Crossing Roper Bar (Australian Art Orchestra/Young Wagilak Group)

A superior blend: Crossing Roper Bar is a fascinating collaboration.

For the musicians of the Australian Art Orchestra, Crossing Roper Bar is a labour of love, an evolving project that began in 2005, when they first started collaborating with musicians from Ngukurr, in Arnhem Land.

This recording features just six AAO members: Paul Grabowsky (piano), Tony Hicks (saxophones, flutes, clarinets), Erkki Veltheim (viola), Stephen Magnusson (guitar), Phillip Rex (bass) and
Niko Schauble (drums). They perform alongside four members of the Young Wagilak Group: Benjamin Wilfred, Roy Wilfred, David Wilfred and Wesley Wilfred, who sing or chant, beat rhythms on clapsticks or play didgeridoos. There is a constant juxtaposition of ancient and modern sounds, traditional songs and improvised forays.

The five pieces on the album make for a fascinating journey, with the AAO musicians setting the scene for the entry of the Wagilak group, then variously giving them space, or offering discreetly creative accompaniment before moving into bolder ensemble passages.

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Crossing Roper Bar (Australian Art Orchestra/Young Wagilak Group)
4 out of 5
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