The great Louis Armstrong once said, “If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know.” So if you are yet to be enlightened, yet to hear the secrets whispered by a purring clarinet or to be shaken awake by syncopated horns, then the 2015 Melbourne International Jazz Festival may be your chance to get in the know. Here’s a beginner’s guide.
Must See: Chick Corea & Herbie Hancock (USA)
Thursday 28th May
Hamer Hall will play host to jazz royalty on the festival’s opening night as two of the greatest jazz pianists of all time come together for a master class in improvisation, artistry and musical connection.
Hancock and Corea, alumni of the great Miles Davis’ 1960s ensembles, represent the two cornerstones of jazz: rhythm and improvisation. Hancock has transformed the role of the rhythm section in jazz, bringing funky grooves to the fore in his jazz classics Chameleon, Watermelon Man and Cantaloupe Island, while Corea’s skill as a soloist and ability to fuse styles is legendary in the jazz community.
Each multi-Grammy Award-winners in their individual endeavours, the duo first stunned crowds together in 1978 with an almost telepathic connection. The pair have since showcased their remarkable partnership around the world on grand pianos, keyboards, synthesizers and even keytars. Reunited to headline the Melbourne festival, this will be a display of two of the finest living jazz minds, perfectly in-sync and perfectly unique. Look past the price tag, this one is priceless.
Must Go: Uptown Jazz Café Club Sessions
Uptown Jazz Café (Fitzroy)
Different artists each night, 28th May – 7th June
Jazz is as much about the venue as it is the music. Tables scattered at the foot of the stage, lights dimmed so low so that you can’t see the dust on your stool and the boozy smell of the air making you drunk through your pores. It’s all a part of the art, the mystique, as the first stab of the horns pierces through the haze of the den.
Brunswick Street’s Uptown Jazz Café will be working overtime for the festival with fantastic artists bringing an array of authentic jazz experiences every night. This year’s bill features jazz standards, experimental improvisation trios, South American beats and fast-paced swing. Wilbur Wilde, the saxophonist from the Hey Hey It’s Saturday! house band will be swinging his axe on June the 5th, while groups Paper Tiger and Bopstretch, on the 29th of May and 3rd of June respectively, are also worth a look. This is definitely the place to be during the festival for jazz-lovers, newcomers and those looking for something different to kick off a big night in the city.
Free Fun: The Cave
Hugs n Kisses, Golden Monkey, Nieuw Amsterdam
Thursday 4th and Friday 5th June
Jazz is all about letting lose and being free, so it’s only fitting that one of the best shows of the festival is free. Returning for a 6th year, The Cave is a crazy all-night party full of jazz and wacky entertainment in Melbourne’s laneways. Expect the unexpected, as you enter a whirlwind night of quirky underground performances that the festival directors claim will this year explore the exotic and extra-terrestrial.
In previous years acts have included costume comedies, burlesque jazz, interactive noise sessions, audio-visual artworks, one-off collaborations and even some late-night jazz flute. Past headliners such as Grammy Award-nominated, ‘polyrhythmic multi-dimensional gangster shit’ outfit, Hiatus Kaiyote, and nine-man pop-funk explosion, Sex on Toast, are a good indicator that there will be a few gems when this year’s acts are released.
A highlight of recent festivals, The Cave is expanding across three venues and will run from 10pm-3am on Thursday and Friday. This is definitely one for the adventurous, those who feel that Cloud Nine and Revolver are a bit tame.
The Melbourne International Jazz Festival runs from May 28th – June 8th. The complete festival program and ticket information is available from www.melbournejazz.com.