Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Valley Jazz Festival

Used to be that Brisbane was a run down colonial backwater, a large provincial town. The beautiful Queenslander architecture of stilt houses, wooden pubs and shady government buildings owed much to its Indian origins. The mango and jacaranda trees belied a political corruption and a rigid morality that symbolised a police state of lazy brutality.

Looking towards The Valley from Centennial Park

This tropical torpidity could also boast some great Australian painters like Donald Friend , Mervyn Molvig and Ian Fairweather. Jazz was played in pubs on Sunday afternoons and in some gangster run clubs in The Valley. Its heart was the magnificent Brisbane Jazz Club, a converted boat shed underneath the Storey Bridge. I say this is one of the most beautiful places to gig with undeniably the best band room I've ever been in - a slipway converted into outdoor garden fringed by mangroves and boats and ferries on the Brisbane River with the city skyscape as its backdrop.

Joh Bjelke Petersen

The Brisbane of my youth was a cultural backwater. In the dark days of the corrupt populist Bjelke Petersen regime, police would raid rock gigs and shut them down for fear of the assembly of a large group of young people would have a corrupting influence. There was once a piece of graffiti emblazoned in large capitals on a building site, "95% of artists leave Brisbane. Why don't you?' And they deserted Brisbane for Sydney and Brisbane in droves.

Now all that has changed. Brisbane is one of Australia's boom cities undergoing a type of Californication. Artists now come to Brisbane for the opportunities. And Brisbane has sustained a lively jazz scene for quite some time. The fact that we've been playing freeform jazz at Rics is evidence of that. It can now support a jazz festival that is growing in scope and popularity.

I can't wait to see the great trumpet player Phil Slater's Band of 5 Names at The Zoo and James Ryan's Trio on Thursday night.

The Trevor Hart Quartet is playing Rics on Wednesday night (25th) as part of the festival. Visit for more info.

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