Live Album Launch Review – by Anna Griffiths:
Walking into a sold out 505, I felt the anticipation in the room for what was to be an epic night celebrating the launch of Byron Mark’s debut album – ‘Amalgamation’. With more than 30 artists set to hit the stage, a stellar line up including nationally acclaimed musicians and dancers, we were in for a treat both aurally and visually, with a set list that consisted of everything from Flamenco, Indian and African; to funk, jazz and pop.
We were not disappointed. Kicking off the first set, a showcase of Byron’s world music pieces, was his latest composition – ‘Piano Dance’, a stunning flamenco inspired piano piece, accompanied by cello, flute, cajon and dancers. From here, Byron took us to India, Spain, and Africa, bringing out a huge variety of instruments, musicians, dancers and even a string quartet, to perform ‘Yia Yia’, a very special room-silencing tribute to Byron’s Greek grandmother. Also performed in this set was ‘Fuego Nocturno’, a beautiful piece that was nominated in the top 5 of the instrumental category at the 2016 Australian Independent Music Awards. His best friend and fellow musician Luke Koteras, co-wrote the piece, and it was a wonderful moment to see them perform it together; showcasing Byron’s flair on both the piano and the cajon, along with Luke’s guitar wizardry. Byron’s brother, Nicholas Mark, surprised us all with his spectacular performance on the didgeridoo halfway through this piece too.
Just when we thought we’d seen the extent of Byron’s repertoire, the second set delved into his world of Jazz, Pop and Funk collaborations. The song ‘Lion Heart’ was a strong standout for me. This big and bold piece was written with long-time friend and music colleague, singer Rosie Henshaw, and reflected their passion and determination for making music. ‘First Date’ was another favourite, particularly listening to the smooth soulful voice, and immaculately dressed Michael Duchesne. Wrapping up the night was ‘Happy Africa’; a joyful, celebratory song that perfectly summed up the night, which not only featured Byron in traditional costume on the djembe, but also an appearance from Master African dancer Lucky Lartey to inject a final burst of energy into the packed out night. I lost count of the instruments I saw throughout the night, but along with a smiling joyful audience, I walked out of that room feeling energised and thrilled at what I just saw.
The idea to create Amalgamation came about 10 years ago, when Byron started collaborating with most of the artists we saw on the night. The audience also witnessed the friendship and respect that Byron had earned as a musician and music director since embarking on this path. I think much to Byron’s surprise, a lot of the 32 artists that performed on the night began their piece/s with a few words about Byron – telling us a musical moment, or notable gig they’d shared with him over the last decade, creating a tapestry of stories and music which added so much more depth to the event and the album. Having so many artists coming together on the one night for this launch alone was a testament to Byron’s work and talent as a respected multi-instrumentalist. I went home with not just one, but two CD’s in hand, knowing I’d bump into someone who missed out on the event that just had to hear this fine album.
Words by Anna Griffiths.