A woman singing into a microphone, on an outdoor stage
Jazz, Music, News, Performing arts, Reviews

When the world stops

Review: Perth International Jazz Festival, ‘Berardi/Foran/Karlen’ ⋅
State Theatre Centre Courtyard, 9 November⋅
Review by Bourby Webster ⋅

I entered the State Theatre Centre Courtyard for the Brisbane-based Berardi/Foran/Karlen set at the Perth International Jazz Festival on the first baking hot day of summer. Fortunately, by the time the set started, the sun’s harshness had gone, a soft breeze was blowing, and the temperature was utterly perfect.

I associate jazz with dimly lit small venues featuring red velvet seats where you can hear a pin drop, so this open-air venue with pedestrians walking past talking and street noise blaring was a different experience. However, the minute the music started, the world stopped. From the first gentle strike of the piano keys I was utterly mesmerised. The song was entitled A Mother’s Plea. The poetic, soft chords on the piano, and voice-like saxophone joined together in a song that was exactly what the brochure promised: “music drawing on modern jazz, European folk and classical music creating something intensely intimate, textural and emotional”.

As the song progressed, Kristin Berardi demonstrated why she is one of Australia’s most in-demand vocalists, scatting with wonderful control, expression and intonation. Saxophonist Rafael Karlen played with an exquisite vocal-like quality and Sean Foran had the touch and expression of a world-class classical pianist, his rippling, caressing way of performing broken chords adding colour and expression.

In the Foran-composed, toe-tapping, five-beats-to-a-bar Double Take, the pianist stood on several occasions to pluck the piano strings with one hand whilst continuing to play with the other, adding a compelling textural addition to the sound, an ‘experimental’ technique there only to serve the music, not for show.

No Shepherds Live Here opened with shimmering piano at the top of the keyboard over gentle lower chords – in the gentle breeze in the Courtyard it was absolutely stunning. I felt tears prick my eyes the playing was so evocative.

The trio play with synchronicity and understanding. Photo Mark Francesca.

The song Friday (because it was written on a Friday, Foran explained) got the audiences’ toes tapping. Berardi’s simple technique of landing her vocal on a semitone lower or higher than expected, before gently coming to land on the note your ear anticipated, added a strong emotional pull to her vocal line. The musicians synchronicity and understanding of each other’s strengths meant they delivered a seamless soundworld across their set despite the fact that they are all very different composers.

By the time the encore came (Karlen’s saxophone playing put him in the spotlight here) the wind had dropped almost completely, a stillness had fallen in the courtyard, and plenty of other jazz musicians, coming from their own performances, had joined the audience, mesmerised. These three musicians bring their music to life in a stunning, seamless, intuitive and deeply personal way. This is their unique gift and one I feel very privileged to have heard live in concert.

Pictured top: The mesmerising Kristin Berardi. Photo by Mark Francesca.

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From sublime to incendiary

Review: Perth International Jazz Festival, Kristin Berardi/Sam Anning; Tal Cohen Quartet; Veronica Swift ⋅
State Theatre Centre, November 10 ⋅
Review by Garry Lee ⋅

The Perth International Jazz Festival reached its climax on Sunday with a series of contrasting concerts of world class standard. There was also a healthy dose of local musicians involved; of the seven musicians performing in the three concerts I attended, five were graduates from the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts.

On Sunday afternoon over fifty jazz aficionados were treated to the sublime sounds of vocalist Kristin Berardi and bassist Sam Anning in the Heath Ledger Theatre. The unusual duo of voice and bass does have a precedent in jazz with the pairing of United States artists Sheila Jordan and Harvie S in the 1970s. However the Berardi/Anning duo reflected more contemporary influences – think perhaps Joni Mitchell and Wendy Waldman. They also revealed broader influences including Celtic folk music such as on Anning’s composition Fields Are Sown where his arco (bowed) bass masterfully provided a sonic mood that clearly extended beyond the usual jazz idiom. US jazz pianist/composer Brad Mehldau’s Lament for Linus provided a piece that certainly was from the jazz repertoire. Mehldau was inspired by Homer’s Iliad for this composition from his 1997 Art of the Trio album and Berardi has added lyrics including a superb vocalese rendition of the original piano solo.

a bassist and vocalist share the stage
The simpatico of Sam Anning and Kristin Berardi. Photo Adele Varris.

The emphasis was on original repertoire and this duo showed why individually they are at the very top of Australia’s jazz talent. Their simpatico and virtuosity was evident on every piece and their new album Our Songs, Not Songs (Earshift Music) is certainly recommended. The sound in the theatre was excellent but it would be advisable for the front of house staff to allow patrons to enter only between tunes.

At 5pm in the State Theatre Courtyard, the Tal Cohen Quartet commenced. Israeli-born but Perth-educated pianist Cohen possesses a jazz conception that is virtuosic, lyrical, dynamic and frequently humorous. Now based in Miami, he surely has a strong jazz career to look forward to. With Jamie Oehlers on tenor saxophone, whom Cohen referred to as “my mentor and friend”, Karl Florisson (bass) and Ben Vanderwal (drums) this quartet most certainly delivered.

Tal Cohen plays the State Theatre Courtyard. Photo Mark Francesca.

Cohen set the stage for a most enjoyable set with the rarely played 1938 Sammy Fain composition I’ll Be Seeing You that was obfuscated both in its harmony and the delivery of the melody. His self-deprecating introduction to Cedar Meets the Jews was priceless; an attempt to write in the style of the late and great Cedar Walton had resulted in something more like a Jewish tune. Nevertheless, you might have heard in Cohen’s composition references to Firm Roots and Bolivia, two of Walton’s most famous compositions. The duo piece for piano and sax was exquisite and the interplay throughout between Cohen and the ever inspirational Vanderwal was a highlight.

Now to perhaps the climax of the 2019 Festival. The hard swinging trio rendition of Almost Like Being In Love, from Harry Mitchell (piano), Nick Abbey (bass) and Ben Vanderwal (drums) set the stage for 25 year old American vocal virtuoso Veronica Swift.

Swift is the daughter of vocalist Stephanie Nakasian and, as Swift described, “the great and late Hod O’Brien” (a jazz pianist of immense talent; check out Hod’s rendition of You and the Night and the Music]. Swift immediately put everyone on notice with an up-tempo rendition of Cole Porter’s I Get a Kick Out of You (with a possible implied dedication to Samantha Kerr). The tempo took no prisoners and the rhythm section was totally relaxed with the challenge.

Veronica Swift at the State Theatre Centre. Photo Mark Francesca.

Swift, who has toured with Wynton Marsalis, has jazz in her DNA and her scatting ability – where she vocally improvises over the harmony of a tune – is unbelievable. DownBeat magazine jazz critic Bill Milkowski has noted she has “perfect pitch and phrasing” and this was most evident. However her rendition of Lionel Bart’s As Long As He Needs Me from the musical Oliver showed that she can deliver a ballad emphatically. Incendiary, if not spontaneous combustion, might be a way of describing the quartet’s treatment of Bobby Timmons’ classic Dat Dere – an anthem of the gospel jazz or soul jazz sub-genre. The duo of vocals and bass on King Pleasure’s No Not Much provided a contrast and showed intelligent and mature programming from Swift.

The Ella Fitzgerald-inspired Pennies From Heaven invoked a standing ovation that required an encore. David Frishberg’s I’m Hip – a tune synonymous with the late Blossom Dearie – provided the icing on the cake.

This is Swift’s first visit to Australia where she also performed in Sydney and Melbourne. Her progress in the future will be followed by this scribe and I believe the festival pulled off a coup in presenting such a talented artist at the commencement of her career.

Pictured top: Veronica Swift wows the crowd with Harry Mitchell (piano), Nick Abbey (bass) and Ben Vanderwal (drums). Photo Mark Francesca.

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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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Jazz in the spotlight

Rosalind Appleby chats with Roscoe James Irwin, one of the high profile artists flying in to perform alongside the cream of the West Australian jazz scene at the Perth International Jazz Festival.

“Australia has its own jazz voice, I think. A uniqueness to the way we play – perhaps from the social culture or the personalities that have influenced the industry, but we have a unique sensibility in the way we present jazz in this country. And that is something that needs to be celebrated.”

Roscoe James Irwin’s enthusiasm is evident down the telephone line as he takes a break from touring to chat about the seventh Perth International Jazz Festival. The Melbourne trumpet player is excited to be part of something that celebrates the uniqueness of the Australian jazz scene.

His concert ‘Lost in a Dream – The Musical Life of Chet Baker’ is one of the centrepieces of the festival which runs November 8-10. It will be a rare chance for Perth audiences to witness Irwin – best known as a sideman in The Cat Empire and The Bamboos – presenting one of his own projects.

Irwin’s tribute to Chet Baker sits within a diverse festival program that ranges from very progressive contemporary jazz to more conservative shows. He promises it will be both accessible for newcomers and not too light for hardcore jazz fans, with quite a lush, cross-disciplinary flavour.

Irwin will engage 20 string players from the WA Youth Orchestra plus top local jazz musicians Chris Foster (piano), Nick Abbey (bass) and Mike Perkins (drums) to play his arrangements of Baker classics. Irwin’s various jazz hats include band leader and arranger and he has been likened to Sufjan Stevens and Simon and Garfunkel for his folksy, mellow style of singing and trumpet playing. Baker, whose warm, light style helped usher in the cool jazz of the 1950’s, is a good fit.

Chet Baker, a troubled jazz legend.

“The sound of Chet Baker’s trumpet and voice resonated with me when I was about 13. He has this mellow, soft sound and his playing is so melodic. It really clicked with me in a unique way.”

“I didn’t want to do a standard tribute, I wanted to capture the feel and the mood of the golden age of 1950’s California. So my arrangements include strings and a rhythm section to capture that hazy, cinematic Hollywood feel.”

‘Lost in a Dream’ had rave reviews from sell-out shows at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival and Irwin is looking forward to bringing the story to Perth.

“Chet was the James Dean of jazz, he was such a star but his fall was so tragic and sad. My show is a celebration but also a eulogy.”

Irwin is also excited about the prospect of checking out some of the other artists performing in the festival, which has been curated by Mace Francis, artistic director of the WA Youth Orchestra.

“Mace has created a truly international festival. He hasn’t just looked to North America for international artists, there are also musicians from Japan, Europe and South America. It is important to amalgamate the Australian jazz sound with all of that.”

Highly regarded Japanese pianist Fumio Itabashi and his quartet. Photo supplied.

The festival will place highly-regarded Japanese jazz pianist Fumio Itabashi and his quartet alongside some of Australia’s most adventurous improvisers: Daniel Susnjar (drums), Simon Jeans (guitar), Niran Dasika (trumpet), Simone De Haan (trombone) and Dylan Hooper (tenor sax). Japanese saxophonist Akane Ezawa will co-lead a quintet with Perth trumpeter Ricki Malet. Other international artists include Brazilian trio Meretrio, and orchestration trail-blazer Chelsea McBride who will bring the contemporary modern big band the Socialist Night School from Toronto to Perth.

Top tips on what gigs to get to?

“I am really looking forward to seeing the Kristen Berardi and Sam Anning duo, I’ve never seen them live before. Tal Cohen I’ve never seen because he’s been in New York for so long. And Veronica Swift, she won’t have trouble getting an audience, she’s just an amazing swing vocalist from the US.”

The Perth Cultural Centre and surrounds will play host to more than 50 concerts, many featuring local jazz musicians, from Friday to Sunday.

The Perth International Jazz Festival runs November 8 – 10.

Pictured top: Roscoe James Irwin will bring to life the style and feel of Chet Baker.

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Jazz Band in stage in quadrangle
Calendar, Jazz, Music, November 19, Performing arts

Music: Perth International Jazz Festival 2019

8-10 November @ Various Venues in Perth & Northbridge ·
Presented by Perth International Jazz Festival ·

Get jazzy with the coolest concerts from some of the world’s hottest musical talent at the Perth International Jazz Festival (PIJF) happening for one weekend only from 8 to 10 November.

Featuring free and ticketed concerts, intimate artist talks and workshops, experience new delights and reacquaint yourself with old favourites spanning big band, solo performers, instrumentalists, vocalists, contemporary and avant-garde.

The State Theatre Centre will be the Festival hub incorporating the Courtyard and Heath Ledger Theatre in ways you’ve haven’t experienced before – and all in walking distance to venues The Bird, The Ellington Jazz Club and Downstairs at the Maj, which will also be utilised across the three days.

The free-to-attend parts of the program are also bigger than ever – get set for jazzy sounds spilling out from the Perth Cultural Centre’s Wetlands Stage, The Rechabite and Birdwood Square.

More info:

Pictured: Perth Jazz Festival credit: Corey James

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Kate Pass smiles as she looks down at her fingers plucking the string bass
Jazz, Music, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Jazz festival wraps up as one of the best

Review: Perth International Jazz Festival Day 3 ⋅
State Theatre Centre, November 11 ⋅
Review Steve Baitz ⋅

The sun was beating down inexorably on the State Theatre Courtyard on Sunday, the last day of the Perth International Jazz Festival. I was there to hear the Pete Jeavons Quintet, a group of jazz musicians led by bass player Pete Jeavons who have played together for so many years their solos are cued seamlessly and in perfect harmony. You would have to travel very far indeed to find a better group of jazz musicians and yet the venue appeared almost empty. This made no sense at all. The quality of the jazz warranted sell-out crowds. I found protection from the sun in a small shady section jam-packed with enthusiasts.

The set opened with an original composition called Flipside and continued with some of Jeavon’s original compositions alongside re-arrangements of standards like Irving Berlin’s The Best Thing for You is Me. Jeavons re-harmonised Jerome Kern’s Yesterday so extensively that he re-titled it The Days before Today. The quintet was a sheer joy to hear. The very appreciative and enthusiastic crowd-in-the-shade laid testament to the quality. Solos from Jamie Oehlers on saxophone, Jeremy Greig on trombone and Tom O’Halloran on piano were held tightly together by the magical rhythm-keeping of drummer Daniel Susnjar and Pete Jeavon’s sublime double bass.

The Pete Jeavons Quintet sizzle on Sunday afternoon at the festival. Photo Steve Baitz

Moving out of the sun to the Rehearsal Room the Kate Pass Kohesia Ensemble offered a varied jazz experience with strong Persian influences mixed with contemporary jazz. The microtonal elements of Esfander Shahmir’s daf (frame drum) and Mike Zolker’s oud playing were well backed and harmonised by Marc Osborne on saxophone, Ricki Malet on trumpet, Chris Foster’s piano and the brilliantly versatile percussion of Daniel Susnjar. Pass provided musical direction, composition and the tempered sounds of her bass. Selections from the 2018 album Kohesia included Nahafsi, Catalyst, Origin and Moongate and showcased Pass’s well-articulated melding of Persian folk music and western jazz. The band’s superlative musical improvisation was underpinned by the cadence of Daniel Susnjar’s drumming.

The husband and wife team of Satoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura stretched the range of jazz much further. The Japanese duo’s journey to Perth began with a chance meeting with festival artistic director Mace Francis in New York. They played to a well attended audience in the State Theatre’s Rehearsal Room. Publicity material promised they would premiere Fujii’s Fukushima suite commemorating the 2011 earthquake in Japan. Instead Fujii and Tamura played the following original compositions; Dune and Star, Prime Number, In Barcelona, Climb the Rapids, Riding on the Clouds and finally Spiral Staircase. The tunes were on the very edge of experimental jazz drawing heavily on classical music phrasing.

Satoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura. Photo by Nathan Bullivant

Fujii’s use of the piano was expertly combined with Tamura’s use of the trumpet. I say ‘used’ because they managed to get completely unique sounds from those instruments. Fujii produced sounds that emulated a range of instruments from Tibetan singing bowls to the violin, complemented by guttural wind music emanating from Tamura’s trumpet and interspersed with poignant use of silence. Fujii and Tamura played off each other in a way that can only be arrived at after a lifetime of working together. The result was at once ethereal and powerful evoking visions of the proverbial lone piper. The music was presented with little or no cognisance of western jazz traditions and demonstrated the anger and power of elemental nature. This certainly was not the piano and trumpet as we know them.

As the festival drew to a close I marvelled at the quality and range of the performances, both international and local. Big thanks to Francis and the dedicated crew who put on this great weekend of jazz. The mix of paid and free events was very well balanced; one of the best Perth International Jazz Festivals so far. To quote Shrek’s Donkey “Wow, Let’s do that again!”.

Picture top; Kate Pass leads the Kohesia Ensemble. Photo by Mohammad Hosseini

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Jazz pianists battle it out

Review: Perth International Jazz Festival ⋅
Perth Cultural Centre/State Theatre Centre, November 10 ⋅
Review by Steve Baitz ⋅

It was a warm afternoon at the Perth Cultural Centre Wetlands and the area had new vibrancy with the advent of the Perth International Jazz Festival. The Gemma Farrell Quintet took the stage and the interest escalated among the people milling around. The band comprised Farrell on saxophone, Christopher Sealy on guitar, Kate Pass on bass, Ryan Daunt playing drums and the band’s newcomer Tom Salleo handling the trombone.

The music was tight, well-rehearsed and the band obviously comfortable with each other. Much of the music played was from Farrell’s new album Organised Chaos and revealed something of the composer’s character. Each number was dedicated to an important person or an event like the birth of her third child. As the music filtered through the air the audience grew with each captivated passer-by.

Gemma Farrell with her tenor, flanked by the attentive Chris Sealey on guitar and Tom Salleo on trombone
L-R Kate Pass,Gemma Farrell, Chris Sealey and Tom Salleo perform at the Wetlands stage. Photo Nathan Bullivant

The crowd was well rewarded with warm, easy on the ears sounds. Stand out numbers were Reflections and One for Fresh written in honour of what Farrell called ‘probably her best teacher’. Each of the band members handled very strong solo’s and newcomer Tom Salleo did not disappoint. All the music was original but kept that familiar feeling of belonging. A pleasure to hear.

Moving from the family-friendly ease of the Wetlands to the State Theatre Rehearsal Room was quite a transition. The Wetlands invites you to soak in the surrounding movement of people in the area; the Rehearsal Room demands your attention. The venue is intimate, moodily lit and with near perfect acoustics. Drapes hang across the walls and the grand piano in the far-left corner takes pride of place.  About to begin was ‘Solo Piano – Fujii, O’Halloran, Barry’.

Pianist Steve Barry leans towards the piano keyboard, his face is reflected in the piano lid.
Pianist Steve Barry. Photo Mohammad Hosseini

Time was limited with the three performers playing solo in turn and each could play only one or two of their original compositions. Sydney composer Steve Barry took the stage first and displayed masterful expertise, playing music from his recent solo album Hatch. His music was good evidence of his multi award winning talent. He started with a soft melodic number that transported me into a harmonious sense of peace. Then followed the cheeky insertion of a delightful interlude he described as ‘a little something’ followed by a tribute to Thelonious Monk. The tribute was more atonal but still not jarring on the ears, interrupted only by the sound of someone’s errant mobile giving walking instructions to the State Theatre. There’s always one in every crowd!

Pianist Tom OHalloran. Photo Mohammad Hosseini

Perth’s well-loved Tom O’Halloran took the second spot, transfixing the audience with two improvisations, one tonal and the second atonal, both exploring atmosphere and texture. His music was atmospheric and almost tactile, like a patchwork quilt with individual sections coalescing into what will soon become one of your favourite blankets.

The diminutive Satoko Fujii then took the stage, claiming rightly the pressure Steve Barry’s and Tom O’Halloran’s performances put on her solo. The Japanese pianist took immediate possession of the grand piano. The keyboard was not a sufficient interface for her and she almost climbed into the body of the piano converting it to a percussion instrument and a harp. She stretched the piano far beyond its normal playing method and I could imagine the blood draining out of the faces of piano tuners and agents responsible for the insurance of the instrument. The piano under her ministrations took on the guise of a full orchestra. Definitely avant-garde, Fujii produced an exciting harmony of both gentle and thumping sounds that I would never have considered belong together. How well it worked.

Festival artistic director Dr Mace Francis thanked the artists for their ‘expose of the human condition’. My only complaint is that the performance was only given once.

Pictured top: Satoko Fujii. Photo: Mohammad Hosseini

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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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Perth International Jazz Festival
Calendar, Featured, Jazz, Music, November 18, Performing arts

Music: Perth International Jazz Festival

9 – 11 November @ Perth Cultural Centre ·
Presented by Perth International Jazz Festival ·

The 2018 Perth International Jazz Festival brings an incredible array of over 60 local, national and international jazz artists for performances, intimate ‘in conversations’ and open rehearsals – in a mix of ticketed and free community events. Be seduced by jazz in this three-day festival across various venues in the heart of the Perth Cultural Centre.

More info: www.perthinternationaljazzfestival.com.au 

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