Conceived by a group of locals in 1989 as a way to attract visitors and raise the profile of the town, the first Wangaratta Festival of Jazz (as it was then known) was staged in 1990, with attendances at around 2500.
Since then – with blues added to the program in 1994 – it has grown to become an internationally renowned event, featuring more than 200 jazz and blues artists from the USA, the UK, Europe, Asia and Australia.
With a diverse, eclectic mix of jazz greats and rising stars, each year the program showcases jazz and blues of all styles, including original, contemporary, traditional, mainstream, experimental and improvised. A central feature remains the National Jazz Awards; a competition designed to encourage and promote young musicians.
The Festival has won numerous tourism and sponsorship awards, and is recognised internationally as the foremost jazz and blues event in Australia.
See the Festival’s full history on Wikipedia here. For more about the Festival you can also listen to these tracks and these articles:
- Live Broadcasts – Wangaratta Jazz & Blues
- Live Broadcasts – National Jazz Awards
- Wangaratta Jazz Festival – 25 Years On
Since 1990, Wangaratta has hosted performances by a remarkable array of international jazz artists. These include some of the acknowledged greats of the modern jazz era, as well as many distinctive and significant artists who richly deserve wider recognition, and quite a few emerging stars who have gone on to achieve wider acclaim.
Among the bands/artists to appear at Wangaratta from the USA have been:
- The Zawinul Syndicate, the Dave Holland Quintet, the John Scofield-Joe Lovano Quartet, David Murray’s Black Saint Quartet, the Dave Douglas Quintet, Mark Helias’ Open/Loose, Trio M
- Singers Betty Carter, Sheila Jordan, Kurt Elling, Kendra Shank, Gretchen Parlato, Gregory Porter and Freddie Cole
- Saxophonists Steve Lacy, Sam Rivers, Dewey Redman, Oliver Lake, Dave Liebman, Arthur Blythe, Gary Bartz, Frank Morgan, Odean Pope and Vincent Herring
- Guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel
- Trombonist Josh Roseman
- Trumpeter Charles Tolliver
- Drummer Ari Hoenig
- Bassists Curtis Lundy and Barre Phillips
- Pianists Kenny Kirkland, Geri Allen, Jim McNeely, Barry Harris, Henry Butler, George Cables, Horace Tapscott, Gerald Clayton and Fabian Almazan.
Visitors from Europe have included:
- From the Netherlands, drummer Han Bennink with the Clusone Trio, with the Borstlap-Glerum-Bennink trio, the Eric Boeren 4tet and the ICP Orchestra, along with Available Jelly, the Willem Breuker Kollektief and the Yuri Honing Quartet
- From France, the Louis Sclavis Quintet, Denis Colin with La Societe desAntipodes and vocalist Cyrille Aimee
- From Norway, the Tord Gustavsen Trio and saxophonist Froy Aagre
- From Sweden, the Esbjorn Svensson Trio (EST), the Tolvan Big Band and The Swedish Jazz Kings
- From Denmark, saxophonist Jakob Dinesen
- From Poland, trumpet maestro Tomasz Stanko and his Quartet
- From Germany, Norbert Stein’s Pata Masters, Florian Ross, Nils Wogram’s Root 70, Laia Genc’s Liaison Tonique and Carsten Daerr Trio
- From Portugal, vocalist Sara Serpa and guitarist Andre Matos
- From the UK, saxophonist Trevor Watts with his Moire Music ensemble, saxophonist Danny Moss, singer Claire Martin and The Lighthouse Trio
- From Ireland, bassist Ronan Guilfoyle and his Trio
- From Luxembourg, vibist Pascal Schumacher and his Quartet
- From Finland, the Ilmiliekki Quartet , saxophonist Jukka Perko
- From Belgium, the Jef Neve Trio
- Several Australian musicians successfully pursuing their careers overseas have returned to perform with their international bands at Wangaratta, including Barney McAll, Bryce Rohde, Sean Wayland, Peter O’Mara, Chris McNulty, Aaron Choulai and Linda Oh.
- The Australian Art Orchestra has performed concerts with guest musicians from India and from Indonesia. Many of the Festival’s international guests have enjoyed memorable collaborations with Australian musicians at Wangaratta.