Adam Simmons review: Potent demonstration of the necessity of art
—4 stars, Jessica Nicholas, The Age
“Travelling Tales is another marvellously assured step in Simmons’ own journey as musician and composer, and a potent demonstration of the usefulness – no, the necessity – of art as an expression of our collective humanity.”
—5 stars, Raphael Solarsh, Arts Hub
“An exquisite musical journey that takes you from sun down amongst natural beauty to first light after a sleepless city night. Simmons’ music is rich and evocative with the cinematic string arrangement given a grittier and more tactile edge by saxophony that spanned subtle breath all the way to unrestrained wail.”
Travelling Tales (fortyfivedownstairs)
—4 stars, Des Cowley, Australian Books and Arts Review
“With three projects in the series now completed, Adam Simmons’s ‘The Usefulness of Art’ can increasingly be viewed as a major musical statement by a mid-career artist. The radical decision by a musician most often associated with jazz to conceptualise these large-scale performances – each in collaboration with a different ensemble – as artworks rather than club gigs is testament to the broad-ranging ambitiousness of Simmons as a composer. For Travelling Tales, the Arcko Symphonic Ensemble provided admirable support, performing their task with extraordinary precision, an impressive feat given that it followed just two rehearsals.”
Useful = accessible
—Clive O’Connell, classical music reviewer
“And the concert fulfilled the aim of Simmons’ intent: to illustrate the usefulness of his art – both to himself and to us. I think that the basis of what he is attempting is to found his music in comprehensibility – no, instant understanding. Music that is accessible, intellectually and emotionally, is useful; composers who choose to obfuscate, inadvertently or intentionally, are heading in the other direction and writing music of no help to anyone.
“More down-to-earth, the composer has succeeded in linking his own swooping performance creativity and the pervasive power of his playing with a formal framework of such character that should reassure even the most conservative listener.”
Adam Simmons’ Travelling Tales music review (45 Downstairs, Melbourne)
—Shane Murphy, Daily Review
“Simmons is relaxed and warm in his introductions; it’s clear he’s someone who loves what he does. This is not the art of torturous self-analysis, but for this instalment at least, reflections on travel and the experiences encountered… a smooth night of sweet music.”
What Melbourne Loved in 2017, part 3 —Favourite moments
—Sarah Walker, Sometimes Melbourne
“My other favourite moment was during The Adam Simmons Creative Music Ensemble’s The Usefulness of Art concert at fortyfivedownstairs. The whole concert was so suffused with joy and excitement. At the crescendo of the work, Adam was standing in front of the orchestra, furiously conducting, not so much leading the music as wrenching it from the performers – punching the air to bring the sound along with him and as the piece peaked, he let out this yell that was the most cathartic release of energy, and the band crashed around him, and, holy shit, I had goosebumps coursing up and down my whole body and everything was shining.”
2017 Arts Highlights of the Year
—Des Cowley, Australian Books and Arts Review
There were many memorable performances by jazz and improvising musicians throughout 2017. Two that stood out incorporated strong visual and theatrical elements.
Composer and multi-instrumentalist Adam Simmons’s The Usefulness of Art (ABR Arts, 8/17), performed by a large ensemble at fortyfivedownstairs, similarly incorporated theatrical costume and design to heighten the power of this impassioned music.
Hotter-than-hot musical wunderkind Adam Simmons brings the Melbourne premiere of his musical suite Travelling Tales to fortyfivedownstairs from December 7—10.
Simmons will perform this rapturous avant garde-jazz-classical suite with the 20-piece world-class Arcko Ensemble, conducted by Timothy Phillips.
Simmons composed and first performed Travelling Tales for the 2013 Piraeus Festival in Athens, Greece, with the Intrarti Orchestra. The work comprises musical vignettes inspired by his worldwide travels, love of Japanese shakuhachi music, and profound belief in the usefulness of art.
It will be the third in his acclaimed The Usefulness of Art concert series. Comprising five concerts over two years, The Usefulness of Art series is inspired by a Rodin quote, and is the driving force behind Simmons’ formidable musical career.
The first two concerts have elicited rapturous praise from critics and audiences alike. The Age Classical Reviewer, Clive O’Connell, wrote, “At a time when really adventurous musical events are rare, this night was a breath of fresh air, leaving you elated with its accomplishment.”
Des Cowley, Australian Book Review, described the second concert as, “… a triumph in every way,” and the Daily Review’s Shane Murphy said, “If the usefulness of art is to make one happy, then Simmons went a long way to doing so.”
A virtuoso player of saxophones, clarinets, flute and shakuhachi (Japanese flute), Simmons stretches the boundaries of modern composition and infuses a sense of wonder and playfulness into musical art forms better known for their gravitas.
His performances are not so much ‘concerts’ as staged auditory spectacles—drawing audiences in to share in the uniquely communal power and euphoria of his music and art.
Revered by his peers, lauded by critics and adored by audiences, up to now he’s been somewhat of an unsung hero on the Melbourne music scene. This is all about to change; as well as co-directing a killer line-up at the latest Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues, he’s just got a gig as artist-in-residence for FOMA MONA 2018 and won a spot in the Australia Council’s prestigious Arts Leaders Program.
For Travelling Tales, Simmons chose to work with Timothy Phillips and the Arcko Ensemble not just because of their virtuoso playing but also their focus on Australian works and composers. With a 20-piece string orchestra and conductor, Simmons will be playing tenor and soprano saxophones as well as bass clarinet. Continuing the theatrically-inspired theme for his concerts, the musicians will be wearing costumes designed by Christine Crawford.
An award-winning and world-renowned musician, Adam Simmons redefines the term ‘multi-instrumentalist’, stretches the boundaries of modern composition, and infuses a sense of childlike wonder and playfulness into musical art forms better known for their gravitas. He has a deserved reputation as one of Australia’s most prolific and eclectic musical artists, appearing on festival stages and recordings with some of the world’s finest classical and jazz musicians, and is renowned for his inclusive, collaborative and uplifting performances.
Concert #2: Meditation on The Usefulness of Art is music for our times (The Usefulness of Art)
Concert #1: Unique concert series to explore The Usefulness of Art (Concerto for Piano & Toy Band)