No Mildlife crisis for women’s festival

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Sumire Kuribayashi on piano at Wangaratta during her visit to Australia in 2018. Image: Roger Mitchell

Melbourne Women’s International Jazz Festival 2022
Sunday 4 December – to Sunday 11 December
The Jazzlab, Leslie St, Brunswick

Kudos to Sonja Horbelt and Lynette Irwin for presenting what the founder of the MWIJF, Martin Jackson, has described as “one of the strongest programs in the festival’s 24-year history”, starting today for a week.

There’s a lot of music on offer, including international talent including pianist and composer from Japan, Sumire Kuribayashi, lots of gigs with opening sets and the opportunity to hear emerging musicians along with established players such as Sandy Evans and Morgana.

What’s more, there’s not much chance that ARIA-award-winning Mildlife will be doing a live concert on the coast to confuse everybody about what really is jazz.

Details are available on the MWIJF website and also via The Jazzlab, but it may be useful to mention some highlights.

The fun begins at 3pm today when well known pianist/composer Monique diMattina presents STELLA, which draws on the extraordinary life story of Australian writer Miles Franklin and features an impressive line-up of musicians.

Then, at 7.30pm Sumire Kuribayashi will be joined by Sam Anning double bass and Kyrie Anderson drums after an opening set by saxophonist Gen Kuner’s quartet.

For those who have stayed up late or arisen early for sporting events questionably staged in Qatar, Claire Cross’s score entitled Sleep Cycle (Monday 5 December at 7.30pm), informed by graphs of brain waves recorded during phases of sleep, may be restorative. It’s exploring “the radical act of self-care in an age of hyper-productivity”. The opening set will feature ethereal soundscapes created by Ashley Ballat trumpet and Ollie Cox drums and percussion.

Sumire Kuribayashi returns on Tuesday 6 December at 7.30pm with two ensembles of Monash University students.

In a family-friendly matinee at 11.30am Wednesday, babies and toddlers will be welcome at the hugely successful Nat Bartsch’s concert Lullabies, which blends neoclassical piano and melodic improvisation with music therapy research.

Tertiary students from Monash university, Melbourne Polytechnic, and Melbourne Conservatorium of Music will feature in the opener at 7.30pm, celebrating the music of Australian composers Vanessa Perica, Jenna Cave, Andrea Keller and Nadje Noordhuis. They will be followed on stage by Lucy Clifford on electric bass for some “symbiotic rhythms and pulses that interlock with all things motion, stillness and freedom”, ably aided by Phil Noy tenor sax, Andrea Keller piano and Darryn Farrugia drums.

On Thursday 8 December at 7.30pm, UK vocalist Anita Wardell joins Australian pianist Dave McEvoy to launch their duo album Star, which explores “love and loss, the vulnerability of human experience and the vast expanse of sky”. The opening set of jazz/blues grooves will feature StAT, comprising Stella Anning guitar, Claire Cross bass and Joshua Barber drums.

The stage will be richly laden with well-known names on Friday 9 December at 7.30pm when Rebecca Barnard and The d’Affinois (nothing cheesy here) launch of her fourth solo album The Night we Called it a Day of jazz standards, by artists such as Hoagy Charmichael, dating back to 1933. The luminous line-up will comprise Monique diMattina piano, Sam Lemann guitar, Ben Robertson bass, Paul Williamson sax and Mat Jodrell on trumpet. The opening set will feature Sunny Reyne’s lush vocals, synth-laden sounds and disjointed grooves.

For those, like me, who missed the opportunity to hear the re-formed incarnation of quintet Morgana during the Melbourne International Jazz festival, they’ll perform on Saturday 10 December after opening sets from 7.30pm by Mia in Motion and then the amazing saxophonist Sandy Evans in a duo with the spectacular Andrea Keller. In Morgana, Keller will join four of the five original members – Lisa Young voice, Fiona Burnett soprano saxophone, Annette Yates double bass and Sonja Horbelt drums.

From 11pm there’ll be an opportunity for female and non-binary musicians and vocalists to play in the session dubbed “Jam & hang”.

Gender will also be front of mind at 4pm on the final Sunday of the MWIJF when Andrea Keller, Head of Jazz & Improvisation at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, brings us Gender Defying Jazz, previously known as Girls Do Jazz. This live performance with saxophonist Sandy Evans will showcase the outcomes of six term 4 workshops.

The fortifying impact of significant female relationships will be explored in a suite premiered on the Sunday night by vocalist Louisa Rankin along with an impressive line-up of Angela Davis alto saxophone, Paul Williamson trumpet, Andrea Keller piano, Fran Swinn guitar, Tom Lee double bass and James McLean drums. This outing will be preceded by an opening set at 7.30pm in which UK-based pianist Meg Morley performs new music from her trio albums and also revisits her debut piano release from 2018, Through the Hours.

It’s great to have the MWIJF back on the stage with such a feast of music.

ROGER MITCHELL

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