It's Jazz, Bruce, but not as we know it - The Mike Nock Trio and Richard Nunns, Government House, 02/08/2003

This is how Joe Bloggs imagines multiculturalism: a New Zealand pianist and his Anglo-Australian drummer and bassist join forces with an expert on Maori traditional musical instruments (taongo puoro); and play modern, Western, Jazz compositions featuring said instruments, in Australia, to an audience of New Zealanders and Japanese-, Greek-, Italian- and whatever-Australians. There is French champagne and American lollies in the interval, and the whole shebang is staged in the faded glory of yesteryear's British Empire at Government House, Sydney. Just another aspect of the great social experiment that is Australian multiculturalism (which, incidentally, should be promoted far more than it is - the still largely Anglo-dominated mainstream apparently being too afraid of all those dirty foreigners to realise what huge potential they represent. But more on this maybe later).

Richard Nunns, a Pakeha (of European extraction) New Zealander, spent the better part of his life researching traditional Maori instruments, and has amassed an amazing array of them to date. Nunns speaks Maori fluently, and his genuine affinity with New Zealand's indigenous population shows in his playing and his quiet, unassuming explanations of such, to Western eyes, quiddities as the Nose Flute. Considering that I normally find Jazz about as pleasing as having root canal work done, and that the venue attracted its fair share of an audience which would best be described as "cultured" (not unlike yoghurt), the evening was an absolute triumph of substance over form. Mike Nock's trio played a blinder, while Nunns' sometimes punctuations, sometimes elaborate solos never ceased to delight. Considering that the range of taongo puoro is limited to four notes, the sounds produced were absolutely, positively, jaw-droppingly beautiful, and definitely not of this earth but a better one, where Jazz and taongo puoro live happily ever after.

Playing in Government House added a nice touch of clarse (yairs) to the evening, and, dare I say, poignancy - while dead white males stared down from dusty portraits of a bygone (thank God) era, living white males played essentially non-white music to a largely non-white, largely female audience, most of which wouldn't have been permitted to attend (or even permitted into the country) 40 years ago. While Australia's current immigration policy is nothing short of a fucking disgrace, and those responsible should be, at the very least, hung, drawn and quartered (in a metaphorical sense, of course...), and the experiment of multiculturalism (as opposed to US-style ghetto-isation) seems to be under constant attack, evenings like this give back hope that maybe not all is lost. A truly embiggening (thank you, The Simpsons) performance.