Jazzing it up at Sydney Con

Jazzing it up at Sydney Con
Image: Remy Le Boeuf. Image: supplied

Jazz is a broad musical church and in Sydney, all of its many genres come together at one place, The Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

Every two years the music school opens its doors to the public to celebrate the state of Australian jazz, and this year it will be showcasing around 140 artists in 26 concerts all on one big day.

The Sydney Con Jazz Festival was formed in 2017 by David Theak, a saxophonist, composer and senior lecturer in jazz at the historic music school.

Laneous (left) and Mike Nock (cr Karen Steains).

“The Sydney Con is the oldest and longest running jazz course in Australia and it is considered the place to study jazz in Australia,” David Theak said.

“Sydney lacks a creative jazz festival and it has been hard to get government funding for anything like that, and the Con is the perfect place for something like this.”

The iconic castellated Greenway Building, on the fringes of the Botanic Gardens, has its origins dating back to 1817 when it was the Government House stables. Since 1915, it has been a music school that has evolved into a world-class teaching and performing institution for all disciplines of music.

“We have five concert halls around a central atrium, and all of the halls will have multiple concerts running through them throughout the day,” Theak said.

“We have the building and the infrastructure to present the festival, and we are also giving pathways for our students — and the program reflects that.

It also gives them the opportunity to be part of a large event.”

Katie Noonan of Elixer. Credit: Zoe Worth

For many jazz fans, one of the day’s highlights will be legendary pianist Mike Nock opening for American jazz superstar Remy Le Boeuf and his quartet.

“This will be in the refurbished Verbrugghen Hall, which is our largest space holding 560 people,” Theak said.

“We are also putting delicate acts in there, like Katie Noonan and Elixir, and Quiet Country from Western Australia, who do pop songs but with really delicate jazz solos.”

Working the Music Workshop will be Montreux Jazz Award nominees, Sydney trio Brekky Boy, who have supported American college favourites, Snarky Puppy and avant-garde composer and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire.

Guitarist, vocalist and favourite of the UK’s Giles Peterson (BBC Radio 1), Laneous, will deliver an acoustic set backed by Barney McAll (piano), Jonathan Zwartz (contrabass) and Hamish Stuart (drums) in the Recital Hall East.

“The hallmark of the festival is that we try to showcase as much of jazz’s broad church as we can, because it is so interesting,” Theak said.

Freya Garbett (left) and Brekky Boys. Image: supplied

“Jazz is a way of articulating music in a soulful and interactive way, and there are so many keys to the criteria.”

Another highlight of the day will be a set by Ten Part Invention, a jazz ensemble formed in 1986 by drummer John Pochee, which over its many years has seen alumni such as Bernie McGann, Dale Barlow and Roger Frampton pass through its ranks.

The current iteration includes Sandy Evans on sax, who has recorded more than 30 albums and is highly regarded for her performances and academic contributions to the genre.

The Con’s El Roco Cinema Room will be screening three films, two by Australian director Emma Franz: one on guitarist Bill Frisell; the other on Intangible Asset 82, which tells the story of musician Simon Barker’s search for a dying South Korean shaman.

The third screening is Emily Rytmeister’s film on her father, the late jazz legend Roger Frampton.

The Sydney Conservatorium Jazz Festival brings together Australian and international jazz greats alongside students who are just starting their journeys into the world of music in an iconic location.

Sunday June 2, 12pm to 9pm

Sydney Conservatorium, 1 Conservatorium Rd, Sydney


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