Candles twinkled on the stage and as Katie Noonan’s first song floated from the stage we could have been in her lounge rather than at the Perth Concert Hall. Noonan was one of three artists to share the stage for the International Jazz Festival’s headline concert. As she crooned her intimate songs a gentle hush fell over the enthusiastic jazz audience; shoulders relaxed and ears began to glow. We were in for a good night.
Noonan was the glue in an appealing program that also featured American tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano and singer Vince Jones. Noonan has collaborated with both; classically trained but pop-inspired and with more creativity than most jazz musicians, she stretched happily across musical styles.
Noonan opened the concert with songs from her recent Songbook album with the Elixir Trio. Guitarist Steve Magnusson and soprano saxophonist Zac Hurren provided an introspective, earthy backdrop to her sweet, sliding soprano.
Joe Lovano’s opening blast of notes was a complete contrast. Blessings in May from his new album Cross Culture was fast and multi-layered, demanding high return from the accompanying rhythm section of Ben Vanderwal (drums), Sam Anning (bass) and Tal Cohen (piano). Cohen stepped up for a clean, swinging and spacious piano solo in the free-form Blue Sketches. Hurren and Noonan joined Lovano’s ensemble for the more clearly orchestrated Blackwell’s Message. The duetting saxophones explored multiphonics while Noonan scatted in the background and the variety of sounds and textures made this piece the highlight of the set.
The suave groove of Vince Jones took the concert in another direction again. His high tenor voice sounded un-aged and smooth as ever while his elegantly dry humour drew much laughter and his flugel horn solos added a warm touch. Songs inspired by his mother’s budgerigar (Budgie), his credit card (Wonderworld), and love (Between Your Eyes) sat alongside an environmental plea (Planet). He was supported by Matt McMahon (piano), Ben Waples (bass) and James Waples (drums).
The three artists collaborated in a grand finale which was a remix of the Beatles tune Yesterday. Jones’ and Noonan stretched and teased the tune with their melodic inflections and the familiar melody provided the opportunity to appreciate the harmonic adventures in Lovano’s saxophone solos.
This cleverly-conceived triple bill promises much for the future of the festival because it was broad-reaching in its appeal but collaborative in style. Just what a festival should be.