Review: Festival triumph for jazz junkies

jazz Capital Jazz Project The Street Theatre, until August 12 Reviewed by Clinton White

THE visionary Caroline Stacey, at The Street Theatre, has nailed it with the Capital Jazz Project.

In just two years it is firmly established as a major music festival in Canberra. Its adventurous programming has attracted a big following. World-class acts put plenty of bums on seats.

The three concerts I attended showed just how diverse the programming was.

A double-bill gig started with the Andy Butler Large Ensemble. There is no doubt that these young guns, playing some imaginative Butler originals, have the future of jazz firmly in hand. The sound was tight, exuberant, well-balanced and exciting. And it will come as no surprise that all are School of Music alumni or teachers.

Continuing proceedings was the Bernie McGann Quartet, featuring trumpeter Warrick Alder, drummer Andrew Dickeson and Canberra bassist Brendan Clarke. Both McGann, on saxophone, and Alder were masters of highly improvised, but deftly understated playing, which left space for the equally masterly playing of the rhythm section.

A highlight was McGann’s performance of a tune by Paul Desmond, who wrote “Take Five”. There seems a strong connection between them.

A very different concert was “Gone, Without Saying”, by the Melbourne vocal group Invenio, led by the work’s composer Gian Slater, who has an incredible vocal range with a vocal clarity of which many singers could only dream.

“Gone, Without Saying” is a work of inventive experimentation with strange vocal contortions that held an enraptured audience across every note, tick, squeak and flutter.

The third offering was by Joe Chindamo, a pianist of such extraordinary talent that he must surely now be an Australian legend. He was the artist-in-residence during the festival. On stage with him was an ensemble of Australian musicians and, together, they played a program of music from Coen brothers films. Their drive, sensitivity, creativity and contrasts would be difficult to top anywhere in the world. It was a brilliant two hours that seemed to fly past.

The people at The Street Theatre can be very proud of the Capital Jazz Project. I’m looking forward to next year already.

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