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, Music, News, Performing arts, Reviews

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, 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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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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