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Trapeze of two jazz hands

By Arne Sjostedt

Jazz guitarist Carl Dewhurst
Jazz guitarist Carl Dewhurst

It’s a dance between two atomic particles. With their album ‘Trapeze for Two Atoms’, jazz guitarist Carl Dewhurst and pianist Matt McMahon made an atmospheric album exploring their wealth of experience.

The pair first started playing together in Sydney around 20 years ago, and later played in jazz crooner Vince Jone’s band for a number of years.

Dewhurst, who among his many other collaborations has also done ample stage time in Jame’s Morrison’s band, reconnected with McMahon through his with his first guitar teacher, primary school teacher John Cowan.

“I saw John a few years ago at a gig that I was doing down here at Smith’s Alternative, and he said ‘You know I do these house concerts, I’d love you to come down and do something sometime,’” Dewhurst said. “And anyway, we got talking about it, and he actually said, ‘Look I don’t want to tell you what to do, but have you heard of this piano player Matt McMahon?”

Carl Dewhurst with pianist Matt McMahon
Carl Dewhurst with pianist Matt McMahon

Amazed at the serendipity of Cowan’s suggestion, with the reunion established, when McMahon and Dewhurst later got together for ‘Trapeze for Two Atoms’, there is very much a focus on songs. “We play some jazz standards, we play some Irish folk songs. Matt grew up playing a lot of Irish music,” the ANU trained guitarist says.

To record the album, Dewhurst relied heavily on an old steel string dreadnought guitar. It’s a guitar that has its place more traditionally in the country and folk worlds, but in Dewhurst’s hands it offers up some of the more expansive moments on the nine-track release.

“We probably haven’t played like this since we were in Vince’s band together, because when I was in the band, he was starting to do a lot of his own original material. Which had a very sort of folk, Celtic kind of feel to it. So the album has got that feeling to it.”

During their experiences together, a lot of the music that McMahon and Dewhurst have played has been in a largely improvised context. This allowed the duo to explore their talent for free improvisation during the recording session, though only a snippet of that made it on to the album, with the final track Pretty.

“We brought ideas to the table. We didn’t write any music together. I brought some of my original songs. There are a couple of songs on the album that are tunes that I wrote 20 odd years ago,” Dewhurst says.

“The title track for the album is a tune that I wrote I think in 1995. I lived in London and Europe for about four years and I remember I played that tune with a band that I had in London for a little while and then since then it's never really had a life. So that made it onto the record.”

Touring the album, the pair promise to explore a range of moments, where audiences will be able to sit back and appreciate music made by two of Australia’s more experienced jazz hands.

Carl Dewhurst and Matt McMahon play "Trapeze for Two Atoms" on 6 September at The Street. For details go to


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