A classy evening in the city: King St Corner Pocket Jazz Festival
Many of us fall into a pattern of hibernating into our own little insular living room worlds throughout Wintertime. But who could stay in when the WA Youth Jazz Orchestra is hosting a 35th Birthday Bash? With an intelligent design, the new King St Corner Pocket Jazz Festival is set to lure punters out of their couchy caves to gently re-acquaint them with the outside world. The showcase of WA’s lively jazz scene is peppered throughout multiple venues; From His Majesty’s to The Sewing Room, you can catch up to 3 sets in a night. With an hour between each performance the pocket Festival is set at a civilised pace, allowing plenty of time to meander between venues for a relaxed drink or small dinner.
My classy evening kicked off with Josh Cusack’s Seven Sided Die in the InterContinental Perth conference room. Playing music in a carpeted room can have the effect of softening and smoothing anything – but this did not stop the septet as coming across as lively and effortlessly in sync with one another. Josh led from behind in every sense of the word, with his driving double bass and subdued count-ins from the back of the stage. His original arrangements were wonderfully animated and had a quality that I would love to own on vinyl. The drumming alone was enough to leave a mental imprint, to make a complex rhythm seem painlessly natural whilst singlehandedly sourcing a fresh drumstick is impressive to witness.
Descending into the relatively new venue, The Sewing Room, it is immediately clear that this a good stage for an ensemble who knows how to get the crowd on their feet. Neuva Salsa Orchestra were the act to deliver. Playing energetic, Cuban-influenced music full of polyrhythms, NSO’s talented percussion section were able to comfortably carry a beat and keep the audience moving. Although salsa goes straight to the hips, the bassist anchored the performance superbly and drove everything forward. Neuva Salsa Orchestra play happy music for happy people, if you’re a fan of the Beauna Vista Social Club be sure to check them out.
Bracing against the cold and wandering to our final performance of the evening, Alana and Priscilla marked a delicate contrast from the bold masculinity of Neuva Salsa. The Maj Downstairs itself is a much more subdued venue, a classed-up, sit-down Jazz joint with a naked flame on each table which counts on the audience being at least a little bit mature. Alana and Priscilla filled the big presence of the stage with the expansive backing of a string quartet. The strings bought dramatic intensity, the sax bought the guts and soul, and Priscilla’s vocals, a heart-filled tenderness, when combined, blended all too well. Their cover of Bjork’s Anchor Song infused with a Duke Ellington composition marked the highlight of my night and the perfect mix contemporary and classic.
Get along to as many sets as you can of this well-paced, well-designed little festival. Not only is it the perfect introduction to WAYJO’s current talent pool, but it is the perfect way to catch up with friends on a brisk Winter’s night.
The King St Corner Pocket Jazz Festival runs from the 5 - 7th of July.
Tickets can be found here.