Live Review: WAYJO enchants with "Jazz Under The Stars"
A quarry may not be what comes to mind when considering a venue for a Jazz concert, but it should.
The West Australian Youth Jazz Orchestra (WAYJO)’s Jazz Under the Stars performance at the Quarry Amphitheatre was, in a word, mind-blowing. The Quarry Amphitheatre did the acoustics justice, and was the perfect location for the closing performance of an exceptional week of jazz performance.
It was apparent that careful considerations had been made to ensure that the venue harmonised perfectly with the music, an example being the lights projected onto the rock walls and atmosphere this created. A diverse set-list included the original compositions of WAYJO veteran Dr Mace Francis (celebrating his 10th year as WAYJO’s Artistic Director) and renditions of Quincy Jones and Ray Henderson ensured that there was something there for everybody: From songs like “Bye Bye Blackbird” that encouraged you to close your eyes and be engulfed in the its mellow beauty (with Anna Mitchell performing outstanding vocals on this track), to “Jelly Belly”, which opens with a hard-hitting, bass heavy intro that makes you uncontrollably tap along to the beat. If anyone in the audience was sceptical as to how diverse and engaging Jazz can be, they would have been proven ridiculously wrong.
Prior to the performances, Dr Mace Francis and General Manager Simon Keen gave an overview of what 2018 has in store for WAYJO. Their plans include participation in the Fringe Festival, performances alongside Jazz legend Kate Ceberano, and the continuing of the Jazz For Juniors program. All exciting prospects for the year to come.
Understandably, a large emphasis of the night was on celebrating Mace Francis’ 10th year as Artistic Director for WAYJO. It was hard to miss the praise being sent his way, with frequent mentions of his name by his colleagues. I was unsure what to expect when he finally made an appearance, would he live up to the hype? Mace Francis did not disappoint, over a short period of time I completely understood the love and respect he had earned from his colleagues. Francis turned the last portion of the night into a stand-up comedy routine, making jokes at his own expense (mostly about being his short height), and conducting arguably the best standards of the night, all of which he composed. (A great example of this is “Lido Lowdown”, which emitted such high energy I had difficulty staying in my seat not dancing.)
WAYJO has definitely set a high standard for the 2018 Jazz Under the Stars. This is an event definitely worth attending. Fortunately, if you were unable to make it, with over 100 shows scheduled for 2018, WAYJO leaves you with plenty of alternatives.