A FESTIVAL GUIDE:
Wangaratta Jazz & Blues Festival, Friday 31 October to Monday 3 November.
It’s that time of year when excitement and an air of expectation begin to override all the mundane matters of life, necessary as they are, and the longing rises to be on the road again to Wangaratta.
Once the bags are packed and the journey has begun, there is that delicious interlude when speculation can occur on what unexpected delights may arise — what special moments in a concert will take you out of the straight-line world and into total absorption.
There will always be the appeal of the international artists, who bring a different perspective and virtuosic skills. But the special moments — or whole sets — may come when they, along with Australian jazz players, join old friends or musicians new to them and go in an unexpected direction. These are the serendipitous moments that will be remembered.
The challenge for patrons, then, is to be in the right place at the right time.
As posted back in July, Artistic Director Adrian Jackson‘s line-up for the long weekend of jazz and blues features more than 300 musicians in more than 80 concerts on the main program, and more than 30 concerts on the Main Street free stages. So there is plenty of potential for magic moments.
International artists include European jazz, trumpet and flugelhorn maestro Enrico Rava (Italy); Grammy Award winning drummer Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts (USA) with his band, which includes New York-based expatriate Australian saxophonist out of Perth, Troy Roberts; and composer/trumpeter Laura Watts (USA), who spent time in Brisbane years ago.
Also, New York-based saxophonist, formerly of Sydney, Lisa Parrot, returns to the festival two decades after being runner-up in the National Jazz Awards (Saxophone) in 1994.
Anyone looking for a serendipitous moment should be in WPAC Theatre at 8.30pm Sunday 2 November when Rava will reunite with drum maestro Niko Schauble‘s Papa Carlo in the line-up that recorded their album Night Music in 1995.
Another reunion to watch will come in two gigs by Spoke (USA), in which drummer Danny Fischer will get together with the band, including Andy Hunter on trombone, formed when Fischer was living in New York in 2006.
And keep an ear out for Roger Manins, who will slip over from New Zealand to re-form his band Hip Flask, featuring Stu Hunter on organ.
Australian musicians are certain to contribute distinctive and inventive highlights on the program, among them being the Australian Art Orchestra’s Louis Armstrong-inspired work Struttin’ With Some Barbecue, conceived and composed/arranged by Eugene Ball and AAO Artistic Director Peter Knight, which uses Armstrong’s letters to reframe the smiling entertainer’s facade and reveal his pain. Guest performers for this Friday evening gig will be drummer Allan Browne, Sydney turntablist Martin Ng and PNG-born pop artist Ngaire. Expect the unexpected in this work, premiered at MONA in Tasmania and described thus: “If Louis Armstrong went to the moon instead of Neil Armstrong it would have sounded like this.”
Good things come out of Perth, I always say of jazz talent, but they also come out of Monash University, which is a kernel of creativity. Young trumpeter-composer Jessica Carlton won the Monash Jazz Prize with a piece played by Issho, the band she formed in 2012. The sextet includes Tim Willis, leader of The End. Expect to be delighted.
And, though I’ve never heard them play, I’m already grinning from ear to ear at the prospect of enjoying Greening From Ear to Ear, a septet formed by the inimitable James Greening (adding tuba and sousaphone to his trombone and to-die-for pocket trumpet) including Andrew Robson on alto and baritone sax. If this is not a festival highlight then I’m a fan of Scott Morrison.
In the National Jazz Awards year of guitar, judges James Muller and Stephen Magnusson will make a rare collaboration in a quartet format with Danny Fischer and Frank Di Sario on bass. Expect them to explore the works of John Scofield and Pat Metheny.
Already I can feel the pressure of festival clashes building, but for lovers of the elegant and uplifting venue Holy Trinity Cathedral, pianist and composer Tony Gould will perform in duo concerts with multi-instrumentalist Adam Simmons and, a little surprisingly, with Hoodangers trombonist Ben Gillespie. Hard to resist these if you’re looking for memorable gigs.
And in that listening space, Paul Grabowsky AO and Steve Grant will each perform solo piano concerts on Saturday.
Also on Saturday, this year’s Don Banks Award winner Mike Nock, who has provided many memorable moments at Wangaratta, nationally and internationally, will play in a Trio Plus Two at WPAC Theatre.
Put Tim Neal on the WPAC Theatre stage with his Hammond B3, add Dave Beck on drums and I’m already in the front row. But Stephen Magnusson’s Kinfolk also has Frank Di Sario, so expect seats to be hard to find for this Sunday arvo outing.
A quintet led by pianist Sam Keevers will play compositions by the late great Bernie McGann, ensuring his inspirational work stays with us.
And The Hoodangers may shock visiting New Zealanders, given that the Gulf News reportedly described their performance in that country in this way: “The egotistical performers …their names are not worth mentioning…..should not be invited to spread their ‘smut’ on our beautiful island and attract such ‘slutty’ behaviour from our young!!”
Many more bands deserve mention, but for serendipitous moments and memorable gigs those mentioned are likely candidates. But who knows what will be the highlights for the many patrons now looking forward to Friday. Being in the right place is the key, and Wangaratta is the right place this Cup weekend.
The National Jazz Awards feature guitarists this year and top 10 finalists will compete for the increased prize pool of $12,000. The 10 finalists are:
- Michael Anderson, 32, from Sydney
- Quentin Angus, 27, from New York (originally from Adelaide)
- David Gooey, 30, from Melbourne
- Ryan Griffith, 34, from Melbourne
- Peter Koopman, 25, from Sydney
- Paul Mason, 23, from Sydney
- Carl Morgan, 26, from Sydney (originally from Canberra)
- Hugh Stuckey, 29, from Melbourne (originally from Adelaide)
- Jeremy Thomson, 22, from Perth
- Oliver Thorpe, 22, from Sydney
For the usual excellent profiles of the finalists, visit Miriam Zolin’s jazz publishing website.