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!
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.
We would have stayed for more, but we had dinner reservations with Sarah McKenzie, her keyboard and her band.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If that is all jazz, I like it!
‘Till next time – keep smiling!