Spirograph Studies at the Melbourne Recital Centre, Feb 20, 2021

How the world of live music has changed. It's all about managing the audience experience, where health and safety now have priority, and  audiences  need to wear a mask through the whole performance. The foyer bar is closed, there is no merch for sale, no meet-and-greet after the show. 

So what is left ? The music, of course. In this case, the mesmerising, cinematic compositions from Tamara Murphy, bassist and leader of Melbourne-based Spirograph Studies. Along with Fran Swinn, guitar, Luke Howard, piano, and James McLean, drums, the quartet performed compositions from their recording Kindness, not Courtesy, along with some pieces from their upcoming CD.

I was excited to hear the quartet again, after seeing them at the Melbourne Jazz Festival  a few years ago. To my ear, the music invites contemplation, being almost meditative at times, so that the listener travels with the developing melodic motifs, as well as the lovely harmonic changes. It felt like being in a kaleidoscope of sound and texture, inviting many emotional responses.      Each performer shines individually for a time, then joins with the others to continue the forward-moving, ever-changing musical journey. 

Swinn played some beautiful lines and motifs, with a tone that reminded me at times of Bill Frisell and Pat Metheny, while Howard's evocative piano brought to mind some of the work by Tord Gustavsen. Murphy and McLean created a solid structural foundation, while always having breath and space in their rhythms and bass lines. 

In the subtly lit space of the Primrose Potter Salon, I was grateful to be hearing this music, and to be wearing a mask that enabled me to be a part of this wonderful performance. Bravo, Spirograph Studies. 



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