The milestone 25th Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues drew to a close on Monday 3 November after four days and nights of stunning performances and collaborations.
The city was transformed as the streets and venues came alive with the sounds of cool jazz and rousing blues in a program that featured outstanding international artists alongside the cream of Australia’s finest.
Staged in venues throughout Wangaratta and nearby wineries, audiences were treated to over 100 concerts that featured fearless improvising, premiere collaborations and exciting debut performances from more than 300 musicians, as well as free artist talks and masterclasses.
Box office recorded yet another strong result, up on previous years and exceeding expectations, enabling the Festival to reach capacity with attendances of 25,000. Audiences came from Wangaratta and surrounds, Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, regional Victoria and NSW.
Festival Chair, Paul Squires said, “This was another outstanding Festival, and a wonderful celebration of our 25th year with concerts packed out across multiple venues. Congratulations to Artistic DirectorAdrian Jackson who again programmed an incredible line up that attracted such great crowds. The rain on Saturday didn’t dampen anyone’s enthusiasm! As the sun came out, the party got under way and Wangaratta continued to shine across the weekend.”
“The success of the Festival is great credit to the Festival team, the board, our amazing army of volunteers, the musicians who have such loyalty to the Festival, and of course our sponsors. The challenge for the board is to build on this success and expand on our vision for the future,” concluded Squires.
Adrian Jackson, Festival Director said, “So many factors go into making a festival a success. A key ingredient, of course, is the music itself. And the way the musicians embrace this festival comes through in their performances. They love playing at Wangaratta, they want to produce music that is special and memorable, and almost without exception, that is what has happened in the gigs that I’ve caught this year.”
Festival highlights included 6-time Grammy Award winning drummer Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts (USA), one of the giants of European jazz – trumpet/flugelhorn maestro Enrico Rava (ITALY), New York-based saxophonist Lisa Parrott (AUS/USA) and composer/trumpeter Laura Watts (USA). Audiences also enjoyed mesmerising solo piano performances from Paul Grabowsky and Steve Grant in the Cathedral, the eclectic Australian Art Orchestra’s Struttin with some Barbecue, Jazz Mass on the sunny Sunday morning with Shirazz’s classic hot jazz and National Jazz Awards judges Stephen Magnusson and James Muller collaborating on stage in their Quartet.
The CSU GOTAFE Blues Marquee was once again packed, with festivalgoers revelling in Blues Hall of Famer Joe Louis Walker; Nick Charles and Doc Span’s tribute to the rich legacy of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhie and celebrating two 25-year milestones, the festival’s and the formation of Sydney’sBondi Cigars.
The region’s finest produce and upcoming artists again drew capacity crowds at the free Reid Street Stages. Many festivalgoers also stopped by at the piano on the bridge between the jazz and blues venues to play a tribute to their music teachers.
On Sunday 2 November, the prestigious 2014 National Jazz Awards saw 26-year-old Carl Morgan take out first prize, winning $12,000, an ABC recording session and an invitation to perform at the 2015 Stonnington Jazz Festival. Melbourne’s Hugh Stuckey was runner-up and Sydney’s Peter Koopman received third prize.
On Monday 3 November the festivities continued with performances from the likes of Fiona Boyesand the Three Kings and the Justin Yap Band in nearby wineries and the Next Gen Showcase. Mark Isaacs, Emma Pask and their bands brought the festival to an unforgettable close with the annualCup Eve Concert.
Friday 30 October – Monday 2 November 2015