Kate Ceberano singing with Sam Anning accompanying on bass
Jazz, Music, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Jazz takes over the city

Review: Perth International Jazz Festival ·

State Theatre Centre Courtyard, November 9 ·

Review by Rosalind Appleby ·

The Perth International Jazz Festival kicked off last night with the first of over 60 performances. For one weekend the city has turned into a jazz hotspot, with grooves spilling out of doorways and a good chance of bumping into Perth-born legends like Mat Jodrell and Sam Anning or the hottest young things from the US like singer Charenee Wade and Sara McDonald.

On Friday night the State Theatre Centre Courtyard was at capacity for Kate Ceberano and Carl Mackey’s tribute to the 1961 soul jazz album ‘Nancy Wilson & Cannonball Adderly’. Their clean, relaxed take on jazz standards like Happy Talk, A Sleepin Bee and Never Will I Marry eased festival goers into the weekend.

Ceberano channelled Nancy Wilson with luscious sliding phrases and dramatic storytelling. What really lit up the hour-long session was her megawatt smile and obvious delight at working with the musicians. And why not with saxophonist Carl Mackey leading an all-star quartet of Grant Windsor on piano, Sam Anning on bass and Ben Vanderwal on drums. For some reason the band was missing a cornet player (Nat Adderley on the original album) but still delivered a punchy, fun version of the instrumental number Teaneck with glimpses of Speedball in the clean groove and the unexpected tangents in Windsor’s piano solos.

Big smiles from the entire band as Kate Ceberano and Carl Mackey perform
Kate Ceberano and Carl Mackey light up the stage at the Perth International Jazz Festival. Photo Nathan Bullivant

A high point was the ballad The Masquerade is Over where Ceberano’s gift for storytelling had the crowd hanging on every note. Her voice was breathy, strong, scratchy and elastic all at once, cushioned by the wash of brushes on snare, sparse piano and restrained bass.

Wilson’s rhythmic inflections and sense of pacing in the fast tunes wasn’t Ceberano’s strong point (as she was the first to admit) but she nailed the soulful character of the album, crooning responses to Windsor’s tasteful piano solos and paying tribute to an album that had inspired her since the age of 16.

Later that night international guests the Melissa Aldana Quartet took to the stage with a set list of material from their yet-to-be-released album. The Chilean tenor saxophonist was the first female and first South American to win the Thelonious Monk competition in 2013. Her original compositions are built around predictable harmonies coloured with unpredictable melody lines and occasional sections of Latin groove. Aldana’s incredibly lyrical fluidity across the entire range of the tenor saxophone meant her sizzling fingerwork had velveteen smoothness. Her sinuous golden lines were the perfect foil to the fast dense activity of the trio: Sam Harris on piano, Rick Rosato on bass and Felix Lecaros on drums.

Melissa Aldana's focused energy as she plays tenor saxophone
Chilean saxophonist and composer Melissa Aldana. Photo Nathan Bullivant

The quartet performed four substantial works composed by Aldana. Two were movements from the suite Visions, inspired by the life of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. Kahlo’s artwork is known for its magical realism, a brightly-coloured blend of fantasy and photographic realism. It was possible to hear the beauty of Kahlo’s work in Aldana’s clean saxophone lines inflected with moments of deep emotion expressed in particular through the mighty piano solos by Harris.

Aldana was self effacing, allowing her music to do the talking. Her playing revealed a thoughtful musician with an ear for beauty and originality. Aldana will perform with her quartet tonight at The Ellington and you can catch Carl Mackey, Grant Windsor and Sam Anning performing as part of Speedball tonight at the State Theatre Courtyard. There are also free concerts at the Perth Cultural Centre Wetlands Stage plus shows Downstairs at the Maj, open rehearsals and artists in conversation. Don’t miss out on the weekend when jazz takes over our city.

The Perth International Jazz Festival continues until Sunday November 11th.

Pictured top L-R: Kate Ceberano and Sam Anning. Photo Nathan Bullivant.

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