Jazzing up the weekend


It’s a sunny morning in Perth and musicians are warming up to perform at the Perth International Jazz festival this long weekend.

The festival is presenting 52 local and international acts across 19 venues in the WA capital.

John Septimus Roe Anglican Community School is one of the two schools involved in the three-day festival.

Band leader of the school’s jazz band, Hugh Lydon, says the festival is a good step to bridge the gap between secondary and tertiary education.

“We are trying to acknowledge that jazz music is a medium that teenagers can get into which is enjoyable and not as difficult as everyone might think it is,” he says.

Mr Lydon says jazz is taught a lot at university but not so much in schools.

He says jazz is a highly regarded degree at the WA Academy of the Performing Arts which has seen many people move to Perth from eastern Australia to continue their studies in jazz.

He says the co-founder of Ellington Jazz Club, and creator of the festival, Graham Wood, specifically designed the event to promote jazz to the wider community.

“The next step as far as Mr Wood is concerned is to grow what is already on an existing base in the jazz scene and reach out to the younger generation who are interested in getting involved,” he says.

Mr Lydon says while a large number of people are into jazz it is not considered a mainstream music culture.

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Musician at, and owner of, the Jazz Cellar in Mount Hawthorn Roy Burton says there are two main variations of jazz music.

Burton says the traditional field of jazz originated in New Orleans in the 1920s and spread to Europe in the 1950s, whereas modern jazz [which emerged in the late 1940s] is a different sound altogether.

“Traditional jazz bands usually consist of six or seven members to make an overall sound, whereas modern jazz is typically solo making it relatively cheap to run a festival,” he says.

“All that is needed is a rhythm section and one instrument.

“The venues that they are using in Perth are generally smaller and to fit a six-piece or seven-piece [band] into a small bar would be impossible from a cost point of view and the amount of space they take up.

“We have a broad cross section of people from all ages and it’s certainly nothing like the pub scene.

“Our aim is for people to enjoy themselves whereas, with modern players, everyone has to sit and be very serious to try and listen and make sense of the music.”

Musician and co-founder of the WA Jazz Guitar Society, Garry Lee, says festivals provide musicians with an opportunity to perform exactly how they want to.

Lee says that, having taught at WAAPA for 16 years, he has seen a significant improvement in the opportunities for jazz graduates.

“At the end of the day whether it be New York or Perth, jazz still only really appeals to a small minority”, he says.

“We are not going to get an audience like AC/DC or Beyonce.”

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