Saturday, May 3, 2008

MJIF 2008: Day One

Wed 30 April: Day 1

At supposedly the middle of the day, standing in supposedly full sun, I jigged to keep warm, checking out some great big band jazz playing on the free-stage in Federation Square. There’s a pretty hip program of large ensembles on there to keep Square-goers tapping their toes throughout the week.

At 3pm I engaged my first ‘order of business’, an interview with Jon Weber. There was little to no business about it and all pleasure. Jon Weber is not only the greatest living stride pianist I have ever seen in the flesh, he’s also one of the warmest, most generous and creative people I’ve met.

Being the first real interview I have ever conducted in my life, I wasn’t sure what to expect or what might be expected, so I decided to do the good old trusting of the gut. For me, this means simply sitting and talking like the two human beings we are.

It worked out great and there was a fantastic moment when we switched off the tape recorded and really got to know each other. I look forward to writing up the on-the-record parts of our interview for you. This should hopefully be posted here in the next week or so – this is also my introduction to the painful joy of transcribing speech!

Shortly after my interview initiation, I met up with a friend from Brisbane who is also an amazing jazz pianist named John Reeves. He had just emerged from Dr Abdullah Ibrahim’s master-class at the BMW Edge and the awe was radiating from the core of his being. Just watching him briefly and succinctly describe how indescribable the experience was gave such a strong sensory impression that I was already touched by the magic of the great man who, unbeknownst to me, was about to rock my world a few nights later.

In between concerts I caught up with an ex-Brisbane writer friend who gave me a good hit of the Melbourne-ness that I crave. We walked from one culinary delight to another, ending up in a chocolate restaurant (!): food and jazz – livin’ the dream.

Later on the Wednesday night I went to see Kurt Elling at the Regent Theatre. Wow, man!!! There’s a whole blog post coming right up on that one. For now suffice to say it was one of those experiences where the audience was rewarded for supporting live music by being included in something special.

You can click here to read a review of the concert including support act Les Enfants de Django by the great Melbourne jazz writer Miriam Zolin.

It’s possible that this year’s festival has provided the best way ever to keep warm at night – hopping from amazing gig to amazing gig! Walking into jam session at Bennetts Lane is like coming home. Last year’s jams were held in a big, shiny casino room that always felt empty no matter how many people were in it. Bennetts is the ideal home for this kind of session.

The music on the first night was pretty freakin’ cool, but not as many players showed up as I would have liked. That said, Sam Keevers Trio held down the fort incredibly well, Gian Slater blew my mind repeatedly in the space of a few minutes and Rob Amster and Kobe Watkins (Kurt Elling’s bass player and drummer) sat in for a few tunes and took it through the roof.

It’s just such a treat to be able to stay out ‘til 3am listening to amazing live music. It does tend to have the effect of overloading your ears though, hence why it has taken me a few days of space to write up these experiences. My goal for this festival is to not overload like last year, which may mean missing a jam or two. Wishing myself the best of luck with that!