Now in its twenty-first year, the Melbourne International Jazz Festival is back, to re-invigorate and challenge people’s understanding of jazz – with a ten-day celebration.
Offering a selection of events that run from the crisp lawns of the State Library Victoria to the city’s iconic clubs and venues, the festival has more than 100 events with more than 400 Australian, international and emerging artists providing a range of music in the genre previously unseen. This year’s events will vary from world-class Hamer Hall performances to intimate jazz clubs, cafes and everything in between.
Melbourne International Jazz Festival artistic director, Michael Tortoni says this year’s festival shows the common ground jazz offers bringing together a diversity of artists, genres and experiences. “This year our program focuses on the waves of influence that jazz has – both within itself and also the influence it has on other music genres. We are really excited to showcase some of the future directions of this vital and ever-evolving art form,” said Tortoni.
Some of 2018 performers include funk legend Maceo Parker (USA) performing a tribute to Ray Charles, jazz-blues chanteuse Madeleine Peyroux (USA), and a large selection of international performances as well as popular Australian performers like Paul Grabowsky AO and James Morrison, among many others.
Previews of some of the Festival performers include:
"It could be said that the measure of an artist can be taken by the individuality of their work - and if this were the case, Gretchen Parlato and her band would be in a league of their own. Expert musicians, she does play or use her voice like an instrument and her band are equally at ease and talented.
The mix of music is also a wonderful hybrid of sounds, sometimes jazz, sometimes classical, other times Brazillian jazz or medieval sounds but also unique and fascinating, taking you on a tale all of their own. Incorporating a little David Bowie, a bit of samba and sounds meshing several genres, Gretchen Parlato is as good as they hail her - worth every moment if you get the chance to see her. In addition, the opening act, the talented Sam Anning Sextet, played before hand, and also proved consummate professionals. Offering a more traditional jazz sound which was in direct contrast to Gretchen Parlato, who was the indefinable opposite of this."
(written by Angela Perez)
The Gravity Project is a cross-cultural exchange with the Tokyo Jazz Festival exploring the frontiers of contemporary improvisation. Paul Grabowsky AO is joined by shakuhachi master Masaki Nakamura, alongside other performers to create a unique musical moment.
"On one of Melbourne’s best jazz stages - the Jazz Lab - The Gravity Project’s world premiere took place taking the audience through a breathtaking musical journey between Australia and Japan.
The Gravity Project is a cross-cultural exchange with the Tokyo Jazz Festival exploring the frontiers of contemporary improvisation. Initiated by Paul Grabowsky, The Gravity Project aims to create a transcultural musical dialogue with the collaboration of master Japanese musicians and the best Australian improvisers.
Wearing their finest traditional kimonos, Masaki Nakamura and Kuniko Obina bring on centre-stage their shakuhachi and koto instruments to merge traditional Japanese music in Western classical and jazz melodies composed by Paul Grabowsky (piano), with the Tokyo-based Australian musician Aaron Chulai (laptop/electronics) and Rob Burke (saxophone).
Joined by outstanding musicians Niran Dasika (trumpet), Marty Holoubek (bass) and James Maclean (drum), it’s only a few but long and amazing well-chosen pieces which bring the audience to levitation and meditation, breaking through the cultural barriers to speak the universal language of music."
(written by Angela Perez)
With its own intoxicating mix of music that incorporates West African rhythms with Yemeni culture and melodies of jazz and funk, this is the music of cultural crossroads. Renowned for their energetic and powerful performances.
All Melbournians of a certain age have a history with 170 Russell Street. Walking down the stairs into the basement venue, you can’t help but flash back to the good old Billboard days and quietly thank the music gods that YouTube wasn’t a thing back then.
"Yemen Blues is cross-cultural band that commands a devoted following. Their music is passionate, exciting and exotic. They blend blues, jazz, Jewish Yemenite vocals and rhythmic percussion in a way that is both wild and controlled, and dare I say it, downright sexy. They perform with a confidence that would make Jagger swoon. Their influences are culturally varied but come together in a heart thumping synergy that will dare you not to join the exuberant clapping and dancing of the boisterous and appreciative crowd.
Ravid Kahalani’s magical vocals transport you out of the iconic old venue to a place far, far away. It is a little wonderful watching the band enjoy their music and performance, often smiling and laughing with each other and playing up for the crowd. Special shout out to Edo Gur on the trumpet who had me fantasising we were sharing a moment.
The lyrics are in Arabic, Hebrew and French, though the music is so emotive the language becomes universal, taking you on a journey that has you grinning and humming along whether you are fluent or not.
An absolute must see, Yemen Blues are a band that you can’t walk away from. The moment you see them live you will hunt down their music and join the ranks of their fast growing following."
(written by Faith Sinnott)
A lead on Norwegian experimental scene, Kim Myhr will premiere a new piece created especially for the shape-shifting 10-piece, the Australian Art Orchestra. Featuring acoustic and electronic textures, Myhr will play a complex interplay of rhythmic pulses, visceral texture and psychedelic-like density.
"This show was a mesh of the experimental and melodic at the Substation in Newport. Starting with Tony Buck whose mixture of sounds, made up of three parts included drum kit and electric guitar and unusual wind chime instruments, it was iconoclastic and haunting, with a sense of artwork prevailing the music.
This sense of art continued with Peter Knight, whose performance also felt like a creation of music with laptop, with touches of trumpet and dropping rice, to accompany. In contrast to both these performers, Kim Myhr’s sound was relatively melodic but still experimental. With a strong American folk tune and long strumming pieces, the music seemed less conceptual and more approachable while remaining creative and new.
Each unique in their own right, this show mixed up your sense of what music, jazz and sound should be and left you questioning if there are borders or fringes of sound and jazz, and leaving you with a new appreciation of the atmospheric journey music can take you on."
(written by Angela Perez)
One key component of the Melbourne International Jazz Festival is Jazz Out West, organised by guest programmer local DJ, radio broadcaster and music personality, MzRizk.
Excited about the line-up planned for Jazz Out West, she believes these shows offer cutting edge music, not normally associated with jazz. “The Jazz Out West program offers a lot of contemporary artists that a lot of traditional jazz fans wouldn’t normally listen to…and provides a space for them to create concepts that haven’t normally made jazz.”
Keen to push the boundaries of what Jazz is seen as by the wider community, MzRizk is proud of the Stepping into Tomorrow event where six beatmakers will pay tribute to the greats of jazz, saying it is a one-of-a-kind event.
Proud of the seven major Jazz Out West events, MzRizk says there is a lot on offer. “The events are a really good reflection of the variety that is on offer during the festival- and proof that it is not locked into one genre and reflects a really good mixture of socio-economic variety.”
The festival also offers a range of workshops for musicians and free events. One of the most unique is Jazz Massive – where a huge participatory mass-music making event is held on the lawns of the State Library Victoria.
Love your music? View all events for the Melbourne International Jazz Festival on their website here.
Dates: 1 - 10 June 2018
Location: multiple locations – see website for details
Times: full listings of times - see website for full details