Every year, the rural Victorian town of Wangaratta transforms itself into a jazz haven. Over the years, it's played host to some of the biggest names in the music, and has also provided a platform for up-and-coming Australian talent. Now in it's 27th year, the festival will once again play host to the National Jazz Awards - with the saxophone being the instrument for 2016.
Speaking of saxophonists, the Chilean-born/NYC-based Melissa Aldana will be making her Australian debut at the festival. An alumni of the Berklee School of Music, she became the first female instrumentalist and the first South American to win the acclaimed Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition.
Another visiting saxophonist is Kellie Santin, who's back in Australia after spending a decade in London. The now Melbourne-based musician and daughter of Don Santin will be appearing onstage with her band.
A festival favourite - Barney McAll - is back again this year, and will be collaborating with a strong cast of past National Jazz Award winners Julien Wilson, Stephen Magnusson and Sam Anning - plus Dom Stitt on drums. Trombonist Shannon Barnett (pictured) also returns from overseas. She's been based in Cologne, Germany, working with the WDR Big Band and will appear with a new band.
The Monash Art Ensemble will be showcasing their groundbraking new collaboration with Paul Grabowsky and Indigenous performers from Arnhem Land. Their new CD Nyilipidgi is out on ABC Music, and it will be re-enacted on stage this year with Daniel Ngukurr Boy Wilfred and David Yipinni Wilfred from the Young Wagilak Group.
There's also another collaboration to check out - Jamie Oehlers and Tal Cohen's duo project. They've also recently been recording at the ABC as part of Tal's 2015 Freedman Jazz Fellowship prize, and will be launching an album of that material soon.
These are just a few of the many great local and international acts set to perform at the 2016 Festival. Be sure to check out the full program at the Wangaratta Jazz website. As per usual, ABC Jazz will be on hand to record a number of these performances. This year, we're also celebrating Jazztrack's 40th year on air, and there will be a special live broadcast of the program from Wangaratta with Mal Stanley to celebrate.
Be sure to stay tuned for more info and news on the National Jazz Awards in the coming weeks.