Brisbane International Jazz Festival 2015

Ian Patterson By

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Brisbane International Jazz Festival
Various locations
Brisbane, Australia
June 3-8, 2015

Celebrating its third edition, the Brisbane International Jazz Festival may be one of Australia's youngest jazz festivals but the state of Queensland is no stranger to jazz. The non-profit organisation Jazz Queensland has been curating concerts, developing audiences and working with media and promotors to develop a sustainable jazz community in Australia's second largest state since the early 1980s.

The BIJF, which comes under the umbrella of Jazz Queensland's broad range of activities, has replaced the biennial Valley Jazz Festival, which ran for five editions from 2004. The ambition, it seems, is greater than before. BIJF aims to provide a more regular platform for national artists and, at the same time, seeks to raise the profile of Brisbane as an international city of the arts and culture.

The BIJF's baby steps have thus far been very impressive. International acts of the calibre of Ernie Watts, Julian Arguelles and the Tord Gustavsen Quartet have ensured a high media profile for the festival from the beginning. But the BIJF is more than just another 'international' festival, as Australian jazz in all its myriad forms is a cornerstone of the six-day program.

Award-winning artists such as Trichotomy, Louise Denson, Stephen Magnusson, James Sherlock, Mike Nock and Angela Davis, for example, point to the range and depth of talent in Australia that the BIJF has given its backing to. However, the vision of Artistic Director Lynette Irwin goes beyond merely packing the program with home-grown talent—though there's certainly no shortage—and the commissioning of new music from Queensland artists is an essential element too. For Irwin, investing in the future of the music is a big part of the mission.

Day One: Mal Wood's Bowery Hot Five/Jam Session

The festival got under way with little in the way of fanfare—a local band in a downtown pub. It was, however, true to the spirit of BIJF that the opening night should throw the spotlight on one of Brisbane's long-standing residency gigs—Mal Wood's Bowery Hot Five, which has played every Wednesday in this unassuming pub, The Bowery, for the past ten years.

The Bowery is named after the bohemian New York street and neighbourhood that has been home at various times to Béla Bartók, William Burroughs, Joey Ramone and a host of artist types. It was fitting therefore, that the Hot Five's jazz was predominantly the old school standards, swing and bebop that resonated in New York's clubs and dive bars back in the day. It was, above all, a laid back social occasion to welcome new friends, wet the whistle and start BIJF 2015 off on the right footing—the sort of bash that Aussies do exceptionally well.

A jam session went on until late, with the notable participation of the Hiroyuki Minowa Trio from Japan. Bassist Minowa has played with the likes of James Moody, Diane Schuur, Roland Hanna, Bucky Pizzarelli and Lee Konitz and he captivated the crowd with his scintillating chops. Drummer Makoto Rikitake and pianist Mitsuaki Kishi were no less impressive and brought a palpable sense of joy to the jam.

An elderly gentleman sitting at the bar nursing his grog related how he had been coming every Wednesday for ten years to listen to the jazz. "It keeps me alive," he said smiling. Good reason to carry on the tradition.

Day Two

Hiroyuki Minowa Trio

It was the Hiroyuki Minowa Trio that got the ball rolling on day two of the BIJF 2015, slap bang in the middle of Brisbane's commercial district. The open-air stage was in the middle of Queen's Street Mall, a busy shopping street. Flanked by tall, silver-walled malls on either side, with the canopy of the blue sky above and huge trees at either end of the thoroughfare, the stage seemed like the altar of a great, avant-garde cathedral.

The Queen's Street Mall gigs that took place every day were free to the public, part of the BIJF and Queensland Jazz' efforts to make quality jazz accessible to the general public. Minowa knows better than most about bringing jazz to the people; as festival director of the Takatsuki Jazz Street Festival Minowa stages a staggering 750+ free gigs on fifty stages over two days in his city of Takatsuki every year.

From Cole Porter's hard-swinging "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To," Minowa's trio worked its way through a set of familiar standards. Bart Howard's "Fly Me to the Moon" swayed at a lulling bossa nova tempo, featuring a delightfully flowing solo from the impressive Kishi—one of Japan's most revered jazz pianists—and another, sinewy solo from the leader.

Mixing up the tempos nicely, the trio played a steaming, double-time version of Sigmund Romberg/Oscar Hammerstein's "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise"—originally written as a tango in 1928—with Rikitake's slick brush and stick work truly compelling. The first set closed with a refreshingly relaxed take on Charlie Parker's "Billie's Bounce," where the trio's slow groove embraced the blues that was such a large part of Parker's musical DNA.

After a short break the trio pounced with a swinging version of Billy Strayhorn's Fletcher Henderson-inspired "Take the A Train." Taking things down a notch, the blues was at the heart of Frederic Weatherly's ballad "Danny Boy"—with Kishi's caressing solo a highlight of the set. African rhythms and swing shared protagonism on Porter's skipping "What is this thing Called Love? The second set closed with a boogie-woogie/swing take on Jimmie Davis/Charles Mitchell's "You Are my Sunshine."

The final set followed the pattern of what had gone before. The trio swung gently on Charlie Chaplin's "Smile," a little more robustly on Jimmy McHugh/Dorothy Fields' "The Sunny Side of the Street" and flirted with Latin rhythms on Hugo Blanco's 1958 tune "Moliendo Café -a number one hit in Japan in 1961; on the latter, the trio's light, dancing groove evoked Ahmad Jamal's great trio from that period. Juan Tizol's "Caravan" closed the concert with some individual and collective fire.

Most of the songs, dating from the first half of the twentieth century, will have been familiar to the seated audience and the passers-by who stopped to check out the music. That the standards of the jazz cannon still captivate says much about the quality of the songwriting. And, when played with the passion and verve of the Hiroyuki Minowa Trio, who could ask for more?

Artur Dutkiewicz Trio

Artur Dutkiewicz, it's reasonably safe to say, is probably one of Poland's busiest jazz musicians. In a little over half a year he has played in China, Thailand, Vietnam, Mexico, Poland, Brazil, Portugal, and on this current tour in Indonesia, New Zealand and Australia. That he and his trio of bassist Michal Baranski and drummer Grzegorz Grzyb are in such demand internationally will have come as no surprise to the full house that witnessed this highly memorable gig at JMI Live on Thursday evening.

JMI is Jazz Music Institute, the only jazz studies course in Australia that offers a degree program. Performance is an important part of the JMI program and what better education could there be for jazz students than to watch the world class Artur Dutkiewicz Trio in action?

The trio felt its way slowly into "Passage" where the flow in dynamics was as striking as the musicianship itself. Spare bass slipped into a grooving ostinato, whispering brushes gave way to ever more vibrant stick work and Dutkiewicz' spacious impressionism soon gained wings, flying and tumbling playfully. A hypnotic solo intervention showed why Baranski has been voted Best Bass Player by the readers of Poland's legendary Jazz Forum magazine, with the trio then reuniting briefly for one final hurrah.

Equally convincing at slower tempos, the trio's lyricism was to the fore on a lovely interpretation of a Polish mazurka. Dutkiewicz has recorded an entire solo album of mazurkas—Mazurki (Pianoart, 2012)—and his playing shared some of the folk-cum-classical nuance of Czech jazz master Emil Viklicky.

An up-tempo burner followed; Baranski fulfilled an anchoring role as Grzyb's explosive drumming fired Dutkiewicz to thrilling improvisations that swept the length of the keyboard. A quiet passage framed a delicate solo from Baranski before Dutkiewicz revisited the melody. The trio went into the break on the back of a blues 'n' funk mid-tempo workout, with Grzyb employing hands then sticks.

The second set began with a sultry, blues-drenched slow number, with brushes, mallets and spacious bass underpinning Dutkiewicz's flowing lines. Baranski—first call bassist for Bennie Maupin when touring Europe—took another exquisite solo, eventually ushering the other two in, though it was Dutkiewicz who had the final say with an extended solo meditation of some finesse.

The trio was at its most dynamic on "Prana," the title track of Dutkiewicz's latest CD. From the stirring bass ostinato of the intro, the music unfolded in undulating waves of intensity. High energy trio dialog, brooding impressionism and freewheeling improvisation rotated in an absorbing musical carousel. By contrast, the simple elegance of a Hindu-inspired tune could almost have come from the Abdullah Ibrahim school of hymnal jazz.

Baranski provided the fulcrum on "Warsaw Oberek"—another Polish folk-dance-inspired number—with Grzyb's muscular invention the blue touch paper to Dutkiewicz's animated improvisations. Grzyb's extended solo provided some fireworks before the trio revisited the head and then took their bows.

For the encore the trio gave a jaunty interpretation of Jimi Hendrix's "Up from the Skies." Dutkiewicz recorded an entire album of Hendrix tunes before—Hendrix Piano (Pianoart, 2010)—and clearly shares an affinity with the legendary guitarist for the blues, not to mention exhilarating chops. Bass and drums both enjoyed late flings before Dutkiewicz steered the trio once more back to the head and out.

The Artur Dutkiewicz Trio's tremendous concert at JMI Live will go down in the annals of the BIJF as a classy demonstration of the art of the piano trio.

Day Three

Brisbane has long lain in the shadow of the east coast's two larger cities of Sydney and Melbourne and over the years has received the unwelcome tag of being a big country town. This despite the fact that Brisbane was home to the 1982 Commonwealth Games, the World Expo 1988, played a major role in the 2003 rugby World Cup and hosted the G-20 Summit 2014. An international jazz festival sits well with this cosmopolitan city, and, if the public response to the first three editions of the BIJF is any indication, then it looks set to cement its place as one of the blue ribbon events in the cultural calendar.

Built on the banks of the curling river that gives it its name, Brisbane is an undeniably handsome city, with tropical greenery, extensive riverside walkways served well by shaded cafes and restaurants, beautiful botanical gardens and an architectural landscape of both colonial and modern design that's pleasing to the eye. The ten or so venues hosting gigs at BIJF 2015 were situated on both sides of the river and moving about from jazz club and Chinatown bar to hotel or auditorium, and from open-air mall to jazz school jam sessions certainly allowed jazz fans to really get a feel for the city.

Nor was moving from gig to gig much of a bind. A free ferry service crosses the river regularly and there are more bridges—road, rail and pedestrian—than you could shake a stick at. Even walking from the afternoon's free gigs in Queens Street Mall across the iconic, cantilevered Story Bridge to the main evening venue, the Queensland Cultural Centre, took only twenty minutes.

Rohan Somasekeran & Helen Svoboda

A feature of BIJF 2015 was the daily free gig held in the foyer of the Queensland Multicultural Centre Auditorium prior to the main event. Pianist/keyboardist Rohan Somasekeran and Helen Svoboda played a swinging set of standards and originals steeped in the blues to a small but captive audience. The pair play together in Somasekeran's quintet and trio and are regulars on the Brisbane jazz scene.

There was an obvious empathy in their interaction during a set based on the time-honored jazz tradition of melodic heads, bass ostinatos, bluesy improvisations and, above all, swing. The highlight of an impressive set was an original take on John Coltrane's "Naima," with Svoboda maintaining an infectious ostinato as Somasekeran gradually embellished the famous melody to carve out a flowing solo that balanced invention with a lovely sense of space. Svoboda also impressed as a melodic soloist but it was the duo's intuitive interplay that really seduced.

Beradi, Foran, Karlen

The trio of Kristin Beradi, Sean Foran and Rafael Karlen represents some of the finest Australian jazz talent to have emerged in recent years. Beradi won the Montreux Jazz Festival's International Vocal Competition in 2006 and a Bell Award for If You Were There (Pinnacles Music, 2009), with guitarist James Sherlock. Foran's long-standing trio Trichotomy has garnered international acclaim for albums such as Variations (Naim Label, 2009) and Fact Finding Mission (Naim Label, 2013). Karlen is emerging as a composer of note following the release of the jazz-cum-string quartet suite The Sweetness of Things Half Remembered (Pinnacles Music, 2014).

The music for this concert was specially commissioned to commemorate the centenary of the ANZAC soldiers in the battle of Gallipoli. The combined Australian and New Zealand forces—actually a multi-national force—lost many thousands of soldiers in the eight month campaign aimed at toppling Constantinople. The battle has strong politico-cultural resonance to this day in Australia, New Zealand and modern day Turkey alike.

A recording of the music—completed a day before its live premiere—was made with support from the ANZAC Centenary Fund, which must have influenced the approach taken to the writing. As Karlen later explained, the musicians had no desire to glorify war and so opted instead to humanize the soldiers who lost their lives or were injured. To this end, the musicians researched State archives housing letters, journals and postcards written by the soldiers and their families, and translated the themes of fear, hope, separation and loss into new music.

Berardi's gently lilting wordless vocal was the centrepiece of the plaintive opening number, a song inspired by the fact that the Australian government of the day paid compensation to parents for sons lost in the conflict but not for daughters lost, most of whom worked as nurses aboard hospital ships -some perishing in torpedo attacks.

Arresting was the unison vocal and saxophone intro to "I Picture You," a song whose yearning lyricism was punctuated by Foran's searching solo. Likewise, the bare bones architecture of "Broken Landscape" stemmed from Baradi and Karlen's ethereal melodic lines, though this delicate lament was most emotive when all three voices intertwined. Percussionist John Parker brought patches of rhythmic impetus to a couple of tunes on cajon, buoying Karlen's ruminative tenor exploration on the first, and lending deft brushes to the delightfully mellifluous latter tune.

A darker hued song of sombre lyric and melancholy delivery altered the atmosphere significantly. The striking "For How Long?," which ebbed and flowed, brought Foran and Karlen together in animated dialog—with Parker on frame drum—and concluded with Baradi's improvisation riding the music's waves.

The music was perhaps a little one-dimensional dynamically, though the time limits of the set meant the trio couldn't perform the entire album, which may have made a difference. Still, the lyricism, emotive content and refined interplay in the performance suggested that Beradi, Foran and Karlen's forthcoming album will be worth checking out.

Tod Gustavsen Quartet

Tord Gustavsen has been a prominent jazz figure on the global stage since Changing Places (ECM 2003) announced the arrival of a significant new voice. It's a voice that has grown with each subsequent release, (six in total for ECM) arguably positioning Gustavsen as the most influential European jazz pianist since Esbjorn Svensson.

For this Brisbane performance, Gustavsen presented music from across his career, with new music thrown into the mix. The set began with two compositions from Restored, Returned (ECM, 2009): "The Child Within" saw impressionistic piano—rumbling low end and icy high end simultaneously—gave way to Tore Brunborg's introspective soprano melody; seamlessly, the quartet gravitated into "The Gaze," a brooding Middle Eastern slow burner where damped piano strings combined with Sigurd Hole's arco and Jarle Vespestad's simmering percussion to underpin Brunborg's coiled tenor lines.

"Right There"—one of few tracks from Gutavsen's most recent recording, Extended Circle (ECM, 2014)—morphed from blues-tinged folksy balladry into a rhythmically cantering Arabesque exploration with Brunborg's assertive tenor lines to the fore. The up-beat "Draw Near" featured a patiently constructed Gustavsen solo that, once in full flow, brimmed with gospel blues. "That was the closest I've ever come to playing a happy song," quipped the pianist before presenting a mellifluous new composition that housed Gustavsen's trademark lyricism, space and subtle group dynamics, framing Hole's achingly beautiful bass solo to perfection.

"Devotion," originally written as a mass for a choir, juxtaposed hymnal lyricism and moody gravitas. Tinkling piano motifs of an Eastern hue, gravely yearning saxophone, deep arco drone and rumbling mallets gathered like storm clouds before Gustavsen, accompanied by bass and brushes, teased out a delicate blues hymn.

The traditional Norwegian hymn "Eg Veit I Himmerik Ei Borg (I Know a Castle in Heaven")" picked up where "Devotion" left off, with Brunborg leading a majestic Coltranesque incantation of collective intensity. A standing ovation greeted the quartet, who encored with "On Every Corner"; Brunborg and Gustavsen were at their seductive best on this bewitchingly melancholic ballad.

There was a late-night gig and jam session on at Papa Jack's in Fortitude Valley, but after such a spellbinding concert as that given by the Tord Gustavsen Quartet, going on to something else seemed somehow superfluous.

Day Four

Saturday got under way with The Enthusiastic Musician's Orchestra at the Queens Street Mall. This was effectively a warm-up gig for its headlining slot the following evening. It was only possible to snatch a little of EMO's gig before heading off to the Queensland Multicultural Centre to catch an early afternoon gig.

Angela Davis & Steve Newcomb

Two Australians who have studied and worked in New York, saxophonist Angela Davis and pianist Steve Newcomb united on home soil for what was certainly the most intimate gig of BIJF 2015. Davis' debut as leader, The Art of the Melody (Self Produced, 2013) was aptly titled, as the saxophonist demonstrated from the opening number "Consentia" her ability to weave a continuously evolving melodic improvisation. Newcomb, following suit, was equally adept in that department.

Inevitably, given the reduced instrumentation, the heads were generally followed by one solo then another, but at no time did the format grow stale—testament to the duo's creativity. With impeccable timing and a pronounced sense of rhythm it was almost possible to imagine a walking bass and hi-hat on the swinging "Forty One St. Nich," one of two songs that featured Kristin Beradi. The singer brought harmonic depth and improvisational flare to this song and Thad Jones's pretty ditty "Lady Luck."

Whether at medium/fast tempos, as on "A Thousand Feet From Bergen Street" or the more relaxed pace of "Waltz for Nola" and James Taylor's "Sweet Baby Jane," Davis' clean, mellifluous lines evoked the great Lee Konitz. Davis has studied with Konitz and paid direct tribute to him with a nippy version of his Charlie Parker-esque tune "Subconscious Lee" and—perhaps with indirect tribute—closed a delightful set with a caressing interpretation of the 19th century hymn "Abide with Me." Given the post-lunch slot, there was a modest crowd in attendance, which nevertheless was privy to a wonderfully intimate dialog from Davis and Newcomb -one laced with well crafted, melody-driven improvisations marked by grace and passion.

Hiroyuki Minowa Trio

The evening's double-header in the Queensland Multicultural Centre was a treat for the jazz purists but perhaps tread just a little too much in nostalgia for the modernists.

The Hiroyuki Minowa Trio gave an undeniably energetic performance demonstrating plenty of outstanding chops, choosing to stay entirely within the boundaries of the jazz standards repertoire.

It was striking just how close the instruments were set up in relation to each other on the stage, much in the vein of Oscar Peterson and Ahmad Jamal's trios, though Minowa's musical inspiration seemed to stem predominantly from the former, particularly in pianist Mitsuaki Kishi's tasteful, fluid solos. Great instrumentalists all, the trio brushed down and made shine old favorites like "Autumn Leaves" and "Fly Me to The Moon"—with a nod to Charlie Parker—, shaking up the set list from its Thursday morning gig in Queens Street Mall.

The trio was joined by guitarist Bruce Woodward and vocalist Melissa Forbes mid-set. Forbes classy rendition of the Arthur Schwartz/Howard Dietz number "Alone Together" featured a tasteful solo from Woodward. The guitarist also jazzed-up Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Triste" with another fine intervention, though the interpretation was a tad too breezy to capture the melancholy of the original.

Forbes was more commanding on a swinging, Sheila Jordan-inspired version of Ray Noble's "The Very Thought of You," which featured a Toots Thielemans-esque melodica solo from the consistently impressive Kishi. The quintet collaboration was rounded out with a, dreamy brushes-led interpretation of the Jimmy Van Heusen/Phil Silvers ballad "Nancy with the Laughing Face" followed by the sultry Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer number "Blues in the Night."

The final word went to Minowa's trio. A double-time, workman-like version of "It Don't Mean a Thing" was enlivened by a solo from the exemplary time-keeper Rikitake. An enjoyable set ended with a celebratory take on Oscar Peterson's gospel-laced, civil rights anthem "Hymn to Freedom" and a standing ovation for jazz ambassadors Minowa, Kishi and Rikitake.

Wilma Reading & Andrew Butt Trio

It was something of a homecoming celebration for veteran singer Wilma Reading. Perhaps better known abroad—where she has spent most of her career—than in her native Australia, Reading is a historically important Australian singer. Her career began as a teenager in the late 1950 and her natural talents eventually led her to New York where, in 1966 she was auditioned by Billy Strayhorn. Reading passed the test and soon found herself singing with Duke Ellington's orchestra.

Her Indigenous Australian background—she also has Irish and Jamaican ancestory—was no obstacle to a successful career in Brisbane and then abroad. Reading sang on television in the USA and the UK—where she became something of a national star—and performed with international orchestras throughout Europe.

Returning to her town of Cairns after many years abroad, Reading followed a new direction by taking up teaching. Now, after a decade or so out of the spotlight, Reading is back on stage singing jazz, just as she did over fifty years ago in Brisbane.

The Andrew Butt Trio + warmed up the audience with a couple of tunes, beginning with "The Alligator Escalotor," a breezy, tenor saxophone-led instrumental from Butt's CD Here and Now (2013), which won a Queensland Music Award in the year of release. Butt demonstrated equal facility on soprano saxophone on "Summer '14," with bassist Peter Walters and pianist Kellee Green also stretching out over Dave Cotgreave's light, propulsive rhythms.

The stage was set for the arrival of Reading, still looking stunning all these years later. Swing was the order of the day, with Reading showing rhythmic nous on "It Don't Mean a Thing" and "Don't Get around Much Anymore," Ellington tunes that Reading had played with the man himself—a boast that very few living singers can make. The tempo slowed on "Lush Life," with Reading—and Butt's sympathetic tenor—capturing the night-life weariness of Billy Strayhorn's lyrics.

Reading's pipes were stretched on the Charles Fox/Norman Gimbel hit "Killing Me Softly" but she was still commanding—and more nuanced—on slower bluesy fare like the Harold Arlen/Ted Koehler number "Stormy Weather"—which featured a fine solo from Green—and the J. Frederick Coots/Haven Gillespie tune "You Go to My Head."

Inevitably, it was another Ellington tune that closed the concert. Reading tripped up on Bob Russell's lyrics but Butt's trio saved the day with its swing and pizzazz. Reading can be forgiven a little ring rustiness after an extended hiatus from the live arena and hopefully this historic Queenslander will find a second wind on the back of this BIJF performance.

Day Five


The contemporary electro-acoustic-jazz band Lateo is led by drummer Joe Marchisella, who has played with Aussie greats James Morrison, Joe Chindamo, Paul Grabowski and Tommy Emmanuel, as well as American saxophone legend Ernie Watts and Cuban pianist Marialy Pacheco.

With electric bassist Dave Galea and Marchisella keeping in-the-pocket grooves, pianist Cleon Barraclough and guitarist Toby Wren toggled between comping and lead lines during a lively performance of mostly covers. The quartet's animated interpretation of Bill Frisell's knotty groover "Resistor"—with Barraclough and Wren in full flight—was a reminder of how rare it is to hear a Frisell cover, which is odd given his status as one of the most influential guitarists of the past thirty years.

There were plenty of individual sparks on Galea's "Siam Valley" and "Shadow Dance"—the latter propelled by fast-walking bass and chittering ride cymbal—but it was the collective energy and tight interplay of Lateo that left the most lasting impression.

Jimmy Rowles "The Peacocks" brought a welcome change in gear to a slower tempo, where Barraclough and Wren's lyricism could be better appreciated. The Youn Sun Nah/Ulf Wakenius show-stopper "Momento Magico" closed out the second set; racing unison lines of tremendous precision bookended stirring solos from Galea and Wren. A few more originals perhaps and Lateo should have all the ingredients for a CD worthy of their talents.

Near East Quartet

Without a doubt the revelation of BIJF 2015 was South Korean group Near East Quartet, whose stunning fusion of traditional Korean forms, jazz improvisation and ambient sounds proved a great hit. Formed in 2010 by saxophonist Sungjae Son, guitarist Suwuk Chong and former members percussionist Dongwong Kim and bassist Soonyong Lee, the band recorded an instrumental album, Chaosmos (2010), which has disappeared almost without trace.

The addition of pansori singer Yulhee Kim and jazz drummer Jungyoung Song significantly transformed the group dynamics, bringing new power and rhythmic flexibility to the fascinating East-West hybrid.

Kim's haunting vocals and pulsing gong introduced a traditional song wishing good health. Song's hands on drum skin, Son's puffs-of-air tenor and Chong's subtle guitar effects combined to produce an ambiance that was both lulling and hypnotic. "Mul-Le Tareong" was framed around simple guitar arpeggios and motifs, with softly voiced saxophone and rumbling mallets underpinning Kim's plaintive balladeering.

Layered guitar atmospherics and probing drums largely defined "Earth and Humanity," with saxophone contributing a melodic coda. Son and Chong in tandem conjured the sculpted soundscapes of Jan Garbarek and Eivind Aarset, whereas the slow-burning blues "Arirang," with Kim returning on vocals, could have come from a Ry Cooder session, had he been born Korean. The group's contrasting dynamics of mellow lyricism and powerful waves came together in the instrumental "Shattered Dream."

The balance between instrumental and vocal numbers was a strength of the group's dynamics, as Kim upped the ante each time she featured. The pansori singer trained with the great Bae Il Dong—whose collaboration with Simon Barker and Scott Tinkler Chiri (Kinmara Records, 2010) remains one of the most compelling cross-over experiments of recent years—and her technical reach and sheer power were matched by the emotional impact of her delivery.

The final song of the set "Hung-Bu Ga" was based on a traditional pansori melody but with a significant twist. Riffing guitar, insistent drum rhythms, Kim's spoken-sung delivery and chattering saxophone grew to a heady crescendo, with the group's chalks well and truly discarded. It was a riveting finale to an unforgettable performance.

Near East Quartet is due to record with this line-up and it could be the release that launches them globally. An original group whose potent music would grace any stage in the world.

Enthusiastic Musicians Orchestra featuring Dale Barlow

The participation of saxophonist/multi-instrumentalist Dale Barlow with the sixteen-piece Enthusiastic Musicians' Orchestra (EMO) brought something of a gala feel to the closing concert of the fifth day of BIJF 2015. Barlow played in one of the final incarnations of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, appearing on Chippin' In (Timeless, 1990) and the drumming legend's final studio recording One for All (A&M, 1990).

It's probably been Barlow's highest profile gig but in a distinguished career he's also collaborated with A-listers such as Dizzy Gillespie, Chet Baker, Helen Merrill, Gil Evans, Cedar Walton and Billy Cobham—to name just a few—while composing half a dozen recordings as a leader in his own right.

However, it was trombonist Matt White who stole the early limelight on an atmospheric arrangement of Skip James' 1931 blues "Devil Got My Woman." Barlow was soon in the thick of things, his bluesy tenor improvisation lifting "Haircut Strut," a breezy tune with a lush, Neil Hefti-ish grace. Barlow was more expansive on pianist Steve Newcomb's arrangement of Wayne Shorter's "Night Dreamer," flying on the big-band's currents.

With over a hundred and fifty charts in its book the EMO can cover a lot of ground stylistically, and whether swinging on "Minor Detour," or caressing ballads such as Stevie Wonder's "You and I" and Thelonious Monk's pretty "Reflections," Barlow was in the thick of things. The EMO, however, boasts plenty of fine soloists and pianist John Reeves, guitarist Lachlan Bell and trumpeter Shannon Marshall were all notable.

Barlow took a breather during a couple of charts by Danish composer Lars Moeller, returning to unleash a wonderfully fluid improvisation on flute on the Josh Hatcher composition "Duality." For the final track, "East Village Sublet," Barlow shared protagonism with trumpeter Dan Quigley.

The EMO is a young Brisbane institution, but in just seven years it has provided a vehicle for upcoming musicians, composers and arrangers. Collaborations like this one with Dale Barlow can only can only raise the collective bar and help nourish the flourishing jazz scene in Queensland.

Day Six

Near East Quartet

The final day of BIJF 2015 began in the Queens Street Mall with two gigs. The Near East Quartet gave another electrifying performance, playing a slightly modified set from the previous evening that included a beautiful reworking of a 1960s Korean pop ballad. Perhaps it had something to do with the outdoor acoustics but Kim's extraordinary voice—on both intimate balladry and more intense pansori-based material—captivated all the more and the music on the whole seemed more visceral.

John Reeves Quartet

The John Reeves Trio, with bassist Andrew Shaw and drummer Paul Hudson delivered an upbeat set of infectious originals full of rhythmic zest and uplifting melodies. Lilting Caribbean colors tinged Reeves swinging, rhythmically pronounced two-handed approach and a real sense of joy permeated both the compositions and the trio's intuitive play. Reeve's music stemmed very much from the jazz tradition but his vibrancy and originality brought freshness to the idiom. A recording is surely a must.

The Primitif requests the pleasure...

The final act of BIJF paid tribute to one of Brisbane's legendary venues, The Primitif, and to Peter Hackworth, the remarkable woman who ran it between 1957 and 1974. The Primitif was Brisbane's first expresso-style coffee bar and was an alternative haunt for youth in an age when the legal age for drinking was twenty one. Not only did The Primitif employ Italian baristas and a French chef but it also hosted live jazz on Sunday at a time when live music on the Sabbath was banned.

Needless to say, the Primitif immediately earned a reputation as an alternative venue for young people and attracted a bohemian crowd looking to spice up their lives.

In a mood of celebration, the foyer of the Queens Multicultural Centre was taken over by a lively crowd of folk, most of whom had frequented The Primitif during its glory years. A jazz trio swung in one corner, the kitchen served up tasty nosh from another and the drink was flowing everywhere as people reminisced about a golden era. Photo montages of The Primitif over the years lined the wall and told a tale of high times and surprisingly varied entertainment. From folk music and vaudevillian acts to jazz and risqué dance, The Primitif packed in the crowds, all of whom seemed to be halving an absolute blast in the black and white photos.

As a teenager, Wilma Reading, who would go on to sing with Duke Ellington's Orchestra a decade later, effectively began her career at The Primitif. The Bee Gees played in the Prim Junior, a live venue upstairs. Many singers and jazz musicians got their starts at The Primitif, but it was, perhaps above all, a place to hang out.

Having turned eighty, Peter Hackworth remains an indefatigable force in the hospitality industry. Sitting outside, taking in the fresh air, she recalled The Primitif's halcyon days with obvious affection, breaking off to greet people coming and going. The Primitif went under—quite literally—in the Brisbane flood of 1974, which marked the end of one era and the beginning of another. Hackworth went on to establish several iconic Brisbane restaurants, pioneered the Riverside Markets and generally led Brisbane into the modern era of good dining and hip culture.

It must have given Hackworth great satisfaction to see—over forty years after the closure of the Primitif—how much it still means to many in Brisbane.


The best jazz festivals are celebrations not only of the music, but of places, people and community. In beginning with a long-standing local residency gig and finishing with a tribute to one of Brisbane's historical venues and it inspirational founder, the BIJF 2015 acknowledged important institutions in the community. Likewise, Wilma Reading's top billing on Saturday evening was recognition of a nationally historic, ground-breaking figure.

Musically, the menu of old, contemporary and newly commissioned music offered something to just about everyone. Australian jazz-and in particular that from Queensland—featured prominently on the program, reflecting the strength and depth of the local jazz scene. It's surely encouraging to aspiring young jazz musicians to see that BIJF is so supportive of home-grow talent.

The inclusion of Japanese and Korean bands was a reminder of Australia's proximity to Asia and the cosmopolitan make-up of its population: Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia are all closer to Australia than Perth is to Brisbane and it would make sense on multiple levels to encourage further musical exchanges with Asian countries.

Finally, though many people were involved in the successful staging of BIJF 2015, it would be remiss not to acknowledge the tremendous work of Artistic Director Lynette Irwin. Her efforts to ensure everything ran as smoothly as possible were notable, but more than that, it was her infectious warmth, kindness and good humor that to a large extent made BIJF 2015 such an enjoyable festival.

Photo Credit: Yulhee Kim -Courtesy of Kaye Pratt

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