In 2012 the Foundation agreed with Monash University to co-fund the ‘Monash Art Ensemble Project’, which is a collaboration between the music department of Monash University and the Australian Art Orchestra (AAO) led by Prof Paul Grabowsky. The aim is to share the extensive experience of both groups to develop the performance skills of outstanding young musicians.
The Monash Art Ensemble gives talented students a chance to perform with some of Australia’s foremost improvisers at Melbourne’s most prestigious jazz venues. It places experienced AAO players, with students chosen by audition and visiting artists and musical directors to create performances which explore the notion of what a 21st musician could be – a true global citizen in sound.
The ensemble had its premiere performance in late 2012 where it played three works by Paul Grabowsky. Since then, the MAE has had an active schedule of performances at many venues including Monash University, Bennett’s Lane Jazz Club and the Melbourne, Stonnington and Wangaratta Jazz Festivals. These performances have showcased newly commissioned work and collaborations with many distinguished local and overseas jazz musicians, providing the student members of the Ensemble unique opportunities to develop their performance skills and broaden their artistic horizons.
Recording of works commissioned by the MAE is a key objective of the project, and the inaugural self-titled album and ‘Hexis’, with George Lewis won the “Best Australian Contemporary ‘Avant-garde’ Jazz Album” at the 2014 and 2015 Australian Jazz Bell Awards respectively. The CD of ‘Fabliaux’, composed by and featuring Dave Douglas was released at the Wangaratta Jazz Festival in 2015, and ‘Histories’, featuring the music of Robert Burke and Marc Hannaford, was released at Wangaratta 2016.
‘Zephyrix’, composed by Barney McAll, was recorded in May 2016.
A highlight of the 2015 Melbourne Jazz Festival was the sold-out performance of Nyilipidgi, in which the MAE joined forces with the Young Wagilak Group of South East Arnhem Land to premiere a new multi-movement suite by Paul Grabowsky. Blending the musical heritage of Australia’s first people with contemporary composition and improvisation, this collaboration celebrates the reconciliatory power of music, showcasing master musicians from the world’s oldest living culture alongside some of the country’s finest jazz artists. A CD of this piece was released at the 2016 Wangaratta Jazz Festival.
A comprehensive program of performances and recording – including of newly commissioned works – is planned for this year. Details of these activities are available here.