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ClassicsOnline Home » BAECASTUFF: Out of This World
By John Clare
Sydney Morning Herald
Baecastuff, Australia's foremost improvisational sextet, describe their own sound as 'jungle jazz.' But most people who have heard them describe their music in much more laudatory terms.
Musically, Baecastuff - also the name of an indigenous tobacco bush - is a distinctive, challenging hybrid of electric and acoustic jazz/fusion, influenced by Miles Davis and Weather Report but far from imitation. Out Of This World is more introspective than their past works, suggesting this is a band that dares to explore internally into themselves in even greater depth. Eight of the nine tracks are original compositions. The one standard they visit - the Johnny Mercer/Harold Arlen title tune, Out Of This world - is given a treatment far from traditional.
Formed in 1996 by saxophonist Rick Robertson, whose last band was the major label jazz-groove outfit, d.i.g. Baecastuff is an innovative sextet destined for international acclaim. It already has two CDs (One Hand Clapping and Big Swell) to its credit and both recordings have won unanimous acclaim in their homeland for originality. As a musician, Robertson first took up the trumpet in the early seventies playing in the Norfolk Island Boys Brass Band before switching to the reed in his late teens. He spent much of the early eighties in New Zealand playing, touring and recording with various bands. He moved to Australia in 1990 to study at the Sydney Conservatorium and established himself in the Sydney scene.
1991 saw the formation of the band d.i.g, which saxophonist Robertson was an original member and they were instantly propelled into the limelight. Constant touring including three international tours and writing and recording of three albums, the first of which went gold, took up much of the following eight years. When the band broke-up, Robertson formed Baecastuff in 1996.
Baecastuff's other members are also esteemed parts of the Australian scene. Influenced by Joe Zawinal and Weather Report, keyboardist Matt McMahon studied intensely at the Sydney Conservatorium of music with Mike Nock, Roger Frampton and Judy Bailey. Trumpeter Phillip Slater also made his debut with the Mike Nock Quintet in 1993, and has since performed with many Australian jazz ensembles. In 1997 he was selected (by Freddie Hubbard) for the finals of the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition and where he was given a special commendation by fellow trumpeters Clark Terry and Randy Brecker.
From the rhythm section, no-nonsense bassist Alex Hewetson is perhaps the hardest working man in Australia. Among the country's most in-demand musician, most recently he was in the studio with multi-platinum artists Savage Garden. Drummer Simon Barker is well known in jazz circles for his incredible creative force and energetic precise technique. Percussionist Aykho Ahkrif, born in the South of Spain to Afro-Spanish origins, grew up in Morroco before moving to Holland where he developed his talents. During his years in Europe he played with artists from Bob Dylan, the Gypsy Kings, Nicky Marrero to Cuban ensembles. He moved to Australia to take a percussion teaching position.
Together they form the most fascinating, exciting new jazz act anywhere in the world. Expect the unexpected with Baecastuff because this is a band - Out Of This World.
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BAECASTUFF: Out of This World