Tag Archives: preview


Xani Kolac

Xani Kolac                   Image supplied


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


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.