The Newcastle Jazz Festival, the Hunter’s longest continuing music festival, will celebrate its 30th birthday from Friday, August 26 to Sunday, August 27 at Wests New Lambton.
The first Newcastle festival was held in September 1988 as part the NSW Bicentennial Festival of Music and was organised by The Newcastle Jazz Action Society. The festival featured American jazz singer Topsy Chapman and English clarinettist Sammy Rimington.
The success of last year’s festival together with the excellent facilities at Wests has generated increased interest in this year’s event. Consequently, organisers have opened an extra stage at Wests Bowling Club to provide even more choice.
Over 40 bands will be performing on four stages at various times over the weekend providing 50 hours of entertainment. Visitors from all over Australia, and New Zealand, will be descending on Newcastle, attracted by the wide variety of jazz styles including some blues, trad, contemporary, swing, gypsy, big bands, and orchestras that the Newcastle festival offers.
Galapagos Duck, has probably become the best-known jazz band in Australia. Its membership may have changed since its first performance in 1969, but the philosophy of the band has always remained the same, to create a performance that, while jazz oriented, is able to be appreciated and enjoyed by everybody.
Janet Seidel, who recently passed away, was one of Australia’s best-known jazz singers. Janet, who had been booked to sing at the Newcastle festival, will be remembered on Saturday afternoon when her band will play a tribute set.
A distinctive deep voice has contributed to the fame of former Novocastrian Lee Gunness whose trademark styles are gospel and blues. Lee has appeared at jazz festivals throughout Australia, opened the Edinburgh International Jazz Festival, has performed in Japan, and recorded two CDs in New Orleans. At this year’s festival, Lee will sing jazz gospel and blues with the Geoff Power Jazz Band.
Dr Don’s Double Dose, with Don Hopkins on piano and vocals, and Lawrie Thompson on drums and percussion, draw from the blues and jazz of the 1920s and 1930s through to R&B, soul and gospel sounds of the 1950s and 1960s with an emphasis on the New Orleans piano styles and songs.
Vocalists will feature in many bands. Heather Price will join the Dungeon Big Band to sing a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald whilst Andy Firth’s Nova Swing Jazz Band will feature Julie Wilson on Friday and Saturday evenings. New to the festival this year are acapella jazz and blues group Bella Voce, and, Sancha and the Blue Gypsies. Jazz party goers who like to dance will be able to kick up their heels to music provided by the fabulous Swing Kings with vocalist Karen Durand and Swing Company with vocalist Renee Berger.
The Dizzy Fingers Ragtime Band, led by Sydney trumpeter and ragtime enthusiast Craig Mitten will feature vocalist Tanya Christenson, specializing in the lively music of the early 1900s.
Mitch Capone, a Novocastrian, has made a name for himself entertaining guests on various cruise liners. Mitch, supported by a nine-piece band under the direction of Andy Firth, will perform some of the great songs made famous by Frank Sinatra.
Sydney’s Spyglass Gypsies combine traditional French gypsy songs with swinging originals with the lyrical sounds of accordion, clarinet and the percussive ‘la pompe’ of gypsy guitars.
Mimosa is a guitar and violin duo of international standard. Phoebe O’Shea and Morgan Haselden were classically trained and now perform music from vastly different genres, most noticeably the gypsy jazz music of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli.
Trad jazz fans will be well catered for with ten bands to choose from including Melbourne’s dynamic young band Shirazz, jazz icon trumpeter Bob Henderson, and the Zulu Kings and Queens who were very popular at last year’s Australian Jazz Convention. Local bands include Eric Gibbons New Orleans Jazz Band and The Licorice Allsorts.
The Newcastle Conservatorium Jazz Orchestra will begin the entertainment on Saturday when there will also be performances from Geoff Power’s Great Gatsby Jazz Orchestra and the New Empire Ballroom Ragtime Dance Orchestra.
Some 90 Hunter musicians will be taking part and include such popular performers as guitarist Adam Miller, Fish Fry, Half Nelson, New Wobbly Boot Jazz and Blues Band, Rehab Brass Band, Jacob Neale, and Terence Koo.
A full weekend festival pass costs just $115. Session passes range from $25 to $40. Full details, including ticket booking, the festival brochure, and details of all the bands, are available at www.newcastlejazz.com.au , on Facebook (Newcastle Jazz Club and Festival), or by calling 02 49637237 or 02 49296315.