The 2021 program features the cream of the Australian jazz scene and some of our greatest international jazz exports who have returned home in recent times.
The festival was formed in 2017, with Australian jazz at its core, by Artistic Director and then Head of the Sydney Conservatorium Jazz Studies Program, David Theak. A tireless advocate for jazz in Australia, Theak was disappointed the 2020 festival did not go ahead due to COVID-19, and is thrilled its fourth incarnation will be possible despite the many challenges faced.
"How does one present an international jazz festival during a pandemic when international travel is essentially non-existent?" asks David Theak.
We improvised and found some of the world’s most creative jazz musicians were seeking refuge within our borders. I'm proud to offer our strongest, most diverse and creative program to date.
Currently waiting out the pandemic in her home town of Perth, headline act Linda May Han Oh had moved to New York in 2006 and is now the bassist for 20-time Grammy Award winner Pat Metheny. Exciting audiences worldwide, she has gained international recognition for her innovative approach that seamlessly blends jazz, classical forms and cutting edge composition, and has become an in-demand bassist for the likes of global jazz giants Dave Douglas, Kenny Barron and Steve Wilson.
In a homecoming for some of our greatest international jazz exports, the festival also debuts performances by Sting collaborator vocalist Jo Lawry (USA) who will perform with string ensemble, Fabian Almazan & Rhizome (USA/CUBA) and saxophonist Will Vinson (USA/UK).
Thirsty Merc front-man Rai Thistlethwayte, who has been living and working in Los Angeles with trail-blazing drummer Louis Cole and Knower in recent years, will give a rare solo piano performance, while trumpeter Nick Garbett, who returned from Italy last month, will premiere a new work.
The festival also features performances by some of our most recognised and celebrated names, including Australia's leading vocalist Vince Jones who will perform with The Australian National Jazz Orchestra. Legend of the Australian jazz scene, pianist and composer Mike Nock, will perform new music with his critically acclaimed super group This World featuring saxophonist Julien Wilson, bassist Jonathan Zwartz and Hamish Stuart.
In a Sydney debut, Melbourne artists Luke Howard will join forces with Nadje Noordhuis, and Andrea Keller appears alongside the musicians of tomorrow Niran Dasika and 2020 Freedman Jazz Fellow, Helen Svoboda. Rarely heard live, Bruny Island resident and one of Australia’s most accomplished trumpeters, Scott Tinkler, will go toe- to- toe with Sydney trumpeter Andy Fiddes.
Audiences will hear from esteemed local artists Paul Cutlan, Zela Margossian, and Aaron Blakey and get a taste of the new vanguard with a performance by emerging artists Arcing Wires. Jazz Cafe concerts will feature the best of Australian swing with groups led by Dan Barnett, Kate Wadey and Andrew Dickeson.
"We at the Con have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to reintroduce live performances and this festival is an important step to rebuilding the cultural fabric of our city," says David Theak.
Image: Dan Barnett