Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues, October 28-30, 2016
It’s a little late for a preview of a festival that opens this week, but it seems wrong not to take a look into the crystal ball and consider the delights of this year’s Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues, which opens for the 27th time on Friday.
Adrian Jackson, creative director and for many years the linchpin of this pre-Cup Day long weekend feast of music, has said an “after the fact” theme is “the strength and diversity of female jazz and blues artists, whether as vocalists, instrumentalists, bandleaders and composers”. They were not chosen to fit any such label or description, but “included on merit”. As AJ says, that’s the way it should be.
Rather than begin with international artists — who Jackson acknowledges are not so well known as in some past years — I’ve decided to run through the gigs that I plan to catch (more jazz than blues, I expect). After all, a look through the long list of concerts on offer (and planning to avoid the inevitable clashes) is like poring over the menu at a really great restaurant on a special occasion — you can’t order every dish, but anticipating the dishes on offer is half the fun.
The first item on the agenda for any serious festival patron is to download the app for iPhone or Android. It was a huge success last year and will make planning your musical meal so much easier.
I will miss not being able to turn up to the Wangaratta library for one of Miram Zolin’s late afternoon book launches on Friday, because they’ve offered a great chance to catch up with friends — musicians and festival regulars.
But at 7.30pm I reckon on catching a few minutes of Irish trio The Long Way Round (featuring Ronan Guilfoyle bass, Chris Guilfoyle guitar and Matthew Jacobson drums) in St Patricks Hall.
Then, in WPAC Theatre at 8pm, Monash Art Ensemble, directed by Paul Grabowsky AO, will join Daniel Ngukurr Boy Wilfred (voice, didjeridu, clapsticks, dance) and David Yipinni Wilfred (didjeridu, dance) to present Nyilipidgi. Expect drama, strong rhythms, and considerable impact.
At 10.30pm we’ll hear expatriate Chilean Melissa Aldana, now living in New York, on tenor sax, which is appropriate as the National Jazz Awards this year will feature saxophonists. The first female instrumentalist and the first South American to win the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, Aldana will join countryman Pablo Menares (bass) and Cuban drummer Kush Abadey to deliver originals and standards, performing as Crash Trio. Thom Jurek (Allmusic) describes their music as “fresh, sophisticated, invigorating modern jazz”.
Monique diMattina will be at the Pinsent Hotel until midnight.
That’s surely enough to get the juices flowing for the days and nights ahead.
Tough choices abound on Saturday, but Andrea Keller’s Transients IV — one of her trios inspired by the philosophy and legacy of Allan Browne — takes the WPAC Hall stage at 10.30am, featuring Eugene Ball on trumpet, Keller on piano and Tamara Murphy on double bass.
At 11am I’ll have to slip into WPAC Theatre to welcome our expatriate trombonist Shannon Barnett back from Cologne, Germany and hear her regular quartet members Stefan Karl Schmid saxophone/clarinet, David Helm bass and Fabian Arends drums along with Monash University Big Band. It will be a treat to hear what Europe has gained and we’ve lost.
Lunch at noon? Forget that. Music from The Electric Night Descends is sure to be featured in Holy Trinity Cathedral from noon when Luke Howard on piano joins Jonathan Zion bass and Daniel Farrugia drums. Ronan Guilfoyle’s trio is in St Pat’s Hall from 12.30pm, but I’ll be hoping to catch them on Sunday.
I will not be missing Celebrating Bernie McGann in WPAC Theatre at 1pm, when Warwick Alder, Brendan Clarke and Andrew Dickeson — Bernie’s quartet during the last period of his life — share the stage with Sandy Evans and Andrew Robson on saxes. Along with McGann’s music, this concert will feature a suite — Long, Loose, Taste, Groove — in which Evans pays tribute to her long-time collaborator and friend.
Hard to know which way to turn at this point, but I’m aiming to catch a little Anton Delecca Quartet in WPAC Hall at 2.30pm before slipping into WPAC Theatre at 3pm to hear Jamie Oehlers and Tal Cohen play pieces from Innocent Dreamer, their new album of originals and standards.
The inimitable, virtuosic and thoroughly charismatic Barney McAll playing solo is an appealing prospect in the cathedral at 4pm, but in WPAC Hall at 4.30pm Joseph O’Connor’s Trio will join Scott Tinkler and I’m hoping there may be a few Confrontations — no promises, because I really don’t know what they plan to play.
I expect to eat a little at this point to keep my strength up for the evening ahead.
At 8.30pm I am keen to hear Ronan Guilfoyle’s eight-part suite entitled A Shy-Going Boy, which explores the life and times of his grandfather, Irish revolutionary Joe Guilfoyle. I’m predicting this WPAC Theatre concert to be a festival highlight.
As soon as that finishes I’ll be off to St Pat’s Hall at 10pm-ish to soak up the Shannon Barnett Quartet. But wait, that clashes with Tamara Murphy’s Spirograph Studies in WPAC Hall.
And Melissa Aldana and Crash Trio begin at 10.30pm in WPAC Theatre and on the blues stage Geoff Achison & the Soul Diggers are an old favourite of mine.
There are delicious morsels on the menu and my belly is way too large as it is. Clashes! They are inevitable. And I have no hair left to pull out.
Time for bed.
Sunday may begin for me at 10.30am in WPAC Hall to hear Joseph O’Connor Trio (this time there will be Confrontations, a suite of six compositions that embody conflict and multiplicity in improvisation, composed with the support of PBS radio’s Young Elder of Jazz commission) followed by more from Shannon Barnett’s quartet at 11am in WPAC Theatre.
At 12.30pm in WPAC Hall I’ll be keen to hear Ronan Guilfoyle Trio, no doubt finding it hard to tear myself away at 1pm to hear the crooning and wailing reeds of Melbourne saxophonist Kellie Santin, who spent 11 years in London before returning in 2013. Santin will be joined by Christian Barbieri guitar, Phil Turcio keyboards, Marty Holoubek bass, Salvador Persico percussion and Darryn Farrugia drums.
But I hear the sound of clashing concerts again. In Holy Trinity at 1.30pm Adam Simmons and Nick Tsiavos ought not to be missed as they explore a collection of Sixteen Alleluias via soprano sax and acoustic bass.
And — clash, clash, clash go the festival cymbals — at 2.30pm in WPAC Hall tabla player Bobby Singh joins the great Sandy Evans and her trio of bass player Brett Hirst and drummer Toby Hall in a concert featuring excerpts from their acclaimed album Kapture, a tribute to Ahmed Kathrada, a South African anti-apartheid activist who was imprisoned with Nelson Mandela for 26 years.
But — clash, clash — at 3pm in WPAC Theatre I have the chance to make up for missing Barney McAll & ASIO — featuring fellow-past winners of the National Jazz Awards, Julien Wilson (saxophone), Stephen Magnusson (guitar) and Sam Anning (bass), and an exciting young talent on drums, Dom Stitt — in a Melbourne International Jazz Festival outing at Merlyn Theatre, Malthouse.
Where to go? What to hear? Like any excellent menu, there are too many items from which to choose, all of them bound to be deeply satisfying. It’s a luxury to have such choices, but it’s also a pain in the …
At 4pm Origami, which is Adam Simmons on alto sax and bass clarinet, Howard Cairns on double bass and concertina, and Hugh Harvey on drums, will be definitely worth a visit (if only to see what colour socks Adam is wearing).
But I reckon there is only one option at 5pm, and that’s the finals of the National Jazz Awards in WPAC Theatre — a chance to hear the three finalists do battle with their saxophones. Gerry Koster will be in conversation with one of the festival musicians while the judges deliberate — worth staying to hear.
Time for some sustenance, then Andrea Keller presents Transients I with Sam Anning on double bass and Julien Wilson on bass clarinet and tenor sax at 8pm in WPAC Hall.
In WPAC Theatre at 8.30pm jazz vocalist and composer Chris McNulty — returning from 28 years in New York City and in 2013 winner of an Australian Bell Award for Best Vocal Jazz Album for The Song That Sings You Here — will preside over a chamber ensemble and jazz quintet for Eternal.
McNulty will be a huge drawcard, but I may slip out into WPAC Hall at 9pm to hear a bunch of other women — Sandy Evans, Angela Davis, Andrea Keller, Zoe Hauptmann and Sonja Horbelt — performing as the Melbourne Women’s International Jazz Festival Quintet.
From 10.30pm the undoubtedly crowded WPAC Theatre will hear Australia’s best-known jazz musician, consummate entertainer James Morrison along with sons William (guitar) and Harry (bass), plus Patrick Danao on drums.
In the Pinsent Hotel, Dixie Jack should still be firing until almost midnight, followed by the traditional jam session into the wee hours.
Will I still be firing? Hope so. You never know what might happen at a late-night jam session.