How to possibly describe Lloyd Swanton's work "Ambon"? At the risk of a cliché, it was a work of epic proportions. Starting late and finishing way over time and very late (1am), it went for a sleep-depriving nearly 2½ hours. Like other reviews that I've read, my feeling was that the live performance needed some serious editing. But how can walk out on such a performance? Not only was it riveting, to do so seemed like it would be disrespectful to the memory of Lloyd's uncle Stuart. The work was dedicated to this uncle who was imprisoned on Ambon during WWII by the Japanese, after a futile attempt by Gull Force 2/21st Battalion to defend it. This diverse work was based on an encoded diary that Stuart kept, and range from sacred music, reflecting his Christian faith, to music of Ambon, to music representing the mood of the island and the events depicted in the diary. This was a challenging work to represent visually, with so many musicians spread out across the stage, and with so much variation in style and stage presence. I hope that I have done it at least a little justice, given what an emotionally engaging work it was. Sadly, Stuart did not quite survive to the end of the war. To endure so much, only to fall so near to freedom, made the music that much more poignant.
Lloyd Swanton : Ambon (Lloyd Swanton - acoustic bass; Paul Cutlan - bass clarinet, saxophones, recorder; James Eccles - viola ("playing my uncle's viola for its first public performance since the 1930s"); Sandy Evans - tenor and soprano saxophones; James Greening - trombone, cornet, pocket trumpet, tuba; Fabian Hevia - cajon, percussion; Sam Lemann - ukulele; Jon Pease - guitar; Ron Reeves - kendang, percussion; Michel Rose - pedal steel guitar; John Hibberd - trombone; Hamish Stuart - drums) performing in the WPAC Theatre at the 2015 Wangaratta Festival of Jazz