Kate Ceberano

Kate Ceberano

Perth Concert Hall

Friday, May 9, 2014

Braving the winter tempest, the jazz masses marched through wind and rain towards the soothing incandescence radiating from the doors of the Perth Concert Hall. It was the opening night of the sophomore year for the Perth International Jazz Festival, as aficionados and pop plebs alike congregated within the dry and formal halls of that illustrious venue to see the festival’s flagship booking, Kate Ceberano, take to the stage.

With reviewers taking nips of brandy and audience members filing into the auditorium to take their seats, local jazz outfit, the Julien Wilson Trio began the night’s entertainment. The group’s set began with a complex contrapuntal interaction between Wilson’s tenor sax and Stephen Grant’s accordion lines. Guitarist, Stephen Magnesson’s steady chordal accompaniment provided the rhythm for the unusual outfit. The trio’s measured sound was somewhat overwhelmed by the spacious stage they were left to fill and the minimal amount of crowd interaction made the set feel divorced from its audience. However, the trio’s strong connection came across as songs were played with sensitivity and a sense of exploration. The relatively short set concluded with an homage to Ornette Coleman before the Perth International Jazz Festival All Stars donned their places and prepared for the main event.

The band, full to the brim of the crème de la crème of the Perth jazz scene, and a couple of Perth ex-pats, opened with Bright Eyes, featuring solos by saxophonist, Jamie Oehlers, trumpeter Ricki Malet and bassist, Karl Florisson, pumped up audiences for the arrival of the celebrated songstress. The band then moved into a laid-back, bluesier number with Greasy Sack Blues before Ceberano took to the stage. Flirtatious, vivacious and salacious, Ceberano worked up the crowd with Duke Ellington’s I’m Beginning To See the Light, before moving into a soft, 2am piano bar version of Basin Street Blues. 

Mimicking the phrasing of the first lady of jazz, Ella Fitzgerald, Ceberano’s renditions of the standards were straightforward and entertaining. The concert hall provided the perfect setting for the big band vibe and Ceberano’s audience interaction was fun and playful. Midway through the first set she explained her choice of standards for the evening: “I’m just taking you through my record collection at the age of 16.”

After a brief foyer break, the second set began with renewed vigour. Drummer, Ben Vanderwal provided a driving momentum behind the kit. Despite relatively little rehearsal, the round table of horn section solos fit in well, due in no small part to the conducting skills of Mace Francis. The overall vibe of the night was far more relaxed and friendly than would be expected from traditional jazz gigs, giving initiates to the style something to grab on to alongside the readily digestible standards.