Each year during the last weekend in October the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz hosts the National Jazz Awards and I was thrilled to be selected as 1 of 10 finalists in the saxophone competition for this year’s festival. Straight up I want to say a big thanks to Chris Poulsen (piano), Nick Quigley (bass), Aaron Jansz (drums) and Mark Smith (recording engineer) who helped me record my submission for this competition. The judges this year were Jamie Oehlers, Melissa Aldana and Barney McAll.
I arrived in Wangaratta late on the Friday and was taken straight to rehearse with the rhythm section consisting of Mark Fitzgibbon (piano), Sam Anning (bass) and Danny Fischer (drums). 5 players were scheduled to play across 2 semi-finals held on Saturday and Sunday morning.
I was scheduled to play 2nd on the Saturday morning and I waited for my turn listening to Joe Henderson playing Take the A Train with Gregory Hutchinson from Henderson’s album Lush Life. This recording makes me really happy. The time arrived and I was counting off the first tune before I’d realised I was playing the highest pressure performance of my career-to-date. We played a calypso blues by Charlie Parker called Barbados, Hoagy Carmichael’s beautiful ballad Stardust and, to finish with, the late Bernie McGann’s tune Brownesville as a trio. It really was a treat to play music with such fine players.
I listened to the rest of the finalists’ performances over the weekend and it was a fascinating experience to hear the variety of saxophone approaches and sounds in such rapid succession. We also had some great hangs! What a great bunch of people.
It was wonderful having the 2009 winner of the saxophone award Zac Hurren sitting in the front of the audience just willing every one of the finalists to play at their best. Zac gave me some great advice in the lead up to this experience and his presence throughout the process was of great support to me. Thanks Zac! Michael Anderson, Ben Hauptmann and Brendan Clarke also shared some very useful advice on their experiences with this competition that I am very grateful for.
The final was fantastic on Sunday night with Mike Rivett, Troy Roberts and Jeremy Rose all showcasing their individual styles to a packed house in the Performing Arts Centre. Mike Rivett was ultimately named the winner and the festival finished off with swinging trad session at the Pinsent Hotel on Sunday night with a great party atmosphere to have a drink and a final chat with some new friends.
On the Monday I caught up with ex-Brisbane saxophonist and composer Andrew Garton in Melbourne to attend a conference hosted by Monash University and VCA and heard some interesting presentations regarding perspectives on Australian Jazz Research and research methodology in jazz.
I found this whole experience to be incredibly inspiring and I heard some sounds that are happening in other parts of the world that I don’t get to hear often in Brisbane. Barney McAll’s group ASIO, Melissa Aldana’s Crash Trio, the Bernie McGann tribute and Ronan Guilfoyle’s The Long Way Around all provided much food for thought. I missed Shannon Barnet’s Quartet at Wangaratta but caught their gig a few days later in Brisbane which was killer! New friends, new music and new stuff to practice!