Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival, November 1-4, 2013
This preview covers a lot of ground, with the aim of letting people know what is on offer. The joy of a festival such as Wangaratta is that patrons can take risks and dip into unfamiliar territory.
JAZZ PROGRAM PREVIEW
Music moves us, musicians move us and musicians move. So many times when we read the biographies of favourite musicians, we find they have made leaps to new places and new music communities — sometimes returning home eventually, sometimes not.
On a recent Sunday night at Melbourne’s Uptown Jazz Café, pianist Marc Hannaford played two sets at a farewell gig before leaving for at least five years in New York. He invited musician friends and colleagues to sit in. It was a great way to celebrate a big move in his life and career.
This year’s Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues brings us many artists who have made significant moves to new places as their music developed.
As in previous years, many of the musicians are expatriate Australians. The line-up, carefully crafted by artistic director Adrian Jackson, raises the (admittedly immaterial) question of how long a local musician has to be living overseas before being classified as an international artist.
In a year when piano is the chosen instrument for the National Jazz Awards, it is fitting that the headline artist will be thrice Grammy-nominated young US pianist Gerald Clayton, who has attracted attention as a rising star in a trio with Joe Sanders on bass and Justin Brown on drums. On this visit Pete Van Nostrand will be at the drum kit.
Clayton was born in Amsterdam, grew up in Los Angeles and now lives in New York. His trio’s third album, Life Forum, was due for release in Australia by Universal on September 2.
Clayton will spend some time working with Monash University music students before the festival, so a few students could well end up with the trio on stage for one concert. Here is a sample.
Among the expatriate internationals making the trip to Wangaratta will be vocalist Chris McNulty, who has been based in New York since 1988, and this year won Best Australian Jazz Vocal Album for The Song That Sings You Here.
McNulty, who was in Melbourne for the Jazz Bell Awards, will perform with her partner, guitarist/composer Paul Bollenback, and bassist Ugonna Okegwo, both from New York, in The Magic Trio, a drumless collaboration they have shared since 2000. Bollenback will also lead a trio with Okegwo and Perth-based drummer Daniel Susnjar, who played with Paul when he was in the USA last year.
McNulty will also re-establish a link from her early days in a band with pianist/composer Paul Grabowsky, joined by Frank Di Sario on bass and Mike Jordan on drums.
Expatriate international Barney McAll is no stranger to Wangaratta. In 2011 he brought a choir and large ensemble to the festival stage for Graft, but this year he will appear solo and in a trio.
In what promises to be real treat, McAll will take to the Holy Trinity Cathedral stage to explore some of the gospel music he regularly performs on Sundays at a church in Brooklyn. Anyone who heard McAll’s three solo pieces during the Melbourne Jazz Co-operative 30th Anniversary Concert on January 27 this year at The Edge, Federation Square, will look forward to hearing more.
McAll, who described the Wangaratta festival as “the bohemian grove of Australian jazz”, told organisers he would be playing some spirituals and new solo pieces, including a preview “of my first solo piano recording, which will be called Every Piano Needs A House In It”.
Joining McAll in his Non-Compliance Trio will be friends Jonathan Zwartz on bass and Hamish Stuart on drums.
Another Australian export, guitarist/composer Peter O’Mara left Sydney for New York in 1981, moved to Munich the following year and has lived in Germany and, more recently, Austria for 30 years. Last at Wangaratta in 2002, O’Mara will lead his quartet from Vienna in what Jackson describes as music “on the jazz side of jazz-rock fusion, very electronic, funky and pretty exciting”. Expect a mix of what O’Mara describes as “modern jazz, odd-metre fusion and groove”, in which expat American Tim Collins on vibes shares melodies with the guitar. Here is a sample.
More of the European input so vital to any festival will come from Dutch trumpet player Eric Vloeimans, who uses an electronic attachment on his instrument and, with his quartet Gatecrash, will also bring a fusion and funk emphasis. Expect a range from jazz to world, electro-funk and “contemplative soundscapes that are punctuated by a touch of wackiness”.
Belgian pianist Jef Neve was most recently at Wangaratta in 2010 with his trio (see Ausjazz’s rave review), but this time will play solo piano as part of a world tour. Neve regards the piano as an orchestral instrument — “Everything is present: choir, strings, woodwinds, brass and, of course, percussion” — and says the “soul and sound of the instrument” is his main source of inspiration in his classically influenced playing.
Norwegian saxophonist Froy Aagre performed at Wangaratta in 2009 with members of the Brisbane band Misinterprotato, now known as Trichotomy, who she met at Canada’s Banff Jazz Workshop in 2005. Sean Foran (electric piano) and John Parker (drums) from Trichotomy will join Aagre to present her new electric repertoire, which she says “fuses new electronic sounds into melodic, groove-based jazz” and is “a way to communicate joy to the audience”.
That pretty much covers the FIFO (fly in fly out) jazz and improvised music performers, but the line-up of Australians at Wangaratta this year is so extensive and exciting that it is arguable they could carry the festival.
Sydney pianist and composer Mike Nock will join reedsman Julien Wilson, whose playing recently has been outstanding, and guitarist Steve Magnusson will re-visit the trio that was so successful in May at Stonnington Jazz.
Barney McAll’s presence will enable two CD launches. Bassist Jonathan Zwartz will bring his nine-piece band together for the first time since the recording of The Remembering and Forgetting of the Air, which features McAll, Magnusson, Phil Slater on trumpet, Wilson on tenor, James Greening on trombone and sousaphone, Richard Maegraith on tenor and bass clarinet, Hamish Stuart on drums and Fabian Hevia on percussion. With this material and this line-up, no one should miss this.
McAll will also join Zwartz, Allan Browne on drums and Wilson — Julien recording for the first time in a classic tenor sax quartet — to launch their album of mostly standards, mostly ballads entitled This Is Always.
In another launch not to be missed (I know this because there was a recent preview at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club), expatriate bassist Sam Anning will join Wilson and Browne to celebrate Sweethearts, an absolutely entrancing album that serendipitously was recorded when Anning, over from New York, was delayed in Melbourne by a US visa problem, for which we all should be eternally grateful.
Expat drummer Raj Jayaweera, also be back from New York for the festival, will form the house band with Anning for the National Jazz Awards piano recitals.
The plethora of Australian jazz musicians in New York will be further depleted by the departure to Wangaratta of trombonist Shannon Barnett, who will reconvene her quartet — Nash Lee guitar, Chris Hale bass guitar and Hugh Harvey drums — and also launch a new band, U.nlock, with vocalist Gian Slater, Sam Anning and Raj Jayaweera with material the four worked on in New York recently. A key feature of U.nlock will be “voice and trombone sharing both the lead and accompanying roles”, Slater says.
Barnett will also perform as part of clarinettist and vocalist Barry Wratten’s New Orleans Pelicans with Michael McQuaid on trumpet and reeds, Steve Grant on piano, John Scurry on guitar and banjo, Howard Cairns or Leigh Barker (Saturday morning) on bass and Lynn Wallis on drums.
The much-missed trombonist will also assemble Dixie Jack, a local version of Ragstretch, a band with whom she has played in Denmark consisting of Copenhagen-based expat clarinet player and vocalist Chris Tanner, known for his classic jazz work with Julien Wilson in the band Virus, and guitarist Craig Fermanis, Sam Anning and Raj Jayaweera. Dixie Jack, consisting of Barnett, Wilson, Anning and Jayaweera, will play traditional jazz.
Classic jazz is well represented this year. Melbourne band the Sugarfoot Ramblers is led by Travis Woods on trumpet, with Jason Downes on reeds and graduates or current students of the jazz course at Monash University who share a fondness for New Orleans Jazz. Others in the line-up are James Macaulay trombone, Brett Thompson banjo and guitar, Marty Holoubek bass and Daniel Berry drums. From Sydney, The Cope Street Parade and The Finer Cuts, who have recorded with experienced trumpeter Geoff Bull, will also add their traditional jazz sounds. Allan Browne will join the Finer Cuts, who usually don’t perform with a drummer, for one session.
The Wangaratta festival always draws musicians from across the country, providing a relatively rare opportunity for them to share the stage. The exciting sextet led by Melbourne’s Paul Grabowsky will feature Jamie Oehlers from Perth on tenor and Sydney musicians James Greening on trombone, Andrew Robson on alto, Cameron Undy on bass and Simon Barker on drums. This band has recorded an album it hopes to release at the festival.
Another certain hit, Peter Knight’s band Way Out West, now features Sydney-based koto player, Satsuki Odamura, along with Melburnians Lucas Michailidis on guitar and Hugh Harvey on drums as well as founding members, Peter Knight on trumpet, flugelhorn, Paul Williamson on saxophones, Howard Cairns on bass and Ray Pereira on percussion.
And Melbourne vocalist Gian Slater will team with Perth saxophonist Jamie Oehlers and Melburnians Paul Grabowsky on piano, Ben Robertson on bass and Dave Beck on drums in The Differences to play material from the album of that name.
Two concerts enjoyed by patrons of Stonnington Jazz in May will also be on the Wangaratta program. Red Fish Blue is an alliance of two musicians from Melbourne, pianist Sam Keevers and percussionist Javier Fredes, with two from Sydney, bassist Brett Hirst and drummer Simon Barker. And vocalist Josh Kyle and Keevers will perform Songs of Friends, which are their interpretations of songs by Australian singers/composers.
The Cup Eve Concert will feature Joe Chindamo with his trio and Monique Di Mattina performing music from her recent album Nola’s Ark, which is a jazz blues hybrid.
In case it helps, the following are the concerts that I’d be keen not to miss:
- Barney McAll’s solo piano in Holy Trinity on Sunday, November 3 at 3pm
- Jef Neve solo piano, WPAC Theatre, Sunday, Nov 3 at 1pm
- Launch of Jonathan Zwartz album The Remembering and Forgetting of the Air, Friday, Nov 1, WPAC Theatre
- Launch of McAll/Wilson/Zwartz/Browne album This Is Always, WPAC Memorial Hall, Saturday, Nov 2 at 2.30pm
- Launch of Wilson/Anning/Browne album Sweethearts, WPAC Memorial Hall, Saturday, November 2 at 4.30pm
- Barnett and Slater’s U.nlock, WPAC Memorial Hall, Sunday, Nov 3 at 2.30pm
- Paul Grabowsky Sextet, WPAC Theatre, Sunday, Nov 3 at 10.30pm
- Way Out West, WPAC Theatre, Saturday, Nov 2, 11am