What a pleasure it was to escape into the launch of a signature series paying tribute to jazz legends Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie and Buddy Rich at the stylish Astor Theatre in Perth. Celebrating 100 years of the cool dulcet tones of classic jazz giants who began their journey in 1917, such music still fills venues with soul and passion.
The West Australian Youth Jazz Orchestra (WAYJO) is WA’s premier music ensemble with performers ranging from 14-25 years of age and divided into three big bands. All WAYJO positions are professionally auditioned for and categorised according to performance credentials per student, with the ultimate selection of musicians led by passionate and engaging conductors.
Saturday night’s jazz set opened amidst a backdrop of neo light design in 1960s retro shapes. The stage was traditionally flanked by a three-tiered brass section balanced with piano, bass and drums and was reminiscent of a retro Sunday matinee movie, with a sultry soundtrack to match.
Familiar and well-loved tunes were received with approving nods and smiles while transcending the audience into a time of stylish cabaret music. Buddy Rich’s Love For Sale kicked off the set, with one of the students delivering a raucous drum solo that received a roaring applause.
Enhancing the mood and enjoyment with alluring sax, trumpet and piano solos were favourites such as Sinatra’s sultry Don’t Be That Way (a lucid performance by young singer Priscilla). Ella Fitzgerald’s gorgeous Tea For Two.
The second half of the set showcased just-as-impressive craft with the classic song Mr Lucky performed with gusto and pizazz. The entire youth ensemble are so inspirational, Perth should be proud of WAYJO for its emerging talent, helping keep the tradition of live big band jazz music alive, albeit with a contemporary edge.
The jazz homage was a pleasure and the group at large proved to be one of the tightest big band ensembles around. Not an easy feat at such a young age, and considering how many musicians and instruments needed to gel together in harmony.
I just hope live music lives on; there is something special about escaping into a stylish bygone era with a vibrant big band ensemble. If you missed this show, do yourself a favour catch WAYJO play jazz at The Maj or Ellington Jazz Club or at upcoming seasonal events. A cooler, more serene evening of pleasure you’d be hard-pressed to find. Annette McCubbin
Check the website www.wayjo.com for updates.