2020 Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues online program announced

WFJB-Margie-Lou-Dyer-QuintetAn exciting program featuring Australia’s premier jazz and blues artists, new commissions and collaborations, never before seen archival footage, an exclusive international appearance and the distinguished National Jazz Awards, mark the 30th edition of the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues.

Co-Artistic Directors Zoe Hauptmann, Eugene Ball and Scott Solimo have fashioned a rich and diverse program, which for the first time will be presented digitally due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions, in an extended 7-day timeframe from Monday 26 October to Sunday 1 November 2020.

“In recent months, the format and program have been reimagined and rebuilt many times,” said Eugene Ball. “However, despite the hurdles that COVID-19 has presented, we have arrived at a program that celebrates the Festival’s unique identity and its contribution to the Australian jazz and blues community over the last 30 years.”

Since 1990 the National Jazz Awards have provided invaluable career development to leading Australian jazz musicians with many past winners and finalists having gone on to achieve national and international acclaim.

The vocal artistry of this year’s 10 finalists – Harriett Allcroft (VIC), Briana Cowlishaw (NSW), Olivia Chindamo (VIC), Amelia Evans (VIC), Lucy Iffla (WA), Lauren Henderson (SA), Josh Kyle (VIC), Owen Measday (WA), Rita Satch (VIC) and Jessica Spina (QLD) – will be seen across the week.

Accompanied by some of Australia’s top pianists, each finalist’s performance will be recorded in their home state, in accordance with COVID-19 restrictions. Two finalist performances will be screened nightly from Monday 26 to Friday 30 October.

Michelle Nicolle, Kristin Berardi and Sam Keevers will judge the performances, with the winner and runners up announced on Saturday 31 October.  The winner will receive $7,000 and a recording session with Pughouse Studios, 2nd prize $4,000 and 3rd prize $2,000.

In a fitting tribute to a man who left an indelible mark on the Festival, rare and previously unpublished footage of performances by leading Australian jazz artists from the 2016 Allan Browne Memorial Concert will be broadcast across the Festival. This footage, which undoubtedly is a program highlight, has been generously provided by the Melbourne Jazz Co-operative.

In the first of these performances, equal parts adventure and beauty are on show on Monday 26 October, when stalwarts of the jazz scene, Barney McAll (piano), Julien Wilson (sax) and Sam Anning (double bass), usher in emerging drummer Dom Stitt.

Tuesday 27 October features a double header with Margie Lou Dyer Quintet presenting songs from the early jazz canon, with Margie Lou (piano/voice), Hayley Browne (washboard), Howard Cairns (double bass), Cameron Robbins (clarinet) and Co-Artistic Director Eugene Ball on cornet.

Next up, under the auspice of two founding members of the Red Onion Jazz Band, Brett Iggulden (trumpet/soprano sax), John Scurry (guitar), Lyn Wallis (drums), Howard Cairns (double bass) and Julien Wilson (tenor saxophone) pay homage to the legendary Allan Browne in Al’s Emotional Baggage Handlers. 

Thursday 29 October features Tim Stevens and Nick Haywood deftly plying their thoughtful and unique approach to standards and original works whilst Keller I Murphy I Ball, unites multi award-winning pianist Andrea Keller, trumpeter Eugene Ball and bassist Tamara Murphy.

Rounding out the evening is the Festival commission, Stills in Motion – A Retrospective, a photo essay from journalist, photographer and jazz devotee Roger Mitchell, documenting Festival highlights across the years.

On Wednesday 28 October, commissioned by the Festival, I Heart Improvisation presents exhilarating, improvised short works from leading and emerging artists – Maria Moles (drums), Scott Tinkler (trumpet) and a co-presentation with the MJC featuring duo WOLFA aka Jenny Barnes (voice) and Mick Meagher (electric bass).

Across 2017-18, then Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues Co-Artistic Director, Adam Simmons, nurtured a reciprocal relationship with Netherlands’ Amersfoort Jazz Festival. This year the Festival honours that relationship with The Amersfoot Connection, presenting the Australian debut of 2018 Amersfoort Laureate, Kika Sprangers Large Ensemble. In the Netherlands and beyond, Dutch saxophonist Kika is regarded as one of the finest young talents in contemporary jazz.

Drummer, composer and 2018 National Jazz Award winner, Alex Hirlian who performed at Amersfoort in 2019, premieres his Festival commission with his sextet Arcing Wires, an enigmatic fusion of math rock, progressive metal and jazz and featuring some of Australia’s most exciting young musicians. Broodje Hadi sees multi-instrumentalist Adam Simmons talk and play to the forging of the WFoJ&B-Amersfoort relationship.

When the decision was made to move to an all-online mode of delivery, the Festival reached out to key organisations across the nation. What came back was unreserved enthusiasm, generosity and drive to make things happen.

This support has resulted in the Festival partnering with COMA (Creative Original Music Adelaide) and the Governor Hindmarsh Hotel in Adelaide, Sydney’s Venue 505, the Sydney International Women’s Jazz Festival and SIMA (Sydney Improvised Music Association), the MJC (Melbourne Jazz Co-operative) and Australian Jazz Museum in Melbourne.

With COMA, the Festival co-presents the Jo Lawry Quartet and The New Cabal. A renowned vocalist and songwriter, Jo is currently in Adelaide, though predominantly based in New York. She has worked with luminaries Fred Hersch, Sting and Paul Simon and for this performance will be joined by NYC saxophonist Will Vinson.

Occupying a special place in the canon of Adelaide jazz groups, Lyndon Gray’s immensely popular The New Cabal, is inspired by the rhythmic language of South Indian classical music.

The Festival has partnered with the Governor Hindmarsh Hotel to present a blistering program of local blues bands comprising Lazy Eye, Kings and Associates and The Streamliners, whilst in Sydney, Venue 505 and SIMA present ARIA Award nominated pianist and composer, Zela Margossian and her quintet.

Born in Beirut of Armenian heritage, Zela Margossian creates an exotic musical atmosphere that bears influences from the rich and colourful cultures she represents.

The Australian Jazz Museum in conjunction with the Australian Jazz Convention Archive has provided recently digitised footage from the 1986 Jazz Convention with never-before viewed footage of relaxed but vibrant performances from some of the most-loved figures in Australian traditional jazz which will be shown on Saturday 31 October.

The Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues just wouldn’t be complete without some local talent. The free community program features emerging local jazz vocalist Emma Christie and her band performing works from Australia’s inspired contemporary jazz vocalist-composers, whilst much-loved local vocalist Paris Zachariou accompanied by pianist and former WFJ&B Chair, Mark Bolsius, performs scintillating swing and big band tunes.

Rounding out the local showcase is Soli’s Blues Group featuring Co-Artistic Director Scott Solimo and some of Wangaratta’s most talented musicians performing their brand of rocking, authentic blues.

“While this year’s festival differs wildly from the event we envisaged late last year, we are proud to have brought together such a rich and diverse program,” said Zoe Hauptmann. “We hope that there is something in it for every listener; lovers of contemporary jazz, blues, and traditional jazz.”


The 2020 Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues takes place online from Monday 26 October to Sunday 1 November. For more information, full program and ticketing options, visit: www.wangarattajazz.com for details.

Image: Margie Lou Dyer Quintet (supplied)

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