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Brisbane International Jazz Festival 2015

Ian Patterson By

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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.

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