The 28th Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues enters a new chapter in 2017 with several exciting changes: new venues, new partnerships, a centralised layout and a new programming team.
The new artistic team – Zoe Hauptmann, Frank Davidson, Scott Solimo and myself (Adam Simmons) – brings a fresh perspective to the programming, yet each of us has extensive experience of the festival as performers, volunteers and/or audience. We have worked together by sharing our personal connections and “insider” knowledge to bring together a program to both satisfy and surprise.
At the heart of our choices has been a commitment to presenting high quality experiences, synonymous with the Wangaratta Festival since the beginning. Additionally, we strived to ensure the festival continues to be known as Australia’s “foremost festival of jazz & Blues”, celebrating Australian music in an international context.
Our international artists exemplify this, while alongside them are a selection of Australia’s best jazz and blues artists presenting their strong and unique contributions. Another important aspect of the program are the interstate and international collaborations. We have encouraged a mix of first-time meetings as well as helping create opportunities for old friends to meet once again.
With that in mind, here are some of this year’s international and Australian highlights:
– Jon Cleary – New Orleans funk master returns to the festival for the first time since 2013, performing solo on Friday night in the Performing Arts Centre Theatre and then in full swing with his Absolute Monster Gentlemen the next day in Merriwa Park
– Young firebrand US trumpeter Christian Scott (recently toured with Miles Electric Band) will perform two exclusive shows with his sextet including the extraordinary flautist, Elena Pinderhughes.
– Jen Shyu – US born from immigrant parents of Taiwan and East Timor – has just received the 2017 downbeat award for rising star vocalist and is also a composer, instrumentalist and dancer. Having recently performed solo show for AsiaTOPA, she will perform in duo with Sydney drummer Simon Barker and a special international ensemble.
– Kari Ikonen Trio, one of Finland’s top jazz exports, will tour Australia for the first time, presenting their dynamic and multi-coloured take on the classic piano trio format.
– Philippe Guidat/Pascal Rollando – French guitar and percussion duo, bring together a mix of jazz, flamenco and Indian flavours.
– Aron Ottignon, New Zealand born pianist, performs with his European trio, having recently released his debut Blue Note recording.
– Ex-pat Australian Nadje Noordhuis with fellow New-Yorker James Shipp will launch their new duo CD of trumpet and vibraphone/percussion, as well as a collaboration with Gian Slater (vocals), Chris Hale (bass) and Theo Carbo (guitar)
– The Others – Three of Australia’s highest profile musicians will premiere their unlikely yet exciting all-improvised trio: James Morrison, Paul Grabowsky and Spiderbait’s Kram.
– Australian guitar legend Ian Moss with full band will perform on the opening night at the new Merriwa Park outdoor stage.
– Sydney bassist/composer, Jonathan Zwartz presents his latest CD with an all-star lineup featuring Sydney and Melbourne musicians.
– Much loved, ex-ABC radio presenter Lucky Oceans will make his Wangaratta debut with his Perth trio and a quintet featuring musicians from Western Australia, Victoria and Tasmania.
– Described as Sydney’s “University of the Blues”, the Foreday Riders celebrate their 50th year of performance this year.
– Holy Trinity Cathedral will again host some of the festival’s most magical moments, including Katie Noonan and Karin Schaupp’s acclaimed duo and the immersive experience Nick Tsiavos’ quintet will provide at sunset
– Emerging artists include Carbo/Carter/Gunnoo, featuring saxophonist Flora Carbo, winner of the highly prestigious 2017 James Morrison Scholarship
The rest of the program is of similar quality and diversity – whether it is popular New Orleans infused pianist Pugsley Buzzard performing a rare show with his rare eight-piece group, Australian jazz guitar veterans Jim Kelly and John Scurry, blues guitarist legends Kevin Borich, Shane Pacey and Jimi Hocking, renowned maverick Barney McAll’s ASIO project, Belinda Woods’ Lo-Res and Alastair Watts’ Slipper as representatives of Northcote’s thriving scene or some of Sydney’s brightest new talents such as Cope St Parade, Matilda Abraham and Frances Madden. There is sure to be something to either reconnect with or to discover for the first time.
Part of the reason why the festival is treasured by so many is because of what the town has to offer in addition to the main program, with local musicians on show along with regional produce and wine offerings. An exciting change this year will see Ford St closed off to create a heartbeat centre for the festival including a new community stage. In addition, St Patrick’s Church will be a free access venue presenting some of the main program artists in unusual pairings.
There will be a rare opportunity for local brass and woodwind players to perform at this year’s festival as a giant horn section with Spiderbait, one of Australia’s great rock bands, as part of this year’s most unusual inclusion. Community workshops supported by Regional Arts Victoria, will be led by Festival Co-Artistic Director and musician Adam Simmons in the lead up to the festival weekend.
Finally, I remind you of our recent announcement of exciting developments for this year’s National Jazz Awards (focusing on brass), including the invitation for the winner to perform at the 2018 Amersfoort Jazz Festival as part of an international laureate program. The NJA have been integral to the development and promotion of Australian jazz and this new partnership adds an international dimension.
We, as the programming team, have focused on the music as the first point. We have been inspired by our own experiences and memories of the festival from the past 20 years or more to create this year’s program. We each remember certain defining moments from different festivals. One of the features of the festival has always been the chance to see things that only happen at the festival and this year will be no different – indeed, as Frank Davidson keeps saying, “Expect the unexpected.”
We look forward to sharing and experiencing 2017’s Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues music, memories and moments with you.
FULL ARTIST LIST (at time of release)
Angela Davis Quartet
Aron Ottignon Trio
Christian Scott (USA)
Cope St Parade
Gian Slater/Barney McAll/Simon Barker
Jen Shyu/Simon Barker (USA/Australia)
Jen Shyu Ensemble (USA/Australia)
Jim Kelly’s Thrillseekers
Jon Cleary (solo)
Kari Ikonen Trio (Finland)
Katie Noonan & Karin Schaupp
Lucky Oceans/Paul Williamson/Nick Haywood/Claire Anne Taylor/Konrad Park
Monash University Big Band featuring Tony Gould and Mick Nock
my name is Nobody (Lucky Oceans/Tom O’Halloran/Ben Vanderwal)
Nadje Noordhuis/James Shipp (USA/Australia)
Nadje Noordhuis Quintet (USA/Australia)
Nick Haywood Trio
Nick Tsiavos LIMINAL
Origami w/ Wang Zheng-Ting
Paul Williamson Hammond Combo
Phil Slater Quintet
Pugsley Buzzard Quartet
Scott Tinkler DRUB
The Others (James Morrison/Paul Grabowsky/Kram)
Zac Hurren Trio
Andrea Marr & The Funky Hitmen
Blues Brothers 3677
Jimi Hocking & Blues Machine
Jon Cleary and his Absolute Monster Gentlemen
Justin Yap Band
Kevin Borich Express
Pugsley Buzzard & The Devils Orchestra
Shane Pacey Trio
Shannon Bourne (Featuring a tribute to the Jimi Hendrix Experience)
Spiderbait with the Wangaratta Horns of Death
The Lachy Doley Group