MusicReview

This jazz is serious, Sydney

Artist: Johnston Street Jazz
Venue: Annandale Creative Arts Centre
Date:

Johnston Street Jazz (JSJ) draws local, interstate, international and emerging musos to play in inner city Annandale – and it’s a live venue for serious listeners. Founders Andrew Lorien and Naomi Downie explain why you should try it.
Spike Mason. Photo: The Examiner

Why pick Annandale?
Andrew: I was a founding member of the jazz venue Colbourne Avenue, Glebe. We were forced to quit after 18 years. We thought it was the end – that last month in December 2016. However, there was so much music that night. Mike Nock played and there was a free jam. Helen Wright from Annandale Creative Arts Centre came and said, “I’ve loved this night. I’ve got a space you can use.”

When did JSJ open?
Andrew: On May 4, 2017, Spike Mason and his band opened Johnston Street Jazz to an audience of 60 people. It was important to have Spike, as the instigator of Colbourne Avenue, there honouring the new space.

What’s the venue like?
Naomi: The arts centre has cathedral ceilings, ample seating, stained-glass windows (it was previously a Methodist church now owned by Newtown Mission Uniting Church) and space for the grand piano, musical instruments, and a raised stage. It’s BYO, easy to get to from Parramatta Road, and provides coffee, tea, water and light snacks (for a small coin donation).

What’s the music like?
Naomi: We provide high-quality jazz concerts and Free for All improvisation. The main set begins at 8.15pm and from around 9.45pm (for the improvised set) audience members form duos, trios, quartets or larger groups in the moment, and without any discussion. Members of the main band will often join in – so you could be playing drums next to Mike Nock or Matt McMahon! The roots of Free for All go back to the early 2000s when Spike Mason, Andrew Lorien, Barney Wakeford and other jazz musicians experimented at Colbourne Avenue, making exciting and beautiful music.

Why else should people try it?
Andrew: This is serious jazz. Acoustic, improvised, local – and eminently professional. A mix of multigenerational, local improvisers perform – some fresh from the Conservatorium, and others seasoned professionals such as Matt McMahon, Simon Barker, Chris Abrahams, and Susan Gai Dowling.

Naomi: Spoken word is performed as well. In March, there was a Women in Jazz series, including the Sirens band and the Women’s Jazz Collective.

Johnston Street Jazz, Annandale Creative Arts Centre, Thursdays from 8pm. 

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