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.

THE MAYOR’S PERSPECTIVE ON WANG

Sumire Kubayashi (Japan) at the piano.

Sumire Kubayashi (Japan) at the piano during the 2018 Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues.

Q&A

The Mayor of Wangaratta, Cr Dean Rees, was quick to respond to these questions, put to him today (February 5), about the future of the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues, which has been postponed by a year until 2020:

Ausjazz: In the Wangaratta Chronicle you were quoted as saying that the council would be staging a music festival in November this year that would be “just as big or better for the community”. Given the difficulty faced by the board in continuing to hold a music festival that has been running for 29 years, how realistic is it for the city to stage a totally new and “better” festival in the time available, starting from scratch?

Mayor Rees: The festival board’s decision was obviously very recent, so our Events team will start planning now for something to fill the gap on that weekend. We’re confident it can be something big, but the planning really begins now.

Ausjazz: You also suggested this new festival would perhaps involve “a new genre of music” and said “it may be time to steer away from jazz”. Does this mean the end of council’s support for the festival and effectively the end of the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues?

Mayor Rees: The jazz festival board have said there will be a 30th Festival in 2020 and Council will consider support for that event when the detail of that event has been developed by the board.

Ausjazz: If the city does decide to support another kind of music festival, possibly one that would attract more visiting fans than those drawn to jazz and/or blues, what would the council consider supporting?

Mayor Rees: This is still being developed, but we’re welcome to all ideas.

Ausjazz: Festival chair Miriam Zolin said that after the festival AGM in March there would be a “total re-think” and this would include a decision on whether the festival should continue to be held on the weekend before Melbourne Cup Day. What other options have been suggested, and why?

Mayor Rees: This is best answered by the festival board.

Ausjazz: Finally, a lot of regular patrons have an annual booking with an accommodation provider in Wangaratta because they come every year. What do you advise people in this situation to do now that there will not be jazz or blues happening in November and

the future of the festival is uncertain?

Mayor Rees: I’d encourage people to visit Wangaratta. There will be something on on the long weekend and it is the perfect time to visit our region and enjoy the natural surrounds and gourmet food and wine on offer. Stay up to date and watch this space for an announcement.

ROGER MITCHELL

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WANGARATTA FESTIVAL ON FURLOUGH

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Adam Simmons, third from left, takes a bow on stage at the Wangaratta Performing Arts Centre Theatre during the 2018 festival. He has now bowed out of his role as co-artistic director.

BREAKING NEWS

There will be no Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues in 2019.

This esteemed festival will take a break before celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2020.

In a media release embargoed until 10am today — Friday 1 February, 2019 — the festival board announced it had voted to postpone the festival’s 30th anniversary celebrations.

The 30th festival will now be held in 2020.

“It was not an easy decision to make, but we all voted with the best interests of the festival in mind, and we will be working towards delivering a landmark festival in 2020,” said Festival Chair Miriam Zolin.

The news release went on as follows:

While the 2018 festival was widely enjoyed and praised for its exciting program of local and international jazz and blues, the organisation, like many small arts organisations, has faced a number of operational pressures in recent years.

The recent resignation of co-artistic director Adam Simmons, and departure of long-term festival managers Nolan Media Events last year, has underscored the need to look strategically at the festival’s operating model, and its long-term sustainability.

“The board is committed to ensuring the future of the festival, and for now that means taking some time to look at the way we operate and plan for the years ahead,” said Zolin.

In the lead-up to this decision, the festival has held discussions with its funding partners, including the Rural City of Wangaratta and Creative Victoria. In December the Board took part in a strategic planning day which pointed clearly to a need to look at the festival’s operational and fundraising models.

“The Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues has always been resilient in the face of change, and this decision will offer an invaluable opportunity for us to take a breath and revisit the festival’s structure,” said Zolin.

The Festival Board will work closely with its partners and the community to map out a future for the festival that ensures the festival’s vision and purpose stay strong.

“Just like the music that this festival celebrates, we’ll continue to be creative,” said Zolin.

“In 2019 we will develop a sustainable model for delivery of the festival into the future, and we need time to make sure we get it right. We will build on the success of 2018 and previous years to make the 30th festival one that celebrates all that Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues has contributed to the jazz and blues scene in Australia and in bringing the local Wangaratta community together.”

“We acknowledge and thank all of those who have played a role in our extraordinary story to date and look forward to working together on this next chapter for Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues.”

As well, festival chair Miriam Zolin’s media release provided some background about the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues:

In 1989 a group of Wangaratta business people suggested the idea of a music festival to Wangaratta Council. Council funded a feasibility study which concluded that a festival in Wangaratta could offer a point of difference from other music festivals, with a program based on modern and contemporary jazz. The first festival took place in 1990. The festival also hosts the National Jazz Awards with its associated prizes and prestige. The professional careers of previous winners and finalists have been significantly boosted, making the NJAs a hugely important in developing a future for Australian jazz and improvised music. Programming for the first 27 years was overseen by the inimitable Adrian Jackson OAM, who was honoured in the 2019 Australia Day Honours List with an Order of Australian Medal acknowledging his services to music. Since its inception, the festival has been a huge influence in the Australian jazz scene, as well as a significant contributor to artistic and cultural life and economic development in the Rural City and the broader North East of Victoria. The festival continues to work in close partnership with the Rural City of Wangaratta.

This news will be a huge shock to many dedicated fans who have travelled to Wangaratta for many years on the weekend before Cup day to enjoy this feast of music – jazz and blues, featuring national and international artists – available at venues in one location and accessible via a daily or weekend pass.

It is a bold move to postpone such a festival for a year just as it prepares to celebrate 30 years in which many, many musicians have created memorable and often unexpectedly exhilarating moments for so many patrons.

Will this be a hiccup that opens the way to a brighter future for this annual gathering at which fans mingle in the streets with musicians and the anticipation of experimentation is often in the air? Or will this signal a parting of the ways for rusted on fans? Let’s hope it is the former.

And what will the streets of Wang be like on that weekend in early November, without the buzz, without the crowds and queues, without the blues marquee and without the bustle and hustle of patrons heading for yet another gig?

Quiet.

Bring on 2020 and the 30th Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues.

ROGER MITCHELL

PS: Those who have a regular booking for accommodation, remember to touch base with the local providers so they know you’ll be back, albeit a year later than anticipated.

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.