Matt Ottignon Quartet – plays Mark Simmonds ‘Fire’ – Thursday, 3rd of February 2022:
It’s been almost 30 years since Mark Simmonds released his only studio album ‘Fire’ on Birdland Records. It won an Aria Award for best jazz album, is considered one of the finest jazz albums from Australia, and yet Mark himself was all but forgotten up until his death in 2020 at the age of 65. Although he permanently stopped performing and recording in the late ’90s, the 20 or so years Mark was active on the scene saw some of the most potent and creative music ever to come out of Sydney. His band the Freeboppers created music that was a reaction against the mainstream jazz favoured at the time.
The music on Fire, whilst drawing from the jazz tradition, favours the sound of Ornette Coleman’s piano-less quartet and the music of John Coltrane and Archie Shepp. Add to this potent mix, Mark’s love for rock and world music and you have the makings of a bonafide Australian Jazz classic.
Matthew Ottignon is a gun sax player/multi-instrumentalist with indisputable musical genes, a dogged work ethic and sophisticated contributions. A combination that has earned him a place among the key constituents of the contemporary scene. Matt’s enviably busy diary includes a mix of performance, composition and education. With a keen ear and an expansive range of musical experiences, Matthew’s original compositions for his band, Mister Ott, and his most recent project ‘Tread Lightly’, have been critically acclaimed and enthusiastically received by audiences. They comprise an amalgamation of melodies from many lands, in particular Ethiopian music, aligned with the free-form improvisation and syncopation for which African-pedigreed jazz is renowned.
Originally, from New Zealand, Matthew is an honours graduate of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and now calls Sydney home.
The band Matt has assembled to pay tribute to Mark’s music are uniquely suited to performing this music. Aria award-winning Jonathan Zwartz is one of foremost acoustic jazz bassists in the country, and like both Mark and Matt, originally hails from NZ.
Jonathan spent many years performing with Mark in bands such as The Umbrellas and brings a world of experience to the ensemble. Tom Avgenicos, a recent honours graduate from the Sydney Conservatorium, is a talented and creative trumpet player who is adept at the musical style of trumpet that is so well executed by Scott Tinkler on the album. Drummer James Hauptmann, who is from a prolific music family, possesses the energy and fire that Mark demanded from his drummers, and also has an attraction to the drums that Mark favoured with his drummers.
- Matt Ottignon – sax
- Tom Avgenicos – trumpet
- Jonathan Zwartz – bass
- James Hauptmann – drums
“An essential Australian jazz cd by one of the few genius’ I’ve ever heard play. This is the one and only album by the Freeboppers – every song they recorded at this session is on this 2 disc album. Mark’s compositions, musicality and downright genius are heard on this album.”
– Birdland Records
“I am trying as unselfconsciously as possible to mould together my jazz, rock, and ethnic influences in a natural way. My compositions are developing along a different line, and that is helping change the shape of my playing as well. I am aiming for a lot of textural contrasts; excitement; variation; authenticity; my own sound; and, to find myself. I want to be the best.”
– Mark Simmonds interview with Martin Jackson
“You’d look around the room and the see the other faces, blanched and wide-eyed, as though subjected to extreme G-forces. The sound of the saxophone, so overwhelming it seemed to hit you with the force of a shockwave, combined with the torrential emotions being conveyed to make a perfect musical storm. This was a typical concert by Mark Simmonds, perhaps the most potent musician Australia has produced on any instrument in any idiom or era, and one of the world’s key tenor saxophonists of the past 45 years. Simmonds poured every atom of himself into each solo, and the effect across a concert was cumulative, leaving people both traumatised and exhilarated by music that was variously furious, wildly celebratory and devastatingly sad. It was also cumulative in its effect on Simmonds himself.”
– John Shand
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