Tag Archives: Paolo Angeli



Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2016

The dust has settled, my particularly nasty post-festival toothache — during which I utilised a sleepless night to write a long and meandering rave on the MIJFand subsequent never-ending plague of coughs, colds and sinus pain are fading from memory. It’s finally time to reflect on the remaining concerts I had the opportunity to attend during this year’s festival.

Paolo Angeli

Paolo Angeli

Paolo Angeli (Sardinia), prepared guitar, Sunday 5 June 2016

I was unable to hear Voyage to Sardinia on June 3, at which Sardinian Paolo Angeli and Australian musicians launched Sardinian Liturgy (Jazzhead), recorded late last year  in Prato, Italy. But at the Bluestone Church in Footscray on Sunday afternoon a full house heard Angeli solo, playing his unique guitar built with 18 strings — six normal, eight transverse and four suspended — incorporating hammers, pedals, motors and pick ups.

Just as it was hard to categorise Angeli’s music (not such a bad thing), it was hard to resist the temptation to focus on his amazing guitar in an effort to work out how the sounds were produced and marvel at his adept familiarity with such a complex instrument. Not until he was well into the set could I properly listen rather than stare at the man before me using his bare toes to press “piano” pedals or crinkle a plastic bag, adjusting the tuning on the fly, artfully inserting the bow to play the lower set of strings without touching the elevated set, or activating the internal motors to produce vibrations before reminding us his instrument was “a work in progress”.

Angeli said he spent 10 years learning about traditional Sardinian music “and then I don’t play it”. He likes Bjork and his eclectic output includes “the ‘canto a chitarra’ tradition (singing with guitar), tasgia choirs, free jazz, punk noise, drum & bass, avant pop”. MIJF tagged Angeli’s music as “free jazz, post folk and minimal pop”.

I liked the fact that Angeli at times used his intricate instrument to create simple sounds, as when he played only two piano pedals. I was most taken by his distinctive throat singing — far less intense, but reminiscent of Korean artist  Bae Il Dong‘s vocals — and his third piece in the set, which was traditional. But his penultimate “athletic piece” — before the packed house demanded an encore — really took us into Sun Ra territory, flying through space aboard Angeli’s prepared guitar mothership orchestra. Needless to say, the crowd loved it all.

Paul Grabowsky introduces A Tribute to Allan Browne with Mirko Guerrini and Niko Schauble.

Paul Grabowsky, with Mirko Guerrini and Niko Schauble, pays tribute to Allan Browne.

A Tribute to Allan Browne, Monday 6 June, Bennetts Lane
Ithaca Bound, Monday 6 June, Uptown Jazz Club

For years on Mondays in the small room at Bennetts Lane,  drummer, philosopher and poet Allan Browne was at the drum kit with a changing group of musicians, bringing us some of the most rewarding and fun explorations into live music. Two gigs at this year’s MIJF  counted as tributes to Al, one named as such and the other a performance of the Allan Browne Quintet‘s suite Ithaca Bound. Both were moving and deeply satisfying experiences.

At Bennetts, Paul Grabowsky on piano, Mirko Guerrini on reeds and Niko Schauble on drums took us on a musical journey that kept touching base with Allan Browne. Another much-missed Melbourne musician who was especially close to Al Browne, bassist Gary Costello, who died suddenly in 2006, was also prominent as Grabowsky  spoke of freedom of expression, paying tribute to a tradition, musicians finding a place for their own voice and a dialogue with like-minded people. He mentioned Browne’s love of the unexpected, raves between songs and his roles as raconteur and stand-up comedian.

There was plenty of warmth and humour, but of course this was a tribute rather than any attempt to emulate an Al Browne gig. I found myself missing his whimsy, his flights of fantasy and his light touch. Yet Grabowsky, Guerrini and Schauble provided us with wonderful music that was in turn exhilarating, robust, swinging and spectacularly beautiful. When they played an all-time favourite of mine, Angel, I was in ecstasy that called to mind Keats’ Ode to a Nightingale.


Geoff Hughes, Nick Haywood, Eugene Ball, Phil Noy and Lewis Pierre at Uptown.

I floated to Uptown Jazz Cafe in time to hear all of Ithaca Bound, featuring Eugene Ball on trumpet, Phil Noy on alto sax, Geoff Hughes on guitar, Nick Haywood on bass and — in the Al Browne chair at the drum kit — Lewis Pierre, who was to my mind an ideal fit.

Hughes introduced this suite, which celebrates Allan Browne’s favourite poem, Homer’s Odyssey, by saying there would have been no music from this group without Al’s input, inspiration and urgings to explore the road less travelled. And then we explored some of that road in eight compositions by band members. As always from this ensemble, we were taken to some dark and even weird places as well as some of great beauty. I particularly liked Haywood’s The Suitors, which set up a series of duets with the drums, but the whole of Ithaca Bound was superb.

Shai Maestro Trio (Israel, Peru), Tuesday 7 June, Bennetts Lane

Often at festival time I look to musicians from Europe to offer something distinctively different from the established American jazz tradition. This year I was hanging out to hear Tomasz Stanko, but the trio of Shai Maestro on piano, Jorge Roeder (Peru) on bass and Ziv Ravitz on drums came highly recommended by Fairfax reviewer and ABC radio identity Jessica Nicholas. She was not wrong.

I loved this trio for many reasons. From the beginning I welcomed what I’d term “the enjoyment of the involvement” of these three players. Throughout there was a really strong sense of these players being engaged with each other and in the moment. They had no charts and each piece was a moveable feast or a non-linear progression, with changes building, developing and evolving as layers were added and subtracted. There was also lots of variation in the dynamics as well as rapid acceleration and deceleration.

Maestro allowed plenty of space and at times left notes hanging in stillness, while at others there were low barrages of sound or intricate, rapid runs of notes. I kept puzzling over which other pianists his playing brought to mind — Andrea Keller, Paul Grabowsky and the McAll brothers Barney and John were my guesses, but I find it hard to say why.

A standout for me was Maestro’s composition When You Stop Seeing (Other Human Beings as Human Beings), which he wrote out of frustration at the never-ending violence between Israel and Palestine and at the nationalistic voices calling for that violence. This was an enthralling, totally engrossing piece.

Here’s a YouTube link to this piece as played with Kurt Rosenwinkel and Avishai Cohen at Jazz in Marciac 2015.

Every festival has a story. This concert went a long way to building a narrative — this MIJF was gathering intensity and going to go places.

Keyon Harrold featuring Twi-Life (USA), Wednesday 8 June, Bennetts Lane

Given that in the Don Cheadle film Miles Ahead, the only trumpet player we hear, apart from Miles Davis, is Keyon Harrold, it would be reasonable to expect that the highlight of his gig with Twi-Life would be his facility with the horn.

This was saxophonist Marcus Strickland‘s band Twi-LifeMitch Henry on piano, Kyle Miles on bass and Charles Haynes on drums — playing mainly Harrold’s music. In the strength of his horn and in other ways, Harrold’s work invited comparison with Australia’s Scott Tinkler. The opening piece, Lullaby, started strong and got so muscular that babies were bailing out of windows everywhere.

But Harrold showed his serious side with MB Lament, a robust but beautiful composition recalling the fatal shooting of black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer in St Louis, Missouri in 2015. The horn solo at the end provided one of the all-too-short bursts of wonderfully bent notes by Harrold, who mostly in this concert seemed to stay pretty much on the straight and narrow path, albeit with excellent execution. Another spell of twisted trumpet came at the end of Miles Davis’s Spanish Key.

The totally unexpected highlight of this gig came in Harrold’s Pictures, when he moved to the mic and showed his spectacular vocal skills in this evidently deeply personal lament for lost love (“Everyone can tell when they’ve f—ed up”). This trumpet player can sing. His talent at the mic was confirmed briefly later in the closing Her Beauty Through My Eyes, which also featured the only prominent bass solo.

So, surprisingly, I left this uplifted not so much by Harrold’s trumpet, although that was great, but by his vocal prowess.

Tomasz Stanko Band (Poland/Finland), Thursday 9 June, Merlyn Theatre, Coopers Malthouse

Tomasz Stanko Band

Tomasz Stanko Band plays Coopers Malthouse

Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko was one of the key attractions for me to this year’s MIJF and he did not disappoint. This concert featured two Finns from his Scandinavian quintet, pianist Alexi Tuomarila and drummer Olavi Louhivuori, along with Polish bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz from Stanko’s “old” quartet.

Stanko now lives in New York, where he has another quartet and has, according to the New York Times’s Ben Ratliff, shifted a little from “beautiful dirges, rubato soul-ache ballads” and “dark emotions”. That observation interests me because I found the tone of the Malthouse gig much brighter than anticipated. Energy and interplay was evident throughout the nine pieces played as Stanko roamed the stage, ripping it up or chipping in fiery horn bursts (for example in Yankiels Lid) or longer, characteristically air-cushioned passages that seemed to exude emotion (Ballad No.7). As an older musician who obviously thrives on working with younger players, Stanko brought to mind the great Mike Nock as he led this quartet in which it would be great to be a bass player, or pianist, or drummer, given the space and scope for exploratory excursions that the leader obviously welcomed.

In the closing Polin, the trumpeter’s body swayed as he responded to the beat in this fast piece. Stanko’s band may not have plumbed the darkest of his compositions, but this was a vigorous and deeply satisfying concert.

Angus / Anning / Hoenig (Australia / USA), Thursday 9 June, Bennetts Lane

Quentin Angus, Sam Anning and Ari Hoenig play Bennetts Lane.

Quentin Angus, Sam Anning and Ari Hoenig play Bennetts Lane.

New York may have been the connection that helped bring about this world premiere outing. It featured expatriate Australian guitarist Quentin Angus, now living in that city, in a trio with 2015 National Jazz Award winner for bass, Sam Anning, who returned not so long ago from there and Brooklyn-based American drummer Ari Hoenig.

Aside from Angus’s compositions, the trio interpreted songs by Goo Goo Dolls, Charlie Parker and Wes Montgomery. Angus won an ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) Young Jazz Composer award and a Downbeat Magazine Best Composition Award for his piece Happy, which seems appropriate for a young man whose smile never seems to leave his face as he shows mastery of his instrument.

Apart from Angus’s ease in executing intricate finger work, what struck me was how well the guitar integrated with Hoenig’s vigorous and surely unpredictable and at times explosive work at the drum kit — this connection was most exemplified in Kinship (Angus). Anning, who has often demonstrated his ability to link with other players at short notice, seemed to find the closest congruity with Hoenig in Sunday Blues (Angus), but at other times was a little apart from the vibe between guitar and drums.

Quentin Angus is certainly a name we will hear more of in future.

Stu Hunter: the migration, Friday 10 June, Merlyn Theatre, Coopers Malthouse

Stu Hunter's the migration

Stu Hunter’s the migration

Just as I found the Tomasz Stanko Band performance in Merlyn Theatre much brighter than anticipated, the live rendition of Stu Hunter‘s third suite — after the gathering and the muse — seemed to be more vibrant and less dark in its feel than the recorded version. Driven by the stellar line-up Hunter had assembled — many of Australia’s finest Sydney musicians not heard often enough by Melburnians, along with Julien Wilson — this was a substantial work. I came out of the theatre with words such as “monumental” or “colossus” in my head and making comparisons with Lloyd Swanton‘s war-themed work Ambon. Yet they are quite different. Ambon had a readily identifiable narrative that gave it cohesion, whereas the migration seemed to be a collection of disparate pieces, each capable of holding us spellbound.

Hunter describes this work as “a response to modern life, love, family, cultural complexity and the blurring of cultural identity within the global diaspora”. It is probably simplistic to say this, but because the gathering reflected a coming together and the migration a global breaking apart, perhaps the narrative in the latter suite was its fragmentation.

Despite the power of Tina Harrod‘s vocals, I found it hard to pick up the lyrics on the night. Reading them since, I realise it would be difficult to grasp their full import in one performance.

Hunter’s the migration is powerful, has playing of great beauty, yet is also unsettling.

Children of the Light Trio, Friday 10 June, Bennetts Lane

Children of the Light Trio

Children of the Light Trio

From 10 musicians at Malthouse to three at Bennetts Lane was a large leap, but somehow three members of Wayne Shorter‘s quartet took me from the complexity and intricacy of the migration to what turned out to be complete involvement and total immersion.

This was one of those rare concerts that is so immediately and sustainingly captivating that all effort to be anything other than in the moment — so as to record impressions for future use in a review, for example — go out the window.

Danilo Perez on piano, John Patitucci on bass and Brian Blade on drums began playing — or should that be interacting — and I was hooked on the vibe. They listened, they responded, they celebrated this opportunity to work together “with imagination, precision and fearlessness”, to quote the MIJF program. And they had fun.

I can’t say what pieces they played. I can’t provide any details of their work. Yet I can still feel this concert bubbling away deep inside, like a spring filled with life. Surely that’s saying enough.

Monash Art Ensemble featuring Tomasz Stanko, Saturday 11 June, Merlyn Theatre, Coopers Malthouse

Tomasz Stanko and Monash Art Ensemble, conducted by Jordan Murray.

Tomasz Stanko and Monash Art Ensemble, conducted by Jordan Murray.

Out of Monash University’s Sir Zelman Cowan School of Music and the Australian Art Orchestra has grown the Monash Art Ensemble, which has become a feature of MIJF in recent years as students and teachers combine to present works with guest artists. On this occasion Jordan Murray took up the baton as the ensemble presented his arrangements of music created by Tomasz Stanko on the album Litania as a tribute to Polish film composer Krzysztof Komeda.

Murray not only transformed music written for a septet so that it would work exceptionally well with this ensemble, but in so doing he changed its feel significantly, drawing on the undeniable talent in the MAO. There were too many solos of excellence to mention individuals, but in this collaborative endeavour Stanko was one among many whose solos drew applause. Murray deserves special praise, but so do all members of this ensemble. Monash Art Ensemble surely provides the best of learning environments and yet delivers music that is always, to us in the audience, the best of teaching about how it’s to be done well.

Peter Knight’s Way Out West, Saturday 11 June, Merlyn Theatre, Coopers Malthouse

Peter Knight's Way Out West

Peter Knight’s Way Out West

I should say two things straight up: First, I love this band and have followed it since its inception.

Second, when I heard that this concert was to be a launch of Way Out West‘s fourth album — after Footscray Station, Old Grooves for New Streets and The Effects of Weather — and the first with its changed line-up, I hoped to hear material that I had not heard. That was not the case, as it turned out.

As recorded in my “rave with pics rather than a review” of Way Out West’s 2014 concert for MIJF, four new compositions — Latest and Breaking, The Birds, Nine Years Later (dedicated to Peter Knight’s son Quinn) and Anthony Blaise — were aired for the first time to an audience back then. On that occasion the band, in its present line-up that includes Satsuki Odamura on kotos and Lucas Michailidis on guitar as well as guest Sri Lankan drummer Kanchana Karunaratna, played Music For April and In the Moon from previous albums and treated us to a jaw-dropping rapid-fire Afro-Lankan drumming duo.

So, two years later the band, with James McLean at the drum kit, played exactly the same pieces. I have to be honest in saying I had hoped for some new material. But what these eclectic and highly inventive musicians create is carefully crafted so that the band’s myriad influences are woven together in a way that honours the various traditions and yet fashions something new. It’s a painstaking process and this band does not often perform together — each member has many commitments and Odamura lives in Sydney.

On the night my favourite piece from the eponymous new album was the atmospheric Nine Years Later.

The Merlyn Theatre outing this year simply confirmed how great it would be if Way Out West could gather more often, play more often and keep the magic happening. If they could find the resources to tour together nationally, that would be superb.

Wayne Shorter Quartet, Sunday 12 June, Hamer Hall

Wayne Shorter and John Patitucci

Wayne Shorter and John Patitucci

The vibe was good at Hamer Hall on the final night of the festival. People were excited to again — or for the first time — be hearing the great Wayne Shorter. After finding my seat high above the stage I thought that a pair of binoculars would have been a good idea. It occurred to me that I had my camera with a long lens, but had not obtained permission to photograph this gig. Perhaps I could use the camera merely as a telescope. In the end I decided to ask for permission to do that, but Hamer Hall staff were in on the good vibe. They arranged last-minute permission for me to shoot and, as the set began, I hurried down to take some photographs from up fairly close. That was pretty special.

As mentioned in the long, rambling post earlier, I enjoyed Shorter’s playing this time a lot more than when I heard him some years ago at The Palais in St Kilda, which is perhaps a sign that I had then been uneducated in what to expect — frequent changes of direction and very short bursts of sax. This time he did not play for too long in the set, but what he contributed was considered and just right in the moment.

And the Children of the Light guys, now playing as integral members of Shorter’s quartet — pianist Danilo Pérez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade — were as energetic and responsive as in their outing as a trio earlier in the festival. It was like watching an organism full of life rather than separate musicians.

If only the quartet could have performed at a smaller venue, that would have been mind-blowing. But far too exclusive to justify, of course.

Marcus Strickland’s Twi-Life, Sunday 12 June, Bennetts Lane

Marcus Strickland's Twi-Life

Marcus Strickland’s Twi-Life at Bennetts Lane

I was fading a little, but ending the 2016 MIJF outside Hamer Hall seemed way too tame.

My festival ended at Bennetts Lane with saxophonist Marcus Strickland‘s band Twi-LifeMitch Henry on keys, Kyle Miles on bass and Charles Haynes on drums, along with Keyon Harrold on trumpet. There was some pretty fiery stuff, including hot work on the Nord by Henry, some crash and bash from Haynes and big sax from Strickland. Harrold delivered passages of full-on trumpet as well as vocals and more muted passages. Haynes featured a little more than in the gig playing Harrold’s pieces, but I’d have liked more from him.

Strickland capped off the concert  by assuring us, “Yes, we will not be voting for Trump.”

It was a reassuring, if not too surprising, statement to wrap up the night and the festival. Roll on Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2017.


Mirko Guerrini and Niran Dasika create sound portraits for MIJF patrons outside Hamer Hall

Mirko Guerrini and Niran Dasika create sound portraits for MIJF patrons outside Hamer Hall



Wayne Shorter

Wayne Shorter at Hamer Hall … surely one of the jazz heroes.


Melbourne International Jazz Festival, June 3 to June 12, 2016

One of the most interesting conversations I’ve had during this jazz festival — and I’ve had a few, before and after attending 15 concerts — was about the jazz hero.

The person I spoke to was a musician who said he wanted to move away from that approach or model in bands in which he played. In this context I recalled a wonderful concert in Melbourne in which a band gradually swapped players while the music continued, morphing into a new group as newcomers quietly joined in and then others moved off stage during the set.

On the second night of this festival, June 4, I went to The Reverence Hotel in Footscray to hear 30/70 Collective make “future soul and hip-hop meet in the middle via jaunty boom bap”, to quote the program. As they say in some news programs, more on that story later.

After the first set by members of the collective who formed A Brother Scratch, the 30/70 Collective band members did something I have never seen before at a gig — they went into a huddle.

30/70 Collective

30/70 Collective in a huddle before performing.

Already feeling the warm glow from the first set of music that was out of my familiarity zone, so to speak, I was quite taken by this musical group hug, which seemed designed to engender team spirit. It was not long before the packed room was moving to the hypnotic grooves — myself included.

By now you’ll have realised this is more of a rave than a hard-nosed review. But there is a point. The musician mentioned who wants to move away from dependence on heroes in jazz described 30/70 Collective as being like a family. That certainly fitted with my impression from the vibes in the pub.

I decided to try applying the idea of avoiding heroes to the reviewing of a festival. Bear with me.

Reviewers often mention their list of standout gigs or highlights during a festival. I have often done that. And I’ve often asked other patrons and other reviewers to name the bands they’ve most enjoyed. It’s a natural thing, especially if there is limited space in a review, to pick the standouts.

But what if a festival review was more like a collective of gigs? Then I could value each for its special qualities — what worked well and even what didn’t. That’s how I feel about the mix of very different MIJF concerts that I went to this year.

Children of the Light Trio

Children of the Light Trio at Bennetts Lane

On night eight of the MIJF I went to Bennetts Lane at 10pm to hear Children of the Light Trio consisting of Danilo Perez on piano, John Patitucci on bass and Brian Blade on drums — Wayne Shorter‘s band without the hero, if you like.

That’s laughable, you’ll say, because each member of this trio is a hero in their own right. True, but — and I’m already breaking with the “no highlights” approach — that band’s performance without Shorter that night was the gig I’d have to say has stayed with me and will do so for a long time to come.

On the final night of the festival I did hear Wayne Shorter with the members of this band. Afterwards I heard snippets of opinion, including comments that he did not play for a great portion of the set, that some say he’s too comfortable with Perez, Patitucci and Blade, and, notwithstanding, that this hero of jazz is on a different plane from any of the great players still alive.

Wayne Shorter

Wayne Shorter plays Hamer Hall

Hearing Shorter at Hamer Hall was special. Getting relatively close to record some images was pretty special.

Hearing him in conversation with Jon Faine, Wilbur Wilde and Kristin Berardi on ABC radio 774 was also special — and at times hilarious. His refusal to get bogged down by labels and his wish to think so broadly about life made me wonder whether Wayne Shorter would want to be put on a pedestal.

I enjoyed his playing on this occasion a lot more than when I heard him some years ago at The Palais in St Kilda, which is perhaps a sign that I had then been uneducated in what to expect — frequent changes of direction and very short bursts of sax. This time he did not play for too long in the set, but what he contributed was considered and just right in the moment.

That said, after reflection, I took more away from his quartet members’ gig as a trio in the much smaller venue. Of course it would be far too exclusive to have Shorter perform to such a limited audience.

Anyway, my search for a hook or a story on which to hang reflections on this year’s Melbourne International Jazz Festival has ended — albeit in way too meandering a fashion — at that strong image of 30/70 Collective in a huddle. To that image I add some showing large ensembles featured at this festival at the ends of their concerts.

the migration

Stu Hunter and musicians after “the migration” at Malthouse Theatre.

We’ve seen some big projects come to fruition on stage this year — Stu Hunter‘s the migration, the Monash Art Ensemble‘s performance with Tomasz Stanko, the release of a new album by Peter Knight’s Way Out West.

Jordan Murray and Tomasz Stanko with Monash Art Ensemble

Jordan Murray and Tomasz Stanko with Monash Art Ensemble

All of these have involved a lot of work and huge collective effort.

Keyon Harrold with Twi-Life

Keyon Harrold with Twi-Life

And of course in smaller ensembles such as Andrea Keller’s Transients, the Allan Browne Quintet performing Ithaca Bound at Uptown Jazz Cafe, Keyon Harrold with Twi-Life, Shai Maestro Trio, the Tomasz Stanko Band and the Tribute to Allan Browne trio of Paul Grabowsky, Mirko Guerrini and Niko Schauble, we have heard the results of collective interaction.

Even in the solo gig by Paolo Angeli at the Bluestone Church in Footscray we saw how his instrument’s many parts worked together to produce different styles of music.

Interaction is what makes the diverse music that makes up jazz so engrossing, inventive and wonderful. And each musician brings to the stage the formative background that has shaped them — influences that interact and find expression in changing ways as they practise and play.

Some of us will love, like or not like some of the music we hear from improvising musicians, but at its core is that interaction. We see and delight in it as we watch the faces of the musicians at work.

End of rave. In the days ahead I will add a few, much shorter, separate posts — with pictures — to cover concerts I attended as part of this festival.

In the meantime, musicians will be playing live in lots of venues around Melbourne, so get out there. You won’t regret it.









Melbourne International Jazz Festival, June 3 – 12, 2016

Tomasz Stanko

Tomasz Stanko

SOME of the main drawcards at this year’s festival are well-known knowns — Wayne Shorter, Esperanza Spalding, Gary Bartz — but it’s a big program with plenty of other artists to be excited about.

Stats don’t put flesh on the bones, but over 10 days the festival will stage 74 events involving 335 artists (75 international and 260 Australian), 22 free events and heaps of club sessions at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club, Uptown Jazz Cafe and Dizzy’s Jazz Club. The larger venues will include Hamer Hall, Melbourne Recital Centre, Forum, Malthouse and The Channel at Arts Centre Melbourne.

On the final three days Riverside Bar at Southbank will host Hamer Jazz Bar each evening from 6pm as a rendezvous for festival patrons.

As usual, the main program is divided into Modern Masters, Explorations in Jazz and the three sets of Club Sessions, plus five Jazz Out West events, seven Close Encounters and two Artist Workshops at Monash University.

Gary Bartz

Gary Bartz

All good festivals come with a clash or two not emanating from a drum kit and MIJF 2016 opens with a big one. Our own flamboyant pianist and composer Barney McAll has had a hand in bringing jazz great Gary Bartz from the US to play Melbourne Recital Centre on opening night, with Andrea Keller’s Transients I as support.

This clashes head-on with PBS Young Elder of Jazz Commission winner Joe O’Connor on piano in a quartet at Bennetts Lane to perform Confrontations. In six dialogues, O’Connor’s work will balance “tonal and non-tonal harmony, regular and irregular rhythm, delicate lyricism and impressive density”. That sounds pretty damn interesting. These two gigs present a tough choice.

Esperanza Spalding

Esperanza Spalding

There’s no need to say a lot about Esperanza Spalding, who will play the Forum at 9.30pm on opening night, because she will draw crowds. Marcus J. Moore on Pitchfork described her album Emily’s D+Evolution thus: “Using a dissonant guitar riff, thumping drums, and lurching time signature, it almost feels like a dare to stick around. The album has the feel of a nervy gauntlet throw, seething with the sort of ferocity that only comes from time spent alone, far away from the limelight. These are exuberant, confrontational songs, amplified in the same sort of rock/funk hybrid style that brings Prince and Janelle Monae to mind. Gone is the Afro, replaced with long braids, wide-rimmed glasses, and ornate outfits.”

Wayne Shorter

Wayne Shorter

Wayne Shorter also needs no promotion. He plays Hamer Hall on the festival’s closing night with Danilo Perez on piano, John Patitucci on bass and Brian Blade on drums. Enough said, although I’m hoping for some longer bursts of saxophone magic from the great player than we heard at the Palais when he was last here.

Perez, Patitucci and Blade will play two gigs at Bennetts on Friday, June 10 as Children of the Light Trio. Surely this must be one not to miss.

While on the subject of bass players, Hawthorn luthier Benedict Puglisi is making acoustic bass instruments specifically for Spalding and Patitucci to play while they are here. That suggests his work is pretty special.

The international artists include some who were popular on previous visits to the festival. Genre-crossing Robert Glasper Trio (US), who performed in 2012, will return in an acoustic trio format with new album, Covered, on June 4 at MRC with Ross McHenry Trio supporting.

Mulatu Astatke

Mulatu Astatke (Image: Nick Pitsas)

And the “father of Ethio jazz” Mulatu Astatke (Ethiopia), who played the festival in 2010, will join the local band Black Jesus Experience at the Malthouse on Wednesday, June 8 to give the world premiere of The Cradle of Humanity.



Also returning is the pianist from Japan who sold out three shows in 2012, Hiromi. She who joins Simon Phillips on drums and Anthony Jackson on contra bass guitar at Hamer Hall on Thursday, June 9.

Tomasz Stanko

Tomasz Stanko (Image: Caroline Forbes)

And I don’t care what clashes with Polish trumpet maestro Tomasz Stańko‘s band featuring Alexi Tuomarila on piano, Slawomir Kurkiewicz on bass and Olavi Louhivuori on drums. I’ll be at one of their two Malthouse concerts on Thursday, June 9 at 6.30pm and 9pm.

Also at the Malthouse and not to be missed on Saturday, June 11, will be Stańko and Paul Grabowsky leading the Monash Art Ensemble at 6.30pm to explore the music of Krysztof Komeda, who scored Rosemary’s Baby and Knife in the Water. Not to be missed.

Latin jazz titan, pianist Eddie Palmieri (US) will spend five days with Monash University student musicians before their Jazz Futures performance at the MRC Salon on Thursday, June 9 at 6pm. Palmieri’s Latin Jazz Septet will set feet tapping at Hamer Hall on Friday, June 10 at 7.30pm.

Singer José James will pay tribute to the music of Billie Holiday in Yesterday I Had the Blues at Hamer Hall on Saturday, June 11 at 7.30pm.

And to complete the Modern Masters concerts, Vince Jones and Matt McMahon will join the Astral Orchestra to bring us Van Morrison’s Masterpieces at 7.30pm on Friday, June 10 at MRC.

Snarky Puppy

Snarky Puppy (Image: Philippe Levy Stab)

As part of the Explorations in Jazz series, guitarist Lionel Loueke (US) will join Sydney group The Vampires for two Bennetts Lane gigs on Saturday, June 4. And crowd-pleasers Snarky Puppy (US), who wowed crowds here in 2013, will be in the Forum at 9.30pm on Thursday, June 9.

The Coopers Malthouse has great beers on tap (I’m not paid to say that) and it may suit many to spend Friday, June 10 there to hear Stu Hunter‘s suite The Migration (a fantastic line-up) at 6.30pm and then Kristin Berardi Band (also a top line-up) at 9pm. You could not possibly go wrong with these two performances by Australian bands.

The Malthouse also hosts Peter Knight’s Way Out West on Saturday, June 11 at 9pm, featuring koto virtuoso Satsuki Odamura and Ray Pereira on fun and fiery African-influenced percussion. This gig will showcase new material and is sure to be a knockout.

And anyone who can remember the Chris Dave and the Drumhedz festival gig in 2014 should recall multi-reedist Marcus Strickland. Twi-Life is set to deliver soul, jazz-funk and R&B in two shows at Bennetts Lane on Saturday and Sunday, June 11 and 12, at 7.30pm and 10pm (they must be expecting a crowd — that’s four concerts).

If all that music’s not enough, there are club sessions. Can’t mention them all, but here are a few likely highlights.

Guitarist Paolo Angeli (Italy) will join local musicians at Bennetts Lane to bring us jazz influenced by Sardinian folk songs (June 3). He will also play solo guitar at Bluestone Church Arts Space in Hyde Street, Footscray at 4pm on Sunday, June 5. Westies must come out to this and other MIJF gigs at Dancing Dog Cafe (Wallace), Reverence Hotel (30/70 Collective) and Footscray Community Arts Centre (Jazz-a-Bye Baby).

Get close up and personal with Robert Glasper Trio at Bennetts on June 5. Hear a tribute to our maestro of Mondays and much besides, drummer Allan Browne, on June 6. If you fancy trumpah, as Scott Tinkler would put it, don’t miss Keyon Harrold and Twi-Life musicians in two gigs on June 8. And for fans of drummer Ari Hoenig, there are two gigs on June 9 at Bennetts featuring guitarist Quentin Angus and bassist Sam Anning.

Uptown Jazz Cafe has a ripper line-up of gigs during the festival. Don’t miss Mark Fitgzibbon Trio (June 3), Paul Williamson Quartet playing Monk (June 3), Andrea Keller’s Transients IV (June 4), Stephen Magnusson Trio (June 5), Ithaca Bound suite, music of the Allan Browne Quintet (June 6), Jamie Oehlers/Paul Grabowsky Quartet (June 9) and Sam Keevers’ Red Fish Blue (June 12). These and the other Uptown gigs are delivering seriously good jazz.

Dizzy’s Jazz Club in Richmond also has eight festival gigs, so look these up on the festival website.

Time’s almost up if I’m to post this as the embargo expires. Apologies for any errors. Other events of note include the free opening concert at Fed Square on June 4 at 1.30pm featuring Brazilian and Latin ensembles led by Alistair Kerr and Sam Keevers respectively.

Barney McAll is going to play about with the Federation Bells and anything could happen with that. Keep an ear out at noon on June 4 in Birrarung Marr.

And the Queen Vic market will groove to Los Cabrones on June 8 at 6pm to warm up the Winter Night Markets.

And at noon on Sunday, June 12, at The Channel, 100 St Kilda Rd, Southbank you may find out how many festival artistic directors it takes to change … well … a light globe, a set list, a door gig, a minor key … you name it.


For further details and full program visit the festival website.

Note: Many images posted above are supplied by MIJF.