Play time at the Jazz Festival

7 November 2021

The Perth International Jazz Festival is underway and Claire Coleman finds it invigorating to discover playful loopmaster Adam Page embraced under the jazz banner.

“Adam Page Solo”, Perth International Jazz Festival ·
The Rechabite Main Hall, 6th November 2021 ·

The tagline of this year’s Perth International Jazz Festival is “Come Play!” and multi-instrumentalist Adam Page’s playful solo performance perfectly embodies this energy.

Opening simply and without affect, Page enters from the rear of the theatre, improvising on saxophone. The unamplified beginning allows the audience to appreciate the contrast between the unaltered saxophone’s tone and the expansive sonic palette of his pedals.

Using an array of familiar and unfamiliar instruments, Page funnels one or two bar grabs of rhythm, melody and harmony through the Boss RC-50 Loop Station, stacking sounds on top of one another. The impression is that of a large ensemble even though he stands on stage alone.

A man with long white beard and bald head stands under two spotlights while playing saxophone
Loopmaster Adam Page is a playful addition to the Perth International Jazz Festival. Photo: Ewa Ginal-Cumblidge

His array of pedals modulate texture and timbre: punching a button with his foot, Page can turn his flute into a cathedral organ, or his own baritone singing into Mariah Carey-esque whistle tones.

Page’s music has none of the interminably slow build up that can characterise looping. The song is built quickly and naturally: first a series of breathy rhythmic bursts blown through the sax, then two sustained flute notes, followed by a few chords and a little bass riff on the Nord, then a woodblock, cowbell, cabasa, melodica. Page solos for a bit on flute over loops collected so far, and then it’s back to building, adding beatbox, electric drumkit, electric guitar, bass.

If that sounds a little hectic, it’s because there’s a lot going on. Looping leaves no margin for error; if any loop is out of time or tune, you’re stuck with it for the rest of the song. Given that the work is totally improvised, the musical and technological skill Page demonstrates can’t be overstated.

Introducing himself between numbers, Page expresses his delight to be on tour from Adelaide and in front of a live audience. His manner is generous and builds good rapport, so when he announces that the next song will require us to record some sounds into his phone hardly anyone seems to cringe.

Moving around the room with his phone and the Keezy app, Page instructs audience members to provide a note or a “blergh” or to say “oh hi!”, playing them back to us and chucking between recordings. Back on stage, the new sounds are incorporated into the existing instrumental kit for the next number.

Audience involvement continues in three of the following songs. Page requests we give him a visual, sending a Kalimba-based number in the direction of a tropical Tahitian paradise. Peter, a pastry chef, is tasked with reading excerpts from Dr Seuss’s tongue twisting Fox In Socks over layers of percussive effects, trading eights with Page’s saxophone. And Belinda Jane Stewart’s name is indelibly etched into the sonic memories of everyone present, after Page repeats it again and again in a vocal loop improvisation.

Page’s work doesn’t comfortably occupy any particular jazz idiom, but the jazz influence is subtly present in the scale fragments from which he builds his solos, the ways he structures his pieces, and his emphasis on improvisation. Page credits Perth-bred saxophone great Jamie Oehlers, who would play John Coltrane on the same stage later in the evening, as part of the impetus that made him pursue music professionally. It’s invigorating to see the Jazz Festival embracing such a range of styles under their banner.

The Perth International Jazz Festival runs until Sunday 7 November 2021.

Pictured top: Adam Page playing solo flute at the Perth International Jazz Festival. Photo: Ewa Ginal-Cumblidge

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Author —
Claire Coleman

Dr Claire Coleman is a pop musicologist, choral conductor and musician. She trained classically in piano, but wrote her doctorate on nostalgia in indie folk, and continues to lecture remotely in pop music studies in Berlin and London. Claire compares the high of bullying strangers into singing to doing hypothetical illicit drugs, so watch out or you might end up an unwitting participant in one of her choral adventures.

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