Sydney International Women’s Jazz Festival 2020

Rebecca Varidel
6th Oct 2020

Yes it's on! From Friday 30 October to Sunday 8 November 8, Sydney's city clubs and venues will come alive with the sound of more than 30 leading female musicians from Australia and the world.

Now in its ninth year, the Sydney International Women's JAZZ Festival celebrates the exceptional artistry which is showcased by these innovating and diverse contemporary musicians, all so eager to perform before live audiences this 2020.

Performances will take place in intimate, seated, COVID-safe venues across the city. The Festival Hub is the Sydney's legendary long-standing jazz venue, The Basement, which now operates as Mary's Underground alongside the Foundry616, Joynton Ave Creative Centre, the Australian Institute Of Music (AIM) and Venue 505.

"We are so thrilled the 2020 festival is going ahead, jazz is an ideal medium for seated, social distanced settings" explains Co- Artistic Directors Zoe Hauptmann and Peter Rechniewski.

"This year presents a unique opportunity for music lovers to experience the magic and intimacy of jazz. Few Australian musicians have been able to perform live since the onset of the coronavirus, and these artists are so excited to perform for audiences at this year’s festival."

One of the biggest and best programs to date, 2019 featured USA artists funk alto saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin and vocal sensation Veronica Swift as well as Canadian big band specialist, tenor saxophonist and composer Chelsea McBride.

Due to the current travel restrictions, Sydney International Women’s Jazz Festival 2020 will embrace local international talent with cross-cultural projects spotlighting artists from Japan, Cuba, Peru, Sweden and Armenia. In a special treat for online audiences, 2019 festival favourite, Brazilian bossa-nova singer and nylon string guitarist Anna Setton will perform live streamed from Sao Paulo.

The Opening Night Party features an Afro-Peruvian and Cuban extravaganza of music and dance with Sydney’s queen of Latin jazz, saxophonist and composer Gai Bryant. A special double bill will showcase her 10-piece big band Caribe, alongside her sextet ALLY. The party will evoke the spirit of South America, with irresistible rhythms and passionate compositions that feature the vocal talents of Peruvian songstress Melody Riviera. Proceeds from this event will provide music mentorships for two young female Latina artists.

On Friday October 31 Emma Pask, one of Australia's most recognised jazz vocalists, will open performances at Mary’s Underground. ARIA Award-winning singer/songwriter Elana Stone will take to the stage on Wednesday November 4, combining her unique and quirky style with instrumental invention. Popular entertainer Monica Trapaga will bring the house down with her charm and wit perfected across three decades working in Australian radio and tv. Fiery soul singer Mahalia Barnes will perform on Friday November 6 backed by rock-steady band, The Soulmates. Daughter of legend Jimmy Barnes, Mahalia has worked as lead singer for her own band, and as backing singer for many leading soul, rock and R'n’B artists.

On Sunday 1 November Elysian Fields will launch their new album FIKA. Inspired by Artistic Director Jenny Eriksson’s Scandinavian heritage, FIKA features the idiosyncratic seven-stringed electric viola de gamba, of which Jenny is the only Australian exponent. The project features the stunning vocals and violin of Susie Bishop and improvisations by Matt Keegan. Beautiful arrangements of traditional folk songs by multi award-winning jazz pianist Matt McMahon will be presented alongside the Australian premiere of ‘Living’ by Norwegian jazz pianist Jan Gunnar Hoff and ‘Believe Beleft Below’ by influential Swedish jazz trio E.S.T.

Other highlights include: young-gun guitarist Hilary Geddes and rising-star drummer Jodi Michael in a heady double bill; women in music collective Lilith Night will premiered a new work by pianist Keyna Wilkins alongside Tamworth clarinettist Mary Anne Piper, drummer Chloe Kim and trumpeter Rachel Drubetsky; the rich polyrhythms and melodies of Armenia featured by Zela Margossian; and life-long couple, vocalist Joy Yates and legendary pianist Dave MacCrae will open for Mahalia Barnes. Soul powerhouse Alice Terry will blow the doors off the Foundry with her expanded band line up which includes a full-horn section comprising Australia’s hottest young players. Support acts feature: improvising pianist Jo Truman; neo-soul singer Ińes; and one of the most exciting young alto players to emerge on the national jazz scene Tessie Overmyer, who will lead her trio in a festival debut.

A highlight since 2014, the Artist-in-Residence program has encouraged collaboration between local and international musicians. In light of COVID, this year the festival will feature one of Australia’s most accomplished jazz artists, Dr Sandy Evans OAM. The recent recipient of APRA’s Art Music Award for Jazz Performance of the Year, Sandy will feature in live and streamed events including a screening of her 2019 premiere Ahisma: Meditations on Gandhi. Evans will also premiere a new work for all female big band Pharos, in a special concert celebrating Evans’s award-winning compositions. The festival culminates in a world premiere when Sandy is joined by Japanese koto master Satsuki Odamura and bassist Steve Elphick at Venue 505.

From breath-taking improvised solo performances to vivid and energetic Afro-Cuban ensembles, the remarkable multiplicity of music makes this a festival to truly inspire.

Capacity will be strictly limited, and tickets will sell fast. Mary's Underground will offer only 60 tickets per show, with two shows scheduled per night.