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Jazz hits the mark

12 Jul 2016

Jazz hits the mark Image

Review by Sean Car

Where do you start? This year’s jazz festival simply had it all.

The diversity of the 2016 edition was something the festival’s artistic director Michael Tortoni had stressed throughout the series and it was certainly evident.

In the words of Tortoni, this year’s festival, which ran from June 3 to 12 was about “capturing a moment in time” and creating a “live improvisation” of jazz music’s ability to stay relevant by absorbing everything in its path.

Let’s begin on Wednesday, June 8 at the Malthouse Theatre with Mulatu Astake and the Black Jesus Experience – an infusion of Ethiopian jazz, soul, funk, hip-hop and Latin.

Hailed as the father of “Ethio-Jazz”, Mulatu Astake’s performance had something for every punter whether new or accustomed to jazz. It was a show that had the audience dancing, clapping, chanting and all of the above.

Fast forward to Thursday night at Hamer Hall where Japanese virtuosic pianist Hiromi quite simply blew minds.

Never in my life have I witnessed such madness on a piano. It was as if she had two sets of fingers on each hand.

Combined with Paul Simon’s former bass player Anthony Jackson and former Judas Priest drummer Simon Phillips, this was certainly a modern twist on jazz and one which most people wouldn’t expect at a jazz festival.

A different interpretation all together followed on Friday – again at Hamer Hall –with Eddie Palmieri and his Latin Jazz Septet.

The Puerto Rican pianist and New York jazz legend was given special treatment by organisers as the first 15 or so rows of Hamer Hall were extracted to create a giant dance floor.

The result was an atmosphere one might find on a hot sultry night in New Orleans, as the audience danced and jived throughout the entire show in what was a fun-filled performance.

The closing weekend’s main events consisted of a return to a more stereotypical taste of jazz but, again, interpreted differently.

Saturday evening saw modern master Marcus Strickland and his talented assembly Twi-Life pack out Bennetts Lane Jazz Club.

Combined with that unique Bennetts ambience, Strickland’s contemporary take on classical cool jazz was not too dissimilar from a Davis-Coltrane mood. It had all the intricacies necessary to create those moving jazz feels.  

And then to cap off the festival, you won’t find many more legendary to do so than icon Wayne Shorter and his quartet. Having made his name alongside the likes of Art Blakey and Miles Davis, this performance was something to behold.

A series of delicate, detailed and dynamic jazz arrangements took the listener on an amazing journey. It was a stirring show and one which transported the audience to another realm for a good hour and a half. Heads were left transfixed.

Another year, another job well done. See you next year jazz lovers!

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