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All that jazz: Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2013

Elizabeth Yick

Tue May 28 2013


THE Melbourne International Jazz Festival kicks off this Friday, and for those unfamiliar with the genre, there’s no better time to get exploring. Elizabeth Yick has the details.

It’s going to be an exciting year for the Melbourne International Jazz Festival running from May 31 through to June 9.

With more than 100 acts taking place at 16 unique venues across 10 exciting days, the festival will be featuring big ticket performances by internationally renowned jazz artists as well as intimate gigs by new, up-and-coming local talents.

As a musical genre, jazz is considered to be special due to its distinct balance between the classical composition of music and the spontaneous flare of the performer. Jazz, it is said, is built upon the communication and connection between the artist and their audience. It is more than a performance – it is a conversation, one conducted with the language of music.

For those unfamiliar with jazz, the opening gala of the festival is a good chance to get acquainted with the groove. Titled ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’, this concert will feature three of Australia’s finest jazz performers: pianist/vocalist Sarah McKenzie, vocalist and renowned improviser Michelle Nicolle and special guest artist Mahalia Barnes. These three artists will be reinterpreting some of the genre’s classic tunes.


One of America’s most esteemed singers, Cassandra Wilson, will appear in Australia for the first time in more than a decade. Photo: Erinc Salor via Flickr

Must-see acts at the festival include Kneebody, a group from the United States whose combination of  jazz, hip-hop, and rock create some of the most truly postmodern instrumental music today, as well as ‘America’s Best Singer’ Cassandra Wilson, who will be performing in her first appearance in Australia in more than a decade.

Other much anticipated acts include the distinct-sounding Texan fusion group Snarky Puppy, infamous bass-playing ‘mutant jazz cat’ Thundercat (aka Stephen Bruner), and orchestral and jazz composer-arranger-violinist extraordinaire Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, who will be giving a one-night only performance with his ensemble.

On the local scene, there will be the festival-exclusive ‘774’s Roaring Swing’, an all-jazzy, all-dancing extravaganza headed by two of Melbourne’s most explosive Jazz bands – Michael McQuaid’s Red Hot Rhythmakers and Leigh Barker & The New Sheiks. Here you’ll be able to dance your way back to 1920s New York City with what promises to be a night to be remembered.


Texas-based group, Snarky Puppy, will be bringing their eclectic brand of jazz and funk to Melbourne. Photo: Jim Wall via Flickr

For those who are interested in the development of jazz music, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) will be presenting Jazz on Film – a collection of documentaries and feature films that capture the history and permeation of jazz. If that doesn’t satisfy your jazz appetite, the Wheeler Centre beneath the State Library will be running a series of free masterclasses with some of the most influential contemporary jazz artists.

Also planned will be a number of free concerts to be held daily in Federation Square for those unsure whether jazz is their thing.

For more on the festival, ticketing information and the various events on offer, visit the official Melbourne International Jazz Festival website.