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Brisbane International Jazz Festival 2015

Ian Patterson By

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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.

Wrap-up

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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