JAZZ UNDER THE STARS: WAYJO is Definitely Worth Looking Up
The West Australian Youth Jazz Orchestra’s season finale Jazz Under the Stars took place about a week ago. This review isn’t for those of you who saw it. You were there. You know how good it was. Hell, we went to it last year and it was fantastic then, too.
This review is for those of you who missed it. It’s about what WAYJO are doing in this city and why you should be there next time they perform.
We arrived at The Quarry Amphitheatre out of breath. We hadn’t driven but had, instead, heaved it up the steep road; supposedly there was another entrance that was much more convenient for those on foot. Upon reaching the pinnacle of the quarry, you can see right out to into the bushland surrounding City Beach. It was a lovely view on a warm evening. Summer had finally arrived. We spread out across our two booked plots and set up our picnic blanket, assortment of cheeses and cheap wine.
The music started up at dusk. Two sixteen-piece bands were playing that night, with a focus on Duke Ellington. The first band played classics from the jazz legend. The second, in a festive twist, played from his interpretation of The Nutcracker. The acoustics in the quarry were sublime and the spacious venue and open air meant you could have a quiet chat without disturbing the person next to you. It all made for a very relaxed atmosphere.
For those who are put off by the perceived snobbery surrounding contemporary jazz appreciation, I can assure you there was none to be found down in the quarry that night. The conductors spoke with passion and wit about approaching pieces and which soloists to watch out for. The audience was varied, comprised of groups, couples, and individuals in all age groups and manners of dress. As someone with, at best, a cursory understanding of the genre, I certainly felt welcome.
Another worry for potential newcomers is the price. The Quarry Amphitheatre is certainly not 5 bucks on the door. But it is BYO food and drink and the price of a roomy picnic spot is certainly cheaper than a night of cramped drinking in Northbridge. The view is better too. If the price still seems too steep, be assured that most of WAYJO’s events are held in much smaller and cheaper venues. They’re generally found Downstairs at the Maj, or even performing for free around Perth during the annual Jazz Festival.
I was lucky enough to hear Simon Keen, general manager of WAYJO, speaking before the performance about how far the orchestra has come over the last few years. ‘It’s been a big year for WAYJO.’ he proclaimed, ‘We have curated around 100 ticketed performances, with attendance expected to reach over 8,000 across the ticketed program. This is tremendous growth from the approximately 1,600 who attended our 2016 season’.
If they keep putting on events like “Jazz Under the Stars”, I have no doubt that WAYJO’s numbers will continue to grow. WAYJO is one of WA’s best musical organisations and probably one of the best orchestras in the country. They’re rabidly productive and vitally important to the Perth music scene. They’re also run by warmed-hearted and talented people. What I’m saying is go see it! Some of it. All of it. However much you can. Work it into your music scene routine. You won’t be disappointed.
The 2019 season starts up in April and they’ll be playing Downstairs at the Maj pretty much every first Friday and Saturday of the month from then until we find ourselves back at the quarry and beneath the stars this time next year. If you did happen to miss this event, make sure you don’t miss WAYJO’s next season. Again, you will not be disappointed.
Header image: Town of Cambridge