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21 June, 2018

What an incredible 10 days celebrating the world’s best jazz in Melbourne! This year's Festival showed that jazz can happen anywhere, enjoy our wrap of highlights from the past few weeks.


Kicking off the 2018 Festival in style, An Evening with Branford Marsalis was a sold-out show at Melbourne Recital Centre, with Marsalis delighting audiences with his wit, stage presence and virtuosic ensemble interplay.  The opening weekend continued at Melbourne Recital Centre with Gretchen Parlato’s latest project flor delighting audiences with their masterful command over such beautifully delicate rhythms.  Funk legend Maceo Parker blew the roof off Hamer Hall with his tribute to Ray Charles featuring local blues-soul-jazz outfit The Meltdown Big Band and The Raelettes! It was a privilege to see and hear such an incredible collection of local and international artists at the top of their game paying tribute to a true icon of jazz.


This year’s Club Sessions were a real treat. The Opening Weekend alone saw two world premieres, with The Gravity Project, Australian musicians Paul Grabowsky AO, Rob Burke and ex-pat Australian Aaron Choulai collaborated with Japanese musicians as a part of our International Exchange program with Tokyo Jazz Festival.  That same evening the 2018 PBS Young Elder of Jazz, Brenton Foster, premiered the critically acclaimed, Love, As We Know It to a packed house at The Jazzlab. Terri Lyne Carrington’s two-night residency with social consciousness project Social Science addressed issues of freedom, racism, sexism, fluidity and multiculturalism. This extraordinary project left audiences both fired up and spellbound in equal measure!


Photo > Scenes from Late Night Jams at The Jazzlab


The Australian stated that the opening weekend performances: 

“set a standard for elegance, artistry and innovation”, and The Age wrote of Social Science “this was undeniably music as social activism – sometimes tough and uncompromising, bristling with elusive grooves, but also glinting with a kind of dark beauty”.


Incredible Club Sessions continued throughout the festival, with UK saxophonist and composer Nubya Garcia, Italian saxophonist Francesco Cafiso in collaboration with Mina Yu, Sam Anning and Danny Fischer, Tony Malaby's two club shows, Steve Sedergreen’s improvisational glory and Daniel Susnjar’s Afro-Peruvian Jazz Group with the launch of their latest album.  It was standing room only at The Jazzlab as Harry James Angus charmed audiences with his wit, soaring vocals, superb band and cunning storytelling in the presentation of Struggle with Glory.  Rounding out the second weekend was double bass legend Christian McBride playing with Marcus Strickland, Nasheet Waits and Josh Evans over four superb shows which left audiences wanting more!    


Photo > Club Sessions from L-R, Nubya Garcia, Harry James Angus and Christian McBride's New Jawn at The Jazzlab


The Festival’s Artist Workshop and Close Encounters series at MRC and The Channel, Arts Centre Melbourne featured an all-star lineup. Branford Marsalis, Terri Lyne Carrington, Gretchen Parlato, Chris Dave, Ravid Kahalani (Yemen Blues) and Christian McBride generously imparted their wisdom and knowledge behind their craft. An outstanding collection of local music industry heavy-hitters featured at the inaugural APRA AMCOS-sponsored Career Development Workshops, sharing their valuable insider knowledge.


Photo > An Evening with Branford Marsalis at Melbourne Recital Centre. 


These free sessions are essential in shaping the practice of Australia’s future musicians, plus providing deeper engagement with audiences and festival supporters, and are an essential element in the Festival’s contribution to the development Melbourne's vibrant music sector and its participants.


Mid-festival, audiences flocked to 3 gigs at 170 Russell that pushed jazz into new terrains, with searing hot LA super duo KNOWER giving audiences a performance at 200% energy levels. Yemen Blues thrilled with their world of soaring vocals and percussive beats that had audiences on their feet and wanting more and the Friday vibes were in session as Chris Dave & The Drumhedz hit all the right beats in their genre-defying performance, delivering on their promise of multilayered, beat-laden groove. 

Photo > KNOWER at 170 Russell

This year also saw the welcome return of cosmic tone scientists, Sun Ra Arkestra, for not just one but two sold-out shows at Melbourne Recital Centre and The Night Cat.


“This was music that made you happy to be alive: pulsing with chaotic energy and shot through with the flavours of New Orleans, big-band swing and zany vibrations from the free-jazz cosmos.” The Age


In 2018 the Festival continued to attract new audiences, with parents and children being entertained by Lah-Lah's Big Jazz Adventure, mass participatory music-making gathering on the lawns of State Library - Jazz Massive, and the uplifting sounds of Melbourne Mass Gospel Choir at a free all-ages gig at Southern Cross Lane.


Attendees of Barney McAll’s “Sweet Sweet Spirit” - a spectacular interpretation of the works of legendary gospel composer, Doris Akers, at Darebin Arts Centre we treated to a delight for the soul featuring vocalists Rita Satch and Belle Bangard. McAll also performed his Trilogy of Cycles at Birrarung Marr’s Federation Bells. Commissioned by the City of Melbourne it was a spectacular sunny Melbourne day for this world premiere performance.      


Jazz Out West returned bigger than ever, with an incredible program curated by Mz Rizk. Intimate venues across Footscray, Maribyrnong and Moonee Ponds hosted the likes of the Cool Out Sun, Thando, Duo Novo, Kalala & The Round Midnights and New Flower Garden, all playing to capacity crowds and proudly supported by the City of Moonee Valley and the City of Maribyrnong.  


The Festival wrapped up on Sunday 10 June with the highly anticipated singer/songwriter Madeleine Peyroux, who moved audiences at Hamer Hall with her warm charismatic storytelling and proved a delighting end to an incredible program of events.




Photo credits:

1 & 2. The Rookies at Late Night Jams. Photo > Duncan Jacob. 

3. Club Sessions at The Jazzlab. From L-R Nubya Garcia (saxophone) photo > Kim Densham. Harry James Angus Struggle With Glory (trumpet/vocals) photo > Liam Martin. Christian McBride (bass), Marcus Strickland (saxophone), Josh Evans (trumpet) and Nasheet Wait (bass). Photo > Kim Densham.  

4. An Evening with Branford Marsalis at Melbourne Recital Centre delighting audiences on the opening night of the 2018 Melbourne International Jazz Festival, Friday 1 June.  From L-R Joey Calderazzo (piano), Branford Marsalis (saxophone), Eric Revis (bass) and Justin Faulkner (drums). Photo > Anna Madden.

5. Scenes from Late Night Jams. Photo > Duncan Jacob.

6. KNOWER at 170 Russell. Photo > Jai Lafferty. 


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