Perth just got itself a new festival this year: the Perth International Jazz Festival. It ran over one weekend, May 24-26, and was headlined by Joe Lovano, Katie Noonan and Vince Jones in a one-off evening performance at the Perth Concert Hall. Each artist took the stage with his or her own group of musos, and then combined in different configurations over the course of the night to give us some interesting musical moments.
The night started out with Katie Noonan, with her accompanying saxophonist Zac Hurren (on soprano sax), and guitarist Steve Magnusson. They performed original works that showcased Noonan’s unique vocal style, and captivated the audience with the ethereal sounds the trio rendered.
Next up was Joe Lovano, who drove an entirely different machine with his quartet and immediately livened up the house after the lullabies from Noonan. Lovano led Tal Cohen on piano, Sam Anning on Bass and Ben Vanderwal on drums; consummate artists all. Cohen’s solos were magnificent, complex and exciting. Lovano has sought to reinvigorate his music with these guys and the result is thoroughly successful. This was a lively set that moved at a swift pace, with lots of twists and turns, and flawless timing and sound.
Then as the end of the first half neared, they brought Katie Noonan back out to collaborate with them, as well as Zac Hurren, this time on tenor sax. This mix was of personnel was really interesting – Lovano and Allen facing off on the tenor sax proved to be a fascinating study in differing styles. Noonan’s stratospheric cooing fit in well in spots, and her improvisations were on a par with those of the two saxophonists, sometimes giving the impression of a third sax voice, so similar was her vocal timbre to that of the instrument.
After the break, Vince Jones and his band gave us their take on contemporary jazz, which again was quite a bit smoother and gentler than Lovano’s. He introduced each song over a tinkling piano, with a drawn-out description of what, or who, the song was inspired by. Occasionally he picked up his flugelhorn for a short solo, but he mainly delivered the vocals he is famous for. Then he was joined by Noonan and Lovano for a couple of numbers, including ‘Yesterday’ by Lennon and McCartney, and then ended the evening with him solo accompanied by his pianist.
Katie Noonan asked the audience to send good thoughts to Graham Wood, the jazz man behind Perth’s newest music festival, as he is at the moment in the hospital and could not attend. Let’s hope he got the word that his “baby” (as Noonan put it) was a great success, and the concert hall was packed with happy fans for its headlining event.