Spring is here – which, of course, means only one thing: it’s time for the annual trip to Victoria’s high country, for this year’s edition of Australia’s most beloved rural jazz & blues festival. The 2015 Wangaratta jazz & blues festival will take place from the 30th of October to the 2nd of November, and – as usual – features some of the best local and international artists.
This year’s guest of honor is Dave Douglas; the extraordinary trumpet master returns to Australia and he will be pairing with Australia’s improvising genius Paul Grabowsky; he will also perform his suite “Fabliaux” with the Monash Art Ensemble, he will talk to Matt McMahon and, of course, play with his own astounding quintet, featuring the extremely talented Linda Oh on bass. Wangaratta Jazz has been chronicling her meteoric rise in the international jazz scene since 2009 and it will do so once again, as the bassist will also play with her own quartet, as well as with Gian Slater, in an intimate, duet setting.
Speaking of fearless women in jazz, Jane Bunnett is an unstoppable force. The Canadian saxophonist/ flautist/ band leader has been tirelessly exploring and expanding the rich musical culture of Afro-Cuban jazz and she’s coming to Wangaratta to present the outcome of her work, leading an all-female band of young Cuban musicians, called Maqueque (which is Yoruba for “the spirit of a young girl”).
Apart from the international stars, Wangaratta is, of course, a great opportunity for the Australian artists to interact and present their new ventures – and to honour the nominees and winners of the National Jazz Awards, of course. Among the most exciting in this year’s programme is the trio of Kristin Berardi with Sean Foran and Raffael Carlen. The trio will present their very emotional project, Hope in my Pocket, a collection of songs inspired by the letters sent home from the front by some of the original ANZACs in the first world war. Rob Burke will also be playing, as will Paul Williamson, James Morrison, Daniel Susnjar, Mike Nock and many more.
Oh yes, the legendary Canned Heat will also be there with their version of electrifying blues-based greatness; after all, it was them who urged us to go “up the country” in the first place, in another long weekend celebration of peace, love and music.