29.05.2019

Eight reasons you can’t miss Melbourne International Jazz Festival

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Words by D'arcy McGregor

The Melbourne International Jazz Festival (MIJF) is back for its 21st year – and we all know a 21st birthday means a big party. This year we can expect some huge international and homegrown talents to grace Melbourne’s stages. There’s so much to catch over ten days, but don’t worry, us good folks here at Beat will help you through it.

A Melbourne Museum jazz odyssey

Ever wished the Melbourne Museum had live music and booze? Well wish no further because Nocturnal gives you the ticket to the mansion, after-dark. Teaming up with the Melbourne International Jazz Festival, they’ve prepared an all-star lineup including Jazz Party, Horns of Leroy ft. Thando, Tanya George, and more surprise performances throughout the night. Along with this killer bill, there’s also museum stuff to peruse – like expert talks and the new acclaimed exhibition Revolutions: Records and Rebels. It’s happening on Friday June 7 from 7pm.

Three Australian Jazz treasures

Since the ‘70s, Vince Jones has set the benchmark for Aussie jazz, his genre-defying sound and refreshing vocals make his show unmissable – there’ll also be some Aussie artists from throughout his career joining him. On top of that there’s Alma Zygier who performs classics from the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, and she makes these classics high-energy – a perfect balance of nostalgia and tremendous fun. Lastly, the honey-voiced Angela Davis leads the Angela Davis Trio. Davis’ illustrious career makes her a formidable jazz figure and a leader in Australia’s jazz scene.

Funk lords Ghost-Note

How could you possibly partake in MIJF without seeing these modern pioneers of jazz? Ghost-Note take the foundations of jazz, inspired by the likes of James Brown and Herbie Hancock (he’s here too!) and layer it with a fusion of modern sounds like Afrobeat, hip hop, psychedelia, and deep-pocket groove. The ensemble is playing one show at 170 Russell on Wednesday June 5. This show starts with a bass line and takes you on a soulful odyssey.

All the free stuff

There are so many free events it’s overwhelming, but here are a few to getcha going. Close Encounters – held in The Channel inside the Arts Centre – is an intimate hour with leading artists (notably, Ghost-Note and Linda May Han Oh) happening throughout the fest. The Juilliard School are putting on a series of four free lunchtime concerts at St James on Bourke St with some of their best performers while the Jazz Assembly is a big one – an opportunity for you to be a part of a MIJF chorus – even if you’ve never sung a note. This goes down on Thursday May 30.

60 Years of Kind of Blue

Do you like Miles Davis? Who are we kidding, of course you do. This one-off show with MIJF reflects on the best-selling jazz album of all time – Davis’ Kind of Blue. To celebrate the 60th anniversary of its recording, local jazz genius Ross James Irwin is paying tribute to the album by bringing together an 11-piece jazz orchestra to execute his own modern spin on the album’s five songs. Catch this show at 170 Russell on Friday June 7.

Three of the best from the US

Heard of Beyoncé or The Rolling Stones? Oh, you have? Well Lisa Fischer is the powerhouse performer behind making them spectacular. She might be a back-up singer, but this stage is her own. Outside of that, five-time Grammy winner and piano virtuoso Billy Childs is in Melbourne for the first time. He brings his exhilarating music and is a performance not to miss. Then there’s Ambrose Akinmusire who is sculpting modern jazz, weaving inspiration from other genres and composing reflective soundscapes of our social climate.

Herbie Hancock

This is unbelievably exciting; living jazz legend Herbie Hancock is hitting Hamer Hall for MIJF. The US icon has influenced modern music through partnerships with amazing artists like Stevie Wonder, Annie Lennox, Pink, and even Snoop Dogg. His six-decade career has seen 14 Grammys and glowing compliments from Miles Davis himself. Hancock’s music transcends genres – any opportunity to see him live can’t be ignored. You can see him and his hand-picked band Saturday June 8 or Sunday June 9 at Hamer Hall.

Jazz on film

There’s so much more than just performances at the Melbourne International Jazz Festival this year. If you’re in the mood for something jazzy, but can’t get along to a gig, there are movies you can tag along to. Some of the best movies this festival include Betty Davis: They Say I’m Different, which follows Betty Davis’ career as a funk-star whose life and career was overshadowed by ex-husband Miles Davis. Another must see is the other side, Miles Ahead, a biopic about Davis’ dark times in the late ‘70s. Check them out at cinemas around town.

The Melbourne International Jazz Festival takes over the city from Friday May 31 to Sunday June 9. Find all the info you need via melbournejazz.com. Grab all your ticks there too and have fun. You deserve it.