By Mae Anthony
Photo from Perth International Jazz Festival website of Hiatus Kaiyote
I began the second day of my Perth International Jazz Festival (PIJF) journey right in the centre of the city at the new Cathedral Square, located between the City of Perth Library and Saint Georges Cathedral. The Square and Saint Georges juggled a number of events across the day: I caught Ursula Yovich (SYD), and Alexandre Da Costa and Graham Wood (PER) and oh boy, what a catch it was.
Ursula Yovich (SYD)
People wondered in slowly to Cathedral Square in the thirty minutes that lead up to the start of Ursula Yovich’s set. Waiting for the show to start, I braved the chilly winter breeze which bounced off of the two mass structures that surrounded the Square – the dark shadow of which nearly chilled me to the bone. However the wind was nothing compared to the chills that surged through my body upon listening to this woman sing. It’s no wonder that she has been listed as one of the Top 21 most iconic Women of the Australian stage. Her voice was like a church bell radiating for miles and stopped people left right and centre as they walked along Hay Street in a fuzzy Saturday fashion.
To think this level of talent was a free event just shows the community-building, talent-boasting vision this festival has in mind. People sat there, shivering, and listened to the incredibly beautiful selection of Yovich’s originals and a beautiful cover of Jonny Green’s famous 1930s standard “Body and Soul” and a jazz re-imagined version of “Difficult Woman” by iconic Australian songwriter Paul Kelly, which was nestled warmly amidst her own compositions. The array of soul, blues and pop influences throughout this immaculately skilful singer’s repertoire offered a real treat to listeners far and wide. James Sanden (BNE), another national guest artist for this year’s PIJF joined her in a few numbers to offer some glorious sax lines filled with astronomical levels of spirit that united with the rest of the band to echo in the charming location of Cathedral Square.
Alexandre Da Costa & Graham Wood (PER)
A unique highlight of the festival was the presence of the dazzling virtuosic violinist Alexandre Da Costa, playing with the legendary Jazz pianist Graham Wood in the beautiful setting of Saint Georges Cathedral. Da Costa is one of Perth’s most recent, and justifiably treasured, musical acquisitions; a gem that the festival surely could not miss passing up. He represents another vision of PIJF’s ethos – offering the best talent, for the most reasonable price: nothing. He is the most captivating classical performer I have been fortunate to see live. It was such an overwhelming joy to see him in this fusion of Jazz and Classical styles. Graham Wood’s pianism was ineffable; doing what he does best – other than pioneering and directing a successful and respectful Jazz Festival – his fingers in flight, glittering, he successfully highlighted the contrasting sections of the two genres, whilst offering up exquisite colours to the demanding repertoire.
The gorgeous location of Saint Georges Cathedral was the cherry on top of this deliciously bold red velvet cake of a gig. I imagine that this was what the famous French pianist and composer Erik Satie imagined music would become – an artistic platform of background music to everyday life events, with people passing by, coming and going like the inevitably changing seasons.
Shai Maestro (IL)
Later in the evening, I ventured over to Brookfield Place for the Saturday headline acts. Huddled up under a large marquee, the audience was warmed by the luscious and sweet sonorities of Shai Maestro. His expansive pieces were both captivating and comforting in an exotic musical mix of introspective and fruitful compositions. His ensemble, made up of Jorge Roeder on bass and Ziv Ravitz on drums, were complimentary to the over-all earthy sounds that seemed to grow out of the wondrous imagination of the gifted Maestro. The hour-long show built to a final frenzy of percussive mania, reminding us that the piano is the most percussive and diverse rhythm instrument.
Sérgio Galvão (BR)
After a quick change-over from Shai Maestro, Sérgio Galvão conquered the keen Perth audience within a matter of minutes. He nearly set the house on fire, I cannot stress this enough. The audience was so impressed; their excitement could have blown the roof off of the marquee. His music was an original exploration of the sounds of Brazilian Jazz and traditional virtuosic flavours and left the audience salivating over his incredible technical dexterity and ensemble direction. You’re definitely listening to something revolutionary when you find yourself so submerged in someone’s performance that nothing else outside of that moment matters – it was as if he had stopped time. It was an utterly sublime experience to be amongst all of these people who, I have no doubt, felt the same way.
Hiatus Kaiyote (MEL)
By far the most modern show of the festival, this headlining act, Hiatus Kaiyote, went off with a bang. Their music has been described as “less [of] a genre than an immersive experience”. This seven-piece future-soul band finished off Saturday’s line-up perfectly. After all of the excitement of the previous two acts, these guys drew in the youth of the crowd with their multilayered genre of soulful, electronic alternative jazz filled with moody, emotive textures that has cleverly genre-hopped across the Australian music scene in recent years. Lead vocalist and guitarist Naomi “Nai Palm” Saalfield was an intoxicating vocalist that swept the anticipating crowd in a feverish wave, leaving people battling the masses to get a look at one of Melbourne’s hottest and funkiest bands.
Tune in tomorrow for the last instalment of the Perth International Jazz Festival wrap ups!