Marcello Maio
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Marcello Maio

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"Duo's improvisations batter down establishment pretences"

Excelsior Hotel, Surry Hills, July 7

PLACING a higher premium on harmony and composition than on rhythm and improvisation, the European music establishment of recent centuries extolled its own sophistication, while sneering at the music of the "colonies". A hierarchical scheme was created that may still be widely discerned.

This concert exemplified how nonsensical such a perspective is.

Showa44 - the duo of guitarist Carl Dewhurst and drummer Simon Barker - played two improvisations, the first more concerned with texture, interaction, dynamics and, to a lesser extent, rhythm, than with melody and harmony (in their most conventional senses). Yet the music was complete, compelling, subtle and sophisticated.

Being such pure improvisers, Dewhurst and Barker allow no self-consciousness or doubt to interfere with the music taking its natural course. Dewhurst deftly manipulated the electric guitar as a sound-generating device, lying the instrument on his lap and tapping it with a vibraphone mallet to create eerie, gong-like resonances. Combined with Barker's cymbals and real gongs, the music seemed a centuries-old echo from some Buddhist temple.

Their second piece was a dialogue about rhythm and energy, as Barker blasted furious waves of percussive invention into the foreground. While the figures played by both instruments owed much to rock music, they were deployed with a flexibility that is exclusively the domain of the finest improvisers.

Marcello Maio proves that one pigeonholes musicians at one's peril. Best known as the accordionist in the Gypsy band Monsieur Camembert, Maio's own group is half a world away from that, drawing on samba, salsa and funkier rhythms to sometimes thrilling ensemble effect (after a slightly ragged start).

His keyboard playing was always effervescent, whether soloing, underpinning those rhythms, or playing choppy cross-currents against the drive and precision of Rodrigo Galvao and Steve Marin (who swapped between drums and percussion), and bassist Junichi Shiomi. Decorating the supple feels were singers Toni Allayialis and Ngaiire Joseph and arch trombonist James Greening.

The group's debut album is due shortly.
- Sydney Morning Herald


Still working on that hot first release.



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