Jazzing it up in the city
Libby Hammer and band. Picture: Nik Babic

Jazz festivals have come and gone in WA over the past 30 years, their success or failure as much dependent on the energies and staying power of organisers as audience response.

Jazz fans may fondly recall the York jazz festivals of the 80s and 90s, which went from volunteer-run events to more commercially driven enterprises, finally running out of steam on both fronts.

Then there were the short-lived Fremantle jazz festivals run under the auspices of Sean Doran's Perth International Arts Festival in the early 2000s.

Even regional centres such as Bunbury have got into the act in the past decade but none of them has really stayed the distance to make much of an impact on the cultural scene.

But hopes are high for the longevity of the newly minted Perth International Jazz Festival run out of The Ellington Jazz Club by its enterprising owner-operator and jazz pianist Graham Wood.

Wood's team put together a successful inaugural festival last year, and they're back again with wall-to-wall jazz in and around central Perth and Northbridge this weekend.

"Yes, we're bigger than last year's first-up festival, and have branched out into a number of different venues," Wood says. Those venues include the courtyard of the State Theatre Centre (renamed the Singers Lounge for obvious reasons), the Urban Orchard (the Fringe Festival grounds above the carpark of the Art Gallery of WA) , Brookfield Place off St Georges Terrace and bars along William Street.

Like many jazz festivals, the artists will be coming from all over the city - and some from as far away as New York and Florida.

Many Perth-raised jazz musicians now study and live overseas, so the jazz festival is a chance to return home - if only briefly - to again play with the colleagues with whom they trained, mostly at the WA Academy of Performing Arts.

The festival is a mix of the ticketed and the free, with the headline act at the Perth Concert Hall featuring Kate Ceberano and a host of Perth's most talented jazz musicians.

This year's international guests are New York-based saxophonist Greg Osby and guitarist Peter Bernstein, who will give separate

concerts with local musicians.

Australian-born singer Chris McNulty, who has lived in New York for 28 years, is also in the program.

Interstate artists include Latin jazz exponent Leo Salvo and his Afro- Cuban Quintet from Melbourne, vocalists Josh Kyle (Melbourne) Kristin Berardi (Queensland) multi- instrumentalist and vocalist Rai Thistlethwayte (also a member of rock outfit Thirsty Merc).

An unusual entry this year is Iranian-born singer Tara Tiba and her Middle- Eastern band, who will provide "jazz with a Persian twist".

The emergence of "Persian jazz" is indicative of the broad definition of jazz these days.

Many Perth-raised jazz musicians now study and live overseas, so the jazz festival is a chance to return home - if only briefly - to again play with the colleagues with whom they trained, mostly at the WA Academy of Performing Arts.

The West Australian

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