All that Jazz ~ Thredbo Jazz Festival, Kosciuszko National Park, NSW

It doesn’t matter what continent you are on: there is something about mountain air that sharpens the senses. Colours are brighter, the air is cleaner, sounds are clearer… I know my spirits rise.

Add to that: sunshine, a crisp Australian sparkling white wine, and some spirited jazz musicians, and you have an unbeatable experience. Last weekend we were in Thredbo, high in Australia’s Snowy Mountains, for the annual Jazz Festival: Thredbo’s 25th and our first.

Although I was introduced to Herbie Hancock and Thelonious Monk at an early age, “pure” jazz is not my favourite musical form. But, I’m always happy for an excuse (as though one is needed!) to head into Kosciuszko National Park, and we enjoyed the Blues Festival there greatly in January, so we decided to try it out.  I’m not about to wade into the debate over what constitures the boundaries of “jazz”: suffice it to say, we were pleased (and a little relieved) to find great music in a variety of styles within the broader definitions.

Whatever you want to call it, it was pure fun and great entertainment.

The challenge for me, in tight corners and badly-lit venues, was to stop foot-tapping long enough to take a few pictures I’d could edit to the point where I’d be happy enough to share them – when I’d rather be dancing!

Portrait: man telling a story, saxophone around his neck.

Bright daylight outside, as we sit in a dimly lit bar, listening to the smooth voice of James Valentine.

Our first stop was the Lounge Bar for the James Valentine Quartet. Now, as a “mum”, I know James’ voice from watching afternoon television with my children, some twenty-five years ago. Other people know him as the lead voice and tenor saxophone for the The James Valentine Quartet, a role he performs with effortless style.

One man with an accordion, another with a tenor sax.

Gary Daley on accordion, with James Valentine

Tea-light candles and drinks on a low table in the dark.

Smoky bar atmosphere ... without the smoke!

We would have stayed for more, but we had dinner reservations with Sarah McKenzie, her keyboard and her band.

Sarah McKenzie; what can I say, except that her bio doesn't exaggerate! We went home with an excellent CD.

Dark room: blond woman at keyboard; guitar and audience behind.

Sarah McKenzie at the Cascades Restaurant

Young man in a suit, drumming.

Drummer with the Sarah McKenzie Quartet.

Angle bar shot: a selection of beers and hanging glasses.

Pick a beer - any beer. Cascade's Restaurant, Thredbo Alpine Hotel.

After a morning run around the over-full Lake Jindabyne (we’ve had a LOT of rain here), we headed back up the hill the next afternoon to stake out a good position in the Schuss Bar.

Empty stage, musical instruments and microphones ready.

The Schuss Bar is ready and waiting...

Youthful brass band in black tee-shirts.

... for the Hot Potato Band ...

Detail: horn ends of a trombone and a trumpet.

... with its big, brassy sound.

Portrait: woman and man sharing a microphone.

Big vocals.

Detail: hands playing a saxophone.

Rocking the saxophone.

Detail: male back, playing tenor sax

Blue jeans and sax.

Young man with a tenor sax dancing in a bar.

Bernie Lagana, playing the audience.

With a smile on our faces, we danced off to another venue, dinner, and a completely different (but equally enjoyable) take on “jazz” from the flamboyant Jeff Duff, with Glenn Rhodes on keyboard and ex-Icehouse drummer Paul Wheeler.

Man in red suit smiling.

Jeff Duff chatting to a fan. One of the advantages of impossibly small venues is that one is privy to all the "back-stage" joys and dramas that go on behind any performance.

Portrait: man in a white hate playing a Roland keyboard.

Paul Rhodes and his keyboard.

We started our next day poolside, with pizza, that sunshine and white wine I mentioned earlier, and two lively groups of horns. The first, Shirazz from Melbourne, are self-described as a “trad jazz and dixieland band specialising in classic hot jazz of the 20s and 30s”. We bought a CD and have bopped around the living room all week.

Portrait: Young man in black stovepipe hat playing a trombone.

Matt Dixon, leader of the six-piece Shirazz, on trombone.

Drummer with sheet music, base player behind.

Shirazz with "Midnight in Moscow". (Mike di Cecco on drums and Alistair Robertson on double bass.)

Detail: man

Michael Hanley on banjo...

Back shot: Man in purple shirt and black cap and vest playing trumpet to seated audience.

... Davis Woods on trumpet.

Detail: feet of couple in blue-jeans dancing.

Swing dancers take advantage of the sun and sounds. Poolside, Thredbo Alpine Hotel.

Two young men with drum kits in the sunshine.

Simon Ghali and Mitchell Brandman herald the arrival of the Hot Potato Band.

Man on a rooftop against a blue sky - playing trumpet.

Andrew Grant, with his trumpet, on the roof of the Thredbo Alpine Hotel.

Young man with a saxophone dancing with a toddler in a pink hat.

Bernie Lagana playing the crowd - again!

We headed back indoors for three more, very different definitions of “jazz”: The Date Brothers with their gypsy jazz guitars and Dan Barnett with his crooning swing, both in the Schuss Bar, before closing out our weekend with the hot jazz-boogie of The Shuffle Club in the Lounge Bar.

CD cover: Gypsy Jazz Guitar foreground, three male musicians, background.

The Date Brothers and their "Gypsy Jazz Guitar" sounds.

Portrait: Man telling a story - guitar in hand.

Since 2002, Ian Date has been based in Ireland, where he has clearly been gifted with the blarney.

Man in tray suit and fedora fronting a band.

Dan Barnett with his band.

Falling light over a quartet of male jazz musicians.

As the lights come on outside, The Shuffle Club heat up the room.

Text: Keep smilingIf that is all jazz, I like it!

‘Till next time  – keep smiling!

  • Gabe - March 30, 2012 - 9:37 am

    Beautifully written and a great weekendReplyCancel

  • Signe Westerberg - April 2, 2012 - 4:29 am

    We missed you guys at the relay and enjoyed the same beautiful weather. I love jazz in all its forms so am seriously jealous, although we rocked the night away with Jimmy Barnes brother Alan who outsings his brother big time…

    will have to remember the weekend in case we’re free next year, sounds like a whole lottafun…thanks for sharingReplyCancel

  • dietmut - April 2, 2012 - 9:42 am

    Ich liebe Jazz und was für eine Sfeer drücken Deine Bilder aus. Einfach wunderbar Ursula. Grüsse, DietmutReplyCancel

    • Ursula - April 2, 2012 - 11:51 pm

      Thanks Signe, Schönen Dank Dietmut, Спасибо .. to all my Russian spammers.
      The spare room is still free for next year: first come first serve!

  • […] make great excuses to get into Kosciuszko National Park. I’ve said it before: (Summer Blues; All that Jazz; Blues in Colour) I love music in the […]ReplyCancel

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