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