Confrontations, Live at Wangaratta

by The Joe O'Connor Trio with Scott Tinkler

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In the first months of 2016, I composed a suite of music called Confrontations for Scott Tinkler and my trio with James McLean and Marty Holoubek. With the support of the PBS Young Elder of Jazz commission, I created six pieces that explored conflict and multiplicity in a variety of notated and improvised configurations. We premiered the pieces at the Melbourne International Jazz Festival in 2016 and had a second opportunity to perform five of the pieces at Wangaratta Jazz Festival later the same year. There was a fantastic energy throughout the latter gig in particular. Our improvisations were rich with ideas and flowed naturally between the difficult notated passages. Few musicians can match Scott’s phenomenal presence, and his relentless energy undoubtedly challenged my trio to explore different registers of intensity in our interactions. Fortunately, James Kennedy recorded this performance for broadcast on ABC Jazz and I am now happy to share the performance as a digital album.

My trio with James and Marty was an important creative outlet for me from 2013 – 2017, but as our interests developed in different directions we decided to put a full stop on our four-year collaboration. These recordings hold a particular significance for me because, in many ways, I believe they capture the most developed expression of our unique approach.

My sincerest thanks to James McLean, Marty Holoubek and Scott Tinkler for their commitment to this music. My further thanks to the folk at ABC and PBS radio for their support for the project, and to Mark Newman whose generous support of the Young Elder of Jazz Commission made this work a possibility.


Sometimes Ya Gotta Light a Fire – This opening piece sets the tone for the whole suite. It is intricate, multilayered, linear and rhythmically mercurial. The melody begins in the bass, accompanied by intervals in piano. The trumpet enters midway through the composition with a virtuosic melody that rips across different registers, leaping by wide intervals. Following a tense piano trio improvisation, the ensemble enters a detailed form that feels free and unencumbered despite its compositional underpinnings.

Sarabande – Sarabande is a ballad of sorts, a moment of relative calm amongst the storms that precede and follow. The title refers to a slow baroque dance form in three, but this dance is a little lopsided. Subtle variations in the phrase length and the placement of the bass and piano figures counteract the stability hinted at by the quasi-repetitive chordal motif. There is a sense of circularity in the form- a sense of repetition without being able to identify exact recurrences. Metrical quirks are designed to unsettle the expectations of attuned jazz listeners who might normally listen in terms of solo choruses. Where does a chorus even start? Sarabande features beautiful solos by Tinkler and Holoubek.

Obstinato - A portmanteau of Obstinate and Ostinato, the title captures the attitude and construction of this piece. Three-part counterpoint is built around an ostinato in the bass and the left hand of the piano, which repeats in semiquaver and septuplet subdivisions separated by a spacious interlude. The intricate notation opens into improvisation, furnished by the contrapuntal density of the head. The powerful drive of McLeans fractured back beat is a particular highlight.

Nest – The idea for Nest came after reading an article about compositional process in a piece called Funk by English/Australian complexist composer Chris Dench. Nest sounds nothing like Dench’s piece but both create rhythmic form by nesting a fixed series of durations within itself, kind of like a rhythmic babushka doll. Tinkler’s trumpet soars above a series of quasi tonal sonorities that repeat at different speeds.

Blocks - Density and instrumentation shift suddenly, partitioning the form into blocks of different intensity. There is also a block-like character to the metrical structure, which is based on a rhythm diamond that becomes the form for improvisation.


released October 1, 2018

Scott Tinkler - Trumpet
Joe O'Connor - Piano
James McLean - Drums
Marty Holoubek - Double Bass

Recorded, mixed and mastered by James Kennedy for
ABC Jazz. Licensed courtesy of ABC Music.


all rights reserved



Joe O'Connor Melbourne, Australia

Joe is an improvising pianist and composer whose music draws from jazz, experimental and contemporary classical traditions. He won the 2013 National Jazz Award, the 2014 Bell Award for Young Australian Jazz Musician of the Year and was a finalist in the 2016 Freedman Jazz Fellowship. He Holds a PhD in music performance from Monash University. ... more

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