The Merimbula Jazz Festival celebrates 36 years of jazz this year. That’s right! Thirty-six years of swinging, singing, and stomping on the Sapphire Coast over the June long weekend, and it’s getting bigger every year! By Aine Dowling
As well as some fantastic jazz from great performers from Canberra, Victoria, and New South Wales, there are two main features of the Festival this year. First up is the black tie event; the Jazz Festival Ball on Thursday 9 June at Club Sapphire where you can dance the night away to the Festival All Stars, enjoy a great cabaret show, and relax with a glass of bubbles and yummy three course meal; all included in the ticket price. Bookings for the ball are essential.
Another fantastic initiative is the Jazz Quest which has been running for the past four years and has been a huge success. The Quest is open to musicians aged 25 years and under, and its aim is to encourage young and up-coming musicians in the world of jazz, and to help their musical development along with competitive experience. Two of the previous winners include singer Liam Budge, and jazz pianist Kade Brown—both of whom have gone on to huge success and acclaim in their fields, with Kade selected for the Julliard Winter School as both student and mentor.
The Quest is held at the Lakeview Hotel at the end of the Saturday night program. Judges usually include five of the top musicians at the Festival who view the performances of each competitor. There are a number of categories including confidence in performance, technical ability, entertainment value, and the ability to perform different styles and instruments through two different performances to show their ability. Cash prizes are awarded to the winners, and second and third placements, and both the Quest (and the prize money) goes a long way to help the career of young jazz musicians around Australia.
The popular jam session follows the Quest and gives everyone the chance to get on stage and perform with all sorts of musos and singers. If you can keep the pace going until 2am you’re welcome to join in the fun!
The Jazz Festival runs from Friday night (10 June) until Sunday night at four main venues around the town, and local Canberra acts heading down for the weekend include smooth jazz duo In 2 Deep; check them out if you can.
Big bands include Connextion Big Band, In Full Swing, and the Royal Military College Big Band, plus some terrific school bands. Vocal ensembles include Rhythm Syndicate (who also perform at the ecumenical Gospel Church Service on the Sunday), and Shades of Monday, and you can check out some great swing dancing from Canberra Swing Katz.
If you like the south coast and you love jazz … what more could you want?