Matt Ottignon Quartet – The music of Mark Simmonds’ “Fire” – Wednesday, 13th of March 2024:
“He’d have cried tears of joy” – Sydney Morning Herald.
It’s been 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 90’s, 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. The musicians that 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. Tom Avgenicos, 2022 Freedman Jazz Fellow, is a talented and creative trumpet player who has emerged as a vital presence on the Australian jazz scene and. Drummer James Hauptmann, who is from a prolific music family, possesses the energy and fire that Mark demanded from his drummers. Their first performance of this music received a four-star review in the Sydney Morning Herald.
- Matt Ottignon – Sax
- Tom Avgenicos – Trumpet
- Jonathan Zwartz – Bass
- James Hauptmann – Drums
“Ottignon assembled a bristling band to confront this material head-on and investigate it afresh, his own sprawling tenor saxophone joined by Tom Avgenicos’ spiky trumpet, Jonathan Zwartz’s double bass and James Hauptmann’s drums. Together they invested the music with their own thrilling energy” – Sydney Morning Herald, 2022.
“An essential Australian jazz cd by one of the few geniuses 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 in 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