All that jazz – and lots of it

Everyone from Bernie McGann to Ben Hauptmann will be in town for the second Capital Jazz Project, writes HELEN MUSA

THE Street Theatre and the ANU School of Music’s second Capital Jazz Project next month will be a 10-day event featuring more than 120 international, national and ACT artists, jazz writers and commentators.

And artistic director of The Street, Caroline Stacey, can hardly wipe the smile off her face.

She’s turning Street Two, the studio, into a jazz club with table seating, she’s secured American bass clarinettist Bennie Maupin as international artist-in-residence and she has composer-musician Joe Chindamo as Aussie artist-in-residence. And she’s lured the extraordinary Paul Capsis back to Canberra to open the season with “Make Me a King”.

But there’s a melancholy note sounding this year, for the future of jazz musicians in Canberra is looking grim. ANU jazz lecturers such as Miroslav Bukovsky, Gary France and Eric Ajaye have been organising ANU student ensembles to play specifically for the project, but how long will they be here if the jazz faculty crumbles under the ANU’s proposed cuts?

Vocalist Matilda Abraham is an ANU jazz graduate and, though now working in Sydney, is appalled.

“I feel sad about what it represents about our attitude and that institutions are willing to downgrade that kind of endeavour,” she says.

Abraham will be the guest vocalist with Galaxtare, the brainchild of Richard Maegraith, on whose music the ensemble focuses.

Abraham describes it as “avant garde, but pretty vampy and accessible… artistically conscious – I like that.”

But when with her own band, they play “mostly my own compositions.”

A vocalist of a very different kind will be heard in Miles Merrill, spoken-word artist and founder of the Australian Poetry Slam. An African-American theatre artist who came to Australia during the 1990s and stayed, he says: “I like to speak out for people who don’t have a voice.”

He’ll be part of the Gai Bryant Quintet and while she’s composing the music, Merrill will be performing his own original poems, monologues and stories.

Merrill hopes it will be “a little bit like watching a film, with the story as soundscape, interspersed with the quartet on instrumentals – a nice mix”.

Capital Jazz Project, The Street Theatre, August 3-12, bookings to 6247 1223 or www.thestreet.org.au

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One Response to “All that jazz – and lots of it”

  1. July 25, 2012 at 6:09 pm #

    What’s REALLY sad is that while this event claims to represent the Capital, many of our best-loved home grown jazz bands have been totally ignored, and not even consulted, in the development of the festival, often in favour of interstate imports. Where are local big bands Blamey Street, Spectrum, and Connexions. Where are our popular small combos like Famous As The Moon, the Frequently Asked Questions, Brass Knuckles, Kooky Fandango or the Funky Fedoras? These bands have been working away for years in Canberra, and have done a lot more for the image and popularity of jazz in Canberra than unlistenable esoteric atonal experiments by SoM students ever have. Shame on the Street Theatre.

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