Lloyd Swanton – Ambon album launch at Wangaratta Jazz

Announcing the release of Ambon, a double cd by Lloyd Swanton, launched with a performance at the Wangaratta Jazz Festival.

After a number of years in development, and several sold-out concerts, Lloyd Swanton’s intensely-moving, highly-acclaimed Ambon suite will be released as a double CD on Friday 30th October, on Bugle Records through Rocket.

Lloyd’s uncle Stuart Swanton was one of some 1,200 men sent as part of Gull Force to the island of Ambon (in present-day Indonesia) in late 1941, in a vain attempt to defend it from a vastly-superior Japanese invading force.

With no choice but to surrender, Stuart and his mates were then held captive on Ambon for the next three and a half years in one of the worst prison camps of the entire Asia/Pacific theatre.

Like the majority of his POW mates, Stuart Swanton did not survive. But he kept a secret diary in a coded shorthand, which was brought back to Australia after the war, and is the only substantial surviving diary written by a soldier on Ambon.

Lloyd Swanton has drawn on numerous musical elements referenced in his uncle’s diary to create a diverse suite of music which brings meaning and life to the Ambon story. Jazz, military marches, work song, island music, gospel, spoken word and visual imagery are all recruited to the task of reanimating the tragedy; shining a light on an aspect of Australia’s World War II history that is all too little known.

Reviews of Ambon’s premiere performance were glowing. The Sydney Morning Herald called it “an extraordinary achievement”, and “a conceptual and compositional triumph”.

The Blue Mountains Gazette also praised the “perfectly performed” piece.

Ambon is now to be released as a double CD, beautifully recorded at Sydney’s Studios 301 by Tim Whitten; performed by 12 of Australia’s top musicians: Swanton on double bass, a horn section consisting of wind players Sandy Evans and Paul Cutlan, with brass by James Greening and Alex Silver; balancing that is a string complement comprising Chuck Morgan (ukulele), James Eccles (playing Stuart Swanton’s own viola), Michel Rose (pedal steel guitar), and Jon Pease on guitar. Providing intense drive and colour are percussionists Ron Reeves (kendang), Fabian Hevia (cajon) and Hamish Stuart (drum kit).

The double album, packaged sumptuously with a 32-page essay and numerous photos, artfully opens out the story of Gull Force to a wide audience.

Says Lloyd Swanton “I wanted to pay tribute to the bravery and decency of my uncle. I wanted, whilst not shying away from the confronting horror of Ambon, to identify elements of joy and beauty in the saga. And finally, I wanted to draw people into the story, as I believe it’s an important one for all Australians, and in fact anyone with an interest in WWII history. As I got deeper into this project I realised that, as both a professional musician of long experience, and someone in possession of this precious and rare historical document, I had a veritable obligation to bring this story to life as best as I could.”

Ambon, on Bugle Records through Rocket, will be available from Friday 30th October in all good record shops, or online through the Bugle Records site.

And the exciting news is that Ambon will be staged for the public one more time, on Saturday 31st of October, in the beautiful WPAC Theatre at Australia’s most prestigious jazz festival, the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues. Don’t miss this final opportunity to be part of two hours of beauty, emotion, and real history.

Information and bookings can be made here.