Wangaratta Jazz & the National Jazz Awards go international

by Sean Foran, Board member

Australian jazz musicians have a long history of taking their music to the rest of the world and in 2019 the Wangaratta Jazz Festival continues to stretch its reach internationally with performances by National Jazz Award winner Alex Hirlian and his band ARCING WIRES at the 41st Amersfoort International Jazz Festival, 23-26 May 2019.

Located in the historic Dutch city of Amersfoort, the festival is an embracing experience, with an attendance of over 80,000 people over 4 days listening to an eclectic mix of improvised music, fusing a range of genres, traditions and cultures, performed by musicians from around the world.

With over 350 artists on 18 dedicated stages – from huge city square outdoors stages to intimate rooms in churches and historic buildings – the festival presents established artists from across Europe and the USA alongside emerging artists from around the globe.

Since 2017, the annual festival Amersfoort Jazz has successfully hosted the SENA Performers International Jazz Laureate Festival. The purpose of this event is to foster international careers by creating an environment for finalists from jazz and world music competitions worldwide. Besides performing at the festival Amersfoort Jazz, the laureates establish global connections and start meaningful collaborations through the exchange of talents. The festival enables international laureates to network with festival directors from around the globe.

The Wangaratta Jazz Festival is proud to be a part of the Laureate Festival, giving some of the countries most progressive emerging musicians an international platform for their work and fast-tracked networking opportunities within the European market.

Alex and his band are the second Laureates from Wangaratta to perform, following on from James Macauley in 2018, and they delivered two performances of powerful music at Amersfoort.

Featuring Hirlian on Drums, with Nish Manjunath (Saxophones/effects), Felix Lalanne & Yutaro Okuda (guitars) and Nick Henderson (Electric bass), ARCING WIRES peformed first at the De Lieve Vrouw theatre, opening the Laureate Festival. The high energy music of the group was a blast of southern air for the audience. Fusing improvised concepts with rock based riffs, a dose of distortion, and shifting time signatures, the band breezed through some hard hitting original music showcasing the depth of talent in the group. Hirlian featured throughout, driving the band with a shifting pallete of grooves, complex, but rock solid through the challenging material.

Their second performance on Saturday evening at the Mannenzaal (a chapel and former medieval infirmary) saw the band relax further into the material. It was louder, grooves were dirtier, riffs were darker.. yes, the music of ARCING WIRES was unique in the festival line up, and I think by this stage the band had realised, yeah… people are into this.. They were right.

In a brief interview with Hirlian I asked him about his experience at Amersfoort.

Ubud Jazz Festival (Alex Hirlian’s ARCING WIRES in the lineup)

Sponsors and supporters

Rabobank Amersfoort Jazz Festival

Red Rock Drums Australia

Pughouse Studios

APRA AMCOS

ABC Jazz