Category Archives: WANGARATTA JAZZ 2012

Posts about the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues, November 2–5, 2012


David Ades

On fire: David Ades at Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival 2012


Ausjazz blog reviews the 2012 Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival, finding vocalists draw the crowds, but highlights come close to home and in collaborations with visiting artists

Sunday morning at 10 is too early for jazz fans, so few gathered in the smaller venue at Wangaratta’s Performing Arts Centre to hear ABC presenter Gerry Koster let that perennial question loose on his panel of four musicians: Is jazz dead?

The answer, of course, had been delivered resoundingly in the opening concerts of this 23rd annual festival on Friday evening and throughout Saturday, and would be confirmed later on the Sunday and on Monday.

Koster’s panelists dismissed the idea as ridiculous, yet their responses were full of insights. Trumpeter and composer Phil Slater observed that jazz is not theatre, but a musical conversation in which ideas are thrown in, taken up or forgotten, with the personalities of the artists emerging during the discussion.

The new festival board, facing substantial financial difficulties, must take seriously not the persistent bleats about the demise of jazz, but how to ensure this music attracts patrons. There were clear signs that Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival in 2012 is a little leaner and the purse strings a little tighter.

Kristin Berardi

Winning vocals: National Jazz Awards winner Kristin Berardi at Wangaratta.

It helped that this year’s National Jazz Awards, won by Sydney’s Kristin Berardi in a tight contest with Kate Kelsey-Sugg and Liz Tobias, featured vocalists. Everyone loves a singer, and there were queues for every vocal performance.

Artistic director Adrian Jackson has to consider his choice of US soul singer Gregory Porter and young New York-based French vocalist Cyrille Aimee as a big success — they played to packed houses — but they did not provide the inventiveness that others on the program delivered in spades.

Aimee has an engaging stage presence and knows how to woo an audience, but her voice did not offer the variation offered by the three jazz awards finalists. Porter, also a likeable performer, warmed to his task during his single outing, delivering a swinging, bluesy version of Nat Adderley’s Work Song and a spirited closing rendition of 1960 What? Porter’s rich baritone is delivered with feeling, but, like his signature kangol hat, does not change much.

Overseas artists who may not be “big names” here, but who left us with a lot to savour were Lighthouse from the UK, Trio M from the USA, and No Tango Quartet from Germany, with the latter two also combining with local musicians to great effect.

In two performances, Lighthouse was polished, dazzling and articulate, with each trio member — Simon Garland on reeds, Gwilym Simcock on piano and the irrepressibly enthusiastic Asaf Sirkis on percussion — making virtuosity look easy. Sirkis excelled on bass udu and the Swiss hang drum, its B flat pentatonic scale producing amazing sounds in his hands.

Simcock’s free-flowing solo performance in Holy Trinity Cathedral on Saturday showed his classical training to great effect, but after a while I wished for his swelling and subsiding streams of notes to leave behind the decorative and usher in some fire, dissonance or tension.

Trio M with guests on Saturday night provided exquisite drama in exchanges between local trumpeters Phil Slater and Scott Tinkler, and between Slater and the trio’s pianist Myra Melford, helped along by superb work on drums and percussion from Simon Barker and Trio M’s Matt Wilson. Mark Dresser on bass added edgy, but deeply resonant bow work.

Some may have felt the Australian guests had too much say in this collaboration, taking Trio M away from its usual style. But on Sunday in the WPAC Theatre the visitors in their usual line-up delivered superbly crafted excursions into timbres, textures and rhythms, each taking delight in stretching their instruments.

Melford is a firebrand at the piano, delivering punch well above her diminutive stature. Trio M members are as skilled as the lads in Lighthouse, but the US group gives the impression that its music is always champing at the bit to be new and changing.

There were two opportunities to hear the collaboration between No Tango Quartet and the Andrea Keller Quartet. This was of interest not only because they were playing new compositions for the two quartets by visiting reedist Christina Fuchs and local pianist Keller, but also because of the additions to each line-up.

Keller’s band gained a bassist and accordionist, while Fuchs’s group gained a pianist, trumpeter and an additional saxophonist. Two on drums and percussion completed an octet that proved compelling in its renditions of new pieces such as Keller’s seven-movement Meditations on Light and Fuchs’s Textures of Memory. Venues were packed for these concerts, which showed how well musicians work together and talented composers can be creative at a distance.

Collaborations such as those involving Keller’s quartet and Tinkler , Slater and Barker, are a feature of Jackson’s programming at Wangaratta and Stonnington festivals. These proved to be standouts.

It is not a competition, but Australian talent also threatened to take the honours of this international festival with outings such as the David Ades Quartet launching the album A Glorious Certainty, guitarist Stephen Magnusson’s band launching the eponymous album MAGNET, Phil Slater’s reworking of Peter Sculthorpe’s compositions in The Sun Songbook, Baecastuff’s voyage into Pitcairn Islander history with Mutiny Music, pianist Mike Nock’s encounter with Magnusson, Adam Simmons’ trio Origami and Canberra bassist Hannah James’s trio.

David Ades

All you could ask for in a sax solo: David Ades

Alto saxophonist Ades has been seriously ill, but in WPAC Theatre on Saturday he was on fire, well assisted by Julien Wilson on tenor, Jonathan Zwartz on bass and former expat Danny Fischer (he’s back home) in great form. Joe the Kid, in honour of Ades’s dad, was ripping stuff, and Dreaming in Colour provided some great exchanges between Wilson and Ades. Marching Orders had some angst, delivered in a blistering fashion by Ades, and the closing piece had Wilson on bass clarinet before an all-you-could-ask-for solo by Ades. This was a top gig.

I struggled to leave early from two concerts featuring Magnusson, because they were so captivating. MAGNET gave an airing of Carl Pannuzzo’s amazing vocal gymnastics in a memorable WPAC Hall outing, and pianist extraordinaire Mike Nock shared the same stage combining lots of improvisation with each other’s compositions. For some patrons, these undoubtedly were highlights.

Mutiny Music, featuring saxophonist Rick Robertson’s talented ensemble Baecastuff playing his compositions, used the Pitcairn language in a harmonically rich exploration of voice and instruments that called to my mind Andrew Robson’s tribute to Thomas Tallis, Bearing the Bell. Some may have found this too slow, but I loved it.

On Sunday in the WPAC Theatre, Phil Slater, pianist Matt McMahon, Simon Barker, guitarist Carl Dewhurst, bassist Brett Hirst and violist Erkki Veltheim brought Sculthorpe’s music into the world of jazz improvisation. I found this work was able to wash all the detritus from body, mind and spirit. It was calming and renewing.

By comparison, the earlier outing in St Patrick’s Hall by the trio Origami was invigorating, taking the audience to unexpected places.

I caught only a part of bassist Hannah James’s WPAC Hall gig with Casey Golden on piano and Ed Rodrigues on drums, but it stood out as engrossing, robust jazz.

A clear hit with the packed audience on Sunday evening in the WPAC Theatre was Joseph Tawadros on oud with brother James on the tambourine-like eck and frame drum, with Steve Hunter on bass guitar and Matt McMahon on piano. The brothers are brilliantly virtuosic on their instruments, but I had hoped they would venture a little further from the world music style and more into jazz. Heal — in which Slater sat in on trumpet — and Café Riche were highlights.

There was so much on offer at this year’s Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues — and I have not mentioned any blues gigs — that this review leaves out a lot.

But in a program that was light on well-known international drawcards and heavy on vocalists, the most significant moments came from either Australian musicians or in their collaborations with talented visitors eager to go out on a limb. In either case, this annual festival clearly demonstrates that jazz is far from dead.


Pictures of festival gigs will be posted separately at a later date.

Among concerts missed (it’s impossible to get to everything): Marc Hannaford Trio, Browne-Hannaford-Anning, Gould-Manins-Marinucci, Tim Stevens Trio, Tim Stevens solo, Scott Tinkler Quartet, Mark Dresser and Scott Tinkler, Murphy’s Law, Alex Stuart.


Reason 12



Ausjazz blog has not exhausted the myriad reasons why you should not miss the opportunity to be at all or part of Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival this year, but a dozen is clearly not enough, so I’ve grouped a few who absolutely deserve a mention.

Friday, November 2 at 10pm, WPAC Theatre: Paul Grabowsky and Bernie McGann will perform jazz standards and original compositions in a quartet with bassist Jonathan Zwartz and on drums 2011 National Jazz Awards winner Tim Firth.

Friday, November 2 at 9:45pm, WPAC Memorial Hall: Marc Hannaford with his trio with talented young bassist Sam Pankhust and drummer James McLean, as heard on Marc’s CD Sarcophile.

Saturday, November 3 at 4:30pm, WPAC Memorial Hall: Scott Tinkler Quartet with Marc Hannaford (piano), Sam Pankhurst (bass) and Simon Barker (drums)

Saturday. November 3 at 4pm, Holy Trinity Cathedral: Tim Stevens will perform solo on piano.

Saturday, November 3 at noon Holy Trinity Cathedral: Doug De Vries with bassist Frank Di Sario and drummer/percussionist Alastair Kerr will be playing Brazilian music.

Sunday, November 4 at 12:30pm WPAC Memorial Hall: Tim Stevens will also play in his trio with Ben Robertson on bass and Dave Beck on drums.

Saturday, November 3 at 2:30pm WPAC Memorial Hall: Allan Browne will lead his trio with Marc Hannaford and Sam Anning.

Sunday, November 4 at 6pm, St Patrick’s Hall
: Bob Barnard and Warwick Alder on trumpets.

Saturday, November 3 at 8pm, St Patrick’s Hall
: Hobart pianist Tom Vincent playing Wangaratta for the first time, joined by Sam Anning (bass) and Danny Fischer (drums).

Sunday, November 4 at 8pm, St Patrick’s Hall: Eminent pianist Tony Gould will feature in a quartet with Rob Burke on saxophone, Nick Haywood on bass and Tony Floyd on drums, as well as in the trio (Sunday, November 4 at 2pm, Holy Trinity Cathedral) he co-leads with Imogen Manins on cello and Gianni Marinucci on flugelhorn and trumpet.

Saturday, November 3 at 12:30pm, WPAC Memorial Hall: Sydney bassist/composer Hannah James, a graduate from the ANU School of Music in Canberra, will play in a trio with two members of her quintet, Casey Golden on piano and Ed Rodrigues on drums. Phil Slater on trumpet will be a guest soloist.

Monday, November 5, 1pm, WPAC: Youth jazz showcase concert added to the program on Monday afternoon. It’s separately ticketed, but covered by a festival pass. Generations in Jazz Academy Big Band from Mt Gambier directed by Graeme Lyall; the Monash University Big Band directed by Jordan Murray; and the National Youth Jazz Academy band, with young students aged 18 to 19, based in Wangaratta. This includes a trumpet player aged 13 who is precociously talented.

Hope to see some blog readers at Wangaratta.



Eleventh reason


Expatriate Australian musicians are a constant source of interest at Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival because their fans here are keen to hear how they have changed or developed while living abroad, and what new material they bring to audiences at home.

Among expats returning for a visit this year are, from New York,  bassist Sam Anning, drummer Rajiv Jayaweera and, from Ireland, guitarist Ian Date.

Guitarist Alex Stuart, originally from Canberra and now living in France, will return for a national tour that will include his first performance at Wangaratta.

In July 2011 Stuart won the Jury Prize at the Jazz A Juan Revelation in southern France. He’ll play with Julien Wilson on saxophone, Brendan Clarke on bass and Ben Vanderwal on drums.

Stuart lives in Paris, where he moved after completing his degree at the ANU in 2005. He has won praise for his performances of original music at jazz clubs and festivals in France, and for his debut CD Around.

Among his influences Stuart cites the usual jazz influences, but also Radiohead, Bjork and Jeff Buckley as well as music from Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The festival website quotes Stuart as  saying, “My music is a real mix. I’ve always loved listening to and playing many different genres, and you can hear that in my compositions. Some of my diverse influences are modern jazz, African and Latin American music, Hindustani classical music and indie rock. When I compose I don’t calculate how things are going to blend, I just try to let it come out organically.

“Audiences at Wangaratta can expect some high energy performances. We’ll be playing a lot of music from my last album Around, and some new compositions I plan to record early next year.”

Alex Stuart’s performances at Wangaratta:
Saturday, November 3 at 5pm, Quality Hotel Wangaratta Gateway
Sunday, November 4 at 8pm WPAC Memorial Hall

On tour:

Tuesday, November 6, at 9pm, Bennetts Lane Jazz Club, Price: $15/12


Alex Stuart Quartet at the ANU Band Room (Peter Karmel Building), ‎12 November at 7.30pm at ANU School of Music