Category Archives: ARTICLES

Articles, including interviews, published in print in Melbourne’s Herald Sun or Sunday Herald Sun newspapers, as well as ruminations that appear only on the blog.

ENJOY WOMEN AT WORK

Julia Bebenek

Julia Bebenek with Lijuka at The Jazzlab in December 2017.

PREVIEW:

Melbourne Women’s International Jazz Festival 2018

It’s time to once again do what we ought to be doing all year — celebrating the importance and contribution of women in the valuable work of making music, especially jazz. Melbourne and Sydney have excellent festivals to help us enjoy the work of women composers and improvisers, so let’s support these gigs.

I was unable to make the first two performances at this year’s MWIJF, which was a pity. But here is a rundown of what’s on from now until closing night on 9 December.

This is a small festival, yet there is nevertheless a clash (no festival is ever without one). So on Friday 7 December you’ll have to choose between Sandy Evans at The Salon and Kon Shes a little later at The Jazzlab.

I’m particularly looking forward to hearing Lijuka, the trio that won last year’s MWIJF recording prize. They’re playing in a double bill with Girls Do Jazz on 9 December.

All these gigs are reasonably priced so take the opportunity to hear great musicians at work.

ROGER MITCHELL

Now here’s what’s on:

Tuesday 4 December, 7pm, The Jazzlab, $20/15
Student Night

Young musicians from Mac.Robertson Girls High School, Ruyton Girls School and Siena College play traditional and contemporary big band music.

Wednesday 5 December, 8pm, The Jazzlab, $20/15
Double Bill:
Merinda Dias-Jayasinha Trio (Qld)

Vocalist Merinda Dias-Jayasinha joined by Theo Carbo (guitar) and Isaac Gunnoo (double bass) presents a set of original music (plus a standard or two) exploring streams of consciousness, and the states between reality and dreams.

Claire Cross – Moving Targets

Composer/bassist Claire Cross is joined by Tom Noonan alto saxophone, Harry Cook keys and Tommy Harrison drums to present Moving Targets, a project that explores stress, love, lust and loss through lyrical and unpredictable compositions. Blending folk idioms with contemporary jazz harmony the compositions will explore the transient nature of feelings.

Thursday 6 December 8pm, The Jazzlab, $20/15
Jam Jar CD launch

Energetic Melbourne trad jazz band Jam Jar offer an upbeat repertoire of original songs and beloved standards influenced by Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and local bands The Red Onion Band and The Hoodangers. Their self-titled debut album is a lighthearted commentary on the apathy and anxieties of modern life and a yearning for a romanticised past. Expect toe-tapping tunes.

Jam Jar is Ellie Lamb trombone/vocals, Lauren Mullarvey clarinet/vocals, Bryce Turcato horn/vocals, Fiona Steele banjo, Tom Young double bass and Sean Newell drums

Friday 7 December 7pm, The Salon, Melbourne Recital Centre, $30/25
Sandy Evans – Heart Rhythm Love (Syd/Melb)

Co-presented by the Melbourne Jazz Co-operative, the world premiere of Heart|Rhythm|Love will take the listener on a beautiful, thrilling and dynamic journey, seamlessly interweaving influences from Indian music and jazz in a joyous celebration.

The composer of this work, written and performed in honour of mridangam virtuoso Guru Kaaraikudi Mani, is Sandy Evans on saxophones. She is joined by Tripataka (Adrian Sherriff bass trombone, Jonathan Dimond electric bass guitar, Adam King drums) and Sai‐Sarangan Ravichandhira on mridangam.

Friday 7 December 8pm, The Jazzlab, $30/25
World premiere of Kon Shes (Aus/Sth Africa/Korea)

Fem Belling (vocals & electric violin) brings five of Melbourne’s finest musicians – Mina Yu piano, Tamara Murphy bass, Chelsea Allen drums and Angela Davis alto saxophone – to a new project combining live performance, political prose and the primal magic of music. The performance aims to increase the visibility of women in music in Australia and contribute to a larger voice of a social consciousness.

Saturday 8 December 8pm, The Jazzlab, $30/25
Harriett Allcroft CD launch – “Archie”

Harriett Allcroft (voice) launches her debut album Archie. It was recorded with James Bowers (piano), Tamara Murphy (bass), Kieran Rafferty (drums) and Shaun Rammers (tenor saxophone) this year, but Sam Keevers will be at the keyboard for this outing.

Expect infectious grooves and clever lyrics that make the brain tick.

Saturday 8 December 8, The Jazzlab, 11pm free entry
Festival Club – Jam session and general hang
This is a chance for female and non-binary musicians and vocalists to play in the jam session, or just plain hang out and connect with other musicians. In house PA, piano, bass amp, guitar amp and kit provided. All artforms welcome – jazz, trad, pop, funk, contemporary.

Sunday 9 December 3.30pm, The Jazzlab, free entry
Girls Do Jazz Secondary Program Concert

This concert showcases the work of The Girls Do Jazz workshop series, led by Andrea Keller, ran monthly over five Sundays in semester 2, 2018. Along with MCM alumni tutors, and undergraduate volunteers, the students engaged in jazz and improvisation studies covering free improvisation, the American songbook and compositions by contemporary Australian jazz musicians. This free concert showcases what they’ve been up to!

Lijuka: Katrina Owen, Libby Ferris and Julia Bebenek

Lijuka: Katrina Owen, Libby Ferris and Julia Bebenek

Sunday 9 December 7pm, The Jazzlab, $20/15
Double Bill:
Lijuka launch their debut single Registaan

Don’t miss the winners of the 2017 MWIJF Recording Prize, Lijuka. This band featuring Katrina Owen on saxophone and vocals, Libby Ferris on guitar and vocals, and Julia Bebenek on drum kit/vocals, returns to The Jazzlab to play original songs featuring acoustic and electronic sounds combined with live-looping. The gig will feature songs from their recent audio-visual work ‘Macro/Microcosm’ which debuted at the Melbourne Fringe Festival. Lijuka would like to thank Myles Mumford (Rolling Stock Recording Rooms), and MWIJF for making this event possible.

Kathleen Halloran with Girls Do Jazz at the MWIJF 2017

Kathleen Halloran with Girls Do Jazz at the MWIJF 2017

Girls Do Jazz VCA
Girls Do Jazz is a jazz ensemble comprised of current Jazz & Improvisation students at the Victorian College of the Arts. The ensemble is led by Andrea Keller, Lecturer in Jazz & Improvisation at the VCA/MCM. From varied musical backgrounds, the members of Girls Do Jazz unite in celebration of female musicianship, with an emphasis on Australian contemporary jazz repertoire.

The line-up is Bella Winter on alto/soprano saxophones, Jade Nye on alto saxophone, Steph Fels on trombone, Alex Rindfleish on piano, Ross Anderson on bass and Ollie Cox on drums.

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BEYOND, AND WITH, WORDS

Ellen Kirkwood Ellen Kirkwood performs in [A]part with Gian Slater and Sandy Evans.    Image: Roger Mitchell

REVIEW

Wangaratta Festival of Jazz, November 2-4, 2018

Music speaks for itself. That’s what visiting saxophonist from Holland, Yuri Honing – a man of few words – told the audience in Wangaratta’s Performing Arts Centre Theatre on Saturday night during his quartet’s second festival outing.

He’s right, of course. The music delivered at Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues this year conveyed some powerful messages and crossed cultural boundaries without needing the embroidery of words.

Honing, with his acoustic quartet Wolfert Brederode (Holland) on piano, Gulli Gudmundsson (Iceland) on bass and Joost Lijbaart (Holland) on drums, spoke eloquently with his tenor saxophone in two concerts featuring compositions from their 2017 album Goldbrun. These guys knew each other and the pieces well, the horn soaring and gently musing over the responsive rhythm section in long explorations that varied in energy and intensity, but often seemed darkly brooding. Honing’s concerns for Europe and love of works by Wagner and Richard Strauss were inspirations, but spelled out only in the music.

Yet words and music are often inextricably linked. That relationship can be fraught – how can what we experience in a live concert possibly be described adequately in a string of superlatives? Yet the strength in soul singer Tina Harrod’s exceptionally clearly articulated songs from her album City of Longing, performed on Sunday in WPAC Theatre, came certainly from her strong vocals, but also in the hard-hitting lyrics.

Vikram Iyengar

Vikram Iyengar in The Calling by Adam Simmons  Image: Roger Mitchell

Festival artistic team member Adam Simmons introduced his deeply personal work The Calling, part of his The Usefulness of Art series of concerts, with words, yet it was the performance by his Creative Music Ensemble with Afrolankan Drumming System and Vikram Iyengar, helped by screened visuals, that conveyed the colour, noise, mayhem and moving moments of his journey so effectively.

I have reviewed The Calling previously from a performance at fortyfive downstairs, but for Wangaratta festival patrons this must have surely been a lively, energetic and virtuosic musical journey full of colours, flavours and fun, yet also most moving.

In St Pat’s Hall on Sunday, multi-instrumentalist Adrian Sheriff and drum maestro Ted Vining took the audience on a fascinating journey that came with stories, but conveyed much via the simple musical exchanges between two accomplished players. I wish I’d been there for all of this.

In a festival that did not suffer at all from its forays into other traditions and cultures than the American jazz pantheon, there seemed to be – and these words are probably not ideal – concerts for the brain and concerts for the heart. In other words, some concerts took us on conceptual journeys and others just swept us up and carried us along with their vigour, energy or beauty.

Tilman Robinson

Tilman Robinson at work with the AAO.    Image: R. Mitchell

On Friday night in WPAC Theatre the Australian Art Orchestra presented Sometimes Home Can Grow Stranger Than Space, in which three composers – AAO director Peter Knight, Tilman Robinson and Andrea Keller – explored the lives of people damaged by war.

In Knight’s Sharp Folds, which offered glimpses of lingering parental grief, the individual words – voiced by Georgie Darvidis – were not all that easy to pick up amid the engrossing and intense accompanying music. Keller’s Bent Heart, which draws on the stories of three women, conveyed their angst so effectively that no words were needed, although the epilogue’s prayer “Cry heart but never break” stays with me. Robinson’s I Was Only A Child brilliantly drew on the rhythm and cadence of a recorded interview between a young student and a war veteran to show how awareness of war turns to nostalgia, its lessons unlearned. In content reminiscent of Lloyd Swanton’s monumental work Ambon, performed at Wangaratta in 2015, this AAO outing used music compositions and words most effectively, their messages lingering.

On Saturday evening in WPAC Theatre Sirens Big Band performed [A]part, trumpeter Ellen Kirkwood’s suite responding to world issues such as climate change, the refugee crisis and the omnipresence of the internet. As with Keller’s Bent Heart, this monumental work – comprising sweeping vistas, swelling and receding soundscapes and powerful solos from Sandy Evans on saxophone and Keller on piano – needed no words to convey drama, tension and agitation, as well as loss and suffering. Gian Slater’s vocal contributions were minimal but integral to this work, which was riveting from start to finish.

Alex Stuart

Alex Stuart performs with his quintet.    Image: R. Mitchell

The quintet that expatriate Australian Alex Stuart brought from his home city Paris treated us to compositions from their album Aftermath, which explored the darkness in the world while celebrating its beauty and defiant joie de vivre. This versatile band – Stuart on guitar, Irving Acao on tenor saxophone and keyboards, Arno de Casanove on trumpet, keys and vocals, Antoine Banville on drums and Ouriel Ellert on electric bass – delivered sophisticated, varied and polished pieces in two outings. Stuart was unselfish in leading this collegiate ensemble, which displayed plenty of verve and drive along with intricacy and finesse in thoughtful compositions.

Sumire Kubayashi (Japan) at the piano.

Sumire Kubayashi (Japan) at the piano. Image: Roger Mitchell

Another standout Australian artist with recent overseas experience was trumpeter Niran Dasika, who demonstrated confidence and soloing depth forged in Japan through playing a lot of gigs there. Clashing concerts prevented me hearing the whole of all but one of Dasika’s many festival outings, but on Sunday morning he joined Japan’s Sumire Kuribayashi on piano to play her Pieces of Colour compositions with Shun Ishiwaka (Japan) on drums, James Macaulay on trombone and Sam Anning on bass, with Adam Simmons on tenor saxophone for some pieces. This music was exquisitely beautiful, at times playful and also powerful, further proof that collaborations between Australian and Japanese artists bring great results.

I missed hearing the product of one such collaboration – James Macaulay on trombone leading the Hishakaku Quartet – in order not to miss superstars Andrea Keller on piano and Sandy Evans on reeds in an unprecedented duo at Holy Trinity Cathedral. Gender ought not to be an issue in music, yet this set of mostly ballads demonstrated the power, profundity and beauty of compositions and musicianship by two amazing women. Lilac Embers, dedicated to Richard Gill, was a delight.

Evans was among the host of jazz luminaries to perform in WPAC Theatre on Sunday in the dectet Ten Part Invention, introduced by the ensemble’s founder, John Pochee. In a spirited set that included Roger Frampton’s And Zen Monk, Paul Cutlan’s Nock on Effect, Evans’ Fortea Two and Miroslav Bukovsky’s no holds barred Plain Talk, this band showed why it remains at the peak of large ensemble achievements in Australia. My highlight was reedsman Andrew Robson’s Poets Must Keep an Eye on the Moon.

Germany’s Trio ELF was an instant hit with audiences at their Saturday evening concert in WPAC Theatre and on Sunday in the newly styled St Pat’s Hall with tables and a bar. Walter Lang on piano, Peter Cudek on acoustic bass and Gerwin Eisenhauer on drums added a little electronic wizardry and lots of humour to their melodically and rhythmically appealing compositions. Their approach made excellent use of sudden dramatic dynamic variations, beginning each piece with a simple tune repeated, adding effects, pumping up the volume and intensity via bass and expansive work from Eisenhauer, before returning to the fluid simplicity of the piano notes. Their cover of punk band Blink 182’s Down was a favourite.

Recently formed Quattro Club’s Saturday morning outing sported such an array of whistles and bells that I tried closing my eyes to concentrate on the feast of exploratory textures and timbres. Joel Hands-Otte played Bb Clarinet, bass clarinet, bamboo flute and a plastic pipe. Dan Gordon played tuba and bass flugelhorn. Mirko Guerrini played curved soprano sax, tenor sax, baritone sax, xaphoon, Pakistani flute and melodica. Niko Schauble was at the drum kit. It really was akin to kids building a series of projects with Lego blocks, yet without haste and with plenty of assurance. It possibly did not always hang together, but I loved the adventurous, unscripted approach.

Two long-form suite performances that I had heard previously and liked a lot, but did not get to at this festival – trumpeter Reuben Lewis’s I Hold the Lion’s Paw on Sunday and Cheryl Durongpisitkul’s Follow Me Through the Red Ash on Saturday – drew praise from many who attended.

One of the standout cultural collaborations at Wangaratta was The Three Seas, bringing modern jazz together with West Bengali folk music. Matt Keegan on saxophone joined Steve Elphick on bass, Raju Das Baul on vocals and khamak, Deo Ashis Mothey on vocals, guitar and dotora, and Gaurab Chatterjee on dubki, drums in two warmly engaging and virtuosic displays of musicianship on Friday and Sunday evenings. The interaction of Keegan with amazing vocalist Das Baul exemplified the close bonds formed among all these musicians, demonstrating again how well music succeeds in crossing boundaries.

I caught only part of another successful collaboration on Sunday afternoon when Julian Banks on saxophone joined Indonesian master percussionist Cepi Kusmiadi on the kendang sunda, a set of two-headed drums, along with James Hauptmann on drums and Chris Hale on bass. And I copped some justified criticism later that evening for not letting on in time that the Garden Quartet – featuring Iranian musician Gelareh Pour on kamancheh and voice, Mike Gallichio on electric guitar, Arman Habibi on santur and voice, and Brian O’Dwyer on drums – should not be missed.

Expectations can be dangerous. A restrained acoustic set in WPAC Theatre by guitarist Ben Hauptmann’s “ideal” septet of accomplished musicians was not what I had anticipated. It was a great line-up – Arne Hanna and Franco Raggatt on guitar, Harry Sutherland on piano, festival co-programmer Zoe Hauptmann on bass, James Hauptmann on drums and Evan Mannell on percussion – and there was no denying their musicianship, but selections played seemed more akin to French folk than jazz, and the pieces did not vary greatly.

I had no idea what to expect from the only US band, FORQ, which comprises Henry Hey on keyboards, Chris McQueen on guitar, Jason “JT” Thomas on drums and Kevin Scott on electric bass. In their final outing of two at the festival on Sunday night in WPAC Theatre they delivered an energetic rock-infused set, but nothing to rival the work of popular Snarky Puppy, of which McQueen is a member.

The fully pumped Orszaczky Budget Orchestra, fronted by Tina Harrod and Darren Percival on vocals, closed out the festival in St Pat’s Hall with a set so loud that I sought relief for my ears towards the back. I liked the setting of “Club St Pat’s” but missed the final night jam where musicians and fans mingled and celebrated music performed and music enjoyed.

To sum up in words what often speaks for itself, the eclectic mix of improvised music at 2018’s festival again delivered plenty to satisfy fans, again on a limited budget and this time without big internationally renowned names or a lot from the American songbook. Culturally diverse offerings worked well, as did the significant European contributions.

Some new, festival-initiated collaborations between visiting and Australian artists would have been icing on the cake.

Words were important in some instances, and the forceful messages of “concept-based” concerts by the AAO and Sirens will play on in my mind for some time.

ROGER MITCHELL

More images of the festival will be posted when time permits.

CHORDS REFLECT CRISES, CULTURES

Cheryl

Cheryl Durongpisitkul performs Follow Me Through the Red Ash.      Image: Roger Mitchell

PREVIEW

Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues, November 2-4, 2018

Most music fans going to “Wang” this year will have made that decision some time ago, so this is intended as a guide to the myriad jazz gigs on offer.

With the Invictus Games fresh in our minds, the Australian Art Orchestra’s Friday night concert (8pm WPAC Theatre) entitled Sometimes Home Can Grow Stranger than Space is an appropriate starting point. Based on a concept by Paul Grabowsky AO, composers Andrea Keller, Tilman Robinson and AAO Artistic Director Peter Knight focus on those who tried to pick up their ‘normal’ lives after the war. In three world premieres inspired by Monash University Faculty of Arts’ One Hundred Stories – which remember not only the men and women who lost their lives, but also those gassed, crippled, insane and irreparably damaged by war who returned to Australia – the composers employ archival recordings, tape, electronics and improvisation. Expect this to be challenging and affecting.

Similarly significant and topical issues will be addressed musically on Saturday (6.30pm WPAC Theatre) when Sirens Big Band performs [A]part: an hour-long suite by trumpet player Ellen Kirkwood, featuring Andrea Keller (piano), Sandy Evans (saxophones) and Gian Slater (voice). This work is a response to world issues such as climate change, the refugee crisis and the omnipresence of the internet. This predominantly female and trans band is sure to deliver an arresting performance.

Alex Stuart

Alex Stuart.                      Image: Roger Mitchell

It’s great to have expatriate Australian guitarist Alex Stuart over from Paris again, this time with his French band – Irving Acao tenor saxophone and keyboards, Arno de Casanove trumpet and keyboards, Antoine Banville drums and Ouriel Ellert bass. Stuart’s fourth album, Aftermath (2017), reflects the dark turning points the world is facing, but is inspired by “the omnipresent and evident beauty that surrounds us”. Word is that this band is tight as and hot.

The quintet’s two outings (7.30pm Friday WPAC Hall and noon Saturday St Pat’s Hall) suffer a little from inevitable festival overlaps, but Melbourne audiences can also catch the band at 8pm on November 4 at The Jazzlab.

Less thematically concrete but definitely referencing the environment, Cheryl Durongpisitkul’s suite Follow Me Through the Red Ash (4pm Saturday, St Pat’s Hall) will draw on techniques in Igor Stravinsky’s ballet, Petrushka to explore what Nikos Fotakis has described as a musical narrative that is “a kind of mystical environmental fairy tale, about the balance of power within an ecosystem”.

This year’s program places less emphasis on the American jazz tradition, offering an eclectic mix of artists and influences from Europe, Japan, India, Iran, Moravia, Sri Lanka, the Middle East and Indonesia.

As well as Stuart’s quintet, Europe is well represented by saxophonist Yuri Honing (Holland) and Trio Elf (Germany), both certain to be festival highlights.

Honing’s conviction that Europe is undervalued, along with his love for classical music, history and art, influenced his 2017 album Goldbrun. Desire was Holland’s No.1 best selling album in 2015. Honing on tenor saxophone will join Wolfert Brederode (Holland) on piano, Gulli Gudmundsson (Iceland) on bass and Joost Lijbaart (Holland) on drums for two concerts (10pm Friday, and 10.30pm Saturday, WPAC Theatre). Expect peace, serenity, tension and mysticism.

Trio Elf

Trio Elf. Image: Uli-Zrenner-Wolkenstein

Trio Elf’s acoustic line-up comprises Walter Lang on piano (expressive melodies and energetic chords), Peter Cudek on acoustic bass (melodious counterpoint and low-register synth-like grooves) and Gerwin Eisenhauer (a drum machine come alive). In two concerts (8.30pm Saturday, WPAC Theatre and 8.30pm Sunday, St Pat’s Hall) expect jazz, classical, rock and electronic influences from a trio crossing between the modernistic, hyper-rhythmic and a more lyrical, traditional approach.

Connections between Australian and Japanese musicians will bear fruit at Wang this year in three outings. Recently returned after time in Japan, Australian trumpeter Niran Dasika will join Japan’s Sumire Kuribayashi – known for her storytelling on piano – to present KIRI (noon Saturday, Holy Trinity Cathedral), a suite inspired by the ‘nihonga’ paintings of Kaii Higashiyama. In a dectet on Sunday (noon, WPAC Theatre) Dasika and Kuribayashi will present longer forms and orchestral textures in her Pieces of Colour, along with Akihiro Yoshimoto (saxophones), Reiko Yamamoto (vibes), Tomohiro Yahiro (percussion), Yuki Ito (bass), Hideaki Kanazawa (bass), Hiro Kimura (drums), Kengo Komae (drums) and Australia’s James Macaulay (trombone).

On Saturday (2pm, WPAC Hall) Macaulay will lead the Hishakaku Quartet – named after a Yakitori restaurant in Tokyo – with Dasika on trumpet, Marty Holoubek on bass and Japan’s Shun Ishiwaka on drums. Their debut album, recorded in Tokyo in October last year, features compositions by Macaulay, Dasika and Holoubek.

Indian musical traditions will be reflected in three concerts at Wang, two featuring cross-cultural ensemble The Three Seas (9.30pm Friday, WPAC Hall and 8pm Sunday, WPAC Theatre). Fusing modern Australian jazz with West Bengali folk music, the band comprises Matt Keegan on saxophone, Steve Elphick on bass, Raju Das Baul on vocals and khamak, Deo Ashis Mothey vocals, guitar and dotora, Gaurab Chatterjee on dubki and drums. Expect echoes of traditional Baul, carnatic and Nepalese folk songs in danceable music that radiates joy. Raj Das Baul will also perform solo (3.30pm Sunday, Cathedral) on khamak, a string instrument originating in India, drawing on the rich folk forms of Baul music.

Gelareh Pour

Gelareh Pour Image: Roger Mitchell

Contemporary Persian and Western motifs will blend (7pm Sunday, WPAC Hall) when Gelareh Pour’s Garden Quartet guarantees to sway the heart and persuade the feet to tap. The band features Pour on kamancheh (Persian spiked fiddle) and voice, Mike Gallichio on electric guitar, Arman Habibi on santur (Persian hammered dulcimer) and voice, and Brian O’Dwyer on drum kit.

Composer and oud virtuoso Joseph Tawadros AM will seamlessly bring middle-eastern and classical music together with jazz and his sharp wit on Sunday (5.30pm, Cathedral). Moravian influences will be evident when pianist Emil Viklicky – known for his response to Janacek’s Sinfonietta – performs in a duo with trumpeter Miroslav Bukovsky (1.30pm Sunday, Cathedral).

Adding to the international collaborations abundant at this festival, Indonesian master percussionist Cepi Kusmiadi will perform on the kendang sunda, a set of two-headed drums, with Australian musicians Julian Banks on saxophone, James Hauptmann on drums and Chris Hale on bass (4.30pm Sunday, WPAC Hall). They will perform music from their new album Agung, recorded in Denpasar to reflect their climbing of the volcano and good friends tackling adventure head on.

The Calling

Ray Pereira and Kanchana Karunaratna in The Calling. Image: Roger Mitchell

Sri Lanka is the focus of The Calling (1pm Saturday, WPAC Theatre), the fourth project in Adam Simmons’ acclaimed The Usefulness of Art concert series. This intensely personal work, performed by the Adam Simmons Creative Music Ensemble with Afrolankan Drumming System and Vikram Iyengar, was inspired by sounds and experiences from Simmons’ first visit to Sri Lanka. Don’t miss it, if only to see whether Ray Pereira smiles.

Collaborations among Australian musicians have for many years delivered patrons at Wang the performances that are the most inspiring and long lasting in their impact. The huge amount of hard work and talent in this nation’s jazz musicians is regularly showcased at this festival. This year is no exception.

On Saturday (1pm, Cathedral) Sydney’s saxophonist, composer and educator Sandy Evans OAM will join Melbourne’s pianist, composer and educator Andrea Keller for a duo set that will undoubtedly delight. And on Sunday (3pm WPAC Theatre) one of our finest large ensembles, Ten Part Invention, will present some classic compositions from founding member Roger Frampton as well as new works by current band members. What a host of talent: Miroslav Bukovsky trumpet/musical director, Sandy Evans saxophones/musical director, Andrew Robson saxophones, Paul Cutlan saxophones, John Mackey saxophones, Warwick Alder trumpet, James Greening trombone, Paul McNamara piano, Steve Elphick bass, Dave Goodman drums.

Another concert not to let slip past unnoticed features Quattro Club (11am Saturday, WPAC Theatre) a new quartet consisting of Niko Schauble drums, Mirko Guerrini woodwinds, Joel Hands-Otte woodwinds and Dan Gordon tuba. Expect compositions as starting points, gently morphing group explorations and superb solos.

And for lovers of soul, vocalist Tina Harrod (1pm Sunday, WPAC Theatre) is sure to wow audiences with songs from her latest album City of Longing, performed with Stu Hunter on piano, Dave Symes bass, Matt Keegan saxophone, Evan Mannell drums, James Greening trombone, Cameron Deyell guitar, Ray Cassar trumpet, and on vocals Virna Sanzone, Evelyn Duprai and Lisa Spence.

For those who like their musicians to be daring or dangerous, trumpeter Reuben Lewis will lead Melbourne psychedelic jazz collective I Hold the Lion’s Paw in an outing (2pm Sunday, St Pat’s Hall) offering a trance-inducing concoction of electro-acoustic noise and slowly evolving soundtracks. Collective members on this occasion are Jordan Murray trombone, Cheryl Durongpisitkul alto sax and flute, Adam Halliwell guitar, David Brown electric bass, Maria Moles drums and Tom Lee double bass.

No festival should be without some fun, and Wang promises to deliver that via two concerts. Canada’s The Shuffle Demons (10pm Saturday, WPAC Hall) wear spectacular hand-painted suits and love to parade through the audience as they play a mix of funk jazz, hard bop jazz and jazz rap. On sax and vocals are Richard Underhill, Matt Lagan and Shawn Nykwist, while Michael Herring contributes bass and vocals and Stich Wynston drums and vocals. That’s a lot of vocals. Expect wild romps into the crowd, free jazz, danceable funk, poetry and killer solos.

A Great Rack and an Empty Reverb (6pm Sunday, St Pat’s Hall) is apparently a cross between jazz and stand up comedy, with Maria Moles (drums/percussion), Adam Halliwell (guitar/synth) and Emily Bennett (vocals/effects rack) offering what we might encounter at a New York comedy club in a weird parallel universe.

And no festival these days can be without a band that can appeal to a younger audience. After all, the occasional longstanding jazz follower at Wang may be a little long in the tooth. (Who said that?) So, the big attraction this year in that space, gathering the right metrics, will be the US outfit FORQ (9.15pm Saturday, St Pat’s Hall and 10pm Sunday, WPAC Theatre). FORQ was founded by keyboardist Henry Hey (David Bowie, Empire of the Sun, Jeff “Tain” Watts) and bassist Michael League (Grammy-winning leader of Snarky Puppy). Now Kevin Scott on bass joins Hey, Chris McQueen (Snarky Puppy, Bokanté) on guitar and Jason “JT” Thomas (Roy Hargrove’s RH Factor, Marcus Miller, D’Angelo) on drums. The band’s third album Thrēq (pronounced “threek”) was released late in 2017.

Drums are the featured instrument in the National Jazz Awards, the 10 finalists being Alex Hirlian, 24 (Sydney, NSW), Alex Reid, 25 (Perth, WA), Alexander Inman-Hislop, 25 (Petersham, NSW), Alf Jackson, 27 (Hobart, Tas), Angus Mason, 25 (Glengowie, SA), Damien Ellis, 32 (Thornbury, Vic), James McLean, 28 (Preston, Vic), Josh Baldwin, 33 (Adelaide, SA), Lewis Pierre-Humbert, 27 (Tecoma, Vic), and Oli Nelson, 25 (Redfern, NSW). The hard-working support band comprises Stu Hunter piano, Brendan Clarke bass and Paul Cutlan saxophones. The judges are David Jones, Hamish Stuart, Dave Goodman.

After all that listening to other drummers, Jones will join Evri Evripidou on six-string bass (9pm Sunday, WPAC Hall) as Third Ear to create sonicscapes “born without pre-conception”.

There are other Wang concerts not mentioned in this guide, but that does not mean they won’t entrance, enthral and appeal.

St Pat’s Hall will be set out differently this year, offering a club-like atmosphere. And that will be setting for the closing concert of the festival, The Orszaczky Budget Orchestra, which celebrates the energy, passion, and dazzlingly inventive arrangements of Hungarian-born bandleader, composer and visionary Jackie Orszaczky, who died of Lymphoma in 2008. Fronted by Tina Harrod and vocalist Darren Percival, the ensemble will feature many players who performed regularly with Jackie over the years. With Dave Symes bass, Hamish Stuart drums, Stu Hunter keys, Clayton Doley keys, Arne Hanna guitar, Matt Keegan saxophone, James Greening trombone and Virna Sanzone backing vocals, this should wrap up Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues in style.

ROGER MITCHELL