Sydney Con’s inaugural jazz festival ends on a high note

The newly formed Australian National Jazz Orchestra – photo Aaron Blakey

The Sydney Conservatorium of Music closed its inaugural International Jazz Festival on Sunday night with a sold-out performance by prolific Armenian pianist, Tigran Hamasyan.

Australia’s jazz elite was out in full flight as the country’s most celebrated jazz artists entertained audiences in back-to-back performances. From solo piano to jazz orchestras, and everything in between, the festival enjoyed capacity crowds at key events across the day.

Artistic Director and Head of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music Jazz Studies program David Theak said: “We were thrilled that so many people turned out to support the festival in its first year, and we would like to thank our audiences, artists and Conservatorium staff for making this year’s festival such a great success.”

Originating from Perth, Speedball’s high-energy opening performance ignited the stage, setting the tone for the day. Highlights included the brand new Australian National Jazz Orchestra which assembled top players from around the country in a world-premiere of new compositions by Victorian composer Nick Mulder.

In a stand out performance Emma Stephenson’s dynamic Hieronymus Trio, which featured vocalist Gian Slater, moved in a singular sensibility, unbound by notions of genre or style.

Adelaide guitarist James Muller’s breathtaking virtuosity was evenly matched against the superb sound of UK saxophonist Will Vinson and surprise guest artist Mat Jodrell in a festival highlight.

Leading voice in Australian jazz, trumpeter Phil Slater, showcased a series of new works inspired by Australian composers including Peter Sculthorpe, Andrew Ford, Sandy Evans and Mike Nock.

US drummer Jim Black reunited with Sydney guitarist Carl Dewhurst and Melbourne artists Julien Wilson and Christopher Hale after a 12-year hiatus, traversing a broad musical terrain that drew on rock, blues, metal, free improv and Balkan beat in an enthralling 75-minute set.

Professor Anna Reid, Head of School and Dean at the University of Sydney’s Conservatorium of Music said: “Jazz fans and our student jazz musicians were treated to an incredible festival of music that reverberated across multiple venues of the Con. It was fitting to see the Australian National Jazz Orchestra make its debut at the inaugural festival and bring together leading jazz musicians from across the country. It was a truly extraordinary showcase of Australian jazz music and it was wonderful to see our own jazz teachers performing,” she said.

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