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4 May 2012

Jazz in Australia

Miriam Zolin's new jazz column

Award-winners Kristin Berardi, Alex Boneham, Peter Knight and Allan Browne - see also larger photo further down Image: Award-winners Kristin Berardi, Alex Boneham, Peter Knight and Allan Browne - see also larger photo further down  
© photo courtesy of the Bell Awards

When a new column starts, as this one does today, the author and editor usually have an idea of what it will look like - yet inevitably the column's form and content will change over time. It would be too ambitious to create a regular snapshot each month of everything that's happening, but taken as a series, we hope to provide picture that resonates with the flavour and texture of the jazz and improvised music scene in Australia. This first instalment in Resonate's new 'Jazz in Australia' column is unavoidably 'newsy', with the Bell Awards just announced and four jazz festivals queued up to commence in May and June in Melbourne and Sydney. Future columns, published every 1-2 months, will shine the spotlight on jazz and improvised music across the breadth of Australia, and from time to time we'll have the luxury of exploring specific aspects of this multitextured and vibrant category of music in more depth. I hope you enjoy what you read here and, more importantly, that you like it enough to provide comments and feedback or share with friends and colleagues.

The Jazz Bell Awards

The Jazz Bell Awards were celebrated at a gala dinner on Thursday 3 May 2012 - a glittering event that is becoming an institution in Australia's national jazz scene. Jazz operates in a less rarified atmosphere most of the year, so an award night with nominees, speeches, recognition and celebration (not to mention excellent catering and live music!) is a wonderful recognition of the part that jazz and improvised music play in the country's cultural landscape. Kudos to the organisers, sponsors and patrons of the Bells.

The 2012 Bells Award-winners in a group photo
2012 Bell Award winners - Ian Whitehurst (for Andrea Keller Quartet), Kristin Berardi,
Alex Boneham, Peter Knight, Allan Browne, Ros McMillan (for Brian Brown), Nick
Haywood, Reuben Zylberszpic (WhichWay Music, for Luke Howard and Janos Bruneel),
Eugene Ball (for Andrea Keller Quartet).
Photo courtesy of Bell Awards.

Awards were presented for a range of categories:

• Best Australian Jazz Vocal Album - Kristin Berardi Meets the Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra (Kristin Berardi and the JMO)
• Most Original Australian Jazz Album - Fish Boast of Fishing (Peter Knight)
• Best Australian Contemporary Jazz Album - 1234 (Nick Haywood Quartet)
• Best Australian Traditional Jazz Album - Collected Works Volume II: Fifty Years of New Orleans Jazz (Allan Browne)
• Best Australian Jazz Song of the Year - Spir (Luke Howard and Janos Bruneel)
• Best Australian Jazz Ensemble - Andrea Keller Quartet
• Young Australian Jazz Artist of the Year - Alex Boneham
• 2012 Inductee to the Graham Bell Hall of Fame - Brian Brown

For full details, see the official Bell Awards website at bellawards.org.

Festival news

May and June are big months for jazz festivals in Melbourne and Sydney, with the Darling Harbour Jazz Festival in Sydney, and, in Melbourne, the Stonnington Jazz Festival, Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival, and Melbourne International Jazz Festival. All these festivals feature local musicians, and some notable overseas visitors - spanning the spectrum of jazz and improvised music and celebrating generations of music makers.

MIJF Artistic Director Michael Tortoni has programmed with this cross-generational approach in mind, aiming for a 'pairing of jazz royalty with the voices of a rising generation'. Terence Blanchard and McCoy Tyner are programmed alongside Chris Potter, Jose James and Robert Glasper Experiment. Stonnington's program has always been unashamedly Australian, and features great local talent. This year also sees a visit by expat Barney McAll with Graft, featuring Gian Slater's Invenio Singers.

The much whittled-down Melbourne Jazz Fringe is effectively one Sunday afternoon with three concerts, the main feature of which is the APRA commissioned concert - If On a Winter's Night a Traveller by Western Australian trombonist Tilman Robinson (recently relocated to Melbourne). The suite is inspired by the nested form of the postmodern Italo Calvino novel from which its title originates. The Darling Harbour festival is an eclectic mix - look out for British legend Trevor Watts alongside local and international acts such as James Morrison, Dr Lonnie Smith and Joshua Kyle.

• Melbourne Jazz Fringe - Sunday 13 May - melbournejazzfringe.com
• Stonnington Jazz - 17-27 May - stonningtonjazz.com.au
• Melbourne International Jazz Festival - 1-10 June - melbournejazz.com
• Darling Harbour Jazz and Blues Festival - Queens Birthday Weekend 9-11 June - darlingharbour.com


- a little segment that highlights something from the Australian jazz scene that I've enjoyed listening to this month - impulsive, disinterested, unsponsored, unprompted and unfunded:

ABC Jazz has been running a series called My Favourite Things, hosted by Gerry Koster. In the series, Gerry interviews local and visiting musicians about the music that's been important to them on their creative journey. The influences are sometimes surprising and the interviews often include insightful and amusing anecdotes as musicians open up under Gerry's skilful questioning. Recent episodes feature Mike Nock, Sydney vocalist Briana Cowlishaw, Ed Partyka (recently in Australia to perform with WAYJO), Barney McAll who'll be here in May for Stonnington Jazz, and veteran drummer Ted Vining. Listen to the series and watch out for new episodes on: abcjazz.net.au/programs/talking-jazz

Farewell Ken James (1944 - 2012)

Ken James
Ken James at
the Basement,
Sydney, in the 1980s
Photo © Jane March.

Ken James (tenor and soprano saxophone and flute) sadly passed away in April. Ken was known to audiences nationally, and particularly in Sydney, where he had been a member of the unique and long-lived ensemble Ten Part Invention since its inception. Ken played in many other groups, including the Last Straw and has appeared on recordings. Saxophonist Sandy Evans OAM has made music with Ken James for many years and she offered these thoughts at his passing:

'I feel deeply privileged to have had 25 years of great experiences playing beside Ken in the saxophone section of Ten Part Invention. I always loved hearing his beautiful sound. He was one of the first players I played with who really understood the depth of tone that could come out of the saxophone. He could tap into that expressive, vocal power in the way that someone like Wayne Shorter could. Combine that with a great sense of melody and groove and you have the wonderfully unique, inventive and joyous player that was Ken.'

Miriam Zolin is the publisher and editor at extempore and jazz-planet.com. She has enjoyed listening to a broad spectrum of jazz and improvised music for a number of years. As well as regular writing about Australian musicians and their music, Miriam has recently contributed to PenTales, Griffith Review, Cordite Poetry Review, Australian Book Review and The Sleepers Almanac.


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