As winter sets in, more of us opt to curl up on the couch with friends than brave the cold for a night of live music. But it will be a long, cold (and boring) winter without getting out there and enjoying the endless musical talent our city has to offer, and the Melbourne International Jazz Festival is the perfect way to start blowing off those winter blues.
With over 50 events in 10 days, it’s pretty easy to feel overwhelmed, especially if jazz isn’t your regular scene. Well, it’s time to get out there and experience something different, with countless mind-blowing acts to see. We’ve got some tips to get you started.
Thundercat plus Hiatus Kaiyote
If you can’t fully submerge yourself in the murky world of trad-jazz, Thundercat is the genre-flouting, melody-friendly act you’ll want to get yourself along to. A bass virtuoso with an open mind, Thundercat has collaborated with a mixed bag of artists from the punk-funk Suicidal Tendencies and soul legend Leon Ware to abstract funk production squad Sa-Ra Creative Partners, neo-soul queen Erykah Badu and glitch-hop hero Flying Lotus.
Don’t miss local support act Hiatus Kaiyote. Fresh from a US tour, the four-piece neo-soul outfit made selling out a bunch of shows across the States and shaking up SXSW look effortless. With a soulful voice reminiscent of the aforementioned Badu (who endlessly tweets about them), keep an eye out for lead singer Nai Palm, a little pocket rocket with a bright future ahead of her.
Friday June 7, 9pm
Backed by most of Hiatus Kaiyote, Saturday night’s performance with Miguel Atwood-Ferguson will turn everything you think you know about jazz on its head, bundle it up and hurl it off a cliff. A multi-instrumentalist, arranger, composer, music director and DJ, the classically trained violinist and violist will be combining his virtuoso technique with live electro sampling using pads and turntables, bringing together organic and synthesised sounds in a way so rarely heard in the wider music landscape.
Also boasting a staggering list of collaborations, the Californian has worked with the greats like Ray Charles, leading young artists like Flying Lotus and Aloe Blacc, and is well known for his orchestral reimagining of late hip-hop iconoclast J Dilla, which you can expect to be treated to.
Saturday June 1, 9pm
James Carter with Julien Wilson’s Upright Trio
Playing twice over the course of the Jazz Festival (once with the James Carter Organ Trio), we really recommend you get along and see the powerhouse saxophone master play with Julien Wilson’s Upright Trio. Seeing two phenomenal saxophonists (Wilson is an Australian Jazz Saxophone Award winner) and enthralling improvisers go all out, side by side, will be truly spectacular.
Thursday June 6, 8pm
Bennetts Lane Jazz Club
Christian McBride Trio
A phenomenal bass player, Christian McBride is a real virtuosic, technical monster, without skimping on great melody in his tunes. While bass solos so often tend to coincide with the exact time the crowd decide to drift off to the bar, McBride’s commanding tone truly captures your attention and imagination.
Saturday June 1, 7.30pm
Melbourne Recital Centre
Leigh Barker and the New Sheiks
If you really want to get stuck into some trad-jazz (along with a dash of blues and swing), this is the ticket right here. A group of improvisers who’ve truly nailed their craft, they ooze authenticity and style, without a trace of pretension.
Saturday June 1, 9.30pm
The Paris Cat Jazz Club
Chucho Valdés and the Afro-Cuban Messengers
Seventy-one years old and still at the top of his game, the commanding Cuban pianist and bandleader is back with his full band for one night only at Hamer Hall. With five Grammys (and three Latin Grammys) under his belt, he’s recorded over 80 CDs and worked with artists like Herbie Hancock, Dizzy Gillespie and Tito Puente. He’s had a long and illustrious career, so expect a dizzying showcase of Latin jazz, traditional Cuban folk and his own iconic brand of Afro-Cuban jazz.
Saturday June 8, 8pm
$69 - $99
Late Night Jam with the Grid
We don’t know what will go down here, but that’s the real draw. This is where the big headliners, the local young guns and the jazz nuts congregate at the end of the night, spontaneously jumping up onstage to improvise and jam out together into the early hours of the morning. This is where those unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experiences happen. Don’t say we didn’t tell you.
Friday May 31 to Sunday June 9, 11pm–late
Bennetts Lane Jazz Club