This is a particularly bitter sweet weekend for jazz supporters, with “The Last Hurrah” of the slowly fading Wangaratta Festival, following the truly great success of the
The Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues has been an invaluable showcase for Australian jazz scene for over 30 years (particularly for geographically-isolated WA artists seeking a national profile), and its demise is a huge loss for Australian jazz.
Like many, I do not believe that this was “inevitable” if the Festival had been effectively managed and more professionally-run in recent years.
The MIJF and Wangaratta events have very different aims and characters, and I believe that there is still a future role for the Wangaratta Festival (which combines a country experience, and the opportunity to hear two full days of music). It would now need to be staged at a different time of the year (away from the MIJF), and it would need to maintain a policy of adventurous programming (including an international component) by a widely respected Artistic Director, while offering some form of entertainment and engagement for the local audience.
Coincidentally, the MIJF almost ceased to exist in 2002, when when the City of Melbourne and Arts Victoria declined to fund the 2002 Festival at less than 3 months notice. Protests, lobbying and co-operation from the Melbourne jazz scene ensured that it continued in 2003, and it has steadily grown from there.
Current C.E.O. Hadley Agrez and his predecessor, Ms. Jenn Kerr, have demonstrated how a truly professional management team (with a strong Board) can ensure the continued growth of a Festival.
Agrez and Artistic Director, Michael Tortoni, overcame the considerable challenges of Lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, and have kept building their “brand”. The move to October has enabled the Festival to share some artists with the Perth International Jazz Festival too. And now Agrez is at the London Jazz Festival where an Australian stage will present two Sydney groups, Brekky Boy and the Zela Margossian Quintet.
The next presentations in our Sunday night series features the debut of Brennan Hamilton-Smith, a young woodwind player who is mostly associated with the mainstream scene, but will perform in a quite contemporary vein.
The next week sees the welcome return to Melbourne of Remco Keijzer, who has been based interstate for around a year with the “Moulin Rouge” show.
He will be joined by Paris-based expatriate Daniel Gassin. Niko Schauble and Carl Pannuzzo promise something different in their duo, while Tamara Murphy closes the month with her TMT group.
The Festivals may have finished, but there is plenty of worthwhile jazz being offered on every night at one of our venues.