Jazz, Music, News, Reviews

Jazz feast begins

Review: Perth International Jazz Festival, ‘Clayton Doley’; ‘Chelsea McBride’s Socialist Night School’ ⋅
Ellington Jazz Club; State Theatre Centre Courtyard, November 8 ⋅
Review by Rosalind Appleby ⋅

A balmy spring evening welcomed international and interstate jazz artists on the first night of the Perth International Jazz Festival. As the sun went down jazz fans began milling around Northbridge and at the Ellington Jazz Club fans grooved shoulder to shoulder to the smooth tunes laid down by Australian keyboard legend Clayton Doley.

The Sydney-based Doley, backed by an impressive line-up of local musicians, delivered a polished first set. As the New Orleans-infused compositions flowed from his fingers it became clear why Doley is the keyboard player of choice for Jimmy Barnes, and has played alongside everyone from Guy Sebastian to the band members from Booker T and the MG’s.

Doley led an eight-piece band from the keyboard, his tasteful Hammond organ solos throwing back to the great blues players from the 60’s. His compositions fused funk, shuffle, jump blues and acid jazz, overlayed with a lush dose of soul. It was the perfect combination to melt stress on a Friday evening.

You would be hard pressed to find a more laid back groove than Baby John Burgess, with its nonchalant downwards stepping riff sitting right back on the beat laid down by Ben Vanderwal (drums), Dave Brewer (guitar) and Wayne Freer (bass). The warm tones of the horn section (Dylan Hooper and Alistair McEvoy saxophones, Ricki Malet trumpet and Catherine Noblet trombone) added their well-balanced punctuations. Wandering above them, with every note landing in perfect agreement with the band, were Doley’s beautifully paced organ solos.

Doley’s smooth baritone voice was light enough to croon and with just enough edge to make it soulful. His quirky lyrics revealed a larrikin side that married happily with cruisy R&B rhythms. Waiting for the Coffee, written while in New Orleans, described the wear and tear of life in a tough town: “Last night I got ripped/ Today I woke up torn/ Baby, I don’t want to mourn for you”. Shredding the spaces in between the lyrics was his organ: sweet, psychedelic and rocking hard.

Chelsea McBride and the Socialist Night School. Photo Mark Francesca

It was hard to tear ourselves away but worth it so that we could arrive at the State Theatre Centre Courtyard in time to hear Canadian band leader Chelsea McBride open her set. In fact her opening piece was the perfect transition; Revolution Blues opened with a blues ostinato riff, delivered by McBride on tenor saxophone and soon joined by the full swagger of 19 piece big band Socialist Night School (a composite of musicians from the WA Youth Jazz Orchestra and elsewhere.) McBride is a rising star in the Toronto jazz scene and her compositional chops and relaxed authority make her a charismatic band leader.

Most of the music was drawn from her new album Aftermath, released last week and delivered with impressive finesse by the local band. McBride’s writing is political, harmonically fresh and firmly embedded in the catchy hooks and lushness of big band tradition. Porcelain struck a chord (pardon the pun) with its blues bass line overlayed with edgy harmonies and cutting #mettoo lyrics. Twilight Fall’s dense orchestration had a Pink Floyd psychedelic feel and told an intriguing musical tale of purple skies and rusted carousels.

Kudos to festival director Mace Francis for this fabulous opportunity to hear the newest sounds emerging from Canada, and to witness the cross fertilisation of ideas as international artists shared the stage with the young stars from our own backyard. And there’s plenty more of this to come over the weekend in a festival program that is as egalitarian as it is extravagant. Don’t miss out on this feast for your ears.

The Perth International Jazz Festival continues until Sunday 10th November.

Pictured top: Clayton Doley plays the Ellington Jazz Club. Photo Rosalind Appleby

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