Adam Simmons – is a Melbourne-based musician, composer, director, music educator and band leader. A virtuoso player of saxophones, clarinets, flute and shakuhachi (Japanese flute), Simmons stretches the boundaries of modern composition and infuses a sense of wonder and playfulness into musical art forms better known for their gravitas. He is an award-winning and world-renowned musician with a growing reputation as one of Australia’s most prolific and eclectic musical artists, appearing on festival stages and recordings with some of the world’s finest classical, avant garde and jazz musicians.
His performances are not so much ‘concerts’ as staged auditory spectacles—drawing audiences in to share in the uniquely communal power and euphoria of his music and art. He has a rare and uncanny ability to elicit the very best from the highly accomplished musicians he works with, as well as evoking spine-tingling emotion and rapturous applause from audiences. His concerts are joyous, inspired cross-genre collaborations with virtuoso musicians and theatrical artists.
He was artist-in-residence for FOMA MONA 2018 and won a coveted place in the Australia Council’s prestigious Arts Leaders Program 2017-18. He participates regularly in major European jazz festivals, and in July 2018 will complete the final of his epic concert series under the banner of The Usefulness of Art. Comprising five unique and original concerts over 2017-18, The Usefulness of Art is inspired by a Rodin quote, and is the driving force behind Simmons’ formidable musical career.
The first four concerts have elicited rapturous praise from critics and audiences alike, including The Age’s Jessica Nicholas: “… another marvellously assured step in Simmons’ own journey as musician and composer, and a potent demonstration of the usefulness – no, the necessity – of art as an expression of our collective humanity.”
Two 5-star reviews in a row by Raphael Solarsh of Arts Hub effused: “Simmons’ music is rich and evocative with the cinematic string arrangement given a grittier and more tactile edge by saxophony that spanned subtle breath all the way to unrestrained wail” and “…a lush and cinematic appeal to euphoria and melancholia of outer exploration… a raw and emotive tour de force… another masterpiece by Simmons and his collaborators”.
Classical Reviewer Clive O’Connell wrote, “At a time when really adventurous musical events are rare, this night was a breath of fresh air, leaving you elated with its accomplishment,” and Des Cowley, Australian Book Review, described one concert as, “… a triumph in every way”, and another as demonstrating “… jazz’s capacity to continually extend its horizons, drawing sustenance from an array of musical influences: world, classical, experimental. In looking for a parallel—and while acknowledging that the music is of an entirely different order—I was reminded of Duke Ellington’s masterpiece The Far East Suite.” Freelance journalist / author Leon Gettler has described Adam as: “One of this country’s most electrifying instrumentalists… he defies classification.”
Zoe Hauptmann – Bassist and Artistic Director for Sydney Improvised Music Association(SIMA)
Zoe Hauptmann is the Artistic Director for SIMA, Australia’s leading national contemporary Jazz organisation , co-artistic director for the Sydney International Women’s Jazz Festival and is also one of the countries busiest bassists.
Coming from a Jazz background , Zoe plays both acoustic and electric bass.
Zoe has toured nationally and internationally with iconic artists including Neil Finn, Paul Kelly, Katie Noonan, Wendy Mathews, Justine Clarke, Missy Higgins and Tim Rogers.
She has recorded bass on over 70 albums and says a career highlight was getting to cuddle Big Ted when she made a guest appearance on Play School.
“I have a strong commitment and deep love for Australian Made Jazz. In my opinion this country produces some of the most exciting and vibrant new music that can be heard anywhere in the world. I look forward to showcasing the very best of our homegrown talent at this years festival ,along with some killer internationals thrown in for good measure! “
Scott Solimo – Scott Solimo is an experienced educator and professional musician from Wangaratta.
Scott has been involved with the Wangaratta Jazz & Blues Festival for 22 years as a performer (Blues Bros 3677). Scott has also supported Australian acts: Ross Wilson, James Reyne, Russell Morris, Brian Cadd, Bongo Starkey (Skyhooks) to name a few.
Scott has also been involved as a voluntary artistic director for the Community Stage and more recently the Gardens and Blues Stages.
Frank Davidson – Frank has had a long association with all genres of since his introduction to music in front of the home hi fi listening to everything from The Beatles to Frank Zappa, The Doobie Brothers to Jethro Tull & The Sonics to Alberta Hunter amongst many others.
With a lengthy career in college commercial and community radio both in Australia and the US, Frank brings to the festival a keen interest in stretching the boundaries of jazz and blues with a clear eye on sustaining the rich legacy of Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues.
Having been a volunteer MC & Stage Manager since the early 90’s, as well as a former festival board member for 4 years, it was an easy ‘Yes’ to the request from the board to take on the Co-Artistic Director role with Adam Scott and Zoe for 2017 and beyond.
Frank continues to stay abreast of the music scene through his weekly Warrnambool based radio show,a different shade of blue Sunday nights from 9 on 3wayfm.org.au and fills in as needed for Helen Jennings on Melbourne’s PBS Roots of Rhythm.
“I trust this year’s program musically enriches and fulfills your expectations and I welcome back the many friends visitors and patrons who make the annual pilgrimage to Wangaratta….expect the unexpected and enjoy.”