“A dream band… If music really can make a difference, this would surely do it” John Shand SMH 6/8/03
Sweet Freedom brought together six of Australia’s most outstanding jazz and blues musicians in a celebration of the freedom of the human spirit through music. The power of music to uplift and to tell the stories of those who are struggling for their freedom, is as relevant today as it ever was.
Sweet Freedom was first performed at the Studio at The Sydney Opera House on August 3rd 2003. Following the success of this concert the band was invited to perform at The Riverside Theatre In Parramatta in November 2003 and performed at Live Bait in Bondi in January 2004.
The music included beautiful songs from the African American gospel and jazz tradition like ‘Come Sunday’ (Duke Ellington), ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ (Sam Cooke) ‘The Creator Has A Master Plan’ (Pharoah Sanders) and ‘Volunteered Slavery’ (Roland Kirk).
The program followed the theme of struggle and liberation into modern day Australia with compositions by Sandy Evans, Jackie Orszaczky and Tina Harrod on this subject.
Blood Red Moon was a collaboration between Sandy and refugee advocate Ngareta Rossell about the sinking of the SIEV X (Suspect Illegal Entry Vessel). In late 2001 a refugee boat on its way from Indonesia to Australia sank with the loss of 352 lives. This song is about a refugee woman waiting at the wire of The Woomera Immigration Detention Centre for her family who never came.
Sweet Freedom included a collection of exquisite Hungarian songs by Jackie, as well as Tina and Jackie’s “Long Way Home” featured on Tina’s debut CD.
“A truly uplifting night” SMH
Warm spirits liberated by a dream band
Sweet Freedom : Sandy Evans and Friends
The Studio is a wonderful institution. Less than a fortnight after Meredith Monk’s unforgettable performance, it hosted another for the memory to cling to. It was subtitled Spirituals and Liberation Songs, and to realise these Sandy Evans had assembled a dream band, capable of generating a truly uplifting night.
Not only is Evans one of our key saxophonists and composers, she has a conscience. Her one original work written for this concert was a setting of a poem by Ngareta Rossell, called Blood Red Moon. This movingly dealt with a woman who, having survived the sinking of the SIEV X, waited behind Woomera’s razor wire for the rest of her family from the godforsaken vessel.
They never came.
Sung by Jackie Orszaczky and Tina Harrod, the music sweltered in the South Australian desert heat, fostering a shimmering, yearning piano solo from Matt McMahon, before Evans’s tenor exploded across the rhythm section of Jonathan Zwartz and Hamish Stuart: a plea for freedom which none who heard could deny.
This was the climax of a set which had begun with the sweeping optimism of Pharoah Sanders’ The Creator Has a Master Plan, setting the warm mood of the evening. Evans’s tenor seemed to swell in magnitude, whipped up like the sea before the gale that was Stuart’s drumming and Zwartz’s thrumming.
Orszaczky sang three songs in his native Hungarian, including the gentle Regi Kap (Faded Picture). This had muted cries from Evans’s soprano over a melting rhythm section, while Orszaczky’s grizzled voice softened and ached with compassion.
Harrod featured on Long Way Home (from her debut album), improvising with exquisite sensitivity over the ending. On Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ every word seemed a steeping stone towards some spine-tingling ecstasy or salvation.
When she backed up with a spellbinding reading of Duke Ellington’s Come Sunday, one wondered whether there is a finer singer of this music – soul, blues, gospel, jazz – in the country.
Later the contralto gave an astutely understated rendition of ‘He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands’ to complete a picture of her versatility, power and maturity.
Orszaczky’s naturally joyous musical spirit infused it all, making for a band that demands to be heard again. If music really can make a difference, this would surely do it.
Review by John Shand, Sydney Morning Herald 6 August 2003