Australia’s foremost jazz and blues music festival, Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues, to be held from Friday 2nd through Sunday 4th November in Wangaratta, north-east Victoria, has announced a stunning program of international and Australian artists to tempt travellers, lovers of live music and locals alike.
This year’s program is the most internationally-diverse in the festival’s history, with the likes of electrifying UK blues guitarist Matt Schofield, US ‘sonic explorers’ FORQ, German jazz-hip-hop piano group Trio ELF, and, in a welcome return to Wangaratta for the first time since 2010, the Netherlands’ Yuri Honing Quartet.
And the local line-up promises to be stronger and more inspiring than ever, featuring the world premiere of the Australian Art Orchestra’s new work, revered Indigenous Australian jazz vocalist Wilma Reading, all-female soul band Sweethearts, Ray Beadle coming out of retirement to perform on both jazz and blues stages with Clayton Doley and Red Hands, and Tina Harrod performing her lauded new album, City of Longing, as well as guest-starring on the beloved annual Jazz Mass program.
Festival Chair Mark Bolsius praised the artistic team—Zoe Hauptmann, Frank Davidson, Scott Solimo and Adam Simmons—for creating a program jam-packed with fresh new faces, venerable favourites and award-winning musicians from the UK, US, France, Japan, Indonesia, the Czech Republic, India, The Netherlands, Asia, Germany, Sri Lanka, Canada and Australia.
“This year really builds on the successful rebirth of the festival in 2017, when our new venues, partnerships, precinct layout and programming team were universally endorsed by audiences, artists and music critics,” Mr Bolsius said.
“Not only do we have the most diverse international line-up ever, but we continue to offer a world-class Australian line-up, something that is unique to this festival. With more than 300 musicians in over 80 concerts across eight concert locations, we promise there’s something for everyone. We’re confident that we have the right mix of music, artists, stages and programming to satisfy and delight not just serious jazz and blues aficionados, but also tourists to northeast Victoria and of course our local music-lovers.”
Artist highlights include:
- UK blues guitarist, Matt Schofield, whose virtuoso playing has seen him named as one of the top 10 British Blues Guitarists of all time and inducted into the British Blues Hall of Fame;
- World-class sonic improvisers, FORQ, from the US, featuring keyboardist Henry Hey (David Bowie, Empire of the Sun) and bassist Michael League (Grammy-winning leader of Snarky Puppy) and touring their third album Thrēq;
- Vocalist Wilma Reading, whose numerous international career highlights include touring with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, performing on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, lead roles on London’s West End, and featuring at New York’s Copacabana Night Club;
- From The Netherlands, the Yuri Honing Quartet, in a welcome return to Wangaratta for the first time since 2010, this time with an acclaimed new album, Goldbrun;
- The world premiere of a new work by the Australian Art Orchestra—a contemplation of the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day in music by Andrea Keller, Peter Knight and Tilman Robinson;
- A slew of inspired local/overseas collaborations including The Three Seas, a cross-cultural and cross-genre collaboration between musicians from India and Australia;
The new Victorian Youth Jazz Collective, led by James Mustafa, paving the way for a whole new generation of young jazz musicians;
- Opelousas, a new blues collaboration between Kerri Simpson, Alison Ferrier and Anthony ‘Shorty’ Shortte of Collard Greens and Gravy fame;
- Ex-Canberra guitarist, Alex Stuart, touring with his French quintet;
- Wild woman of blues and 2017-18 MBAS Blues Performer of The Year, Kelly Auty, performing her new all-original blues album, Kelly’s Blues;
- The Adam Simmons Creative Music Ensemble with the Afrolankan Drumming System (Ray Pereira) and Indian dancer Vikram Iyengar performing The Calling;
- 2017 National Jazz Award winner, James Macaulay, with the Hishakaku Quartet;
- Triple J Unearthed indie-jazz-roots darlings, JAKAL, with Jessie Hillel (NZ) on vocals;
- A rare performance by jazz royalty, Ten Part Invention, celebrating over 30 years of creating music. The festival is thrilled to have on the bill this ‘small big band’ of virtuoso composer-improvisers, described one the Radio National Music Show as “one of the most expressive large ensembles to emerge from Australia”.
Since 1989 the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues grown to become an internationally renowned event attracting around 25,000 visitors and 200 jazz and blues artists from the US, the UK, Europe and Australia to regional north-east Victoria every November.
With a diverse, eclectic mix of jazz greats and rising stars, each year the program showcases jazz and blues of all styles, including original, contemporary, traditional, mainstream, experimental and improvised. A central feature remains the National Jazz Awards; a competition designed to encourage and promote young musicians. The Festival has won numerous tourism and sponsorship awards, and is recognised internationally as the foremost jazz and blues event in Australia.