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Albert Dadon: a jazzman for all seasons

albare by Marsel Van OostenOne thing is certain about Albert Dadon; he has a vision. In fact, he has many visions and a couple of them are jazz-related. Restless entrepreneur by day, devoted musician by night, he is set to leave his mark on the Australian jazz scene – although one could argue that this has already happened, during his time on the helm of the Melbourne International Jazz Festival and, more importantly when he started the Bell awards, an acknowledgment and celebration of excellence in jazz.

A point of reference for the jazz community in Australia, the 2016 Bell Awards are under way, with significant changes in the process, as nominations and voting are going through the newly-established Australian Jazz Academy. As if overseeing these changes wasn’t enough to keep him busy, Albert Dadon is about to present his newest venture to Melbourne’s jazz audience: Bird’s Basement, a state of the art jazz club, affiliated to New York’s iconic Birdland, will open its gates on the 1st of March, with a six night residency by Ravi Coltrane. On top of that, he is about to launch his next personal musical project. For others, this sort of trifecta would seem impossible. But he doesn’t seem to be a person who would settle for less.

“The Bells will probably survive me”

For Albert Dadon, the idea for the Australian Jazz Academy was to serve one purpose: to vote for the Bell Awards. For 13 years now, the Bells have grown to become one of the most prestigious musical institutions in Australia. “It is a very serious endeavour”, he points out, describing how things will roll out now, with the big changes announced. “The goal is to make it as democratic as possible, with the involvement of musicians and industry professionals in the nominations and voting process”. At the moment, the Academy has more than 200 members, who are currently in the process of submitting nominations – the first round of voting will start in March, and will lead to the shortlist from which the panel of judges will pick the winner in each category. “Making it to the shortlist will be equally important as winning”, says Albert Dadon. “It will be a big deal”. Being a member of the Academy will become an even bigger deal, it seems. Under the changes introduced this year, nominees will have to be members (paying an annual subscription of $10) or have their nominations endorsed by other members. However, this is going to change again, after the 1st of June. “After this year’s awards, becoming a member is going to get harder”, says Albert Dadon. “A member of the Academy will have to propose a new member”. As for some of the criticism expressed by non-members, regarding the fact that one has to pay to become eligible for an award, Albert Dadon is quick to dismiss it, pointing out that the membership fee is very small. “The point is to attract serious nominees, professional musicians, not amateurs”, he says, noting that “there is no other reward system so comprehensive, just for jazz”. As for his personal involvement to the awards, it has been very satisfying so far: “As long as people are rewarded for their excellence and it helps them in their career, I’m willing to help them”, he says. “The Bells will probably survive me”, he adds, stating that he’s happy with that. “I am certainly not doing it for myself”.

“One of the best clubs in the world”

Albert Dadon is equally ambitious about Bird’s Basement, expressing the certainty that it will become “one of the best clubs in the world”. Set up according to the highest “world and local standards”, the club aspires to regularly feature international jazz artists (starting with Ravi Coltrane, Lee Ritenour and Spyro Gyra), while at the same time showcasing some of the best local talent. Albert Dadon himself will serve as artistic director, while Adrian Jackson (one of the most respected members of the australian jazz community) has taken on the task of booking local artists. “It will be a stage for top professional musicians”, states Dadon. It is obvious that Bird’s Basement will raise the level of competition in Melbourne’s jazz scene, which already boast of four beloved clubs dedicated to jazz – not to mention other weekly regular jazz residencies among other venues. Is the Melbourne jazz scene strong enough to support this kind of competition? “It depends on how you look at it”, he says. “I see the glass half full. Melbourne is an amazing place; it has lots of cultural events and has become one of the major cultural forces in the world, constantly attracting international visitors”.

“I’m passionate about music”

Bird’s Basement will have barely taken off, when Albert Dadon will embark on an international tour, under his artistic alias, Albare. An avid guitarist, who has worked with some of the most innovative modern masters around (not least among them Antonio Santchez and Leo Genovese) and has has created a distinct world-jazz sound, combining an eclectic array of jazz traditions in his playing, Albare will be performing along a 25 piece orchestra. “It will be something very special”, he says of the project that will see him re-imagining a series of hollywood film music standards. As for the way all these different activities can coexist, he is quick to explain that “it all works hand in hand. I’ve learnt since my 20s, not to suppress”, he says, adding that he is grateful and blessed to combine his business ventures and his artistic endeavours. “I’m passionate about music”, he concludes.

About Nikos Fotakis

I've been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king. Also a father, a husband, a writer, an editor, a coffee addict, a type 1 diabetic and an expat. Born and raised in Athens. Based in Melbourne. Jazz is my country.