Tag Archives: preview


Chris McNulty

Chris McNulty                                              (Image: M. Montgomery)


Chris McNulty Quartet (Australia/US), The Jazzlab,
Friday 4 August and Saturday 5 August, 8pm

Australian-American jazz vocalist Chris McNulty is giving two back-to-back performances in Melbourne next month before embarking on a world tour.

The award-winning singer/composer will introduce her new trio — Darrin Archer piano, Hiroki Finn Hoshino bass and Aaron McCoullough drums — to Melbourne audiences in two concerts at Melbourne’s newest jazz club, The Jazzlab.

McNulty premiered her singing with the trio to great acclaim earlier this year at the Mansfield Art gallery now run by Miriam Zolin of extempore fame.

Melbourne-born Ms McNulty moved to the United States in 1988 and has been a fixture on the New York jazz scene for almost three decades. She worked with American jazz musicians such as pianists Mulgrew Miller and John Hicks, saxophonists Gary Bartz and Gary Thomas, drummers Billy Hart, Kenny Washington, and Matt Wilson, guitarist Paul Bollenback, bassist Ugonna Okegwo . She featured on the Venus label’s recording Big Apple Voices in 1995 that presented six “new exceptional” vocal talents. Her seventh and latest album, Eternal, a chamber ensemble and jazz quintet collaboration reached #11 on the 80th Downbeat readers Poll in America.

McNulty has often performed at international festivals. Her next tour will take her back to Europe, Russia and America. The American magazine Jazz Times has described her vocalising as “fearless” and her composing as “peerless”’. Britain’s Jazz Wise magazine said she possessed “a voice of serene beauty, striking veracity and compelling emotional fervency”.

In 2013 McNulty received the Australian Jazz Bell award for the Best Australian Jazz Vocal Album for her album The Song That Sings You Here. Since moving back to Melbourne she has performed at the Perth Jazz Festival in 2014 and 2016, the Stonnington Jazz Festival in 2014 and 2016 and at the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues in 2013 and last year.

She has continued her work as a teacher and is about to launch her groundbreaking book Vocalist As Complete Musician, in which she expounds a method (utilising tetra chords) for singers to expand their knowledge of jazz harmony and provides them with tools for improvising while improving sight reading and composing skills. The book will be launched internationally and available through Amazon, McNulty’s webpage, and digital platforms from August 30.

Information above taken from material provided by Andra Jackson.

Roger Mitchell


“Exquisitely delivered with consummate feeling and jazz sensibility … McNulty’s uniquely emotive vocal interpretation achieves a transcendent quality.”
— 4.5 stars, The Australian, Weekend Review – John McBeath, Oct 2015

“McNulty applies poignant jazz chops to the vocal, while accomplishing the impossible, the expression of her story through song….making listeners rethink the meaning of why we love jazz..”— 5 Stars,  All About Jazz (USA) , July 2015

“Chris McNulty wowed an audience full of rapt jazz lovers at Mansfield Art Gallery who were thrilled by the sounds of world-class jazz delivered by one of the best voices in the business. A well deserved standing ovation finished the night and every heart in the room was filled by the experience.
A highlight for music lovers in Mansfield.”  —   Miriam Zolin, Mansfield Art Gallery, April 2017



Pascal Schumacher

Pascal Schumacher from Luxembourg will collaborate with BFK to present a new suite at The Toff for MIJF. (Image: Ilan Weiss)


Melbourne International Jazz Festival, June 2 to June 11, 2017

It’s always exciting to delve into the detail of a jazz festival program, looking in this case for the delights rather than the devil.

A couple of observations first on the venues. There’s no Bennetts Lane Jazz Club, of course (probably demolished by now) and no replacement venue in the city to carry on that name, or part thereof, which had been expected to open — that David Marriner project is still some time away, with Megan Evans at the helm.

There’s also no gigs at Malthouse Theatre, which is a pity. That was a great venue close to the city centre with a space for convivial company and drinks between concerts — usually double bills.

The good news is that The Toff in Town at 252 Swanston Street will host some gigs and the Lido Jazz Room at 675 Glenferrie Rd, Hawthorn has eight club sessions ideal for patrons out that way.


Jeremy Jankie introduces Daniel Hunter in a concert soon after the opening of The Jazzlab. Tom Lee is on bass.

Jeremy Jankie introduces Daniel Hunter’s band at The Jazzlab. Tom Lee is on bass.

And even better news is that MIJF artistic director Michael Tortoni has adroitly managed to open his slightly larger version of the acoustically esteemed small room at Bennetts Lane, The Jazzlab, at 27 Leslie St, Brunswick — just in time for the festival. It looks good, sounds great and sports some familiar fixtures from Bennetts Lane — chairs, tables, stools … and, yes, much-loved host Jeremy Jankie!

Hamer Hall at Arts Centre Melbourne and Melbourne Recital Centre will also feature, of course, and Jazz Out West continues to offer free concerts at a wider variety of venues in Melbourne’s western suburbs. Club sessions will also be held at Uptown Jazz Cafe and Dizzy’s Jazz Club.

Most patrons don’t rush from one concert to another in one night, but the spread of venues this year will make such mid-evening attempts to get around any overlaps between concerts that bit more difficult.

The idea of this annual preview is to act as a guide to go with the program for those considering trying a few festival gigs. Most hard core fans of jazz will have made their choices already.

For a change, rather than beginning with the big name international artists, I’d like to mention up front the excellent musical fare on offer at Sonny Rehe‘s Uptown Jazz Cafe.  There will be 12 gigs at this welcoming upstairs hideaway, each certain to provide many original compositions delivered by quality ensembles who often play to much smaller audiences than they deserve.

Andrea Keller plays Uptown Jazz Cafe

Andrea Keller plays Uptown Jazz Cafe

It’s impossible to mention all the bands or musicians, but find time if you can to hear Andrea Keller‘s three-set Clash of the Transients (June 6), Scott Tinkler‘s anything but standard Standards Quartet (June 2), Sydney’s Carl Morgan on guitar (June 8), internationally renowned saxophonist Dale Barlow (June 9, twice), the exquisite Julien Wilson on tenor (June 10) and Dave Beck on drums in three gigs, one with Stephen Magnusson on guitar, another with Sam Keevers on piano.

I’ve left plenty of names out, but you get the picture. The Kavita Shah Quartet on June 5 did not make the printed program, but more of that concert in a later post.

At Dizzy’s Jazz Club there’ll be six concerts. I must mention Unspoken Rule, “a swingin’ new project reflecting the ups and downs of romantic love” featuring Jennifer Salisbury on vocals, because otherwise James Mustafa (trumpet and arrangements) would not let me hear the end of it. That also has Hiroki Hoshino on bass and is on June 10.

Now to mention the big guns, so to speak. That often means big venues, which I don’t think are ideal for many ensembles, preferring as I do to get up close and personal. A trombone slide inches from the face ensures total immersion in the music, I find.

Grammy award winning US singer Patti Austin will join Australia’s best known trumpeter James Morrison at Hamer Hall over two nights (June 2 and 3) to celebrate the collaboration between Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, assisted by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Go for it if that’s your cup of tea.

Bill Frisell

Bill Frisell (Image supplied)

Revered US guitarist Bill Frisell is back in town for two concerts. At the MRC on June 2 he’ll join vocalist Petra Haden (daughter of wonderful bassist the late Charlie Haden) in When You Wish Upon a Star, interpreting American cinema music. Unfortunately violist and composer Eyvind Kang won’t join the quartet on this occasion. Be prepared for fairly sweet, slow and gentle treatments.

A better opportunity to enjoy the mastery of Frisell may come on June 4 at The Jazzlab in his trio with Thomas Morgan (Tomasz Stanko) on bass and Rudy Royston (Mingus Big Band) on drums. And fans of Bill Frisell will not want to miss hearing him introduce the Australian premiere of Emma Franz‘s documentary film Bill Frisell, A Portrait, screened at ACMI on June 4 at 2pm.


Carla Bley (Image supplied)

Carla Bley is one of the artists I most want to hear at this year’s MIJF. The US composer and pianist will play in her “chamber trio” with Steve Swallow (electric bass) and Andy Sheppard (sax) at MRC on June 8. So many will want to hear Bley that a large venue is necessary, but for a more intimate experience this trio will also join members of Monash Art Ensemble at The Jazzlab (June 7) to play music from the 2008 live album Appearing Nightly, drawn from and interpreting swing era standards. Listen for subtle references to these fifties tunes if you know them. (I’m willing to bet that I’ll miss most of these.)

To digress for a moment, there is an unfortunate irony in the clash between the Jazzlab performance by Bley — surely one of the most formidable of female artists — and the 6pm panel discussion at The White House (not Donald’s) in St Kilda entitled “Addressing the under representation of women in jazz”.  Speakers are Professor Cat Hope from Monash University, bassist Tamara Murphy, pianist Satoko Fujii and vocalist/festival director Chelsea Wilson. This is an important topic. Let’s hope some useful strategies emerge.

Kenny Baron Trio

Kenny Baron Trio (Image: Philippe Levy Stab)

Returning to gigs in larger venues, Kenny Barron Trio will perform at MRC on June 3. Barron has been described by presenter of Dizzy Atmosphere on PBS Gerry Koster — whose opinion I value highly — as “one of my favourite pianists of that generation”. With him will be Kiyoshi Kitagawa on bass and Johnathan Blake on drums. Their set from the most recent album Book of Intuition should be well worth hearing.


Dianne Reeves (Image: Jerris Madison)

Crowds will no doubt gather at Hamer Hall on the festival’s closing night June 11) to hear the much acclaimed and awarded Dianne Reeves in a quintet, returning to bring Melbourne her soulful vocals and a range of musical styles.

And the previous night fans of Brazilian composer, singer and songwriter Antonio Carlos Jobim will be in for a treat at MRC as musical director and guitarist extraordinaire Doug de Vries leads an all-Australian orchestra with vocalist Vince Jones in a tribute entitled From Ipanema to the World. I expect this to be as much of a success as 2016’s Van Morrison’s Masterpieces, also featuring Jones.

Also on June 10, the Melbourne Town Hall is the venue for Swing City, a night of music and dancing led by expatriate Australian “Professor” Adrian Cunningham, his “flaming” big band and Swing Patrol to show dancers all the right moves.

Donny McCaslin Group

Donny McCaslin Group (Image: Jimmy King)

So, moving to smaller venues, things start getting pretty interesting. I’m keen to hear saxophonist Donny McCaslin in the group featured on David Bowie‘s final album, Blackstar. McCaslin is also a member of Maria Schneider’s Orchestra, so that raises expectations for me. At The Toff (June 2 & 3), Jason Lindner on keyboards, Jonathan Maron on bass and Zach Danziger on drums will join the dynamic McCaslin to present pieces from their latest project, Beyond Now. I don’t expect these gigs to be a calming experience.


Tigran Hamasyan (Image supplied)

Another on my must-hear list for this festival is Armenian pianist, soloist and songwriter Tigran Hamasyan (The Jazzlab, June 5 & 6), performing works from his solo and ninth album An Ancient Observer. That is closely followed — on the list and sequentially — by the world premiere of Kira Kira (The Jazzlab, June 8), in which Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii and Australia’s Alister Spence (Fender Rhodes, effects pedal) present a commissioned work exploring links between improvisation in Australian and Japanese music. This will be fascinating.

Out of earshot

Out of Earshot (Image supplied)

While on concerts that offer a distinctly different perspective, I’m hoping to be at (rather than hear) one performance of Out of Earshot at Chunky Move for KAGE‘s exploration of non-verbal language and intense physical prowess via profoundly deaf dancer Anna Seymour and percussionist Myele Manzanza (for dates see the festival program).

And on June 10 at The Jazzlab, Hue Blanes will employ voice, piano and laptop to premiere his 2017 PBS Young Elder of Jazz Commission drawing on some of history’s most famous speeches. I have a dream that this will be inspiring.

Kristen Berardi, Sean Foran and Rafael Karlen

BFK — Kristen Berardi, Sean Foran and Rafael Karlen     (Image supplied)

Many of us are familiar with the BFG, courtesy of Roald Dahl. Well, BFK is an award-winning trio from Sydney comprising Kristin Berardi voice, Sean Foran piano and Rafael Karlen saxophone. Add Pascal Schumacher from Luxembourg on vibes and you have an opportunity to explore “new sonic territory” at The Toff on June 6. Bring it on, I say.

NAK Trio

NAK Trio (Image: Yelda Yilmaz)

Club sessions at The Jazzlab not so far mentioned offer much of great interest. US saxophonist Greg Osby will join Tal Cohen‘s talented quintet on June 2; Poland’s NAK Trio will attempt “a trio of four instruments” featuring the forceful, expressive left and right hands of pianist Dominik Wania on June 9; the MaxMantis Clan from Switzerland promise to take us into “the infinite abyss” (without help from Donald Trump, apparently) later on June 9; Paul Grabowsky in a sextet will deliver the monumental and powerful Moons of Jupiter on June 10; and if you missed Andrea Keller’s Still Night: Music in Poetry at the MRC Salon then try to make it on June 11 at Jazzlab for a meditation on grief and loss that is deeply moving. Speedball will reunite to perform on closing night, June 11, for those of us not at Hamer Hall to hear Dianne Reeves.


Luke Howard Trio (Image supplied)

An alternative to NAK Trio on June 9 is definitely worth considering: Luke Howard Trio will perform pieces from their album The Electric Night Descends at Darebin Arts & Entertainment Centre. Chill out to this.

That’s a heap of music to consider. Consult the program for gigs I’ve missed mentioning. And there are also Close Encounters — conversations such as that between Carla Bley and Paul Grabowsky on June 4 — as well as artist workshops, a conference on Agency in Jazz and Improvisation (June 2 to 4), Sound Walks, Sound Portraits (go Mirko Guerrini!) and a panel discussion on the rise of English in popular music.

That’s the Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2017 as I see it. Now you can choose to hear it.




Bernie McGann

Bernie McGann will be celebrated at Wangaratta this year.


Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues, October 28-30, 2016

It’s a little late for a preview of a festival that opens this week, but it seems wrong not to take a look into the crystal ball and consider the delights of this year’s Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues, which opens for the 27th time on Friday.

Adrian Jackson, creative director and for many years the linchpin of this pre-Cup Day long weekend feast of music, has said an “after the fact” theme is “the strength and diversity of female jazz and blues artists, whether as vocalists, instrumentalists, bandleaders and composers”. They were not chosen to fit any such label or description, but “included on merit”. As AJ says, that’s the way it should be.

Rather than begin with international artists — who Jackson acknowledges are not so well known as in some past years — I’ve decided to run through the gigs that I plan to catch (more jazz than blues, I expect). After all, a look through the long list of concerts on offer (and planning to avoid the inevitable clashes) is like poring over the menu at a really great restaurant on a special occasion — you can’t order every dish, but anticipating the dishes on offer is half the fun.

The first item on the agenda for any serious festival patron is to download the app for iPhone or Android. It was a huge success last year and will make planning your musical meal so much easier.

I will miss not being able to turn up to the Wangaratta library for one of Miram Zolin’s late afternoon book launches on Friday, because they’ve offered a great chance to catch up with friends — musicians and festival regulars.

But at 7.30pm I reckon on catching a few minutes of Irish trio The Long Way Round (featuring Ronan Guilfoyle bass, Chris Guilfoyle guitar and Matthew Jacobson drums) in St Patricks Hall.

Daniel Wilfred

Daniel Wilfred

Then, in WPAC Theatre at 8pm, Monash Art Ensemble, directed by Paul Grabowsky AO, will join Daniel Ngukurr Boy Wilfred (voice, didjeridu, clapsticks, dance) and David Yipinni Wilfred (didjeridu, dance) to present Nyilipidgi. Expect drama, strong rhythms, and considerable impact.

At 10.30pm we’ll hear expatriate Chilean Melissa Aldana, now living in New York, on tenor sax, which is appropriate as the National Jazz Awards this year will feature saxophonists. The first female instrumentalist and the first South American to win the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, Aldana will join countryman Pablo Menares (bass) and Cuban drummer Kush Abadey to deliver originals and standards, performing as Crash Trio. Thom Jurek (Allmusic) describes their music as “fresh, sophisticated, invigorating modern jazz”.

Monique diMattina will be at the Pinsent Hotel until midnight.

That’s surely enough to get the juices flowing for the days and nights ahead.

Tough choices abound on Saturday, but Andrea Keller’s Transients IV — one of her trios inspired by the philosophy and legacy of Allan Browne — takes the WPAC Hall stage at 10.30am, featuring Eugene Ball on trumpet, Keller on piano and Tamara Murphy on double bass.

Shannon Barnett

Shannon Barnett with her quartet at Wangaratta in 2013.

At 11am I’ll have to slip into WPAC Theatre to welcome our expatriate trombonist Shannon Barnett back from Cologne, Germany and hear her regular quartet members Stefan Karl Schmid saxophone/clarinet, David Helm bass and Fabian Arends drums along with Monash University Big Band. It will be a treat to hear what Europe has gained and we’ve lost.

Lunch at noon? Forget that. Music from The Electric Night Descends is sure to be featured in Holy Trinity Cathedral from noon when Luke Howard on piano joins Jonathan Zion bass and Daniel Farrugia drums. Ronan Guilfoyle’s trio is in St Pat’s Hall from 12.30pm, but I’ll be hoping to catch them on Sunday.

I will not be missing Celebrating Bernie McGann in WPAC Theatre at 1pm, when Warwick Alder, Brendan Clarke and Andrew Dickeson — Bernie’s quartet during the last period of his life — share the stage with Sandy Evans and Andrew Robson on saxes. Along with McGann’s music, this concert will feature a suite — Long, Loose, Taste, Groove — in which Evans pays tribute to her long-time collaborator and friend.

Hard to know which way to turn at this point, but I’m aiming to catch a little Anton Delecca Quartet in WPAC Hall at 2.30pm before slipping into WPAC Theatre at 3pm to hear Jamie Oehlers and Tal Cohen play pieces from Innocent Dreamer, their new album of originals and standards.

The inimitable, virtuosic and thoroughly charismatic Barney McAll playing solo is an appealing prospect in the cathedral at 4pm, but in WPAC Hall at 4.30pm Joseph O’Connor’s Trio will join Scott Tinkler and I’m hoping there may be a few Confrontations — no promises, because I really don’t know what they plan to play.

I expect to eat a little at this point to keep my strength up for the evening ahead.

At 8.30pm I am keen to hear Ronan Guilfoyle’s eight-part suite entitled A Shy-Going Boy, which explores the life and times of his grandfather, Irish revolutionary Joe Guilfoyle. I’m predicting this WPAC Theatre concert to be a festival highlight.

As soon as that finishes I’ll be off to St Pat’s Hall at 10pm-ish to soak up the Shannon Barnett Quartet. But wait, that clashes with Tamara Murphy’s Spirograph Studies in WPAC Hall.

And Melissa Aldana and Crash Trio begin at 10.30pm in WPAC Theatre and on the blues stage Geoff Achison & the Soul Diggers are an old favourite of mine.

There are delicious morsels on the menu and my belly is way too large as it is. Clashes! They are inevitable. And I have no hair left to pull out.

Time for bed.

Sunday may begin for me at 10.30am in WPAC Hall to hear Joseph O’Connor Trio (this time there will be Confrontations, a suite of six compositions that embody conflict and multiplicity in improvisation, composed with the support of PBS radio’s Young Elder of Jazz commission) followed by more from Shannon Barnett’s quartet at 11am in WPAC Theatre.

At 12.30pm in WPAC Hall I’ll be keen to hear Ronan Guilfoyle Trio, no doubt finding it hard to tear myself away at 1pm to hear the crooning and wailing reeds of Melbourne saxophonist Kellie Santin, who spent 11 years in London before returning in 2013. Santin will be joined by Christian Barbieri guitar, Phil Turcio keyboards, Marty Holoubek bass, Salvador Persico percussion and Darryn Farrugia drums.

But I hear the sound of clashing concerts again. In Holy Trinity at 1.30pm Adam Simmons and Nick Tsiavos ought not to be missed as they explore a collection of Sixteen Alleluias via soprano sax and acoustic bass.

And — clash, clash, clash go the festival cymbals — at 2.30pm in WPAC Hall tabla player Bobby Singh joins the great Sandy Evans and her trio of bass player Brett Hirst and drummer Toby Hall in a concert featuring excerpts from their acclaimed album Kapture, a tribute to Ahmed Kathrada, a South African anti-apartheid activist who was imprisoned with Nelson Mandela for 26 years.

But — clash, clash — at 3pm in WPAC Theatre I have the chance to make up for missing Barney McAll & ASIO — featuring fellow-past winners of the National Jazz Awards, Julien Wilson (saxophone), Stephen Magnusson (guitar) and Sam Anning (bass), and an exciting young talent on drums, Dom Stitt — in a Melbourne International Jazz Festival outing at Merlyn Theatre, Malthouse.

Where to go? What to hear? Like any excellent menu, there are too many items from which to choose, all of them bound to be deeply satisfying. It’s a luxury to have such choices, but it’s also a pain in the …

At 4pm Origami, which is Adam Simmons on alto sax and bass clarinet, Howard Cairns on double bass and concertina, and Hugh Harvey on drums, will be definitely worth a visit (if only to see what colour socks Adam is wearing).

But I reckon there is only one option at 5pm, and that’s the finals of the National Jazz Awards in WPAC Theatre — a chance to hear the three finalists do battle with their saxophones. Gerry Koster will be in conversation with one of the festival musicians while the judges deliberate — worth staying to hear.

Time for some sustenance, then Andrea Keller presents Transients I with Sam Anning on double bass and Julien Wilson on bass clarinet and tenor sax at 8pm in WPAC Hall.

In WPAC Theatre at 8.30pm jazz vocalist and composer Chris McNulty — returning from 28 years in New York City and in 2013 winner of an Australian Bell Award for Best Vocal Jazz Album for The Song That Sings You Here — will preside over a chamber ensemble and jazz quintet for Eternal.

McNulty will be a huge drawcard, but I may slip out into WPAC Hall at 9pm to hear a bunch of other women — Sandy Evans, Angela Davis, Andrea Keller, Zoe Hauptmann and Sonja Horbelt — performing as the Melbourne Women’s International Jazz Festival Quintet.

From 10.30pm the undoubtedly crowded WPAC Theatre will hear Australia’s best-known jazz musician, consummate entertainer James Morrison along with sons William (guitar) and Harry (bass), plus Patrick Danao on drums.

In the Pinsent Hotel, Dixie Jack should still be firing until almost midnight, followed by the traditional jam session into the wee hours.

Will I still be firing? Hope so. You never know what might happen at a late-night jam session.