Monday, March 01, 2010

Jazz, man, jazz.

On Thursday night I went to the Clarence Jazz Festival with Mum and Dad, at the old Rosny Schoolhouse site. They've always been big jazz fans, and have been meaning to get to this annual groove-fest for years. They made sure of it this year because my sister Sally was featured as an artist-in-residence. She is a video artist, and had made two different pieces on show around the site.

When I arrived Mum and Dad were watching a fairly trad combo on the main stage. There is a unique crowd dynamic with trad jazz - the "clapping after the solo" phenomenon. When the trumpeter finishes his fancy bit, and the sax player starts his, there is a little time lag and then people give him a hand. A really good solo gets a big round that drowns out the first half of the next solo. "Trad" is probably not accurate - there was no banjo, straw boaters or suspenders. Perhaps "classic jazz" is a better description. The vocalist/alto sax was very Vince Jones-y.

When the trad guys finished we went to see the next act, inside an old stone barn, built in 1815. One of Sal's works was looping on a screen on the back wall. She filmed ten jazz standards, as "sung" by three different sign language practitioners. It worked very well - there was no sound, but Sal said she knew many of the audience would know the words very well anyway.

While it looped silently behind us we watched a tight jazz-rock-blues combo called King Cake - Randall Muir and Pete Cornelius on keys and guitars, and a drummer from Melbourne. They reminded me a lot of Directions In Groove who were a Triple-J radio staple in the nineties, although King Cake were purely instrumental.

At one point they did a very modified version of Cocaine by JJ Cale. At the end Randall called out "Can you pick it?" Sally was briefly thrilled to the core as she thought he had asked "Can you dig it?", and and of course everyone lives for the moment when a jazz man actually says that.

During a break between sets it was time to go out and see Sal's second piece, which was consisted of three films projected one after the other in different locations around the yard. Sal had filmed her mouth in extreme close up, miming along to three more standards - I forget the first, but the next were Ella Fitzgerald doing A Tisket A Tasket, and Fats Waller doing Seafood Dinner - I hope that's right. All you could see were the red lips, projected up into a tree, onto a pile of boulders, and on a screen behind some kind of historic 9-pane window. It was entertaining and very well done.

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