Emma Pask

Emma Pask at Wangaratta Festival of Jazz this year.

PREVIEW: 17th Melbourne Women’s International Jazz Festival, Bennetts Lane Jazz Club and The VCA Grant Street Theatre, December 7 to 14, 2014

This festival is always one to look forward to as the year’s end approaches and this year Sonja Horbelt has put together a comprehensive program. Budgets are often a constraint, but this year the MWIF has a little more funding and it shows in the line-up, which comprises artists from Canada, Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.

I had to miss the festival launch on Saturday 29 November on the Victorian Arts Centre forecourt when, in a free concert, many had the opportunity to hear the world music grooves of Andrea Khoza and the Secrets, the South of the River Gospel Choir, and the Julia O’Hara Heptet.

The festival proper runs for a week from Sunday 7 December 7, when at 2pm at the VCA Grant Street Theatre patrons will hear the rich sounds of “Things She Said”, with music by Nilusha Dassenaike and lyrics and visuals by celebrated Australian artist and author Barbara Hanrahan. The line-up for this free event includes Nilusha Dassenaike, Chantal Mitvalsky, Gian Slater, Miroslav Bukovsky, Frank Di Sario and Alex Pertout and the Wintersweet Vocal ensemble.

That evening at 8pm at Bennetts Lane Jazz Lab, celebrated Sydney vocalist Emma Pask kicks off proceedings with “her secret Sydney band”. Anyone who heard Emma at the Cup Eve Concert on Wangaratta Jazz weekend this year will know she is a superb entertainer and not to be missed.

Also that night in the Bennetts Jazz Club is Melbourne group Lazercatz 2000 led by Lena Douglas piano  with Felix Watson trumpet, Jimmy Bowman trombone, Maria Moles drums and Darvid Thor guitar. Their music, which mixes contemporary jazz and pop elements, is influenced by the likes of Kenny Wheeler and Andrea Keller. Lazercatz 2000 released their debut album in May 2014 to a sell-out room at Bennetts Lane.

Tamara Murphy

Tamara Murphy

On Monday 8 December in the BL Club , there will be a genuinely collaborative enterprise with Andrea Keller at the piano, Tamara Murphy on bass, Allan Browne on drums.  They will play compositions by all three and each piece “unfolds like a three-way conversation, the focus shifting subtly from player to player”. Also that night in the Jazz Lab, young students from Melbourne will deliver patrons insight to the jazz stars of the future at the Bennetts Lane student night.

On Tuesday 9 Dec 9 in the BL Jazz Lab, Melbourne saxophonist Kellie Santin will launch her debut recording Quintessence , which features a rhythm section led by drummer Gerry Pantazis and bassist Simon Fisenden plus Phil Turcio on keys, Simon Hosford on guitar, Phil Binotto on percussion, with special guest, 2014 UK soul vocalist Carmen Hendricks.

Nat Bartsch Trio

Nat Bartsch Trio                                  (Image supplied)

Also that night in the Club at Bennetts there will be a very special concert when  Nat Bartsch Trio plays its last gig for the foreseeable future. As Nat puts it, “It’s a complicated story, involving some exciting life changes, and ongoing health problems that have made running a band very difficult. It’s time to put the trio on hold; at least for now.” That’s sad news, but this is sure to be a great gig, with Bartsch on piano, Tom Lee on acoustic bass and Daniel Farrugia on drums. This trio’s album To Sail, To Sing was a winner.

Emie R. Roussel

Emie R. Roussel                                            (Image supplied)

On Wednesday 10 December in the BL Lab, Canada will come to town with Quebec’s contemporary jazz band the Emie R. Roussel Trio playing music that’s “resolutely young, rhythm-based, and infused with straightforward rock and pop harmonies”. Roussel plays piano, Nicolas Bédard  bass and Dominic Cloutier drums.

On Thursday 11 December in the BL Lab, Andrea Keller and Miroslav Bukovsky will  present The Komeda Project. Canberra trumpet player/composer/improviser Miroslav Bukovsky will join Melbourne’s pianist/composer/improvisor Andrea Keller to co-lead an ensemble of eight Australian contemporary musicians in a response to, and reinterpretation of, some of the music of Polish film music composer and jazz pianist Krzysztof Komeda.

The list goes on in this substantial festival. On Friday 12 December in the BL Jazz Lab, Michelle Nicolle will perform with her “fretet”, featuring four of Melbourne’s finest jazz guitarists Geoff Hughes, Stephen Magnusson, Sam Lemann and Craig Fermanis.

Kristin Berardi

Kristin Berardi

And on Saturday 13 December in the BL Jazz Lab my absolute favourite vocalist Kristin Berardi returns to the MWIJF with her newest ensemble, featuring some of Sydney and Melbourne’s finest musicians: Greg Coffin (piano), Carl Morgan (guitar – recent winner of the Wangaratta National Jazz Award), Brett Hirst (bass) and Danny Fischer (drums). This will be superb.

The Festival closes on Sunday Dec 14th with its own traditional Fox Force 6, the MWIJF Women’s Festival Sextet which this year includes vocalist Kristin Berardi, trumpeter Audrey Powne and pianist Andrea Keller.

This festival is a great celebration of women in jazz as well as being a feast of music before Christmas and holidays slow things down.

For full program details visit the festival website at


The Melbourne Women’s International Jazz festival gratefully acknowledges financial assistance from major sponsor City of Melbourne, and supporting sponsors Révélation Radio Canada, Canada Council for the Arts, APRA, Fraser Place Melbourne, VCA/University of Melbourne and the Victorian Arts Centre.

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