Category Archives: JAZZ FESTIVALS

Jazz festivals in and around Melbourne and Victoria

TWO BIRDS PLUS THREE

Kathleen Halloran

Kathleen Halloran

Melbourne Women’s International Jazz Festival 2017
Kathleen Halloran guitar, Kim May bass, Darryn Farrugia drums
Two Birds Brewing, 3pm-5pm, November 26, 2017

What a wonderful venue for a Sunday afternoon gig.

Despite living in Melbourne’s western suburbs for many years I have never made it to Two Birds Brewing in Spotswood. On this occasion I was busy cleaning and moving furniture and could only catch the last few pieces by this trio, but the music and the venue made me want to return. The trio played original compositions by Kathleen Halloran and the other band members, Kim May on bass and Darryn Farrugia on drums.

In the performance space, where patrons can enjoy food and the excellent array of Two Birds brews, including Double Sunset, there is a large mural featuring the West Gate Bridge.

Halloran is a guitarist based in Melbourne. At 22, she has over six years’ experience as a working musician, including professional music theatre and also international work with Broadway vocalist Brad Little.

She has performed alongside Australian artists including Kate Ceberano, Kate Miller Heidke, Tim Rogers, Tex Perkins, Jen Cloher and Harry Angus (Cat Empire).

Halloran will perform again in the MWIJF at The Jazzlab on Sunday, December 3 with SPIRE ensemble. The second set will feature Girls Do Jazz.

Below are a few images from this free concert.

Roger Mitchell

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FESTIVAL NOT DOMINATED BY MEN!

Xani Kolac

Xani Kolac                   Image supplied

PREVIEW

Melbourne Women’s International Jazz Festival,November 24 to December 10, 2017

I suppose the reason why we don’t have a men’s international jazz festival in Melbourne – or anywhere – is that it would be doubling up on what we often experience at jazz gigs – that is, a predominance of male performers.

So, until that changes, and we no longer need a women’s festival because most gigs feature women musicians, let’s celebrate the work of, and the depth of talent among, the many female practitioners of jazz or improvised music.

This year Sonja Horbelt has programmed a ripper of a festival in Melbourne with a great deal of talent from Australia and overseas, including expatriate trombonist Shannon Barnett and  internationally-acclaimed Korean musician Hyelim Kim.

Full details are available on the festival website, but here’s a summary of the gigs on offer to whet your appetite. This is an inexpensive way to hear and celebrate the considerable talent of the many women musicians who compose and play jazz.

Friday, November 24, 5.30pm 6pm-8pm, Sharny Russell Quartet, $15/$10, Uptown Jazz Cafe

An Australian pianist/vocalist/composer based in Byron Bay, Sharny Russell has put together an all female line up to also acknowledge the “International Day of the Elimination of Violence Against Women”. It comprises Russell vocals/piano, Angela Davis saxophone, Annette Yates bass and Sonja Horbelt drums

Saturday November 25, 3pm-5pm, Quadrifid, Free, Two Birds Brewery, Spotswood

‘Quadrifid’ is a chordless, all female jazz quartet that plays original groove based music as well as some jazz standards and arrangements. It features Lauren Mullarvey – saxophone (Cactus Channel), Ellie Lamb – trombone (Stand By Your Woman, The Bean Project), Elise Winterflood – bass (La Busca, Old Hat), Alex Roper – drums.

Sunday November 26, 3pm-5pm, Kathleen Halloran Trio, Free, Two Birds Brewery Spotswood

Kathleen Halloran is a guitarist based in Melbourne. At 22, she has over six years’ experience as a working musician, including professional music theatre and also international work with Broadway vocalist Brad Little. She has performed alongside Australian artists including Kate Ceberano, Kate Miller Heidke, Tim Rogers, Tex Perkins, Jen Cloher and Harry Angus (Cat Empire).In her own trio, Kathleen offers floating melodies on top of intricate and moving harmonies. Joining Kathleen are Kim May (Double bass) and Darryn Farrugia (drums) for two sets of new original music.

Sunday December 3, 7pm for 8pm, SPIRE + Girls Do Jazz, $25/$20, The Jazzlab

First set: SPIRE ensemble, a collective of Melbourne instrumentalists, all women, present a program of all original contemporary jazz works. The line-up comprises Xani Kolac (violin), Kathleen Halloran (guitar), Claire Cross (bass), Lena Douglas (keys), Maria Moles (drums), Savannah Blount (tenor saxophone), Cheryl Durongpisitkul (alto saxophone), Ellie Lamb (trombone) and Charlie Woods (trumpet).

Second set: Girls Do Jazz is a jazz band 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. The emphasis is on Australian contemporary jazz. The band comprises Bella Winter – alto saxophone, Kathleen Halloran – guitar, Alex Rindfleish – piano, Robbie Finch – double bass and Alex Czarnecki-Roper – drums.

Monday December 4, 7pm for 7.30pm, Student night, $15/$10, The Jazzlab

Performers from Mac.Robertson Girls High School, Ruyton Girls School and Siena College play big band music from traditional to more contemporary styles.

Tuesday December 5, 7.30pm for 8pm, Lijuka/Hyelim Kim, $20/$15, The Jazzlab

First set: Lijuka – Katrina Owen on saxophone / vocals, Libby Ferris on guitar / vocals, and Julia Bebenek on drum kit / vocals, are a Melbourne trio whose sound swings from ambient drone based musings to jazz-infused grooves.

Second set: Hyelim Kim is an internationally-acclaimed Korean musician, based in London, who is a virtuoso on the taegŭm (the traditional horizontal bamboo flute). A multi-award winning PhD who has performed in New York and London, she is acknowledged as a young performer who has taken a leading role in breathing new life into Korean traditional music, recording both traditional works and her own compositions. For this concert, ‘Scattering Rhythms’, she is collaborating with Australian musicians Simon Barker (drums) and Peter Knight (trumpet & electronics).

Wednesday December 6, 8pm for 8.30pm, QoQo8 CD launch, $20/$15, The Jazzlab

QoQo8 – comprising Nilusha Dassenaike: vocals, Anthony Schulz: piano, piano accordion, Adam Starr: guitar, vocals and Tommy Harrison: drums, vocals – was created to bring rich harmony and deep grooves to the ambience of modal-based improvised music. It is a 4-way compositional collective that puts a new spin on the East/West fusion beloved by Shakti and Joe Zawinul, bringing orchestral soundscapes to the meditative grooves and modal improvisations of music from the Sri-Lankan Buddhist tradition.

Thursday December 7, 8pm for 8.30pm, Flora & Audrey CD launch, $20/$15, The Jazzlab

Two of Melbourne’s most exciting young horn players, trumpeter Audrey Powne and saxophonist Flora Carbo, join Joseph O’Connor piano, Marty Holoubek bass and James McLean drums to play original music written specifically for this project.

Friday December 8, 8pm for 9pm, The Sally Ford Clinic, , The Jazzlab

Sally Ford leads these all-star specialists bringing together their disparate musical backgrounds in tex mex, afrobeat, salsa, film music, ska, reggae and funk, to lay down some relaxed and rootsy dance grooves with Dr Hernández, prescribing a triple dose of electro-cumbia, funky reggae and boogaloo. The line-up comprises Sally Ford – lead vocals, alto sax & flute, Patrick Cronin -trumpet, percussion & backing vocals, Michael Havir – keyboards & audiology, David Joseph – drums, Karen Berger – percussion, Alisha Brooks – saxophone, Audrey Powne – trumpet and Darcie Foley – trombone.

Friday December 8, 11pm, Shannon Barnett (Germ/Aus/US), Free, The Jazzlab

Melbourne-born Shannon Barnett completed a Master of Music at the State University of New York, under the tuition of John Fedchock and Jon Faddis. In 2014, Barnett was offered the 2nd Trombone position in the WDR Big Band; based in Cologne, Germany. In 2017, she released the album ‘Hype’ (Double Moon) with her German quartet, featuring Stefan Karl Schmid (tenor saxophone), David Helm (bass) and Fabian Arends (drums). In this midnight set she will perform with Stephen Magnusson – Guitar, Ben Robertson – Bass and Rajiv Jayaweera – Drums.

Friday December 8, 8pm, Lauren Nottingham (NZ/UK), $20$16, The Jazzlab

Lauren Nottingham is a New Zealand singer who draws on a diverse stylistic palette of music including jazz, progressive rock, choral music and contemporary pop. Having recently returned from time in Berlin, she began collaborating with UK pianist/composer Mark Donlon resulting in the album Shadowbird (Fuzzymoon Records UK). Tonight’s show will feature jazz from German Gypsy Jazz to re-interpretations of songs by Madonna and David Bowie and original compositions from Shadowbird. She will be joined by Mark Donlon (UK) – piano, Hiroki Hoshino – bass and Mark Lockett (NZ) – drums.

Saturday December 9, 8pm for 9pm, Elly Hoyt (Bris/Melb): The Composer’s Voice, $28/$25, The Jazzlab

Ahead of a national album release in 2018, and comprising of entirely original compositions, ‘The Composer’s Voice’ explores personal stories of women in music from discovery, obstacles and overcoming. It is a diverse and powerhouse group of Australian composers including Andrea Keller, Angela Davis, Georgia Weber, Gian Slater, Hannah James, Kristin Berardi, Louise Denson, Martha Baartz, Nat Bartsch, Shannon Barnett, Sonja Horbelt and Tamara Murphy. Tonight’s gig will feature Ellie Hoyt on voice, Andrea Keller piano, Jonathan Zion on double bass, Raj Jayaweera on drums, Julien Wilson on tenor sax and Shannon Barnett on trombone.

Saturday December 9, 11pm, Shannon Barnett (Germ/Aus/US), Free, The Jazzlab

In this second midnight set, Shannon Barnett will be joined by Julien Wilson tenor saxophone, Marty Holoubek bass and Rajiv Jayaweera drums

Sunday December 10, 7pm for 8pm, Sophie Min/James Sherlock plus Andrea Keller Still Night in Poetry, $25/$20, The Jazzlab

First set: Sophie Min, a rising jazz pianist and composer who has toured Belgium, Switzerland, Netherlands, Germany, Croatia, Italy and Denmark and has performed at North Sea Jazz Festival, along with well known guitarist James Sherlock.

Second set: If you haven’t experienced Still Night: Music in Poetry, make a point of not missing it. This work is a 60-minute song-cycle combining poetry that spans centuries and the globe with music composed by Andrea Keller. A meditation on omnipresent sentiments of death, grief and loss, Still Night has been performed with a slightly different line-up, but on this occasion will feature Gian Slater – voice, Josh Kyle – voice, Julien Wilson – tenor saxophone & bass clarinet, Stephen Magnusson – guitar and Andrea Keller – piano. The text has been drawn from a selection of poetry including tenth-century Japanese poet Izumi Shikibu, nineteenth-century English poet John Keats, American writer Walt Whitman, Irish poet William Butler Yeats, French novelist Marcel Proust, American poet Sara Teasdale, and further into the twentieth-century with American writer e. e. cummings, Welsh poet and writer Dylan Thomas, to contemporary Australian poet, dancer and filmmaker Richard James Allen.

That’s the festival. Get out and enjoy it.

Roger Mitchell

LOUD AND PROUD V SUBTLY VARIED

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah          Image: Roger Mitchell

REVIEW

Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues 2017

Julian “Cannonball” Adderley was in the car on the way back from this year’s Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues, along with Miles Davis, Hank Jones, Sam Jones, Art Blakey and a bunch of others from the fifties. They were not wearing seatbelts.

They soothed my aching ears. They oozed class and they came uncluttered — clear and simple notes flowing out as the countryside rolled past. There was power and beauty in their gentle swing, unadorned by technological enhancements.

This year’s festival was a blast — but that tells only part of the story. There were full-on gigs that emulated rock concerts, shaking the foundations with pulsing, pounding beats and all manner of high-tech wizardry, and there were gigs with more subtlety, variations in intensity, more light and shade.

The crowds, of course, loved to have it loud, and yelled for more. In a year exhibiting much more music technology than previously, the bands that many will remember as their highlights will be those that went for it, no holds barred, going for broke.

If it sounds as if I’m complaining, it’s not that loud music or new gadgetry (its advance is inevitable) are necessarily bad, only that my preference is not to have high octane and/or high tech delivered quite so unremittingly. But that’s not necessarily a view shared by many.

Christian Scott

Final bows: From left, Shea Pierre piano and Rhodes, Kris Funn bass, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah trumpet and reverse flugel, Logan Richardson sax, Corey Fonville drums.

The full-throttle performances began on Friday at 10pm in Wangaratta Performing Arts Centre Theatre when Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah (trumpet, reverse flugel) led a quintet that unexpectedly did not include flautist Elena Pinderhughes. On piano and Rhodes Shea Pierre had joined the band only a week ago. On alto saxophone Logan Richardson was a valued guest alongside long-time member and phenomenally talented bassist Kris Funn and prodigy Corey Fonville, who Scott said had prank-called him (acting as his grandmother) “every day for five years” in his campaign to join the group.

In this and a subsequent outing at 10.30pm Saturday this band absolutely wowed the packed theatre in a highly amped and virtuosic display that was potentially ear damaging and yet paid homage to deep musical traditions. Scott’s great grandmother was a Cuban pianist, his grandfather a chief of the New Orleans black Indians and his uncle is saxophonist Donald Harrison jnr.

Scott is eloquent with words as well as his extraordinary horns, in both concerts introducing the closing and compelling piece, The Last Chieftain, with a moving account of his grandfather’s distribution of food to people who needed it in New Orleans wards and the relevance of this example to our world now of bigotry and vulnerability.

Scott paid close attention to the sound quality, his fellow musicians and then to the audience, leaving no doubt about his talent. Why it had to be almost all so high voltage and so loud is a mystery to me, but few in the audience seemed to mind. I felt for Shea Pierre on piano and keys, who seemed to be a little on the outer in this group.

Another band that let loose from the word go was The Others, bringing Spiderbait’s Kram (drums) to the stage for the first time with jazz identities Paul Grabowsky (keys and electronics) and James Morrison (an array of horns). It was impossible to tell who was most excited, Grabowsky, Morrison, Kram or the audience. One audience member summed up this gig as “a collision of styles” and another as “you’ve just seen three men have orgasms on stage”. Both of those descriptions seemed not to be unfair.

Whether it was Kram drumming on the floor all around Morrison and the grand piano to eventually reach Grabowsky, who was looking coolly intimidating in dark shades as he drew weird wailings and high-pitched whistles from his electronic device, or the showman Morrison possibly being outshone or even stretched a little in the company of Kram, these three delivered energy and enthusiasm in spades, leaving the audience ecstatic.

As the lights went down I wished they had backed off just a little in one or two pieces, but boys will be boys. (I’d rather have heard Grabowsky’s monumental Moons of Jupiter suite.)

Another technologically rich and amply amplified performance was delivered in two outings by Auckland-born pianist Aron Ottingnon, who now lives in Paris, leading a trio with Kuba Gudz on drums and Samuel Dubois on steel pan and percussion. Ottingnon, who was runner-up in the 1999 National Jazz Awards at Wangaratta, is engaging and exuberant as well as capable of virtuosic work at the piano keyboard, assisted by electronic effects.

This trio was primarily about rhythms, effectively and gradually building intensity by subtly adjusting patterns and tempo. Gudz and Dubois, also utilising much technological wizardry, were attentive and responsive. After hearing two pieces in the Saturday night concert I was unsure whether Ottingnon’s trio was an ideal choice to end the jazz program on the Sunday, but that second outing dispelled those doubts. A small but appreciative audience attended the final festival gig.

Scott Tinkler’s DRUB was also, as expected, a fiery, full-on performance that was utterly engrossing, but I dropped in only long enough to clear the cobwebs from my brain between two very different concerts. It was an effective palate cleanser.

As mentioned earlier, the festival as a blast was far from the whole story. Fans of New Orleans piano styles had a treat in WPAC Theatre on Friday at a time usually reserved for a major jazz attraction, as UK-born Jon Cleary took us on a journey from Jelly Roll Morton to Fats Domino.

But I was still feeling the warm glow of other vibes, in particular from vocalist Melanie Taylor’s clear and moving rendition of Somewhere Called Home, performed with Tony Gould on piano during the festival’s opening Monash Sessions concert at 6pm in WPAC Theatre. Student musicians, along with Gould, Mike Nock, Paul Williamson (trumpet) and Rob Burke delivered a thoroughly engaging start to Wangaratta 2017 — I left on a high.

That mood continued at 7.30pm when the Kari Ikonen Trio (Finland) delivered the first of two demonstrations of how powerful music can be when carefully crafted, constantly varied and given lots of space. I had to leave that concert early, but heard all of the 11am Saturday outing by Kari Ikonen on piano, Olli Rantala on double bass and Markku Ounaskari on drums. At that early hour a good crowd was treated to gentle humour, shifts in dynamics, rich timbres of piano strings strummed, brooding bowed bass and deftly minimal drum work. The levels of intensity varied, the piano notes were at times icy or crystalline and at others verging on guttural.

That was a definite highlight, but Sunday took me to another level at 11am in WPAC Theatre when Phil Slater on trumpet joined Simon Barker on drums, Matt McMahon on piano, Matt Keegan on sax, and Brett Hirst on bass to premiere new works. From Slater’s breathy, opening horn notes it was evident we were to hear something special. His solemn input began what slowly built into a mesmerising set of might and beauty, peppered in places with musings, nibbles, short runs and bright shards of sound from the horn.

These were works of immense power, with no need of electronics or special effects and no need for sustained full-throttle playing. Yet this seamless, organically cohesive music sustained interest throughout. Sprinklings of rhythm from Barker, McMahon and Hirst perfectly complemented the work of Keegan and Slater. This was a deeply moving concert.

Two hours later an octet led by bassist Jonathan Zwartz brought Slater back to that stage among a talented bunch of “feckless rascals” who delivered melodically rich compositions by Swartz from a soon-to-be-released album. Again this was a band of luminaries — Barney McAll piano, Hamish Stuart drums, Julien Wilson tenor sax, Phil Slater trumpet, James Greening trombone, Fabian Hevia percussion and Steve Magnusson guitar. They served up a rich feast of exuberant and deeply affecting music spiced with much humour. McAll’s subtle input towards the end of the newly dubbed Julien Wilson’s Song of Love was spot-on.

In what became a Sunday brimming with local musicianship of the highest order, bassist Sam Anning gathered the impressive line-up of Andrea Keller piano, Mat Jodrell trumpet and flugel, Carl Mackey alto sax, Julien Wilson tenor sax and Danny Fischer drums to play his beautiful compositions with warmth and vitality. I love a well bent trumpet note and Jodrell does that well.

Anning also featured in saxophonist Angela Davis’s Quartet in St Pat’s Hall at noon Sunday, the close-knit ensemble delivering some appealingly gentle swing. A change in scheduling may have meant some missed the adventurous and awesome originals played by a young Melbourne quartet. Formed in mid 2015, this band comprising bassist Isaac Gunnoo, drummer Maddison Carter and siblings Flora Carbo (saxophone) and Theo Carbo (guitar) is worth keeping an eye on. They’ll go far.

Expatriate Australian horn player Nadje Noordhuis now living in New York chose Theo Carbo to join her hand-picked band, along with James Shipp (USA) on synthesisers and percussion, Gian Slater on vocals and Chris Hale on bass, playing her compositions written for this festival gig. There were hints of nostalgia in these pieces, which celebrated Noordhuis’s luxuriantly rich tones on trumpet and flugelhorn in a performance to sink into. Slater’s vocals were tailored to match the mood, which never ventured into edgy.

The mood was less predictable when Noordhuis reunited with festival programming team member Adam Simmons and French guitarist Philippe Guidat — all three had been thrown together in a Music Omi Artist Residency in upstate New York in 2007 — to form a disparate sextet with French percussionist Pascal Rollando, James Shipp (vibes/percussion) and Chris Hale (bass). Plenty of humour was added to the mix in this delightful outing, especially in an impromptu instrumental battle between Shipp and Simmons. This recipe — mix a few varied musicians and stir — worked a treat.

Other line-ups that worked well were a trio not often enough heard comprising Nick Haywood on bass with Colin Hopkins piano and Niko Schauble on drums, and Antelodic — featuring the unusual combination of Robbie Melville on guitar with two saxophonists, Gideon Brazil on tenor and Monty Mackenzie on alto sax and clarinet.

In the National Jazz Awards finals, the hard-working judges — Nadje Noordhuis, Scott Tinkler and trombonist Adrian Sherriff — awarded the honours as follows: 1st James Macaulay, 29, trombone, Victoria; 2nd Niran Dasika, 23, trumpet, Victoria; and 3rd Thomas Avgenicos, 21, trumpet, NSW. As is always the case, the finals performances attracted a large audience to hear quality performances. The backing band of Tom O’Halloran piano, Brendan Clarke bass and Ben Vanderwal drums also deserves high praise.

One standout artist at this festival deserves a separate post — partly because of the impact of her performances and partly because it was far from what you’d expect to find in a jazz festival program. Multilingual vocalist, composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist and dancer Jen Shyu gave two concerts — one in Holy Trinity Cathedral on Saturday in a duo with Simon Barker, and another on Sunday in WPAC Theatre with Barker, James Shipp on vibraphone and Veronique Serret on six-string violin.

Her compelling out-of-left-field expositions of drama, theatre, dance and expressively virtuosic vocals were engrossing, shocking, funny, moving, confronting and often puzzling. It was a visual feast as even the simplest moves — such as picking up or putting down an instrument — were imbued with grace and poise. Shyu sang and spoke in seven languages and played piano, violin, moon lute and percussion.

I was fascinated, but also frustrated at not always following the narrative, even though having the unexpected benefit of seeing the same work, Song of Silver Geese, twice. (I had expected a different work at the second outing.)

It is impossible to be at all festival gigs. I regret having missed Barney McAll’s ASIO, Cleverhorse, Slipper, Gian Slater with McAll and Barker, Guidat/Rollando in duo, Digital Seed, Mike Nock’s solo piano, Nick Tsiavos’s Liminal, Lo-Res, Zac Hurren, Katie Noonan and Karin Shaupp. Origami’s Wu-Xing – The Five Elements was just beginning as I left, so I hope that will be staged again soon.

To sum up, Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues 2017 offered the high-tech and high-volume outings that many will have loved, but I was happiest — and very satisfied indeed — to have heard many concerts in which loud and proud was less important than exquisitely varied.

ROGER MITCHELL

PS: There were a few niggles — program inconsistencies, line-ups missing on the festival app, gigs starting late, overly pushy security guards at the Pinsent — but these can wait.

PPS: More images will be added later.

PPPS: If you read this far, accept a gold star and free access to a DRUB recording session (no ear plugs provided).