Wednesday, July 26, 2023


The Michelle Nicolle Quartet

The Street Theatre 21 July


Reviewed by Len Power


One of the great composers, J.S. Bach’s music and its often abstract nature makes it a good choice for re-imagination and improvisation.

Jazz ensemble, the Michelle Nicolle Quartet, in their concert at the Street Theatre, showed a sold out audience how this could be achieved with spirit and superb musicianship.

For 24 years, the Michelle Nicolle Quartet has been interpreting and re-imagining music as a 21st century improvising chamber group.  Vocalist, Michelle Nicolle, was joined onstage by guitarist Hugh Stuckey, bassist Tom Lee and drummer Ronny Ferella.

From left: Michelle Nicolle, Ronny Ferella, Tom Lee and Hugh Stuckey

The Bach Project was initiated by the University of Adelaide’s Elder Conservatorium, inviting the MNQ to perform for the 2014 Bach Festival. The quartet’s arrangements showcase the mastery of J.S. Bach’s compositions and add a new flavour to the improvisational elements found in these great works.

The quartet performed 10 works, most of them from The Bach Project.  There were also two other songs – “Naturally What” and “One Beer”.

They commenced with “Bist du bei mir”, haunting and sensuous and a perfect mood-setting piece for the evening. Nicolle’s voice just draws you in and the musicians accompanying her are with her all the way.  The result is spell-binding and continued throughout the evening.

They continued with other Bach works in their unique musical style including “Minuet in G”, “Musette in D Major” and “March in D(Ornette)” – a re-imagining of this work as if it were played by Ornette Coleman.

There were also superb arrangements of “Fugue in Gm” combined with “Round Midnight” by Thelonius Monk and “Sarabande (from Partita No. 1) fused with “Lonely Woman” by Horace Silver.  These were the highlights of the evening.

The final work performed, “Komm, süsser Tod” (Come Sweet Death), their interpretation was full of the yearning for rest in death and Heaven. In their hands, it was strangely uplifting and a perfect end to this sublime concert.


Photo by Len Power

This review was first published by Canberra CityNews digital edition on 22 July 2023.

Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at