Maybe the stars are aligned. Maybe the success of voices raised against broadcaster Alan Jones has set the earth back on its axis. Maybe the irresistible force of vocal talent which is about to gather at Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival from November 2, 2012 is exerting its magnetic power.
Whatever the reason, this reluctant enthusiast for vocals in improvised music has received some signs that a Kurt Elling experience may lie ahead for me in the wilds of Wangaratta this year. When Elling performed at this prestigious festival, I was initially reluctant, then so captivated that I went back for more. (Why reluctant? Well, I have often found that the when music includes vocals, I quietly and secretly wish that I could hear the (other) instruments — and that is not from any lack of respect for the talents of the vocalists.)
So, what signs have I seen? Well, at two recent gigs I have unexpectedly warmed to the work of vocalists, albeit only one of whom will be performing at Wangaratta in 2012.
In a short set at the Make It Up Club in Fitzroy, Adam Simmons played shakuhachi in a duo with Iranian Gelareh Pour, who played the kamanche stringed-instrument and sang so effortlessly and with such purity of sound that I was entranced.
Since then, at Paris Cat, Sarah Holmes invited Louise Goh to the microphone in a set by The Outfit. Again, I was struck by how much wordless vocals added to the pieces.
Neither Gelareh Pour nor Louise Goh will be at this year’s festival, but you never know what the future will bring.
And, as if these were not sufficient signs of the earth moving, I have had the opportunity to be immersed in the striking and compelling contribution of Carl Pannuzzo to MAGNET, which is the quartet comprising the vocalist along with Stephen Magnusson, Sergio Beresovsky and Eugene Ball. The self-titled album just released will, I predict, make its mark. Pannuzzo really takes the listener into interesting territory and demonstrates the power of vocals, as I am sure he will demonstrate with MAGNET at Wangaratta.
So having heard the portents and read the signs, I await the vocal delights at Wangaratta with the expectation of a student beginning a new subject.
Most of the population of music lovers will be hanging out for the strong, soulful voice of Gregory Porter (pictured top left in this post), who grew up in Los Angeles, but has been based in New York for the past couple of years. Porter will play with Australians John McAll on piano, Nick Lester on saxophones, Zvi Belling on bass and Danny Farrugia on drums. Artistic director of the festival, Adrian Jackson, says Porter’s music incorporates soul and gospel elements, particularly his original material but that if you hear him do some the standards on his recordings, such as Skylark and But Beautiful (Jimmy Van Heusen/Johnny Burke) he’s a really superb jazz singer.
Also a drawcard at Wangaratta will be Cyrille Aimee (pictured top right in this post), a young singer from France with a creative, effusive and fun style. She won the Montreux Jazz Festival International Singing Competition in 2007 and was runner up in the Thelonious Monk Jazz Singing Competition in 2010. Based in New York, she often performs at Dizzy’s, Birdland and Smalls. Her Surreal Band, which features expatriate Australians Sam Anning on bass and Raj Jayaweera on drums, will be joined by guitarist James Sherlock.
Of course there will be a whole lot more vocalists featured at this year’s festival, including the 10 finalists in the National Jazz Awards. They are Aimee, 28, from France (currently based in New York); Kristin Berardi, 31, from Sydney; Briana Cowlishaw, 23, from Sydney; Luara Karlson-Carp, 21, from Brisbane; Kate Kelsey-Sugg, 23, from Melbourne; Joshua Kyle, 26, from Melbourne; Chantal Mitvalsky, 29, from Melbourne; Judith Perl, 23, from Melbourne; Liz Tobias, 28, from Adelaide (currently based in Boston) and Katie Wighton, 24, from Sydney. For Miriam Zolin‘s interviews with the finalists, visit Jazz Planet.
The 10 were chosen after the three judges (Mike Nock, Michelle Nicolle and Vince Jones) assessed over 60 recorded entries on a ‘blindfold’ basis. They will perform at Wangaratta with an outstanding band comprising Sam Keevers (piano), Sam Anning (bass) and Raj Jayaweera (drums).
As well, Michelle Nicole and Vince Jones will perform with their bands, and Cyrille Aimee will open the Cup Eve concert before Vince Jones takes the stage.