The Port Phillip Mussel & Jazz Festival is the classy combination you won't want to miss

Chelsea Wilson knows a thing or two about finding inspiration. 

The Melbourne-based jazz musician and guest selector of this year’s Port Phillip Mussel & Jazz Festival has developed a unique insight into the nuances of the industry. For Wilson, finding influence is about more than just notes on a stave.

“I have so many different role models in music and all for different reasons,” she says. “I really like a quote that Nina Simone said about artists reflecting on the time that they’re in, so I guess for me I always find music very inspiring, regardless of the genre or the artist, when they’re saying something that has real meaning – people that create music that comes from the heart.”

Such authenticity will be on show when the Port Phillip Mussel & Jazz Festival returns this week for a two-day seafood celebration, soundtracked by the likes of Brazilian jazz and bossa nova experts Duo Novo, bebop masterminds BopStretch, and the afro-funk stylings of The Senegambian Jazz Band. While it’s an easy must-see for jazz aficionados, the festival also presents a unique opportunity for listeners looking for an introduction to the world of jazz.

“I would say come to the Mussel & Jazz Festival at South Melbourne Market as a great place to start to see some live jazz,” says Wilson. “The thing about jazz is that it means so many things to so many different people. It’s quite an umbrella term; there are so many different genres that have come from jazz. A lot of people might think, ‘Oh, I don’t really like jazz’ or ‘I don’t really understand jazz’, but they probably listen to some jazz anyway.

“I think just getting amongst it, going to some local gigs, going to some local festivals, listening to local radio – tune into PBS 106.7FM, I’d listen to Black Wax with Adam Rudegeair or Jazz on Saturday – that’s a really good way to get acquainted with such an amazing discography.”

Wilson is set to contribute to that discography with the upcoming release of her sophomore record, Chasing Gold. The new album pairs party vibes with political undertones, with songs touching on events such as the 2016 shooting at Pulse nightclub, plus an especially notable track called ‘Take Back the Night’.

Chasing Gold is a really special project for me and was an amazing album to make,” says Wilson. “It’s quite conceptual; it is a really disco-influenced, rare-groove album. I really wanted it to be the album that you put on while you’re getting ready to go out.

“I remember reading Nile Rodgers’ biography and he was talking about, with the Chic repertoire, how it was really fun, dance party music, but they always had some lyrical message or undertone to it that was a lot deeper. And when I read that, I thought, ‘Oh, that’s exactly what I’m trying to do’. I’m kind of thinking of it as disco with depth.

“I also wrote a song on there called ‘Take Back the Night’, which is partly inspired by the Reclaim the Night rally, but also about Jill Meagher. It’s around when I was living in Brunswick and my partner at the time didn’t want me walking home from the tram stop by myself, and just how angry that made me, that I should have to be scared just to walk around.”

Ahead of the release of Chasing Gold, Wilson will take centre stage at the Mussel & Jazz Festival to team up with long-term collaborator Adam Rudegeair, for a performance that will pay tribute to jazz greats through a series of covers. As one of the last chances to enjoy some quality live music in an outdoor setting this summer, Wilson agrees that this festival is one you don’t want to miss.

“I can’t really think of a better way to spend your weekend than delicious food, great drinks, free festival – I mean, what more do you want in life? Good jazz and good wine pretty much sums it up for me.” 

Catch Chelsea Wilson with the Adam Rudegeair Trio at the Port Phillip Mussel & Jazz Festival from Saturday March 9 to Sunday March 10 at South Melbourne Market. Entry is free.