Ellen Kirkwood & Sirens Big Band release their third album [A]part feat. Sandy Evans, Andrea Keller & Gian Slater

Ellen Kirkwood and Sirens Big Band will release their new album, [A]part, on Friday 19th October, with launch performances at Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues on November 3rd, and the Sydney International Women’s Jazz Festival on November 13th.

13-piece powerhouse Sirens Big Band plus featured soloists Andrea Keller, Sandy Evans and Gian Slater, present Ellen Kirkwood’s epic 56-minute, four-part suite. The magnum opus is Ellen’s emotive and captivating response to growing issues in a rapidly changing world: the wonder and malignance of the internet, the refugee crisis, greed and climate change, and reflections/reactions to the present.

[A]part traverses a diverse series of moods and influences. The musical metamorphosis from one section to another sees a vast array of ideas and styles including neo-classicism, chorale, afro-cuban, afrobeat and electronica. With echoes of Guillermo Klein and Carla Bley, Kirkwood’s imaginative and daring composition style is abundant here, as she draws listeners in with her narrative-style writing, full of character, feeling and unexpected twists. Listeners can expect an engrossing journey through music that evokes rage, bewilderment, calm, determination, and everything in between. 

A dynamic collective bringing new sounds to the traditional big band setting, Sirens Big Band are passionate about increasing gender diversity in jazz through their predominantly female and trans line-up. Ellen Kirkwood, a member since Sirens’ formation in early 2010, has been an important contributor to the group’s unique repertoire. Pianist Andrea Keller, saxophonist Sandy Evans and vocalist Gian Slater are three of Australia’s most celebrated and in-demand jazz performer/composers, and have played  a significant part in inspiring Ellen and her generation of creative jazz musicians.


[A]part was penned in 2016-17 during Ellen’s Australia Council-funded composition mentorship with composer/pianist Barney McAll. [A]part was a 2018 finalist in the APRA Art Music Awards for Jazz Work of the Year, and Ellen was a finalist in the 2017 Freedman Jazz Fellowships largely due to this work. The album was recorded and co-produced by Bob Scott at Sydney’s Studios 301 over three days in September 2018.


‘I’m really proud of this album, and this huge work,” says Kirkwood. “I think it’s important for artists to create works that comment on their times and connect emotionally with audiences. It’s easy to become complacent when the world’s problems seem too big, but I hope that my music can encourage people to keep feeling and striving.” On the experience of recording [A]part, she comments, “It was a big effort but a lot of fun, and an honour to have such an amazing group of musicians bring my work to life with passion, skill and dedication.”


Album: [A]part

Release: 19th October 2018

Label: Earshift Music distributed by MGM

Personnel: Ellen Kirkwood (trumpet, composition), Sandy Evans (saxophones), Andrea Keller (piano), Gian Slater (voice). Woodwinds: Laura Corney, Melissa Mony, Harri Harding, Phillippa Murphy-Haste, Cheryl Durongpisitkul*, Savannah Blount*. Brass: Paul Murchison, Claire Hollander (trumpets), Eve McEwen (french horn), Nick Polovineo (trombone), Jessica Ling (tubas). Rhythm: Alon Ilsar (drums and AirSticks), Ben Hauptmann (guitar), Jacques Emery (double and electric bass),  Joshua Ahearn (double bass - track 4), Jessica Dunn (double bass, solo track 4)

*on track 1 intro and track 2 chorale ending.




Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues

Saturday November 3rd, 6:30pm

WPAC Theatre, Wangaratta








Sydney International Women’s Jazz Festival

Tuesday November 13th, 7:30pm

Foundry 616, Ultimo

With support by the Young Women’s Jazz Orchestra

Tickets - $34/$28 concession



ABOUT THE MUSIC - Composer’s notes


[A]part 1 - The internet: wonder and malignance

I’m fascinated by the internet and how our lives are becoming increasingly influenced by it. In many ways it’s wondrous; information at our fingertips, news and entertainment from around the world, instant communication with people who are thousands of kilometres away. Simultaneously it’s like a cancer that works its way into our psyches. Addictions are formed, political rifts widen, personal information is sold and our very attention becomes a commodity.


[A]part 2 - On the refugee crisis

What would it be like to be in a situation where you lived in constant danger? Your country is at war, maybe your city is being bombed, or people you know are being threatened or killed. What would it be like to decide you have to leave, and face horrible uncertainty and danger for the chance to save yourself and your family? I don’t know how this feels, but I was trying to imagine when I wrote this. I am also filled with anger and pain when I think of the ill treatment many desperate people receive, but also amazed at the resilience of humanity.


[A]part 3 - Greed and climate change

These days reality can sometimes be hard to believe. Things are happening that should only be fiction, yet they’re becoming normal. Facts aren’t important anymore; opinion is. There are many for whom the fact of climate change is inconvenient; a threat to their wealth and power, and they deny its existence, telling us everything is fine. The truth is, however, that humanity has exploited the earth far beyond the point of sustainability. We’re beginning to suffer from the consequences, and it might be too late.


[A]part 4 - The present: reflections and reactions

How to process it all? The constant barrage of information, bad news, opinions and quarrelling. And what can we do about it as insignificant individuals? Angst, loss, reflection, determination, rebellion, longing, and maybe a bit of hope.