Perth International Jazz Festival: Day 1

June 7, 2016
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By Mae Anthony
Photo by: John Gordon of Jessie Gordon

The Perth International Jazz Festival (PIJF) had a successful run over the long weekend. It was filled to the brim with exceptional local and international talent, exhibiting numerous genres from the wonderful world of Jazz. I was fortunate enough to venture on a journey through the heart of the city to see an assortment of talent from a selection of this powerhouse festival of acts. Some showcased familiar Jazz genres familiar to and loved by Perth audiences, and other exemplifying more exotic World Music.

Marcio Mendes and Lucky Oceans (PER/USA)

I began late Friday afternoon in Brookfield Place with Marcio Mendes and Lucky Oceans, which left me feeling festive and mesmerised by the sounds of New Orleans Jazz and spicy Brazilian beats, all infused to create a diverse collection of earthy percussive soul sounds. With percussion, drums, steel guitar, and multifarious rhythm instruments, this ensemble had people dancing on the street – literally. And I’m not just talking about the moderate foot-tap and slight booty-shake that I am famous for, but actual body-to-body samba dancing. This ensemble swept the audience off their feet with their buzzing tunes, ranging from bluesy-country percussive Jazz songs that put in me in mind of the likes of Tom Waits, and their joyous, festive North-Eastern Brazilian tunes.

Jamie Oehlers Quartet with James Muller (PER/ADE, respectively).

I walked over to the Perth Cultural Centre to experience the ferociously wonderful Jamie Oehlers Quartet, featuring guest artist James Muller, a maverick Jazz guitarist hailing from Melbourne. An organised mess if there was one: this ensemble showed audiences some high-class technical skill with some complex modern Jazz. Opening with a few originals, the ensemble swung like a pendulum from fast energetic tunes to slow wailing ballads that swelled in and out of climactic melodic ideas. They featured some captivating stylistic themes and textures that were highlighted by the sensitive playing and compositions of Jamie Oehlers on tenor saxophone, the slick enigmatic playing of Tom O’Halloran on keys, the exciting phrasing of James Muller on guitar, and the masterful and delicate driving of both Phil Stack on the bass and Ben Vanderwal on drums. On the beautiful Perth Cultural Centre stage with the reeds and lake distancing the band from the audience, the message was clear: this was a Perth ensemble making its mark and singing out some seriously engaging tunes.

Jessie Gordon (PER)

Hot damn: I needn’t say anymore. In a mix of fast-paced swing numbers and slow, sultry dirty blues, Jessie Gordon stole the audience’s attention and hearts. An incredibly versatile performer with an impressive vocal prowess – she was funny, sweet, sexy, and charming. Her accompanying band was of a very high calibre, suiting her music and arrangements well. Covering standards such as “Lullaby of Birdland”, “It’s All Right”, “Embraceable You”, and “If Not For You”, she showed us why she is one of Perth’s leading Jazz talents. Her own composition “Slow Burn” was a bluesy soul tune that was the definite highlight of her set, along with a cheeky cover of “Long John Blues”, a dirty blues classic that is jam-packed with naughty innuendos that would make the crudest of the crop blush. Gordon was the perfect end to the festival’s Perth Cultural Centre line-up for the evening.

There were plenty of exciting things happening at Brookfield Place and The Ellington – I’ve never been so disappointed that I couldn’t be in more than two places at once.

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