More than jazz enough

5 November 2022

The Perth International Jazz Festival is off and swinging and Kristian Borring says the diverse opening night program promises a great weekend in Perth and later in the south-west.

“Opening Night”, Perth International Jazz Festival ·
The Rechabite Main Hall, 4 November 2022 ·

It is an exciting weekend for music lovers as the 10th Perth International Jazz Festival opens in Perth. The impressively diverse program rockets to new heights following a few lean years caused by the ramifications of the global pandemic. On opening night at The Rechabite there is a large turnout of eager jazz fans of all ages, and an atmosphere of anticipation as many concerts unfold around the city.

The “Opening Night” program includes the best of Australia’s youthful talent in ANJO Youth Big Band conducted by composer/arranger Vanessa Perica, alongside the more mature playfulness of the experienced Brazilian group Meretrio featuring Austrian based saxophonist Heinrich von Kalnein.

Under Perica’s energetic conducting, ANJO competently perform her densely arranged modern compositions. Her writing has clean lyrical melodies with underlying rhythmic and harmonic drama, and there are many stand out soloists.

An ink black background from which emerges the head and shoulders of woman with blonde hair, her arms raised as though she is conducting a band.
Composer and arranger Vanessa Perica features at the Perth International Jazz Festival opening night. Photo: Ewa Ginal-Cumblidge

In contrast, the Meretrio, who are currently undergoing a month-long Australian tour, jump from jazz-rock to almost jazz chamber music (think Chico Hamilton) with Emiliano Sampaio seamlessly switching between trombone and electric guitar. Inventive rhythms are in focus throughout, and their Brazilian heritage is never forgotten with drummer Luis André managing to emulate with great subtlety a whole samba band on his drumkit – even throughout quiet passages.

The third and final ensemble is a nonet made up of some of the best local jazz musicians premiering pieces commissioned specifically for the festival, conducted by the festival director himself, Mace Francis. The six commissions showcase composers from all over Australia, from the young Western Australian composer Tim Newhouse with his Ode to Jarrahdale featuring trumpeter Jess Carlton, to the more widely known composer and multi-instrumentalist, William Barton, who contributes his first-ever jazz piece, a drone based composition Is This Jazz Enough?.

Vanessa Perica (originally from Perth but now based in Melbourne), takes to the stage again to conduct her own piece featuring saxophonist Jamie Oehlers, which, with its start-stop of sections and ideas almost feels like mini suite. I especially enjoy Brisbane pianist Sophie Min’s slowly developing piece, also with lots of sections, ultimately working towards a forceful yet fragmented groove.

Some of the compositions are more successful than others, but as Francis explains, the commissions creatively contribute new music to the Australian jazz scene. It is an excellent initiative that demonstrates the value of PIJF and its importance to the national (and perhaps international) scene. I warmly recommend that you go enjoy and support the weekend.

The Perth International Jazz Festival continues until late Sunday night in Perth and then in Busselton/Yallingup 12-13 November.

Picture top: Vanessa Perica conducts the ANJO Youth Big Band at the opening of the Perth International Jazz Festival. Photo: Ewa Ginal-Cumblidge

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Author —
Kristian Borring

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