Super night out for all geeks

26 March 2023

There are some magical forces behind this whimsical fusion of fantasy and jazz. Tess Palmyre rediscovers her inner geek.

Heroes, Sci-Fi and Sorcery: A Tribute to Comic-Con, Western Australian Jazz Project 
Perth Concert Hall, 25 March 2023 

There’s a buzz of energy in the room. Sitting in front of me are two teenagers dressed as Spiderman and Hawkeye, and I feel a pang of regret for not wearing a superhero outfit. We are at the Perth Concert Hall to see the Western Australian Jazz Project (WAJP) perform their tribute to Comic-Con – the wonderful and wacky world of heroes, sci-fi and sorcery. What a delightfully whimsical fusion. 

It takes a special kind of human to become a jazz aficionado. It strikes me tonight – as a newbie to the Comic-Con universe – that this applies to fans of this genre, too. The same geeky excitement sweeps through the crowd, whether they come for the jazz or cosplay outfits. 

The WAJP is a 17-piece ensemble, with Adrian Kelly as managing director and Niels Rosendahl as artistic director. Their slogan “Jazz done differently” sets an expectation of what’s to come. 

A man wearing glasses leans on a wooden podium, speaking into a microphone. He has a black shirt emblazoned with the "S' for Superman underneath a striped jacket. This is author Shane McCarthy.
Shane McCarthy is the perfect host for the ‘geek fest’,. Photo: Deprimo Photography

The evening begins with a stunning Acknowledgment of Country, recited by Rosendahl and accompanied by ethereal piano soundscapes. Then we’re off with a burst of energy. 

The first number is a medley of themes including Walking on Air, John Williams’ Superman Love Theme, and 1960s themes from Batman and Spider-Man. Homer Simpson’s Spider-Pig rendition in my head is silenced as we’re treated to punchy horn arrangements and a driving rhythm section. It’s an energy matched by a furious tenor sax duel in Spider-Man, and a rocking guitar solo from Simon Jeans in Batman

The evening’s host walks onto the stage wearing a Superman tee – none other than Shane McCarthy, the Perth-based author who also happens to have written for DC Comics, Marvel Comics and Star Wars among others. It’s going to be “a full geek fest!”, he tells us, and he’s right. 

The two sets are a nostalgic mix of sci-fi, fantasy, gaming and anime titles including Star Wars, Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, The Incredibles, and Super Mario Bros. Halfway through the first set, rising star Rio Berryman joins the band and launches into an oh-so-sweet version of One More Kiss Dear from Blade Runner. His voice is sophisticated beyond his 18 years, and his vocal scat in Blue Skies is a joy. 

It’s hard to single out one highlight. For me, Rosendahl’s superb tenor sax solo on Princess Leia’s Theme is right up there. He is extraordinary, as a performer as well as the evening’s band director. My inner geek is delighted when Rosendahl, trumpeter Marty Pervan and alto saxophonist Matt Styles perform a trio version of Cantina Band.  

A group of people in cosplay pose for the camera .They range in ages and wear everything from a Wonder Woman outfit to a Jedi suit. They are part of the audience at Western Australia Jazz Project's Heroes, Sci-fi and Sorcery: A Tribute to Comic-con.
Comic-Con fans get in the spirit of the occasion. Photo: Deprimo Photography

However, the star of the show is undoubtedly McCarthy. He is effortlessly funny, 100 percent geek, and has the crowd in stitches all night. 

It would be remiss of me not to mention the fabulous Harry Mitchell. His piano solo in a Batman medley creates layer upon layer of chord clusters, building in intensity and taking the crowd with him on a breathtaking crescendo. It all seems so effortless and merely hints at his vast talents. 

Double and electric bassist Kate Pass also deserves a mention. She is an incredible talent and one of three permanent female band members. The WAJP launched their education program to music students in a pre-show announcement. I imagine increasing representation to reflect WA’s changing demographic will be a focus as they connect with increasingly diverse younger generations.

Nonetheless, the outstanding musicianship is unquestionable. The second set is an unrelenting drive of energy, with a crowd-pleasing latin funk version of Tank!  from Japanese anime television series Cowboy Bebop. The evening closes with soulful vocalist Sam Nafie, who has the crowd on their feet singing along to Men in Black

My inner geek is happy. In the words of Captain America, “I can do this all day” — or all night in this case. As McCarthy concludes: “I think tonight has been super rad.” 

Pictured top: The Western Australian Jazz Project brings a bit of magic to Perth Concert Hall. Photo: Deprimo Photography

For the Western Australian Jazz Project’s next show, keep an eye on their website

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Author —
Tess Palmyre

A brand storyteller, musician and past educator, Tess has worked in Melbourne and Perth across jazz education, not for profit and First Nations sectors. She now runs a brand communications consultancy that champions inclusion. Tess has always gravitated to the monkey bars. Hanging upside down never fails to provide a fresh perspective, and she loves a challenge that leaves her feeling strong.

Past Articles

  • WAAPA talent raises the roof

    A spirit of creativity and collaboration energises and transforms those lucky enough to hear WAAPA’s next generation of stars, writes Tess Palmyre.

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