Magnetic Island North Queensland
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A young koala's beach adventure

August 29th 2012
Why is this music so good yet still not popular?

Can't-stand-still energy from Trudy Lile 16 years on and another Great Tropical Jazz Party is over on Magnetic Island. As usual this, most unexpected musical jewel, set in the heart of the Island we also call a jewel, was only heard and enjoyed by the limited few who love and appreciate such treasures. The ongoing mystery of how a music festival of absolutely world class standards - described by leading Australian musician Ben Hauptmann as, “the best jazz festival in Australia and maybe the world” - continues to attract only a small audience, remains.

There are many readily regurgitated theories as to why jazz isn’t drawing bigger crowds. “Old people’s music,” “There’s no melody”, “department store music”, or worse, “elevator music”, “too many notes”, “all goaties and berets”.

As a music lover I feel hard pressed to explain that for all the taunting, half truths of the above, I consider myself weirdly lucky that, at the right time in my life, I heard Miles Davis. It was something fresh and delicious, a sound that was also a space where you glimpsed things being allowed that you wouldn’t have thought so. It was a space where I could also relax waiting for the next breathy blow that came in its own good time, right when I couldn’t tell if it was on a beat it should be on or not, but forever making me want to hear again to decide. I gradually grew my listening from there.

But I cringe that, while not as much a problem as at the former venue, there were still quite a few empty chairs at the weekend party, sitting mutely before staggeringly good musicians.

Last Friday night the daftly named “Bob” with a couple of ring-ins just about set the white chairs on fire. I was hearing a brilliant ska beat worked up between the totally competent bass of Zoe Hauptmann and Chris Hales' 6 stringed semi-acoustic bass guitar - a totally unadorned object of functional beauty sitting beneath guitarist and composer Ben Hauptmann’s adventurously fingered fretboard. And, behind them, a meretriciously shabby Evan Mannell, a drummer who looks like he’s blissfully swimming in zero gravity once he hits his solo. This was just the rhythm section; building a platform - better call it the high diving board - for the soaring trumpet of Miroslav Bukovsky in full acrobatic brilliance. He was playing nice to Julian Banks’ nasty mastery of the tenor sax. This was elevator to the moon music and these guys weren’t even the main act.

Bill Watrous

The main act, The San Gabriel Seven, who took the stage on Saturday night, blew in from LA and showed us all about tone and the perfection of brass with the seventy something, living legend, Bill Watrous, assuming the role of sublime trombonist, ad hoc conductor and vocalist. Aussie singer Ingrid James was the cherry on this creamy cocktail and while suffering from a serious power problem - for which a clever but clearly improvised foldback solution was found - kept a standard of performance perhaps only the real pros can pull off without it showing.

There were over 40 world class musos to see and hear. Regretfully we didn’t catch them all but we witnessed the can’t-stand-still energy and brilliance of Kiwi flautist and singer Trudy Lile, and that was enough to make a lazy Sunday arvo jump.

Then there was Miroslav Bukovsky’s Sextet including John Mackey (established Great Tropical Jazz Party family now) with this year’s tribute to the great Cannonball and Nat Adderley and like last year’s tribute to Miles’ “Kind of Blue” it was clear the playing was a tribute of love as much as technique.

Considering the likes of Megan Washington and Kristin Berardi cut their very youthful teeth at this gig we took a look at who might be next in line as a leading lady vocalist from the Queensland conservatorium.

Luara Karlson-Carp receives her Young Performers Award
from Norm Strambini and Marilyn Sheather

Blossoming from beneath the brilliant mentoring of trumpet master John Hoffman, comes Luara Karlson-Carp. No need to worry about old people’s music here. With gifted Cassandra Godbold on sax and with effortless support from James Ball on keyboards, Sam Maguire on bass and Thomas Robb on drums, Luara showed, with a huge smile, why she was also gifted $1000 with the Young Performer Award.

John Hoffman, Cassandra Godbold and
Luara Karlson-Carp in action

Organiser Marilyn Sheather deserves a gong for her work on this premier event which she has been the backbone to for over a decade. She mused briefly on the event and while the financials are not yet in it looks like the GTJP will again just keep its head above water in a fashion similar to past events. As for numbers, “It looked about the same as normal but with a few extra Island faces I hadn’t seen at the Party before.”

Following the demise of the former hosting venue, the All Seasons in Nelly Bay, Marilyn is very pleased with the Arcadia Hotel. “There wasn’t one bad response from the musicians. It was fabulous and there were more people in the musician’s view. At the resort (All Seasons) people spread all around the terrace and there were more empty chairs in front of the musos.”

Marilyn Sheather took the party out in song backed by
John Hoffman and students from the conservatorium

Marilyn was also bolstered by Townsville City Council’s preparedness to guarantee $5000 for the next two events and is now hoping that the Hotel Arcadia will again be the venue.

“The San Gabriel Seven loved the Island and the warmth and magic of the event. Here they felt pampered - something they don’t see happening anywhere else. They are not recognised as individuals (at other festivals) and that’s why they all want to come back and perform without a fee. The hardest thing for me is to say no when putting a varied bill of performers together.”

Marilyn was also keen to acknowledge the support of Norm Strambini, a long time jazz lover and attendee at the Party who contributed $500 to the Young Performers Award which the committee matched with another $500 to make the $1000 award.

Music lovers owe Marilyn the Magnetic Jazz committee and volunteers a true debt which should only be paid in spreading the word about the brilliance of this, proudly Magnetic Island, gig.

For a big folio of photos from the Great Tropical Jazz Party 2012 on Magnetic see our facebook page (Here)

Why is this music so good yet still not popular?
August 29th 2012
I can't comment on this year but in the last few years it has been the venue that has let the festival down, not the music or work the committee has done. Because of this I didn't even look at this years festival
August 29th 2012
I know some people weren't happy with the red bus service from the Breakwater Terminal but the current arrangement is proving even worse. The timetable and hype state a bus every 10 minutes in the CBD. On Tuesday we waited over 20 minutes at the Walker St stop and ended up snagging a cab in order to catch the 5.20 ferry. Today I was at the bus stop at 4.52pm and a bus didn't come until 5.16pm - needless to say we missed the 5.20 ferry. I urge anyone who is having similar issues to let qconnect know. You can lodge a complaint (along with compliment and enquiry) online at their website.
August 29th 2012
I spoke to a group of 9 people who were on holiday from the UK at the beach in Horseshoe and they were so excited about the Jazz festival and would have definitely gone to it if it hadn't been $35 each for the evening , they would have gladly paid $25 each, these venues are pricing themselves out, surely a packed venue at $25 an evening would be better for everyone, pub needs to have drink and food specials as well, look at it next year and see it take off, advertise specials accordingly, especially to the local market. That's the reason we didn't bother going this year as last years $35 was way too over priced for us and many other locals I spoke to, what a waste because like you George I absolutely love Jazz music but not at that price. Before anyone goes off about this it's a fact and if you were honest with yourselves that's the reason the venue attendance is down, the price, full stop.
By the way these tourists bought up big from the local fish shop (Marlene) and had a great fry up on the beach BBQ ,they said it was absolutely fantastic and the fish prices were reasonable, so a local venue did well.
Maggie gal
August 29th 2012
Nice story maggie times. I love jazz too and think bryan has a point about the price. It's a hard thing to get the balance right and I feel for the organisers trying to get a reasonable return for their costs. It would I think be worth experimenting with a lower price maybe for a groups of 5 or 10. I thing price down volume is well worth a try. Gotta say that the food was way better than the old venue where you felt a bit trapped with a high price for mediocre meals and overpriced drinks. So well done Arcadia pub and thanks anyway to the organisers for such cool music.
Marilyn Sheather
August 29th 2012
Bryan,you need to get your facts straight, the cost of an evening ticket was $25(concession $20) for both the Fri concert and the Sat concert & jam session with the San Gabriel 7.(the same as last year). The day pass was $35/$30 which covered 5 sets ie five different bands; where would you see/hear music of this calibre for $7 a set. Our weekend pass is only $80/$70 for five concerts, the musicians comment that this is the cheapest festival they have been to.Locals need to be reminded our major audience pay an additional $32 for their return ferry fare plus flights etc. to be part of this world class event. Incidently, the Venue does not set the prices, the Magnetic Jazz Association have struggled for years to simply survive (averaging a $2,000 - $3,000 loss each year)it costs in the vicinity of $30,000 to run each Great Tropical Jazz Party.
We would like to thank Hotel Arcadia management & staff for their support,they did extensive preparation for the event & the food quality & pricing was superb. Also, thanks to our sponsors & volunteers. Can I suggest locals read the brochure we distribute to all island homes,as all the event pricing & other important info was included & you could pass this on to tourists. Bryan,if as you say, you are a jazz sad you missed this brilliant weekend,it may not be repeated. Our numbers were actually up, but more local support would guarantee our future.
August 30th 2012
Marilyn your Jazz festival is ABSOLUTELY worth $35 however some people just don't have it ,maybe more don't have it than the ones that do, according to the attendance. The tourists definitely said $35, I presumed the evening part, my apologies. Needless to say, somewhere along the line this is way to pricey for some people and not for others and in saying this something has to suffer whether it's attendance numbers or people like myself that don't want to pay the $35. If the whole day was $25 maybe an increase in attendance will be seen and say $20 for 5pm onwards. I truely sympathize with Magnetic Jazz Association who have struggled for years to simply survive You Marilyn have done a fantastic job and always have ,this is not a slight on you but on trying to get the venue so packed next year that you will run at a profit. As I said before a packed overflowing venue is surely better than a half packed venue financially and morally for the great performers you bring out here to perform. You have already gone in the right direction by relocating to Hotel Arcadia.

Yes I will definitely read the brochure next year with interest and hope that some of my rantings have been noted.
August 30th 2012
Sometimes Bryan, if you really like something and you really want to have it then you just have to pay. You can't possibly know if the Jazz Festival is ABSOLUTELY worthwhile if you didn't go. Your computer is not much use without an internet connection so I imagine you simply pay the price to your ISP and don't expect or dare to plead for a more "affordable" arrangement.
Live music of a certain class, delivered to your neighbourhood, is out of reach for some. Some don't reach very hard because they aren't really that interested. I don't think you can discount live music. If you don't really, really want it then just don't go.

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