An evening with The Scott Van Gemert’s Big Band: a music review by Ron Jontof-Hutter

June 7, 2019 by Ron Jontof-Hutter
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I attended a concert given at Melbourne’s Paris Cat Jazz Club given by Scott van Gemert and his 17-piece jazz big band this week.

Scott van Gemert

Scott studied jazz at Eltham High School followed by four years at the James Morrison School of Music at UniSA, Mount Gambier where he gained an honours BA degree. He writes much of his own music in an easy to listen to style that also belies some complex writing encompassing sophisticated rhythms and harmonies. His genre integrates both American big band style as well as the smooth silky style of European Jazz. The outcome is sheer delight.

The program commenced with Scott’s own “The Mission,” displaying an impressive diverse range of sounds that were formidable yet always refined and disciplined. The audience was immediately entertained to virtuosic playing by saxophonist Flora Carbo and guitarist Theo Carbo with excellent support from double bassist Isaac Gunnoo and pianist Angus Gray that set the tone for what this band is all about.

Next, we heard Scott’s “In Calm, a Place,” with Scott himself playing tenor trombone leading his ensemble. This piece is as its title suggests, restrained with muted brass often in musical dialogue with woodwind and flutes expressing an almost lyrical style. Again, some deft double bass playing from Mr Gunnoo that wowed the audience.

Scott’s own arrangement of Thelonious Monk’s Hackensack is rhythmically complex, testing the technical skills of his band which they performed superbly with disciplined ensemble work. Scott’s arrangement is sophisticated, encompassing lively dialogue between saxophones and trombone solos as well as a vibrant double bass, percussion and piano. This virtuosic display was a pleasure to see and hear.

Scott’s own “Once More,” was written during his high school years for its band. This piece is a mature work. It is interesting in that it combines some elements of a chorale-like style (think Bach!) but clearly within the mantle of jazz.

The ensemble then showed off its “big band” sound with Scott’s arrangement of MacDonald and Hanley’s “Back Home Again in Indiana.”  This arrangement certainly tests the ensemble work of all the musicians, with complex syncopation and rapid tempo transitions, all of which Scott led with aplomb.

After the interval, the band played Scott’s own composition “The Apartment Blues,” starting with its big band style with virtuosic trombone solo played by Chris Vizard. Again, Scott showed his skill at jazz composition including the use of subtle humour in this piece.

Following some virtuosic guitar playing by Theo Carbo in Andrew Murray’s “Present,” we heard Scott’s own arrangement of Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart composition,” My Romance,” that featured very good ensemble playing with disciplined phrasing. Scott directed the band while also playing the trombone which included well-executed parts in the challenging lower register.

Ron J. Hutter

The evening ended with Scott’s own composition,” After All That,” – a piece that is both cheerful and vibrant. The band deftly displayed its trumpet, double bass and trombone solos, with complex rhythms in accompaniment.

Scott van Gemert’s Big Band was just what the doctor ordered for an uplifting night in Melbourne’s cold and wet weather. This ensemble of excellent and enthusiastic musicians is fairly new on the scene and certainly one of Australia’s new showcase surprises. Their genre would have wide appeal for diverse music lovers. I look forward to hearing them again.

Band Leader and trombone: Scott van Gemert

Saxophones: Robert Simone, Flora Carbo, Shaun Rammers, Tim Wilson, Liam Werrett

Trumpets: Matt Jones, Ed Fairlie, Paddy McMullin, Pat Thiele

Trombones: Nick Mulder, Chris Vizard, Tom Panckridge, Andrew Hammon

Guitar: Theo Carbo

Piano: Angus Gray

Double Bass: Isaac Gunnoo

Drums: Hugh Harvey

Ron Jontof-Hutter is a writer and violinist who plays with various orchestras in Australia and overseas. His satirical novel,” The trombone man: tales of a misogynist,”  was published in the U.S.

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