Festival review by Vanessa Perica: Perth International Jazz Festival 2014

by Vanessa Perica

After the success of the inaugural Perth International Jazz Festival, expectations were high in the lead up to the second. Billed as the jewel of the program, Kate Ceberano performing with the PIJF All-Star Big Band was a brilliant way to kick off the festival. Supported by Bell Award winning saxophonist Julien Wilson and his trio, the material, reminiscent of a film score, filled the Concert Hall with lush harmonic progressions and seamless interweaving lines. The trio comprising of Steve Magnusson (guitar) and Steve Grant (accordion), provided the perfect contrast for what was to come.

Greg Osby - Taran Dunn
Greg Osby at PIJF | photo by Taran Dunn

Ceberano is undisputedly a born entertainer. Her initial forays into the jazz world at the very same venue were revisited as she convincingly made her way through as she put it, “classics from her record collection”. From the subtleties of ‘Embraceable You’ to the soaring heights of tunes such as ‘Night and Day’, Ceberano displayed that she is well at home in this genre. This in combination with her relaxed, witty banter ensured she was a crowd hit.

The Big Band was stacked with Australia’s finest locals and ex-pats to form an incredibly tight and powerful unit after only “one, yet comprehensive, rehearsal”, according to Ceberano. The night was capped off by a swinging rendition of ‘Sunny Side of the Street’ featuring a screaming trumpet solo by Matthew Jodrell.

With 48 performances at 14 venues on offer, it was impossible to experience them all, but there were plenty of other highlights over the weekend. At a concert set amongst the rooftops of the city skyline at the Urban Orchard the New-York saxophonist Greg Osby showed us why he is a heavyweight on the international scene. Osby is slick yet intense and always impeccably presented; these qualities are mirrored in his virtuosic playing. He performed to a large and attentive audience.

The Urban Orchard also hosted Latin-Jazz institution from Melbourne, Los Cabrones. The band proved to be a wildcard hit with the Saturday night audience and had the majority of them dancing throughout the set. A short walk to The Ellington Jazz Club saw the reunion of Sly after a two and a half year hiatus. With Sly, Void and Troy Robert’s Nu-Jive – fusion, fans were in heaven this weekend, as these crowd favourites returned to their hi-octane best.

On Sunday, under crisp, blue Autumn skies, it was the perfect opportunity to soak up the sun on the steps of the Art Gallery and sip on a cider. Audiences were treated to New-York guitarist Peter Bernstein and vocalist Allira Wilson (Melbourne) among many others. Bernstein is a class act. He along with his Hammond group, featuring Tom O’Halloran, Jamie Oehlers and Daniel Susnjar, paid homage to the ’50s bop period that Bernstein delivers so well. It is no surprise that this man has been Sonny Rollins’ guitarist of choice for many years. Originally hailing from Perth, Wilson proved why she is getting a lot of attention after her album release and recent Bell Award win. A flawless interpreter, she pays due respect to the tradition within her explorations. Her originals along with her re-harmonisations of jazz standards were enhanced by the melodic Jordan Murray on trombone.

Tal Cohen 1 - Wilfred Cheung
Tal Cohen playing at PIJF | image by Wilfred Cheung

Later in Forrest Place, the Tal Cohen Quartet was as dynamic as ever. Pianist Cohen, who now calls Miami home, has been performing with trumpet legend Terence Blanchard; and it is no wonder why. His harmonic approach which draws heavily from his Israeli heritage, combines with a technique that is nothing short of astounding. Cohen regularly leaves audiences with jaws dropped.

The most dynamic hub of the festival was to be found at the The Jazz Quarter in Brookfield Place. Three stages set amidst a thriving small bar scene encompassing several styles from some of our favourite locals. Mat Jodrell’s trad set swung like crazy and had the crowd fully engaged. Longtime friends Jordan Murray and saxophonist Carl Mackey relished a rare opportunity to play together. Kindred spirits in their approach to the music, their all-original program was filled with impassioned melodies and showed the audience massive heart and soul. Young rising star Harry Mitchell on piano was a standout, proving that the future of the music is in good hands. Daniel Susnjar’s Afro Peruvian Jazz Group was dynamic and tight; this is a line-up to watch out for. an equally entertaining experience. Susnjar’s writing for this project draws on his doctorate studies in Peru in 2011

One minor flaw of The Jazz Quarter, was the spill from the adjoining stages. In future, the organisers could perhaps consider a different location for a third stage, or refine the timings.

This minor detail aside, a big congratulations is in order for Artistic Director Graham Wood and team. This was a well programmed, thoroughly enjoyable consolidatory year that still has the Perth Jazz community abuzz. Bring on next year and hopefully many more to come.


Perth International Jazz Festival website

Read another review of the festival – by Garry Lee




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