Published on September 30th, 2020 | by Adrian Gunning

Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues Monday 26 October to Sunday 1 November 2020

An exciting program featuring Australia’s premier jazz and blues artists, new commissions and collaborations, never before seen archival footage, an exclusive international appearance and the distinguished National Jazz Awards, mark the 30th edition of the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues.  

Co-Artistic Directors Zoe Hauptmann, Eugene Ball and Scott Solimo have fashioned a rich and diverse program, which for the first time will be presented digitally due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions, in an extended 7-day timeframe from Monday 26 October to Sunday 1 November.

In recent months, the format and program have been reimagined and rebuilt many times. However, despite the hurdles that COVID-19 has presented, we have arrived at a program that celebrates the Festival’s unique identity and its contribution to the Australian jazz and blues community over the last 30 years,” said Eugene Ball.

Since 1990 the National Jazz Awards have provided invaluable career development to leading Australian jazz musicians with many past winners and finalists having gone on to achieve national and international acclaim.

The vocal artistry of this year’s 10 finalists – Harriett Allcroft (VIC), Briana Cowlishaw (NSW), Olivia Chindamo (VIC), Amelia Evans (VIC), Lucy Iffla (WA), Lauren Henderson (SA), Josh Kyle (VIC), Owen Measday (WA), Rita Satch (VIC) and Jessica Spina (QLD), will be seen across the week.

Accompanied by some of Australia’s top pianists, each finalist’s performance will be recorded in their home state, in accordance with COVID-19 restrictions. Two finalist performances will be screened nightly from Monday 26 to Friday 30 October. Michelle Nicolle, Kristin Berardi and Sam Keevers will judge the performances, with the winner and runners up announced on Saturday 31 October.  The winner will receive $7,000 and a recording session with Pughouse Studios, 2nd prize $4,000 and 3rd prize $2,000.

In a fitting tribute to a man who left an indelible mark on the Festival, rare and previously unpublished footage of performances by leading Australian jazz artists from the 2016 Allan Browne Memorial Concert will be broadcast across the Festival.  This footage, which undoubtedly is a program highlight, has been generously provided by the Melbourne Jazz Co-operative.

In the first of these performances, on Monday 26 October, equal parts adventure and beauty are on show when stalwarts of the jazz scene, Barney McAll (piano), Julien Wilson (sax) and Sam Anning (double bass), usher in emerging drummer Dom Stitt.

Tuesday 27 October features a double header with Margie Lou Dyer Quintet presenting songs from the early jazz canon, with Margie Lou (piano/voice), Hayley Browne (washboard), Howard Cairns (double bass), Cameron Robbins (clarinet) and Co-Artistic Director, Eugene Ball on cornet.  Next up, under the auspice of two founding members of the Red Onion Jazz BandBrett Iggulden (trumpet/soprano sax), John Scurry (guitar), Lyn Wallis (drums), Howard Cairns (double bass) and Julien Wilson (tenor saxophone) pay homage to the legendary Allan Browne in Al’s Emotional Baggage Handlers. 

Thursday 29 October features Tim Stevens and Nick Haywood deftly plying their thoughtful and unique approach to standards and original works, whilst Keller I Murphy I Ball, unites multi award-winning pianist Andrea Keller, trumpeter Eugene Ball and bassist Tamara Murphy.  Rounding out the evening is the Festival commission, Stills in Motion – A Retrospective, a photo essay from journalist, photographer and jazz devotee Roger Mitchell, documenting Festival highlights across the years.

Commissioned by the Festival, I Heart Improvisation on Wednesday 28 October, presents exhilarating, improvised short works from leading and emerging artists – Maria Moles (drums), Scott Tinkler (trumpet) and a co-presentation with the MJC featuring duo WOLFA aka Jenny Barnes (voice) and Mick Meagher (electric bass).

Across 2017-18, then Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues Co-Artistic Director, Adam Simmons, nurtured a reciprocal relationship with Netherlands’ Amersfoort Jazz Festival. This year the Festival honours that relationship with The Amersfoot Connection, presenting the Australian debut of 2018 Amersfoort Laureate, Kika Sprangers Large Ensemble. In the Netherlands and beyond, Dutch saxophonist Kika is regarded as one of the finest young talents in contemporary jazz.

Drummer, composer and 2018 National Jazz Award winner, Alex Hirlian who performed at Amersfoort in 2019, premieres his Festival commission with his sextet Arcing Wires, an enigmatic fusion of math rock, progressive metal and jazz, featuring some of Australia’s most exciting young musicians.  Broodje Hadi sees multi-instrumentalist Adam Simmons talk and play to the forging of the WFoJ&B-Amersfoort relationship.

When the decision was made to move to an all-online mode of delivery, the Festival reached out to key organisations across the nation. What came back was unreserved enthusiasm, generosity and drive to make things happen.

This support has resulted in the Festival partnering with COMA (Creative Original Music Adelaide) and the Governor Hindmarsh Hotel in Adelaide, Sydney’s Venue 505, the Sydney International Women’s Jazz Festival and SIMA (Sydney Improvised Music Association), the MJC (Melbourne Jazz Co-operative) and Australian Jazz Museum in Melbourne.

With COMA, the Festival co-presents the Jo Lawry Quartet and The New Cabal.  A renowned vocalist and songwriter, Jo is currently in Adelaide, though predominantly based in New York. She has worked with luminaries Fred Hersch, Sting and Paul Simon and for this performance will be joined by NYC saxophonist Will Vinson.  Occupying a special place in the canon of Adelaide jazz groups, Lyndon Gray’s immensely popular The New Cabal, is inspired by the rhythmic language of South Indian classical music.

The Festival has partnered with the Governor Hindmarsh Hotel to present a blistering program of local blues bands comprising Lazy Eye, Kings and Associates and The Streamliners, whilst in Sydney, Venue 505 and SIMA present ARIA Award-nominated pianist and composer, Zela Margossian and her quintet.   Born in Beirut of Armenian heritage, Zela Margossian creates an exotic musical atmosphere that bears influences from the rich and colourful cultures she represents.

The Australian Jazz Museum in conjunction with the Australian Jazz Convention Archive has provided recently digitised, never-before viewed footage from the 1986 Jazz Convention.  Relaxed but vibrant performances from some of the most-loved figures in Australian traditional jazz will be shown on Saturday 31 October.

The Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues just wouldn’t be complete without some local talent sizzle. The free community program features emerging local jazz vocalist Emma Christie and her band performing works from Australia’s inspired contemporary jazz vocalist-composers, whilst much-loved local vocalist Paris Zachariou accompanied by pianist and former WFJ&B Chair, Mark Bolsius, performs scintillating swing and big band tunes. Rounding out the local showcase is Soli’s Blues Group featuring Co-Artistic Director Scott Solimo and some of Wangaratta’s most talented musicians performing their brand of rocking, authentic blues.

“While this year’s festival differs wildly from the event we envisaged late last year, we are proud to have brought together such a rich and diverse program. We hope that there is something in it for every listener; lovers of contemporary jazz, blues, and traditional jazz,” said Zoe Hauptmann.

“We are delighted to be presenting such a robust program of events. We are particularly grateful to our partners and funding providers Creative Victoria, the Australia Council for the Arts and the Rural City of Wangaratta and the local community, who have been incredibly supportive and flexible as we have faced the challenges of recent months,” said Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues Chair, Dave Fuller.

Dates:       Monday 26 October to Sunday 1 November 
Tickets:    ON SALE from 9 am Wednesday 30 September
Day Pass: $15 inc b/fee, Festival Pass for access to all events: $79 inc b/fee
Program & bookings:


7:30pm  National Jazz Award Finals – Lucy Iffla (WA), Lauren Henderson (SA)
8:15pm  Barney McAll Unit

7:30pm  National Jazz Award Finals – Briana Cowlishaw (NSW), Owen Measday (WA)
8:15pm  Tradition Alive – Margie Lou Dyer Quintet and Al’s Emotional Baggage Handlers

7:30pm    National Jazz Award Finals – Jessica Spina (QLD), Olivia Chindamo (VIC)
8:15pm    I Heart Improvisation – Maria Moles (drums), Scott Tinkler (trumpet); WOLFA: Jenny Barnes (voice) and Mick Meagher (electric bass)

7:30pm   National Jazz Award Finals – Rita Satch (VIC), Joshua Kyle (VIC)
8:15pm   2 x 1 x 3
               Nick Haywood and Tim Stevens
               Stills in Motion – A Retrospective from photographer Roger Mitchell
               Keller I Murphy I Ball 

7:30pm   National Jazz Award Finals – Harriett Allcroft, (VIC) and Amelia Evans (VIC)
8:15pm   The Amersfoort Connection:
               Arcing Wires – Alex Hirlian with his sextet
               Adam Simmons – Broodje Hadi
               Kika Sprangers Large Ensemble (The Netherlands)

3:45pm   FREE Community Program:
               Soli’s Blues Group
               Highlights from the 1986 Australian Jazz Convention Archive

5:30pm   Jo Lawry Quartet
6:45pm   National Jazz Awards announcement
7:15pm   Kings and Associates
8:30pm   The New Cabal 

3:45pm    FREE Community Program:
                Emma Christie Quartet
                Paris Zachariou & Mark Bolsius

6:30pm    Lazy Eye 
7:30pm    The Streamliners  
8:30pm    Zela Margossian Quintet  

Please note: 
– Program is subject to change
– Program times are Australian Eastern Standard

About the Author'

Adrian lives in Melbourne Australia and has a huge passion for gaming, technology and pop culture. He recently finished his a Bachelor of Journalism and is currently focusing on games journalism. When not writing and playing video games, Adrian can be found in Comics 'R' Us debating the pros of the DC Universe and cons of the Marvel Universe.

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