watching: Saw a very, very good production of Bengal Tiger At The Baghdad Zoo at The Old Fitz recently. Everything about the production was masterful, a great tribute to the director, creatives and the cast.
8 April 2017
The Cocteau Twins have been getting a spin here at Chez Hodda of late. Their music is timeless and yet still deeply of the time it was made. For a good overview you can’t go past Stars And Topsoil: a collection (1982-1990) and of course their work on the This Mortal Coil project is indispensable. It’ll End In Tears is a masterpiece.
A mention here of my old friend Chelsea Brown who sadly passed away this week. Chelsea was an extraordinary comedienne and a wonderful person. We worked together on the early Nineties on the TV series E Street. I was so sad to hear of her passing.
15 March 2017
Perhaps I should quit apologising for the lack of currency in these pages. As time goes by I seem to have less and less time to update this site with the regularity it demands. Suffice to say, there has been a lot of reading, listening and watching over the last 12 months but too much to summarise here. Making no promises but I will endeavour to be better organised in the future.
10 February 2016
Travel, work, laziness and the usual vicissitudes of life have kept me from updating things here lately. Mea culpa. Reading has been erratic. At the moment I am working my way through ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’. I must be the only person in the world who has not read it. It does take some time – hundreds of pages! – to get going but it is beginning to capture me. We have been listening to Pet Sounds a lot, getting ourselves ready to see Brian Wilson in March here in Sydney. He will be performing that entire album as well as other hits. Should be magnificent. Fingers crossed!
20 August 2015
Last night we were lucky enough to score tickets to the final preview of Matilda The Musical at The Lyric. Great show! The young cast are extraordinary and everyone else is too. We saw the Broadway production last year and loved it and loved this one too. Something for everyone, as the cliche goes, but this time it is really true. Lots of fun for all ages. And boy – can those little kids bust some moves!! I felt very old and creaky watching them…
13 August 2015
Years ago, whilst attending the Playwright’s Conference in Canberra, I heard some extraordinary music playing in the The Gods coffee shop on campus at ANU. It was a modern down-home blues with a filmic feel and that had to be John Lee Hooker, right? But that trumpet – that’s unmistakably Miles Davis. Hooker and Davis – together?!? WTF? I enquired and was shown the cd – the soundtrack to a then recent film called The Hot Spot and I was right – it was Hooker and Davis together, along with Taj Mahal, Roy Rogers and others. I bought my own copy not long after and played it to death, so much so that after a couple of years I couldn’t listen to it anymore, I’d become so saturated in it. Today, for the first time in many years, I pulled it out again. It’s still an oddity, but a beautiful oddity and the reviewer from AllMusic sums it up very well here.
6 August 2015
I have always loved the work of German bass player Eberhard Weber. Today I bought a copy of his 2012 release Resume. This is an extraordinarily beautiful work comprised of re-imaginings of recordings of his solos over many years touring with the Jan Garbarek Group. He has added keyboards in places, played by himself, and is aided by Jan Garbarek (soprano and tenor saxaphones and selje flute) and Michael DiPasqua (drums and percussion).
5 August 2015
Well, it has been a while hasn’t it? Various problems with the site and a general busy-ness with other projects has kept me away from here for some time. I’m back and will hopefully have some time to update everything over the next little while.
7 November 2014
Returned yesterday from a four week trip to the USA and Canada. First time back in New York for twenty years and first time back in Canada for ten. New York didn’t disappoint with visits to the extraordinary Frick, MOMA and Met, along with the Guggenheim and, of course, seeing shows and hearing music. A highlight was seeing Sam Amidon and Bill Frisell at The Williamsburg Hall Of Music. An extraordinary concert in a great venue. A little taste of what it was like can be found here and here. For jazz we only had to catch the lift downstairs in our hotel to the attached Rum House bar where The Candy Shop Boys were in residence. Watch them in action at the bar here. If you’re ever in NYC get along to this mid-town bar for great drinks and music.
This production, a remount of the highly successful one from 16 years ago, was a joy to watch, particularly in the surrounds of the old Studio 54 and seated down the front with a bottle of wine!
We also saw Hedwig and the Angry Inch with Michael C Hall, who was terrific. The production, whilst very good, was a little too polished and safe for my liking. Certainly the Australian production at The Tom Mann Theatre in Sydney with Iota in the lead was riskier, more dangerous and therefore more satisfying but we did enjoy this New York production very much.
I’ll update the rest of the seeings and hearings when I have time.
9 October 2014
Things have been quiet on this page for a while because I have been busy with a show and other things and am now just about to leave for NYC, Vancouver and Vegas! I’ll have lots to report on when I’m back no doubt.
14 August 2014
Another mystery outage has kept me off this site for a long time, unable to log in, but I’m back! There has been so much Reading/Listening/Watching in that time that I won’t be able to collect it all here but suffice to say that updates will resume and some things from the past few months may enter my addled brain and make it to here.
1 May 2014
I have been listening to some esoterica from the Sub Rosa label of late, along with straight music from the same label. The music has come from Martyn Bates and the esoterica from personalities as diverse as Magritte, Artaud and Jah Wobble! The Artaud is a radio broadcast from 1947 pour en finir avec le jugement de dieu.
Magritte appears on the spoken word compilation Magritte, le groupe Surrealiste de Bruxelles, Rupture volume 2.
The Martyn Bates is a collection of his solo and collaborative works 1979-2005 called Your Jewled Footsteps. This is a haunting and beautiful collection.
13 April 2014
No entries for quite some time because busy elsewhere and the the site has been inexplicably down for a while. Back now and normal transmission can resume. I went on Thursday night last to see All’s Well That Ends Well at The Seymour Centre, produced by Sport for Jove. This is known as one of Will’s ‘problem’ plays. The production was lively, imaginative and colourful and solved many of the intrinsic problems in the script with seeming ease. All well and good but the nagging feeling remains – why do it? I felt the play was being bent to make it work and, as written, does not really work for a modern audience, unlike so many other of his plays. Kevin Jackson shares some interesting thoughts on it here. I did enjoy myself overall and appreciated the work on stage and all power to Sport For Jove, one of the most dynamic and interesting companies at work in Sydney at the moment.
10 January 2014
This 1971 release by one of the so-called fathers of Minimalism Terry Riley and the at the time recently gone-solo ex-Velvet Underground member John Cale is an intriguing listen. Church of Anthrax has drones and straight ahead blowing crossing paths with a driving rock sensibility that brings Soft Machine to mind without ever sounding derivative. In fact, this is one of the most original listens around, particularly when you put it into a historical perspective. I picked my copy up second hand at Lawsons yesterday and have been playing it almost non-stop since. The title sounds like it belongs in the Spinal Tap oeuvre but don’t let that put you off (it was 1971 after all!) – the music cooks. Cale and Riley play all instruments other than drums. The (uncredited) drummer is Bobby Colomby and his contributions to the proceedings are hugely important. Apparently Riley and Cale had a falling out in the mixing phase with the former not happy with the latter’s approach. No mind though because the album is a winner. Hear the title track from the album here
and the raucous rock and roll deconstruction that is The Ides Of March here.
6 January 2014
Went to see American Hustle the other day and enjoyed it – mostly. It is too long by about half an hour for my money and has two or three moments that feel like natural endings but aren’t. Saw Separation City on television last night, a NZ film I had missed prior to this but was glad to catch. Great work from everyone in the cast and a good script. We downloaded 500 Days Of Summer using the Apple TV that came into our house at Xmas (thanks Richard!). A fun film with, again, great work from a good cast. Nothing earth shattering, just a well made piece of light entertainment.
2 January 2014
Xmas has come and gone and so has 2013. Here’s to great 2014 for all. Spent Xmas up the coast, reading, sleeping and eating and drinking too much. That’s what Xmas is for, right? Read a Leonard Cohen biography, a Bill Bryson I’d missed and also, for the first time, Hemingway’s The Old Man And The Sea. Listened, surprisingly, to very little music. I guess the sound of the surf, along with Kookaburras, Whipbirds and Magpies, was music enough. Back home now and today we had a real treat. My friend Rob Thomas dropped by with an early rough mix of five or six songs he has recorded for his new album, due out around March he hopes. Brilliant stuff! Can’t wait to hear it all. He had another cd with just the band so he sang along to those live in our living room – a private concert and me in my pyjamas still! A great start to the day. The album will be called Who Am I? and everyone should buy ten copies as soon as it is out. You’ll love it!
24 November 2013
Went to Canberra this week and saw the extraordinary exhibition at The National Library, Mapping Our World. Breathtaking, beautifully presented and well worth a visit. Entry is free but it is still wise to book a ticket as numbers allowed in at any one time are limited, which is great for ease of viewing without being too cramped and crowded. On till 10th March 2015. Don’t miss it.
18 November 2013
No entries here for a while because of a trip to South Africa and Singapore and other work commitments getting in the way. Back in the groove now and what’s spinning? Sometimes you find something you’ve been missing without realising it and right now it is The Smith’s ‘Singles’ album and the magnificent composition ‘How Soon Is Now?’ I picked up a copy of the cd in a bargain bin recently and was delighted to find that tune nestled in there amongst all the other tasty numbers. That riff had been circulating in my head but I had been unable to identify it. Brilliant! Listen to ‘How Soon Is Now?’ here.
4 October 2013
The magnificent Roy Harper has me captivated again. His new album, his first in 13 years, Man & Myth, rewards listen after listen. If I am half as creative still when I am in my 70s as he is I’ll be very happy.
19 September 2013
There are, I know, people who do not get Bob Dylan, who do not understand the appeal and fascination he holds for those of us who do. This new release of unadorned arrangements and alternate takes from the Self Portrait, New Morning and Nashville Skyline period might just be the ticket to bringing the two schools of thought together. If you are a fan, this is an essential album. Hearing Dylan and that master guitarist David Bromberg laying things down in a relaxed and confident manner is a delight. Having Al Kooper along for the ride is the cream on top. A new desert island disc for me. I am one of those seemingly few people who always liked the original Self Portrait, oddity though it is, and this release throws new light on that old album as well as opening doors elsewhere. Gorgeous.
25 August 2013
Edgar Froese is one of the legends of modern e-music and some of his best work is collected on this four-cd set that I purchased recently.
His albums Aqua, Epsilon In Malaysian Pale, Ages, Stuntman and Pinnacles are all here in full, along with a few bonus tracks. This is a must-have for any Froese, electronic or Tangerine Dream fan as it is the only place where the original mix of the album Epsilon In Malaysian Pale can be enjoyed. This is analog synth heaven! Missing from the collection is Macula Transfer, which was not a Virgin Records release. You can hear that album in full here if YouTube has left the link up.
23 July 2013
8 July 2013
Work on the current juke-box musical project (see the Writing page for more info) has kept me from updating this page of late. Needless to say there has been a lot of listening to Slim Dusty as songs are trialled and chosen, changed, deleted, re-instated and so on.
But man does not live on Slim alone so what else has been spinning? Light As A Feather, an early Chick Corea and Return To Forever album, came into the house last week, only 40 years after it was first released! Better late than never. Chick Corea, Joe Farrell, Stanley Clarke, Airto Moreira and Flora Purim cooking up a latin storm.
21 May 2013
Came home from Melbourne last night to a package containing a great piece of funk delight, Them Changes by Buddy Miles. Whilst in Melbourne I picked up this Thomas Cahill book that I am enjoying having a dig into when I can.
3 May 2013
Work on the new writing project has kept me busy of late and limited my reading but that hasn’t stopped some old music creeping into the orbit. I have been on a bit of an Al Kooper run of late with these albums getting a regular spin in the car and at home.
3 April 2013
Thanks to my good friends Waz and Lenore I was finally introduced to the extraordinary writing of George Saunders. I devoured this book in two reading sessions. It is a compelling, acerbic and intelligent series of stories. As Dave Eggers says “You want funny? Saunders is your man. You want emotional heft? Saunders again. You want stories that are actually about something…? Saunders.” Go to this extraordinary writer’s website by clicking here.
As I write this I am listening to the beautiful new album by master Oud player Joseph Tawadros – Chameleons of the White Shadow. Accompanied by Bela Fleck and Roy Ayers, this is a delight from start to finish. A couple of weeks ago we had the immense pleasure of meeting Joseph Tawadros after sitting enthralled in the front row of a private concert he gave with Richard Tognetti and The Australian Chamber Orchestra. Two Australian musical treasures together made for astounding music and to be so close that we felt we were amongst them was an experience to treasure.
11 March 2013
Last night we were at The Entertainment Centre to see the sonic beast that is Neil Young and Crazy Horse. OMFG!! Absolutely brilliant concert with a crystal clear sound mix, even in that barn of a venue. A sonic caress and assault all at the same time. Watch Neil in a quieter moment from the concert here and watch the more raucous opening number with Neil and the Horse in full voice here.
1 March 2013
Listening to this glorious album by Cannonball Adderley as I work here at home on this wet Friday. I swapped the first Grateful Dead LP for this back in Albury when I was 16. The other kid I swapped with was desperate for the Dead album and by way of inducement offered me this brand new recently released DOUBLE album in its place, assuring me I would love it because it had soul, funk and grooves aplenty even though I had never heard of the artist at the time. How right he was. I fell in love with it and played it incessantly as those loping grooves and its loose swing, along with the whole party atmosphere of the thing, fizzed in my teenage brain. The sweep of styles contained within its four sides as funk, be-bop, folk, soul, electric jazz and a lot more melded together into one tasty gumbo was an eye and ear opener for me and started a love affair with Mr Adderley that continues to this day. I still have that original vinyl, which is a good thing as it is not available on cd but you can hear it by following this link. Open yourself up to it. As they might have said in the day – it’s a blast!
26 February 2013
Currency Press have begun a new series of podcasts featuring Australian playwrights in conversation. The first one is up now and it features Tommy Murphy, the writer who so skilfully adapted Timothy Conigrave’s memoir Holding The Man. You can listen to the podcast by clicking this link.
22 February 2013
The sad news of yesterday that the brilliant, eccentric and truly original Kevin Ayers had died of course sent me to his oeuvre to enjoy his talents again. He was a product of an age and we will be hard pressed to see the likes of him again.
28 January 2013
Yesterday we saw the 3D film of The Life of Pi and it has made me finally and very belatedly begin to read the book, something I have meant to do since it was first released. Better late than never I guess. Already I can see that the film is a very simplified version of the book, choosing a straight narrative over the more elaborate and rich narrative that exists in the book itself. I enjoyed the film but felt always that there was more to it and the book is revealing that to me. The artistry of the film is magnificent and it is a thing of beauty but I felt curiously uninvolved emotionally. Perhaps as I journey deeper into the book some of this wanted involvement will appear.
22 January 2013
The two Duane Allman Anthologies were the post-Xmas soundtrack here. These collections of early Allman Brothers and session work are outstanding.
Also pumping out a lot has been The Cure’s anthology Staring At The Sea. Back in the Eighties, in a shared house, someone had the cassette version of this, then called Standing On A Beach. It has taken me all these years to add this much loved at the time bunch of tunes to my collection. In-Between Days is a rolled gold monster of a song. Watch The Cure in a recent concert here.
David Sylvian’s Sleepwalkers was a recent purchase and has provided a lot of pleasure, as has The Catholic’s cd Gondola. Go the The Necks website and buy all of the music you see there – Necks albums and all the individual members’ solo stuff like The Catholics. Amazing music. Pre-Xmas I grabbed the double cd The Essential Phil Spector for next to nothing in store throw-out bin. Oh happy day! It contains The Sonny Charles and The Checkmates song Black Pearl, which I have been searching for for years. This is a beautiful bit of pop soul that should be on everyone’s favourites list. A classic song. Hear it here.
31 December 2012 Another year about to head out the door to make way for the new one. Pre-Xmas and Xmas didn’t include much reading (or writing for that matter) despite best laid plans. Books were taken up the Coast for Xmas and came home untouched, the time being completely taken up with swimming, eating and the demands of little grandchildren. Most of the reading seemed to be of wine labels. That’s ok, right?
For some unknown reason we were drawn repeatedly to The Modfather Paul Weller whilst on holidays, with his Weller: Hit Parade collection and this Style Council collection getting a lot of spins. Watch him here as he knocks out a great version of A Town Called Malice at the Enmore Theatre. Whoever shot the video must have been sitting right near me because this is the view of the concert I had on the night.
18th November 2012 A friend recently dropped a whole box of unwanted 12 inch 45s off here so the turntable has been getting a workout of late spinning Talk Talk, The The and other greats of the time. Of course, once the vinyl bug struck (as it does periodically), other gems were pulled from the vaults, albums that sound better on vinyl than on cd. One of the first was the BB King gem, Live in Cook County Jail, a record that belongs in every home even if it has to be in cd format. Buy it. Play it. Love it. Never seen B.B. in action? Watch him here, live in Africa in 1974, the same year I saw him at The Hordern Pavilion here in Sydney. Also being enjoyed on vinyl are three extraordinary albums by the great Australian singer Jeannie Lewis – her extraordinary debut Free Fall Through Featherless Flight; the in-and-out of concert album Looking Backwards To Tomorrow and the absolutely beautiful and remarkable double album Tears of Steel & The Clowning Calaveras. Check out her site here. Some of her recordings can be purchased there in cd form. Jeannie is a unique talent and those three records in particular are extraordinary documents of an extraordinary time in Australian performance and recording. Exhilarating, at times audacious and always beautiful. Great stuff.
12th November 2012 Came home from Sth Straddie to a second round of assessments so it’s been head down and tail up in a silent house so as to concentrate but in the car – that’s something different. There I’ve been giving the recently released Gary Moore album Blues for Jimi a thrashing. Mr Moore makes/made the well known Hendrix tunes his own and that raises the project above mere tribute. It is a thrilling listen in its own right.
29th October 2012 The plays are all read, the assessments written and I’m getting ready to head up to Sth. Stradbroke Island for some R&R with some mates. There is good food, wine and company in my future as the problems of the world are solved one by one late into the night. What will I be reading in between the cooking and the swimming and napping? I am halfway through my friend Andy Kissane’s recently released new book of short stories The Swarm, out through Puncher & Wattmann Fiction. As always, these are beautifully written stories in a wholly Australian voice, full of love and hope. Andy is also a poet of note and I would encourage you to buy and read anything he has written. Alongside that I intend to scour the shelves here for a book or two that I may have read 20 or 30 years ago and might want to revisit. Do you think Koestler is too much for a seaside break?
10th October 2012 Reading a stack of plays as an assessor for a major competition. I don’t know whether to be buoyed by the fact that so many people want to write for the theatre or be depressed because so many of those same people can’t actually do it. It still surprises me how many submitted plays read as if the only contact the writer has had with the theatre is through old French’s Acting Editions and how many also read as if the writer has never actually ever SEEN a play. It is always a great relief to open one that has been written by someone who knows and understands theatre and there have been a couple of those so far. Bless those writers and high scores to you!
8th October 2012 And so we are back from our Italian adventure. Italy was all we expected it to be and then some. It has been hard to settle back into a work routine but settle we must as twelve scripts, the first round of entrants in a play writing competition, have arrived in the post for assessment, vying for my time against some voice-overs and an imminent play workshop. What to listen to? A trusted giant has come to my aid and I am re-exploring (for the thousandth time) the oeuvre of Cannonball Adderley. Albums like these have been sweetening the air here over the last couple of days:
30 August 2012 No updates for a month! What have I been doing? Well, I have had my nose deeply in this Lonely Planet book in preparation for our upcoming trip, leaving Saturday and away for a month. That, and every website known to man that has info on the country and accommodation. I like to go prepared but still willing to adjust if necessary. What has been the soundtrack to all of this travel reading and website perusing? Polish jazz, of course! Yeah, I know, it makes no sense but The Tomasz Stanko Quartet and The Marcin Wasilewski Trio have been soothing the pre-trip nerves with albums like this one. Watch Stanko here.
25th July 2012 Watch a very good panel discussion on the state of playwriting in Australia here. Of particular interest are the comments and contributions of Andrew Bovell. Andrew is an inspirational writer and his play When The Rain Stops Falling is one of my favourites. This discussion formed part of The Griffin Theatre Company’s recent Festival of New Writing. The other panellists are Lally Katz, Tommy Murphy and Jess Bellamy.
18th July 2012 Unfortunately I missed Richard Ford in conversation at the City Recital Hall last weekend but I have just finished doing the next best thing – listening to the event here. Highly recommended for all readers and writers whether you are familiar with his work or not. Next book to read – Canada!
17th July 2012 The news that Jon Lord has passed away has me revisiting some of the sounds of my teenage years and delving into the Deep Purple oeuvre.
I had the pleasure of attending the dress rehearsal for his Concerto for Group and Orchestra at The Sydney Opera House some years back when the Sydney Festival brought him out. There were less than a dozen of us in the audience and it was a treat. Whilst some tech issues were being dealt with Mr. Lord kept us entertained with cheeky versions of Smoke On The Water and other Deep Purple hits, unaccompanied on the organ.
11th July 2012 Working at home on the new play (which has a mind of its own and will not be corralled easily) and I am being drawn to percussive sounds for some reason. Maybe that’s the rhythms I need for the writing at the moment. For whatever reason it is resulting in some fun background music. For a start I have worked my way through this Gong fest:
Shamal, Gazeuse!, Expresso II and Downwind, all from the post Daevid Allen period of Gong when the late percussionist Pierre Moerlen took the helms and brought in players of the likes of the astounding Allan Holdsworth, Mick Taylor, Steve Winwood and even Mike Oldfield to lend a hand across the albums. Two other percussive albums are getting a spin too. The Charlie Watts Jim Keltner Project is an overlooked gem, a fusion of tribal beats, samples, electronica, jazz and straight out driving drumming from two masters and for those of you who only know Ginger Baker as the tom-rolling tub thumper from Cream you could do worse in broadening your outlook than starting with this jazz set from 1999 with the DJQ2O, Coward of the County. This is an inventive and playful band and the results are a delight.
9th July 2012 A fascinating bit of reading that may interest those of you who are writers and film makers. What is being discussed here is the significance of plot without conflict. Thanks to the great and under-performed playwright Alma De Groen for sending me the link.
9th July 2012 The latest Tedeschi Trucks Band album has been soothing the soul here at Chez Hodda over the last few weeks. This live album works on so many levels – class, art, skill, excitement, funk, blues, rock and sheer joy. Seeing them live at The Enmore Theatre with Robert Randolph and The Family Band was a glorious treat and this album captures that feeling. Watch the band perform a song from the Enmore concert here.
29th June 2012 I went tonight to see Mark Lee perform Frank Gauntlett’s adaptation for one actor of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine at The Old 505 Theatre. Mark gave an extraordinary performance and the evening was one of good old-fashioned – albeit riveting and splendid – story telling. Mark told me afterwards that they were not able to get any reviewer to come to the production which is shameful but not surprising in Sydney at the moment. This was a simple but very effective production with a stellar performance at its heart and the wider public were denied knowledge of it for no good reason that I can see. Shame on the Sydney reviewers. There’s no bar at The Old 505 – perhaps that’s what keeps them away? Piss weak.
28th June 2012 Some old favourites just keep wanting to be heard. Today it is this wonderful 1957 session by Herb Ellis, Stan Getz, Ray Brown, Roy Eldridge and Stan Levey, the appropriately titled Nothing But The Blues. I bought my copy of this in New York back in the Eighties from a street stall outside Tom’s Restaurant, the diner that was used in Seinfeld and was the setting for Suzanne Vega’s song Tom’s Diner. If you look closely at repeat eps of Seinfeld sometimes the street seller and his stall can be seen. I had the immense pleasure of seeing and hearing Herb Ellis live, in company with Charlie Byrd and Barney Kessel as part of the Great Guitars tour in the Seventies. A great night at the Sydney Town Hall.
14th June 2012 Check out this great pop/alt rock from alt-J. Thanks to Owen for putting me onto this burst of sunshine. Just the ticket for wintry days.
13th June 2012 Assessing some plays for Parnassus’ Den and elsewhere. Always odd to be reading other people’s work instead of doing my own but work is work and must be done. Having seen the Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Under Milk Wood last week I am drawn to re-visit the 1988 George Martin recording with its cast of illustrious Welsh voices including Freddie Jones as Captain Cat – glorious!
8th June 2012 Tax time is coming and I’m spending hours reconciling receipts to expenditure etc – save me! What keeps you sane during this? Jazz trios! The Brad Mehldau Trio Live double cd; the RVG remaster of We Three by Roy Haynes, Phineas Newborn and Paul Chambers (recommended here by Pat Metheny) and The Bad Plus album Prog are doing the trick over these cold and financially frustrating days plus some old favourites like Ralph Towner’s Solstice. Reading? Who has time? Now, where’s that calculator?…
31st May 2012 Working my way through some bargains picked up at Phoenix Music, the best CD store in town. Two Spectrum eps (those guys are still going!) and some other old favourites, all picked up for $5 each. Get on down there – all the sale CDs are 50% off the marked price at the moment and there’s a lot of them. Blue Note jazz CDs are 3 for $20, as are Naxos classical. Worth the trip to the Cross. Prices are good there all the time anyway and no, I have no affiliation – just happy to recommend a good store with an extraordinarily wide selection to choose from, a rarity in this homogenised day and age.
22nd May 2012 For some reason I’ve been craving harmony of late and have been playing Art Garfunkel’s Everything Waits To Be Noticed, his 2002 album with Maia Sharp and Buddy Mondlock. Another constant is the mystical and powerful Common One by Van Morrison, a true desert island disc for me. Written off too quickly by critics on release and still unknown or ignored by many it is a powerful jazz-influenced album of mystery and poeticism that keeps on rewarding, listen after listen, through the years.
21st May 2012 Enjoying Chick Corea, Stanley Clark and Lenny White (aka Return To Forever) in this acoustic concert from 2009 over on the NPR Music site. Reminds me of seeing them here in Sydney at the Opera House. Astonishing musicians.
9th May 2012 Spent a couple of free hours yesterday viewing Christian Marclay’s extraordinary exhibition at The MCA in The Rocks – The Clock. Don’t miss it, even if you only have an hour free. I’ll be going back to spend as much time there as I can. It is an extraordinary achievement and works on so many levels: homage; narrative; creativity; audaciousness; simplicity; complexity…and more!
3rd May 2012 Have a look at the great Tony Sheldon making a speech in NYC.
24th April 2012 and most other days… Listening to the best radio station in Sydney (and available for streaming world-wide) – Eastside Radio. Jazz, Arts and more. Catch my good friend Rob Thomas on air. Check the schedule here.
20th April 2012 With the passing of Levon Helm what else but Martin Scorsese’s film of The Band’s last big blow out concert, The Last Waltz? I remember seeing this at its first Sydney screening upon release back in the Seventies. It seems every musician and music lover in town was there that night. I went with the great (and seemingly now overlooked) singer/songwriter Graham Lowndes and we were surrounded by the creme de la creme of the Sydney music scene at the time. When that notice at the start of the film – “This film should be played loud” – appeared on the screen the whole joint erupted and the high continued throughout. An extraordinary concert with a line-up of amazing people. A veritable time capsule now and still brilliant. When Rick Danko sings ‘It Makes No Difference’ I’m still sent to another place to this day.
17th April 2012 Reading ‘Studio A, The Bob Dylan Reader’ edited by Benjamin Hedin which contains a one act Sam Shepard play ‘A Short Life Of Trouble’ that I never knew existed.
11th April 2012 Things from a long time ago often find themselves in your head like an itch and nothing will ease it until you have heard it. So it is at the moment with Philip Glass and Songs From Liquid Days, his song cycle from the late 1980s, which is getting a flogging here today.
9th April 2012 Busy with the current play in performance and not reading much else at the moment. Listening with delight to an obscure (for me) Stan Getz album called Dynasty that I picked up last week at the best cd store in Sydney, Phoenix Music in Potts Point/Kings Cross. Recorded live in London in 1971, Mr Getz is joined by Eddy Louise on organ, Rene Thomas on guitar and Bernard Lubat on drums. An unusual line-up and an unusual album but a delight.
25th March 2012 A recent birthday left me with a generous store gift card (thanks Redmans!) and I used some of it to buy the remastered re-release of Roy Harper’s amazing album Stormcock. Listening to it again after many years break and hearing it in its beautifully remastered form I was blown away by the majestic genius at work on it. A towering achievement (I know – cliches) and one for the desert island list. The interplay between Harper and Jimmy Page on acoustic guitars is extraordinary (it has been noted elsewhere that Mr. Page considers his solo on the track The Same Old Rock to be his favourite – ever). I was so excited by the album that I immediately went on to Roy Harper’s website and ordered two more cds. Can’t wait!
23rd March 2012 The trailer video for our upcoming production of Donald Margulies’ Time Stands Still has been completed and can be viewed here.
20th March 2012 If you can, do yourself a favour and head to Vientiane Restaurant/Gallery near the corner of Oxford and South Dowling Streets in Darlinghurst to see Damian Harris’ exhibition ‘Waterworks’. Beautiful and evocative paintings.
19th March 2012 Still a bit too consumed by rehearsal to be dealing with much else but managed to listen to the new Esperanza Spalding album on NPR this morning as I did some work before leaving home and enjoyed it a lot.
16th March 2012 At Deus Ex Machina Cafe last night to see the wonderful (and wonderfully eccentric) Stephen Cummings. Stephen is always a joy to see and listen to and again he didn’t disappoint. A real Living National Treasure, even though his chances of actually getting that accolade are probably as slim as Clive Palmer turning it down.
Earlier March 2012 I keep finding myself returning to this Bill Frisell Tiny Desk Concert as I work. I play it in the background but often find myself bringing it up to watch as well. An extraordinary musician and I have fond memories of standing and listening in the cold air outside his rehearsal studio as he practiced when we were both in residency at the Banff Centre in Canada. Never managed to meet him though – that would have been the icing on the cake.
January/February 2012 A quick reading note: Reading Donald Margulies’ play ‘Time Stands Still’, which I start rehearsal for in March for an April season at The Darlinghurst Theatre, Sydney. Love the play, love the role, hope to see you there!
Over on composer John Adams’ site is a compelling video interview with Peter Sellars. It’s worth watching it all (circa 20 mins) but particularly around the 9 min mark when he speaks of the place of pleasure in art. Find it here.
What else am I reading Jan/Feb?: HARD HED The Hoosier Chapman Papers by extraordinary Vancouver-based novelist, poet and playwright Charles Tidler. Charles Tidler is a unique literary voice, well known in his resident country Canada but he deserves a wider audience. His plays, novels and poetry meld realism and fantasy, expressionism and downright hot-damn writing into a fascinating blend (and in the interests of full disclosure, yes, he is an acquaintance but that doesn’t impinge on what I think). Check him out and buy the book through Anvil Press or at Amazon.com
Have just finished Just Kids, a book I have come to late even though I’m a big fan. At times indulgent and light on insight and at other times deeply moving and personal it is nonetheless an important memoir and an intriguing entree into the private relationship between Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith.
Listening: Jazz vocalists, in preparation for my part in the proposed writing of a new show for the ridiculously talented but under-appreciated jazz singer Robbie Thomas (and his alter ego Tony Delarte). I am also delving into my Oscar Peterson recordings again. Genius! And seeming to also pop up in the ears a lot lately is a beautiful cd by the Now Ensemble called Awake. Watch this brilliant video to one of their pieces – Plan Of The City. It’s 13 mins long but captivating. Sam Amidon, Nico Muhly and Valgeir Sigurdsson are constants too. Seeing Sam Amidon at his Sydney Festival gig in January was a real treat. If only we could convince Bedroom Community to bring something like the Whale Watching Tour here!