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June 1 to 10 2012


Immersed in Music!

A diverse cross-section of jazz royalty and the stars of a rising generation converge on Melbourne from all points of the globe to celebrate life, as it should be – a complete immersion in the joys of music – for the 2012 Melbourne International Artistic Director Michael Tortoni has drawn on the rich legacy of jazz as inspiration for its future in crafting the 2012 Festival – from living legends like McCoy Tyner (USA), Dr Lonnie Smith (USA), Patti Austin (USA) and The Fringe (USA), to shapers of the contemporary scene like Terence Blanchard (USA), Chris Potter (USA) and Renaud Garcia-Fons (France), to the next wave in jazz powerhouses like Hiromi (Japan), Robert Glasper (USA), Eli Degibri (Israel) and Samuel Yirga (Ethiopia).

Now well and truly settled into its new position in the Melbourne cultural calendar – across the first two weekends of June, incorporating the Queen’s Birthday holiday – this year’s Festival highlights the role the human voice plays in bringing words to life, as well as the exploration of the artist’s voice within music.

The Festival will be bookended by two formidable displays of vocal mastery: José James (USA) who will be honouring one of the most underappreciated singers in jazz history, the late Johnny Hartman; and the leading lady of American stage, Dee Dee Bridgewater.

With over 300 performers, more than 100 events – including 30 free events, 11 world premieres, 13 Australian premieres, eight Festival exclusives and eight Australian/international collaborations – the 2012 Melbourne International Jazz Festival is the largest and most diverse festival of its kind in Australia, moving from grand venues like the Melbourne Recital Centre to the hallowed intimacy of Bennetts Lane where a number of Club Sessions will see the Festival’s biggest names in smaller confines, along with a few surprises. In a Festival first at the Hi-Fi Bar, younger music fans will be initiated into the world of jazz with a high-voltage under-18s gig featuring Australian funksters The Cactus Channel (fresh from their high school graduation) and Saskwatch.

“Like the great cities of New York, London and Paris that are remembered for their music, architecture and culture, Melbourne has also become an international destination, particularly for jazz musicians,” says Artistic Director Michael Tortoni. “Melbourne’s rich pool of home grown talent, more than ever, is attracting collaborative peers from all over the world.”

The 2012 Festival commences on Friday 1st June with a lavish gala opening night concert at St Kilda’s iconic Palais Theatre – The Way You Look Tonight – an evening of great jazz standards that defined an era of crooners. Katie Noonan and Vince Jones headline a program of tunes from the likes of George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Irving Berlin. Expect the red carpet to be rolled out for an event channelling the glamour of a bygone age.

Continuing a tradition that has seen thousands flock to the Federation Square Main Stage, the Festival invites everyone to get into the groove with a series of free opening weekend events, starting on Saturday 2nd June. With One Voice, featuring Katie Noonan, calls on all “shower Sinatras’ to join an interactive family concert featuring the music of many different cultures. Following With One Voice, the Qatar Airways Opening Celebration Concert brings together a top-secret rollcall of local and international performers to offer a delicious sampling of what to expect throughout the ten days of the Festival fun.


The crowning glory of the Festival, the Qatar Airways Modern Masters Series presents international icons of jazz in venues across Melbourne.

The Festival brings McCoy Tyner (USA) to Melbourne – one of the members of John Coltrane’s ‘classic’ quartet and jazz piano royalty. In this unique project, which has been hailed as a triumph at the London, Shanghai, San Francisco and Frankfurt Jazz Festivals, Tyner revisits the classic 1963 album on which he featured, John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman. Joining Tyner’s trio is highly acclaimed New York saxophonist Chris Potter (USA) and one of jazz’s most exciting new voices, baritone José James (USA).

Recently voted by the readers of DownBeat magazine as second only to tenor sax goliath Sonny Rollins, Potter will also be headlining a special international collaboration with leading Australian jazz orchestra, the 17-member Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra, in an all-too rare, highly adrenalised big band experience. José James will also be representing the reshaped boundaries of jazz – with a dash of hip-hop, R&B and soul – in the groundbreaking Australian premiere event, Future Now. Having already attracted queues around the block for its New York debut last year, Future Now teams James with MC Taylor McFerrin (USA, son of renowned vocalist Bobby McFerrin) and the Blue Note-recorded Robert Glasper Experiment (USA) in a collaboration that takes post-modern jazz to never-before-seen places. Robert Glasper Experiment’s 2012 release, Black Radio, is currently #3 on the iTunes download list and debuted at #15 on the Billboard Top 200 list.

The incomparable Dee Dee Bridgewater (USA) makes her long-awaited Melbourne debut performance. Over the past four decades, Grammy and Tony Award-winning (Best Featured Actress in a Musical for The Wiz)

Bridgewater has been a torchbearer for female vocalists in the tradition of Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday. In this exclusive Festival appearance, she will present an overview of her oeuvre – everything from searing vocals to scat interpretations and reinventions of jazz classics in a stirring finale to the 2012 Festival.

Keyboardist-composer Hiromi (Japan), known for her flying fingers and electrifying stage presence, makes her Australian debut in a Festival exclusive appearance. Few artists can boast a gig with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra at age 14, a personal invitation to play with Chick Corea at 17, and a mentorship with Ahmad Jamal before even launching their professional career. She takes the stage with two formidable performers in their own right – bassist Anthony Jackson (The O’Jays, Steely Dan, Chick Corea) and drummer Simon Philips (Toto, The Who, Judas Priest).

As well as performing with her trio, Hiromi appears in a special double bill with the Eli Degibri Quartet (Israel), which brings together two rapidly-rising stars from opposite sides of the globe, each charting new directions in jazz. Saxophonist Eli Degibri is being heralded as one of the most exciting among jazz’s new breed.

According to jazz heavyweight Herbie Hancock, he is “a rare find in jazz today”.

Film score master and one of the influencers of the modern New Orleans jazz scene – five-time GrammyAward-winning trumpeter-composer Terence Blanchard (USA) – makes his Australian debut with his incendiary quintet. With 29 albums and over 50 film scores to his name, Blanchard is most recognisable to audiences for his stunning soundtracks to Spike Lee’s films, such as Malcolm X, Jungle Fever and Clockers. Crossover jazz-R&B artist and Grammy Award-winner Patti Austin (USA) presents a thrilling tribute to “America’s first lady of song” – Ella Fitzgerald. Over an almost 60-year career, Austin has performed with the likes of George Benson, Luther Vandross and Michael Jackson. In her internationally acclaimed For Ella show, she salutes the timeless hits of Ella Fitzgerald, such as Too Close for Comfort, You’ll Have To Swing It (Mr Paganini) and How High the Moon.

King of the 425-pound funk beast – Hammond B3 organ – Dr Lonnie Smith (USA) brings to the stage over five decades of self-schooled playing, more than 70 album appearances and an irrepressible energy. For his long-awaited return to Australia, Smith teams up with long-term collaborators drummer Jamire Williams (USA) and guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg (USA) in a series of up-close gigs at Bennetts Lane. “The Paganini of bass” Renaud Garcia-Fons (France), known for advancing the possibilities of double bass playing, has been compared to other musical pioneers – Astor Piazzolla, Jimi Hendrix and Paco de Lucia. He brings a critically celebrated trio of guitarist Kiko Ruiz and percussionist Pascal Rollando for an Australian premiere that will showcase his transcendent, lyrical form of bass playing – an amalgam of double bass, cello, violin, guitar, lute and oud sounds.

Australian guitarist-composer Albare (aka. Albert Dadon) takes his 2010 CD release, Travel Diary, to the next level with ALBARE iTD, an outstanding collaboration featuring bassist Evri Evripedou (Australia), drummer Antonio Sanchez (USA), saxophonist George Garzone (USA), harmonica virtuoso Hendrik Meurkens (Germany) and pianist Leo Genovese (Argentina).


The 2012 Jazz Up Close Series places musical innovators in the wonderfully intimate

Comedy Theatre. Living treasures of the Boston jazz scene and influential proponents of the free jazz movement, The Fringe (USA) celebrate a staggering 40 years on the world circuit in their first Melbourne performance. Saxophonist George Garzone, bassist John Lockwood and drummer Bob Gullotti are known for producing inspired improvisations with a soaring element of the unexpected. They have worked with jazz artists Freddie Hubbard, Gil Evans Orchestra and Mose Allison, and popular musicians Tom Jones, Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin, and even Aerosmith and New Kids On The Block.

Piano prodigy Samuel Yirga (Ethiopia) is such a fearsome force in Ethiojazz that he’s regularly referred to as “the next Mulatu Astatke”. He demonstrates an innate talent for keeping Ethiopian music alive while also incorporating homages to the likes of Keith Jarrett and Herbie Hancock.

The sonic project, Tarbaby (USA), makes its Australian debut featuring some of the most multidimensional musicians in jazz – pianist Orrin Evans, drummer Nasheet Waits (known to Festival audiences for his 2011 appearance with Jason Moran & The Bandwagon), bassist Eric Revis and explosively unpredictable special guest, saxophonist Oliver Lake.

Famed jazz pianist, Joe Chindamo (Australia) turns his ear for reinventing works to make them wholly his own to the soundtracks of genre-shaping American filmmakers, the Coen Brothers. Chindamo will transform music from well known films including O Brother Where ‘Art Thou?, Fargo, Raising Arizona and Miller’s Crossing into a breathtaking live performance format.


Top Australian and international Festival artists Hiromi, Renaud Garcia Fons, Jamie Oehlers Quartet featuring Robert Hurst, and the Robert Glasper Experiment will bring an entirely different flavour to their intimate club sessions. Australian premiere performances include Dr Lonnie Smith Trio, Motif (Norway), Eli Degibri, Murphy’s Law and the Allan Browne Sextet. The Club Sessions at Bennetts Lane also play host to Bernie McGann’s very special 75th Birthday Celebration with his quartet, the Luca Ciarla Quartet (Italy), the Bennetts Lane Big Band and a collaboration from Sydney based musicians Evans/Swanston/Hall. Each night concludes with a Late Night Jam of unpredictable, unrepeatable and spontaneous collaborations from emerging and established artists with the Nick Martyn Trio.


Jazz doesn’t need to be a serious business – in fact, younger music fans are amply accommodated in the 2012 Festival program. Most importantly, this year sees the introduction of a very special under 18s gig featuring headlining funksters Saskwatch and, direct from Princes Hill High School, the soul-stirring The Cactus Channel in what’s expected to be a hyper-energetic event with a heaving dancefloor. For the even younger, children’s television icon, Play School, and old friends like Big Ted, Little Ted and Jemima return to introduce the little ones to the wonder of jazz in Play School’s Big Jazz Adventure.

Artplay Jazz for Kids: LifeBoat gets kids clicking their fingers and tapping their feet to the rhythm of some catchy music in a free family event.


In what has become a Festival tradition, some of this year’s international guests discuss technique, compositions, improvisations and inspirations in a series of free masterclasses at The Wheeler Centre and Bennetts Lane. Artists include Patti Austin, José James, Dr Lonnie Smith, George Garzone, Antonio Sanchez, Renaud Garcia-Fons and Robert Glasper.


The screen work of Festival special guest Terence Blanchard comes into sharp focus, in particular his collaborations with director Spike Lee – Summer of Sam (1999) and his Golden Globenominated 25th Hour (2002). Blanchard introduces and conducts a Q&A session (facilitated by Paul Harris, Triple R’s Filmbuff’s Forecast and St Kilda Film Festival) for the screening of Cadillac Records (2008), a fictional film charting the story of true life Chicago record label – Chess Records – that helped discover artists like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Chuck Berry.

In celebration of another film industry genius whose work has been heavily influenced by jazz, ACMI Jazz On Film looks at Woody Allen’s valentines to jazz music with Sweet and Lowdown (1999), Bullets Over Broadway (1994) and a recent documentary on the filmmaker himself – Woody Allen: A Documentary.


The Festival is proud to warm up Melbourne on a daily basis with a series of free concerts on the Federation Square main stage courtesy of the Hue Blanes Trio, Monash University ensembles (World Music Orchestra, the Big Band and the World Music Ensemble), WAAPA Jazz Ensemble, Yil Lull Ensemble directed by David Arden, and the Melbourne Youth Jazz Orchestra under the baton of Eugene Ball. Evening Soundwalks return after a hugely successful debut in 2011, with the likes of acoustic ecologist Anthony Magen and The Australian Forum for Acoustic Ecology taking participants in search of Melbourne’s hidden voice.


Hidden from reality, the Festival’s club – The Cave – located down a city alleyway at The Kelvin

Club is an immersive environment of digital engineering, luxury and curiosities. It is in this late night hangout where patrons witness underground orchestras playing tribute to the roots and budding leaves of jazz, where they can bathe in champagne fountains and dance in the cinémathèque. Entry is free, but subscribe at melbournejazz.com for priority admittance.

Melbourne International Jazz Festival

Dates: June 01 – 10

Inquiries: (03) 9001 1388

Tickets and website: www.melbournejazz.com  

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