Maceo Parker with The Meltdown in A Tribute to Ray Charles.

Maceo Parker with The Meltdown in A Tribute to Ray Charles.  (Image supplied)


Melbourne International Jazz Festival, 1-10 June, 2018

Program details are now out for the 21st MIJF, which this year aims to demonstrate that “jazz can happen anywhere”. Over 10 days more than 100 events will feature almost 400 Australian, international and emerging artists.

The usual detailed preview of the festival will be published when time permits, but here is a taste of what’s on offer.

There will be 26 venues across the city, from the Hamer Hall to small clubs, as well as cafes in Melbourne’s west. Among free festival community events will be Jazz Massive – a participatory mass-music making event on the lawns of State Library Victoria.

Melbourne International Jazz Festival Artistic Director, Michael Tortoni, says this year’s festival illustrates that jazz is the common ground that brings together a diversity of artists, genres and experiences.

“This year our program focuses on the waves of influence that jazz has – both within itself and also the influence it has on other music genres. We are really excited to showcase some of the future directions of this vital and ever-evolving art form,” Tortoni says.

Madeleine Peyroux

Madeleine Peyroux                      Image: Shervin-Lainez

International artists will include funk legend Maceo Parker (USA) paying tribute to Ray Charles, jazz-blues chanteuse Madeleine Peyroux (USA), the “(inter)stellar” Sun Ra Arkestra (USA) and Yemen Blues (USA). Modern masters will include Branford Marsalis (USA), Gretchen Parlato (USA), Christian McBride (USA) and Terri Lyne Carrington (USA); alongside future masters such as Nubya Garcia (UK) and Francesco Cafiso (Italy).

Australian artists on the festival program will include The Others, a collaboration between Paul Grabowsky AO, James Morrison and Kram that wowed the audience in its debut at the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues in 2017, Harry James Angus’s new project, Struggle With Glory, and Brenton Foster as the recipient of the PBS Young Elder of Jazz Commission.

Melbourne-based Barney McAll will premiere two works: Trilogy of Cycles at Birrarung Marr’s Federation Bells and Sweet Sweet Spirit featuring music by the great gospel composer Doris Akers at Darebin Arts and Entertainment Centre.

The festival’s international exchange program with the Tokyo and Singapore jazz festivals is supporting the development and world premiere of The Gravity Project, which brings together contemporary Japanese and Australian improvisers Paul Grabowsky AO, Masaki Nakamura, Kuniko Obina and Aaron Choulai and the Chok Kerong Trio from Singapore.

Jazz Out West returns with local DJ, radio broadcaster and music personality Mz Rizk as guest programmer, focusing on experiences not usually found in a jazz festival, including a cross-genre tribute to high priestess of soul: Nina Simone and emerging crossover artists Thando, Cool Out Sun, KillaHertz and Kalala & The Round Midnights.

Free events will include the return of Sound Walks throughout the city, lunchtime concerts at St James and the long-running artist workshops and Close Encounters series, which has expanded to include career development workshops led by industry experts and practitioners including Chelsea Wilson (Brunswick Music Festival), Fem Belling (The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra), and Marcus Strickland (Christian McBride’s New Jawn / Twi-life).

Family-friendly festival events include Lah-Lah’s Big Jazz Adventure and the Melbourne Mass Gospel Choir at Southern Cross Lane.

There are some venue changes. Sonny Rehe’s Uptown Jazz Cafe is not on board this year, which is a pity as it has contributed substantially to the line-up of artists in past years. The Toff in the Town was a last-minute inclusion last year, but won’t feature this year.

Club Sessions will be held at The Jazzlab in Brunswick,  Dizzy’s Jazz Club in Richmond, Lido Jazz Room in Hawthorn and Southside Jazz Room in Elsternwick.

Larger concerts will take place in Hamer Hall, Melbourne Recital Centre, 170 Russell and Darebin Arts Centre. Jazz Out West gigs will be spread over a wide range of venues.

Full program details are now available at the MIJF website.



Vale John McBeath

Gerry Koster, John McBeath

Gerry Koster with John McBeath in June 2014 during the Melbourne International Jazz Festival.

Vale John McBeath

Today at 2pm in Adelaide, family and close friends will farewell John McBeath, who many in the jazz community will know through his critiques of major festivals and the regular publication of his album reviews in The Australian.

Not everyone was happy with what John wrote — that’s surely inevitable and appropriate for a music critic. But no one doubted his commitment to the task — not an easy one — of using words, in most cases too few words, to convey thoughts about music.

I don’t think criticisms of the critic worried John all that much. I can vividly recall a refrain of his, when assessing festival programs, that too many of the same old artists were appearing in the line-ups. He had a point, although budget constraints always make programming difficult.

John will be missed not only as a scribe, but by those who regularly engaged him in discussions on inspiring artists and performances in the broad church loosely described as jazz, whether well known or obscure. One person in particular who will feel that loss is his good friend Gerry Koster, pictured above with John in a happy moment before a Melbourne International Jazz Festival concert  in June 2014. I like that picture because it captures a little of the comradeship that exists among the small group of media people who follow the local jazz scene.

John will also be missed at Wangaratta when he and his wife, Mary, were able to share brief breaks over a hasty meal amid the bustle of the jazz festival. At those times the topics of conversation were not limited to the music.

Our love and thoughts are with Mary and family at this difficult time.

Martin Jackson of the Melbourne Jazz Co-operative has posted these details of John’s life and work:

“John McBeath, former jazz critic for The Australian and Adelaide’s The Advertiser newspapers (2003-2017) and Australian Jazz Award judge, passed away in Adelaide last night [12 March] after an extended illness. For over 25 years John had been a freelance writer, publishing a wide variety of genres: jazz reviews, news items, travel articles, features, personality profiles, and CD and book reviews for The Adelaide Review, The Republican, The Bulletin, The Australian, The Advertiser, the Melbourne Herald Sun, several regional newspapers and airline inflight magazines.

“He’s won national prizes for jazz reviews and travel writing, and written a memoir book, What Westerners Have For Breakfast (2013), about the five years he spent living in Goa, India, in the 1980s.

“In addition to living in India, he also spent time living in other parts of Australia (managing community radio stations in Cairns, 1990-1993, and Alice Springs,1993-1997), before moving to Adelaide in 1997. Due to ill-health he resigned from his role as jazz critic at The Australian around August last year (being replaced by Eric Myers).”

John’s funeral will be held in Adelaide today — Friday, 16 March, 2018 — in The White Lady Funerals Chapel at 209 Anzac Highway, Plympton, commencing at 2pm. After the service,  a wake in his honour will be held at ‘The Wheaty’ in Thebarton, from 4pm. Small donations to the Cancer Council are suggested in lieu of flowers.



Scott Tinkler

Scott Tinkler


Melbourne Jazz Co-operative’s 35th Anniversary celebration, Sunday 28 January from 12.30pm to 8.30pm, Moreland City Band Hall, 16-22 Cross Street, Brunswick East

To celebrate its 35th Anniversary, the MJC held an eight-hour music feast featuring eight outstanding groups. This line-up for this big-arse Sunday equivalent (remember those?) was, I believe, put together by Eugene Ball. Let’s hear it for EB, because it was fantastically diverse music, not without its challenges for the listener – which is as it should be.

With excellent food available, a great community vibe, some penetrating (and often unanswered) questions for Martin Jackson from MC Ronny Ferella, and hours of music in a cool venue on a hot day, this celebration was a huge success. Kellie Jayne Chambers wasn’t there on the day, but also deserves plaudits for her work beforehand setting up the venue.

Here are some image galleries from the day’s performances.

12.30pm Andrea Keller’s Masters & Apprentices

I arrived late and caught only the last of this set. The mixing of experienced musicians with talented young players is great as a concept and in practice. As with all of Keller’s projects, this worked well and delivered quality musicianship.

1.30pm Scott Tinkler and Simon Barker

Ronny Ferella took the mic before the next set, asking Martin Jackson some tough questions about the MJC. Ferella said over many years the MJC had provided a safe zone to hear unsafe music. Jackson said some of the best gigs may have had the fewest people in the audience

Then Simon Barker and Scott Tinkler – the latter in his penultimate gig before going south to Bruny Island – held us spellbound. I loved the intensity, the attentiveness and responsiveness of this duo, the variations, the ease of their complementarity and the freedom of their improvisation. It was engrossing, dramatic and sustaining.



This post will continue with more images from this MJC celebration when time permits.


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