A testament to the power of women shaping Jazz by Barry O’Sullivan

The future of jazz will soon be heard at eighteen ear-opening concerts from 25 October through to 5 November in Sydney.

The headline act of the festival is the three-time Grammy Award-winning vocalist Cecile McLoren Salvant performing in The City Recital Hall on Tuesday, 31 October, accompanied by her stellar quartet led by the virtuosic pianist Sullivan Fortner.

Cecile’s spellbinding presence is a tour de force that redefines jazz for a new era, taking the art form to new heights. The 33-year-old composer, singer and visual artist’s mother is French, and Salvant performs regularly in English and French as well as Spanish, Haitian Creole and Occitan, a medieval language spoken in the south of France.

The late opera singer, Jessye Norman, described Salvant as “a unique voice, supported by an intelligence and full-fledged musicality, which lights up every note she sings”.

The Irish Times described her vocals as those of “a real jazz singer in the classic mode who can take a song and make it feel like it’s the first time you’ve heard it.”

Kadish Morris wrote in The Guardian, “Her music is beloved for rejecting traditional jazz standards, embracing theatre and subverting classics with playful renditions”, and The New York Times has called her ‘the finest jazz singer to emerge in the last decade.’

Salvant has developed a passion for storytelling and finding the connections between vaudeville, blues, theatre, jazz, baroque, and folkloric music. She is an eclectic curator, unearthing rarely recorded, forgotten songs with strong narratives and interesting power dynamics, but also with unexpected twists and humour. Salvant was the winner of the prestigious Thelonious Monk jazz competition in 2010.

Grammy Award-winning pianist Sullivan Fortner, a regular pianist in trumpeter Roy Hargrove’s band from 2010 to 2017, has released two albums of his own. Fortner also plays on last year’s festival headliner, saxophonist Melissa Aldana’s nuanced and superbly executed 12 Stars album on Blue Note. Fortner is the recipient of the American Pianist Association Cole Porter Fellowship in Jazz.

Over the last twelve years, The Sydney Improvised Music Association has championed groundbreaking innovation and diversity, featuring the leading women in jazz music under the Artistic Directorship of Zoe Hauptmann. Hauptmann says, “This Festival is a testament to the power of women in shaping the world of music. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to present the future of Australian jazz to Sydney. It’s never background music with SIMA!”

The festival will see Sydney’s music hotspots collaborating to present Hauptmann’s vision and bring it to life. Volunteer-run live music venues, Monday Night Confessions in Camperdown and Johnston St Jazz in Annandale will feature Australia’s finest improvisers.

Flora Carbo, a Melbourne-based saxophonist who is quickly becoming one of the most exciting young artists on the Australian jazz scene, and the award-winning Sydney-based pianist Wilbur Whitta, will create an intimate setting in The Women’s Club at 179 Elizabeth St, Sydney, on October 25, while Johnston Street Jazz features the hip new sound of Sydney with the Motion Quartet and Sabine and Harley Duo on October 26.

On Friday 27 October, St Stephens Uniting Church on Macquarie Street plays home to the soulful vocal sounds of Tina Harrod and 2MBS Fine Music Sydney Ken Weatherley Scholarship winner Kate Wadey, accompanied by some of Sydney’s finest jazz instrumentalists.

There is an international theme across two further shows at St Stephen’s Uniting Church on Saturday October 28, with ensembles from Germany, Italy (USA) and Australia including The Shannon Barnett Quartet and Tessie Overmyer Trio, followed by Caroline Davis and Nuovo Mondo Symphonies.

The experimental and electrifying Melburnian siblings Flora and Theo Carbo, with newcomers Maddison Carter and Isaac Gunnoo, perform at Church Street Studios in Camperdown at Monday Night Confessions on Monday 30 October.

On the same bill, adventurous audiences will get to explore the space between jazz, post-rock, folk, and country with the ensemble Panghalina, that brings together three compelling Australian soloists, Freedman Award winner Helen Svoboda, Bonnie Stewart, and Maria Moles, to explore themes of sonic duality.

On Thursday, 2 November, trumpeter Heather Prowse and her trio will present an evening dedicated to the sounds of New Orleans in the mid-twentieth century, drawing on inspiration from Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, and Duke Ellington when they perform at Lazybones Lounge in Marrickville.

Some of the other musicians performing at the festival will include pianist Leonie Cohen, vocalists Nicky Crayson and Trish Delaney-Brown, saxophonist Sandy Evans, pianist/composer and bandleader Freyja Garbett, bassist Hannah James, drummer and percussionist Chloe Kim, trumpeter and bandleader Ellen Kirkwood, clarinettist Phillippa-Murphy Haste, saxophonist Loretta Palmeiro, trumpeter Sarah Purdon, bassist Sabine Tapia, and cellist Mary Rapp.

The festival has everything, from the finest soul and jazz singers to cutting-edge instrumental jazz and anthemic alt-pop album launches, showcasing the most talented, inspiring, and creative musicians from home and abroad.

You can explore all the events here.