Mace Francis Orchestra

12 July 2008 at The Folkus Room

by Simon Milman

Another chilly Canberra evening, but this did not deter punters from rolling up to the Folkus room in Mawson for some big band jazz from Western Australia. Crowds have been growing steadily at the Folkus, and they present quite a large variety of different music in a cosy environment. If you haven’t been there yet check out the program at

Mace Francis Orchestra

The Mace Francis Orchestra are a 13 piece big band and they performed mostly original music by conductor Mace, saxophonist Dan Thorne and trombonist Tilman Robinson.

There were many textures, moods and sonorities explored with the soloists weaving in and out of the ensemble. Beautiful chords were often followed by more acerbic sounds and big band swing often gave way to more adventurous rhythms and accents.

Solos were predominantly handled by guitarist Tim Jago, trumpeter Callum G’Froerer, and saxes Ben Collins and Dan Thorne. Mark Sprogowski provided the only baritone salvo of the evening on an encore of Mingus’ Moanin’. I don’t believe I’ve heard a better bari sound. It was fat and low but not flabby – it was like a laser beam! The trombophonists got a bit lost when they were soloing – they were attacked from behind by the very capable trumpet section and then shadowed in front by the saxes. The rhythm section provided a solid foundation of carbohydrates and Mace himself conducted the proceedings in a humorous, laconic manner.

Apart from their original material, the band also played some more traditional big band music from the 50s penned by Bill Holman. And they performed a long overdue autopsy on gospel/jazz standard The Preacher, which had your interlocutor in stitches. A highly enjoyable evening of homegrown big band jazz which shows we have talent in spades here in Australia.

Check out the Mace Francis Orchestra on the web at

picture by Eric Pozza

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