The Melbourne International Jazz Festival announces its 2021 program

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The Melbourne International Jazz Festival returns in 2021 with a huge program.

From October 15-24, Australia’s largest jazz festival will feature more than 400 artists performing at 120 events in 30 venues, where they will present three world premieres, 13 album launches and 20 Australian premieres.

Fat Freddy’s Drop will headline the first Big Sunday at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl to close the 2021 Melbourne International Jazz Festival. Image provided.

This year, the festival will also celebrate Paul Grabowsky as the first-ever Artist in Residence, which will see the acclaimed pianist, composer and conductor collaborate with a wide range of artists to showcase the breadth of his art and the stylistic possibilities of jazz and improvised music.

“After a period of testing for live music, the Australian jazz community continues to thrive,” said artistic director Michael Tortoni. “At the heart of this resilience is the collaborative quality inherent in the genre – a refreshing antithesis to the isolation we have endured over the past 18 months. As George Gershwin once said: “Life is a lot like jazz. It’s best when you improvise, ”as we head into our 24th festival, collaboration – coming together – remains at the heart of our agenda. “

The festival kicks off with an opening gala, hosted by Eddie Perfect and featuring a collaboration between Christopher Crenshaw of Jazz at Lincoln Center, Vanessa Perica and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. A collection of some of Australia‘s best singers – including Katie Noonan, Vince Jones, Kylie Auldist and Harry James Angus of The Cat Empire will perform a selection of standards, specially arranged by Crenshaw for this performance.

The festival will close with the inaugural Big Sunday at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, an all-day celebration of jazz, funk, gospel and soul featuring New Zealander Fat Freddy’s Drop alongside locals The Bamboos, and a new project inspired by the gospel of Emma Donovan and Paul Grabowsky, with a six-piece horn and a rhythm section.

During the 10 days in between, the festival will feature a huge range of acts and activities to appeal to all ages and musical adventure.

Three of the highlights of the festival program are three exciting world premieres of major commissions. Amos Roach, musician, dancer, director and proud Djab Wurrung / Gunditjmara and Ngarrindjeri, will present his new commission as part of the inaugural one-year residency of MIJF and the Australian Art Orchestra (AAO). Roach will use traditional instruments, song, music and dance to tell stories of Songs, family and country.

Amos cockroach

MIJF 2021 First Nations artist in residence Amos Roach. Image © Mitch Power

Trombonist, arranger and composer Ellie Lamb to launch Take Note 2021 order Between worlds, an ambitious exploration of identity and the experience of living between genres and genres that touches on minimalism, folk and post-rock, interwoven with a lush orchestration. Lamb’s ensemble for this performance is an exciting collection of young Australian talent including Niran Dasika (trumpet), Flora Carbo (alto saxophone / bass clarinet), Shaun Rammers (tenor saxophone / clarinet), Rowan Pattison (guitar), Selene Messinis (keyboards), Oscar Neyland (bass) and Maddison Carter (drums).

The third of the world premieres is Hilary Geddes, one of the 2021 ABC Jazz Fellowship recipients. Sydney-based guitarist and songwriter Geddes will premiere the music by Park side, his new record, with Matthew Harris (piano), Maximillian Alduca (double bass) and Alexander Inman-Hislop (drums).

In a very Melbourne atmosphere, the MIJF will organize a Jazz Hub at the end of the evening at Toff In Town. The late night spot will feature local Melbourne musos every night of the festival, with the potential for surprise collaborations and impromptu jam sessions ensuring that the jazz conductors are unlikely to ever leave. The scheduled performances will also draw a crowd, including supergroup Nock / Wilson / Zwartz / Stuart releasing their second album, the Luke Howard Trio releasing their fourth and The Vampires – consisting of Jeremy Rose, Nick Garbett, Noel Mason and Alex Masso – invite a group of friends to make some noise.

Paul Grabowsky’s time as the inaugural Artist-in-Residence will be busy, as he features in a number of different performances and projects. He and Paul Kelly will take the stage at the Melbourne Recital Center to perform songs from their award-winning album ARIA, Please leave your light on; he will perform with the singer of Tuscan origin Ilaria Crociani for Torio!, a celebration and exploration of Italian music; and he will also perform with neo-soul singer Ngaiire. In addition to these performances, Grabowsky will also talk about his successful career as part of the festival’s lecture program.

Paul Grabowsky and Paul Kelly

Paul Grabowsky and Paul Kelly. Image © Pia Johnson.

Other highlights include One night at the museum, a guided tour of the Melbourne Museum featuring musicians responding in real time to their surroundings; Its underground, a “meditative music sound bath experience that integrates the ambient sounds of Flinders Street Station into a soundscape”; and Radiohead’s music, a homage to the genre-defying English group of some of the most exciting Australian musicians in jazz and popular music – including Japanese Wallpaper, Hannah Cameron, Ryan Munro, David Quested and Ollie Cox, who hosted a similar event focused on music by Bon Iver and Sufjan Stevens at the 2019 festival.

MIJF also offers two events for its youngest fans: Kidstruments Live! takes imagined instruments and turns them into real, playable musical gadgets, while rock-a-bye baby sees the funk trio Cookin ‘On 3 Burners joined by singer Stella Angelico for a relaxed show for all ages.

And in exciting news for jazz fans across the country, the festival will be offering a selection of its events to stream online. Not only will this make the festival more accessible, but it will give them some flexibility if live events are still limited in October.


Tickets are available from the Melbourne International Jazz Festival.

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