1997 The Beginning
One festival dies and another is born.
Around September 1996 Townsville’s long-running Festival Tropicale approached Community Radio Station 4ttt to invite the Station to run a jazz festival on Palmer Street as part of Festival Tropicale. The Festival Tropicale organizer met with the Station’s jazz presenters to ask the question and the answer was yes. Townsville’s last jazz festival was a modest event at Tattersall’s Hotel (now Molly Malones Irish Pub) in the mid-1980s, organized by Les Nicholson.
No Funding was promised and none eventuated. 4ttt, like other community stations, had very little funds but everyone agreed that Palmer Street is a great setting for a jazz festival. Neal Sellars, one of the jazz presenters, had recently retired and “volunteered” to be Coordinator.
Neal persuaded local jazz musicians Les Nicholson, Larry Thomson and Bob Passmore to join him in the task of organizing a festival for the first weekend in August, 1997. The festival needed a logo and Bob Hebden, the well known local cartoonist “Heb”, was asked to go to Palmer Street and come up with something capturing the essence of this historic street. Heb’s a Townsville City Council draftsman by trade and a jazz drummer by inclination. He came up with a brilliant logo, a trumpeter with a cigarette between his fingers leaning against a lamp post, which has graced Festival literature ever since.
The Festival organizers shared a love of jazz and believed that jazz is best suited to intimate venues. The three pubs, the Australian, Metropole and Shamrock, together with two restaurants, Michel’s Café and Bar and One Palmer (now Momo’s), supported the idea of a jazz festival and agreed to participate. As the Festival programme said at the time, like Bourbon Street and Basin Street, you can stroll along Palmer Street savouring the ambience and enjoying the casual dining and great jazz.
As it turned out, this was the last Festival Tropicale. The 4ttt Palmer Street Jazz Festival, after a humble birth in 1997, is now a thriving ten year old. One festival dies and another is born.
1997 The Programme
In 1997 Palmer Street was a quiet street with only a few restaurants. There was music in the three pubs and the two restaurants, all local musos together with an Airlie Beach group and Knobby Neilsen’s Barrier Reef Jazz Band from Cairns. A rudimentary outdoor stage erected on the vacant land where Quest and Bistro One now stand featured the N.Q. Army Band and the Kirwan High School Stage Band on Friday night and the Stokes-Nicholson Big Band on Saturday night. On Sunday morning a Jazz Church Service was held at the Central Uniting Church with Downtown Dixie providing the music. Downtown Dixie then led a street parade from the Mall across the bridge and fronted a jam session on the outdoor stage. A wind-up gig on Sunday afternoon at the Motor Boat Club, later to be known as Sunset on the Deck, rounded off a fabulous weekend.
In addition to the music, the play Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill on the life of Billie Holliday was staged for two nights, Friday and Saturday, at the Townsville Motor Boat Club. It was a sell-out. It featured the original cast from the first Australian production (at Sydney’s Ensemble Theatre) with Joy Yates as Lady Day and husband Dave MacRae as her partner-pianist. Apart from the fact that they missed their Thursday night flight from Sydney and Joy had almost lost her voice, it went smoothly. It’s an understatement to say that this first entrepreneurial venture caused a little pre-Festival anxiety. Interestingly, the dinner plus show cost $35 a head — so much for 1997 prices!
The budget was miniscule but the festival got local support when it most needed it. Qantas donated return tickets from Sydney for Joy and Dave and Southbank Motor Inn (as it was then) provided their accommodation. Prestige Litho did the printing gratis and the Townsville City Council assisted with modest funding and helped organize the street closure for the outdoor stage events at night. A raffle, a modest profit from staging Lady Day and a cover charge at the embryonic Sunset on the Deck brought in a bit of money. The musicians played for reduced fees and the media gave the Festival great publicity. This publicity included a TV ad on Channel Ten. Michel Flores of Michel’s restaurant had won yet another award in the form of $2000 towards an ad with Ten and generously donated this to the Festival.
Volunteers joined in willingly and somehow it all happened. Jazz fans, the musicians and the public, many of whom came out of curiosity, all had a great time.
Authors know how hard it is to write a second novel after a best-selling first novel. So it is with jazz festivals. The success of the first Festival raised expectations for the second Festival and the organizers faced the challenge of building on their initial success. Knowing that the essence of a jazz festival is good jazz, the committee set about conquering the tyranny (and cost) of distance to bring world class musicians from the southern capitals and eventually from overseas. Not easy, given the location of Townsville and the competition for sponsorship dollars.
The Committee contacted Sydney’s legendary duo, George Washingmachine and lan Date. George is a vocalist-violinist and lan a guitarist and they’re both great entertainers. They said yes; it proved to be an inspired choice.
George and lan played three memorable gigs — Friday night at One Palmer, dinner and show at the Motor Boat Club on Saturday night and an hilarious Sunset On The Deck on the Sunday afternoon. Not only that, but they sat in with local groups and hammed it up as only they can at Michel’s after their Saturday night show.
Throughout the weekend they mixed socially with local musicians and fans. The serious side of their repertoire is to recreate, or rather reinterpret, the music from the 1930s and 1940s of Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt of the Hot Club of France, which they do superbly.
George and lan are stars of international stature and helped put the 4ttt Palmer Street Jazz Festival on the musical map. There’s no substitute for word-of-mouth promotion by participating musicians and George and lan, as did Joy Yates and Dave MacRae, spread the word that Palmer Street is a quality festival, friendly, intimate, with top class accommodation and personalised attention from the organizers – and you can walk to your gigs!
A Church Service was held at St James’ Cathedral and was conducted by Rev. Norton Challenor, starting a tradition that continues. A parade to Palmer Street followed and a jam session at the Shamrock at midday established this gig as a popular Festival event.
By now the committee knew that it had the beginnings of a formula for a quality jazz festival, given what Palmer Street has to offer, the support from the local community and City Council and, very importantly, from local and North Queensland jazz musicians.
In 1998 interstate fans began to discover the Festival and the opportunity to enjoy Townsville’s winter sunshine. The trickle of southern visitors has now become a stream.
THE SISTER JAZZ FESTIVAL ON MAGNETIC ISLAND
Magnetic Island dweller and saxophonist-flautist, the late Max Brown, started the Great Tropical Jazz Party in October 1997, the same year that Palmer Street started. Max was ably assisted by jazz vocalist and fellow Island dweller, Marilyn Sheather, and the two fledgling Festivals helped each other in various ways and continue to do so. Palmer Street Festival organisers assist by welcoming out-of-town musicians on arrival and transporting them to and from ferries — including the double basses in two-metre cases. 4ttt jazz presenters also do some compering and Max and Marilyn both performed regularly at Palmer Street. Having two co-operating festivals brings top music to regional and local fans and introduces jazz to a wider audience. Live jazz is infectious and the infection has spread through the Twin Cities and throughout the region.
A KEY ADDITION TO THE ORGANIZING TEAM
An invaluable addition to the organizing team in 1998 was Lynne de Jong, one of 4ttt’s jazz presenters. Lynne was one of the volunteer t-shirt sellers and useful helpers in the first Festival. From the 1998 Festival to the 2002 Festival, Lynne took on the unofficial role of Co-coordinator alongside Neal Sellars. It is around competent, energetic and unassuming people like Lynne that things get done and festivals grow.
The Festival was lucky in 1999. The Queensland Biennial Festival of Music selected the Palmer Street Jazz Festival to showcase top jazz artists, national and international. The Festival couldn’t believe its luck and the Biennial would also erect an up-market outdoor stage and arrange the street closure — an organizational nightmare, if there ever was one.
The Biennial hired New York trombonist extraordinaire Ray Anderson’s Pocket Brass*, Sydney saxophonist Blaine Whittaker’s Quartet, Melbourne vocalist (and Wangaratta Jazz Festival Competition winner), Michelle Nicolle’s Quartet and PNG’s vocalist/bassist Ku Olga’s Ensemble. The Committee scheduled some of the groups at pub venues as well as on the outdoor stage.
In addition to this stellar line-up the festival committee were also fortunate to get Perth’s outstanding Kalamunda Youth Swing Band, on a tour which included Cairns, and Italian pianist Luca da Rubba, who happened to be visiting his uncle in Townsville.
Southbank opened its impressive Convention Centre that year which enabled the festival to hold a Supper Club on the Saturday night. Sydney vocalist/guitarist Johnny Nicol and fellow Sydney trumpeter Peter Cross, together with Townsville’s sophisticated quartet, Magnetic Drum, provided the music for this glittering event.
The Townsville Classic and Vintage Car Club transported brightly-attired jazz musicians and others from the Sunday morning Jazz Church Service at St James’ Cathedral to Palmer Street for the jam session. All very colourful!
Sunset on the Deck rounded off what was a wow of a weekend. It was the Festival’s reputation in jazz circles that led the Biennial to choose the 4ttt Palmer Street Jazz Festival as a partner in the statewide programme of events.
* Unfortunately Ray had to return home because of a family illness. His replacement was Sydney’s superb acapella vocal group Idea of North.
A phone call to Dave MacRae, veteran pianist and husband of Joy Yates, led to Dave approaching Don Burrows to see if the festival could hire the seven-piece Don Burrows AllStars. The answer was yes. A coup! Burrows and the AllStars — Don, Bob Barnard on trumpet and brother Len on drums, trombonist Ed Wilson (co-leader of the Daly-Wilson Big Band of the 1970s and the 1980s), Dave Pudney on double bass, Dave MacRae on piano and vocalist Joy Yates.
The Saturday night Supper Club at the Southbank Convention Centre got you a gourmet meal, the thrill of listening and dancing to great music and a night of glitz and glamour. A sell-out and a knock-out! Also hired were Brisbane’s fusion group, Afro Dizzi Act, and the Steve Newcomb Trio. Steve was home in Brisbane briefly after a year on the Lord Mayor’s Scholarship doing a two-year Masters degree at New York’s Manhattan School of Music. His brother Owen plays bass for Afro and with Afro’s drummer they made a top trio. This was Steve’s first visit to the Festival and he’s been back many times since. It’s a long story, but Neal Sellars’ travel agent daughter Susie who had visited Nepal, liked it and spent time there, worked at getting Kathmandu’s leading jazz group Cadenza to the Festival. It was quite a drama played out at a distance to get them to Townsville. Unfortunately their lead guitarist couldn’t get a visa in time but they picked up a French saxophonist who had played with Cadenza in Kathmandu at the airport in Kuala Lumpur and finally made it. They impressed Don Burrows and Burrows and the AllStars certainly impressed Cadenza. These young Nepalese musicians made friends with Afro Dizzi Act and two years later Nepal’s first jazz festival, Jazzmandu 2002, was staged. It featured Don Burrows (with his regular pianist Kevin Hunt) and Afro Dizzi Act. Neal’s daughter Susie was a key organizer of the first two Jazzmandus. The Upstairs Bar in Kathmandu where Cadenza is the resident band has framed photos and newspaper cuttings of Cadenza at Palmer Street. Jazzmandu continues annually, a direct offspring of the Palmer Street Jazz Festival. Sunset on the Deck, led by the AllStars, was one of the most memorable jazz sessions ever staged in Townsville. It was as if every jazz lover had been waiting to savour and applaud this legendary group, these stars of Australian jazz. They were received rapturously — there’s no other way to describe it. It was fascinating to see Afro’s mop-headed saxophonist, Nick Aggs, sitting on the floor at the feet of the AllStars like an acolyte, taking it all in. Cadenza were overwhelmed to meet, hear and interact with Don Burrows. They had heard of his exalted status from expatriate Australians in Kathmandu and were blown away when Don asked if he could have his photo taken with them.
Over time, a festival builds up a network of musicians who have played in past festivals. So it is with Palmer Street. In this case the network is enlarged through the close collaboration between the 4ttt Palmer Street Jazz Festival and Magnetic Island’s Great Tropical Jazz Party. By 2001 the festival committee had got to know many southern musicians and a few from overseas who served as contacts in the jazz field and helped to invite leading musicians to the Festival.
The link established in 2000 with Brisbane pianist Steve Newcomb enabled the festival to bring the international quartet VNMG – Vinson, Newcomb, Morgan and Gabis — to Palmer Street. Saxophonist Will Vinson from the UK, drummer Peter Gabis from Austria, Californian bassist Thomas Morgan and Australian pianist Steve Newcomb were “the cream of the crop” to quote Gary Dial, leading jazz pianist and their teacher at the prestigious Manhattan School of Music. Fortunately VNMG were touring Australia and Steve made sure they included Palmer Street on their itinerary. They played original, exciting jazz. Who will ever forget Will Vinson on alto rocking back and forth, deep into a blistering solo at the Shamrock on the Saturday afternoon.
The emphasis was again on youth with trombonist Jeremy Borthwick’s Quartet from Sydney. This group included the seventeen year old keyboard virtuoso, Aron Ottignon and outstanding Sydney drummer Toby Hall. lan Date gathered a top group from Sydney for the Saturday night Supper Club at the Southbank Convention Centre and this group led the Sunset on the Deck gig on Sunday afternoon.
This fifth Festival had music at ten venues and in addition to the southern groups there were twelve local (meaning Townsville and North Queensland) groups or bands. The Festival had grown considerably since 1997. But bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better as the organizers, given their commitment to quality jazz, were well aware. What was now obvious to both fans and musicians was the lift in standard of local jazz since the first Festival, an encouraging outcome. While sponsorship dollars continued to be difficult to come by and the Festival still ran on a shoestring budget, the programme now listed eleven sponsors which included the major sponsor, the Townsville City Council. The brave initiative of 4ttt in starting the Festival had clearly paid off and Townsville and its region now had another significant event on the winter calendar.
The 2001 Festival’s outdoor stage occupied the empty allotment next to the old Hinspeter building, now demolished, on the site where the Symphony Apartments are being built. High grass first had to be cleared from the block, and this was done with a “work detail” from the local jail. We’re used to volunteers helping out, and we welcomed these “volunteers”, complete with their minder. They worked hard all day in the hot sun and we plied them with drinks (of the soft variety) and pies, part sustenance, part reward, from the convenience store next to the Shamrock. Apart from doing a great job clearing the block, they demolished a record number of pies, man for man. Would that the Guinness Book of Records had witnessed their gastronomic exploits.
2001 was the year that saw the beginning of an on-going collaboration between the Festival and the Perc Tucker Regional Gallery. Frances Thomson, the Gallery Director, brought a photographic exhibition by Sydney’s Bruce Hart to the Gallery. For ten years Bruce had photographed Bernie McGann, world-renowned Sydney alto saxophonist. The Exhibition was titled Ladies and Gentlemen … Mr Bernie McGann. Bruce was present for the Thursday night opening of the Exhibition, which also launched the Festival. On the Sunday morning he gave an insightful talk at the Gallery on the background to the photographs.
This focus on photography, an art form long associated with jazz, led to a continuing collaboration between the Festival and the Gallery.
In addition to this added dimension to the Festival, a three-hander play, Zeke, based on the life of a New York musician was staged at the Gallery after the Thursday night opening. It was written by Alwyn Lewis, wife of saxophonist Laurie Lewis. Alwyn and Laurie, along with a professional actor, had been performing Zeke for some time. Laurie was a member of lan Date’s group so we got to hear Laurie (alias Zeke) play for real during the weekend.
Neal, Lynne, Les, Bob and Larry, together with 4ttt’s Manager Sally Appleby were the organizing team. It was never Neal’s intention to stay as Coordinator for an extended period and this was also how Lynne, Les, Bob and Larry saw their involvement. It was agreed that they would organize one more Festival, the sixth, and in the meantime they would endeavour to organize a new Committee and Coordinator to take over. All agreed you need people with new ideas, new perspectives and plenty of energy to ensure an event retains its freshness; an event can’t stand still. With this aim in view, the planning for 2002’s Festival got under way.
The year opened on a sad note. Max Brown, founder of the Great Tropical Jazz Festival and member of local group Magnetic Drum passed away as did Mary-Lou Shoenfeldt, Executive Officer of the Townsville Community Music Centre. The Festival had staged a number of lunch time concerts in association with Mary-Lou and the jazz community had worked closely and happily with her over many years. Both Max and Mary-Lou were extremely popular and this was a double-blow to the local music scene. The Festival organizers felt both losses at a personal level.
The Festival was fortunate in securing the services of young Sydney saxophonist/ vocalist Ben Jones and guitarist David Blenkhorn. Ben has a well-deserved reputation and appears regularly with Janet Seidel’s popular trio.
The now well-established links with the Brisbane jazz scene enabled the festival to engage John Hoffman, brilliant trumpeter and flugel horn player, and some of his talented musician friends, all Griffith University Conservatorium jazz course graduates or current students. A former member of the Woody Herman, Buddy Rich and Harry James Bands, John now lives in Australia and directs the Conservatorium big band – the Con Artists. John’s Quintet included pianist Steve Newcomb and the talented vocalist Kristin Berardi. Kristin was first heard a few years earlier at Magnetic Island when she was studying in Mackay. Though then a shy and waif-like girl, she sang with a voice which commanded attention. Those who heard her knew she had something. By 2002 she had matured into an accomplished and innovative vocalist and the audiences enjoyed her artistry. Kristin has since gone on to win the international jazz voice competition this year at Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival. With the Ben Jones group and John Hoffman’s Quintet, together with a line-up of local musicians, excellent jazz was again on show.
The Perc Tucker Regional Gallery followed up the Bruce Hart Exhibition of 2001 with a stunning photographic exhibition by eight of North Queensland’s leading photographers on the theme of jazz. Some favoured colour, some black and white. The Festival launch at the Gallery on Thursday night saw John Hoffman opening the Exhibition and the Festival and he then joined Larry Thomson’s Trio to entertain the gathering. Jazz, one art form, joined with photography, another art form in an imaginative and exciting way. Congratulations and thanks go to Frances Thomson and the Gallery staff for this initiative and for their continuing involvement in the Festival.
On the Friday night, the John Hoffman Quintet played in the foyer of the Southbank Convention Centre for a new event titled Champagne Jazz. Space for the large crowd was at a premium but this didn’t detract from the music which was of a high order.
Sunday afternoon’s Sunset on the Deck by now had grown in popularity to the point where this venue was becoming a bit crowded. Such is the nature of success; it presents challenges.
The Festival was more than fortunate in recruiting, if that’s the word, a new Committee and a new Coordinator, Ross Nable. Ross is ideally suited to this demanding and multi-faceted role and has overseen the Festival’s growth and development since taking over after the 2002 Festival. Ross is a 4ttt jazz presenter and knows and loves his jazz. He works full-time, which makes running a jazz festival on top of his day job rather demanding, but Ross has all the necessary skills. As he says, running a jazz festival is a form of project management, which is what his real job entails.
The Festival Committee includes jazz pianist John Ruffle, the Musical Director of the Stokes-Nicholson Big Band and long-time member of the Pacific Mainstream Jazz Band. Another key Committee member is Lyn Craill, who looks after publicity, a very important and time consuming task. There are other Committee members who have lesser though important roles. Bob Passmore continued on to join the new Committee as did Neal Sellars and Lynne de Jong. Les Nicholson and Larry Thomson were otherwise engaged in the jazz field and were unable to continue as Committee members. Les was heavily involved in organizing Junior Jazz and Larry was assisting Marilyn Sheather, who had taken over organizing Magnetic Island’s Great Tropical Jazz Party after Max Brown’s death.
So planning for the 2003 Festival proceeded, under new management as it were, but with the new Committee sharing the same vision as the founders — namely the Festival’s about quality jazz, about music that musicians love to play and fans love to hear.
The 2003 Festival featured cutting-edge modern jazz guitarist James Sherlock’s Trio, namely James, Brisbane pianist Steve Newcomb and former Brisbane, now Melbourne drummer, Sam Bates. A Noosa trad group, the Jazz Factory, performed at various locations during the weekend and played a “wandering minstrel” role. The multi-talented trumpeter/vocalist Peter Uppmann joined with former Townsville pianist Brian Snow to lead the Snow-Uppmann Quartet. Another outstanding pianist was Brisbane’s Clare Hansson, often billed as Queensland’s First Lady of Jazz. Clare has played with many leading Australian jazz musicians in her long and distinguished career. And top-of-the-bill was the veteran jazz vocalist, comedienne, actress and TV identity, Su Cruickshank, an old-style entertainer who is not limited by having to perform in a wheelchair. Su was, as they say, something else!
The Festival incorporated Junior Jazz on its programme. Junior Jazz had previously been a weekend event which brought bands and groups from secondary schools across North Queensland to play and get feedback from a panel of experienced musicians. The founding President of Junior Jazz is Brian Lane, ably assisted by musicians Bob Passmore, John Ruffle and Les Nicholson, among others. Thanks to assistance from the Townsville City Council, the 2003 Festival was able to erect an outdoor stage, with lighting and a good sound system, beside the river in front of the Maritime Museum – at the “quieter” end of Palmer Street. Junior Jazz with its school bands and groups enjoyed having this excellent stage for the Saturday and Sunday afternoon sessions and masterclasses were held for the young musicians at the end of each session. Given the delightful sunshine, it proved an ideal venue and was well supported by parents and fans. This stage also enabled the Festival to present a free concert on the Saturday night featuring the Jazz Factory, the Stokes-Nicholson Big Band and Su Cruickshank’s Quintet. Su’s Quintet also played in a cabaret setting at the Southbank Convention Centre Ballroom on the Saturday night and at Sunset on the Deck on Sunday afternoon.
The Perc Tucker Gallery featured an exhibition titled Light+Colour+Movement = Jazz, a digital rendition by artist Rhesa Menkens. This opened on the Thursday night at the Gallery, which was also the Festival launch.
The new Committee, and new Coordinator Ross Nable, had cut their organizational teeth and put the Festival together smoothly.
With the 2003 Festival successfully staged, “bite the bullet” in 2004. The “bullet” was to combine jazz with outdoor food and beverages on the street Friday and Saturday nights. The centrepiece Friday night would be an outdoor stage, together with licensed dining and food in the Shamrock-Australian block of Palmer Street, which would be closed to traffic.
Saturday night the Maritime Museum block would be closed, with music on a second stage (the River Stage).
To the uninitiated this may not seem to be a significant change, but the cost and organizational challenge is considerable. Only the 1999 Festival, generously supplied with music by the Queensland Bienniel Festival of Music, had been this ambitious, and then it was only the street closure and outdoor stage component which were involved. By now the Festival had managed to accumulate a small bank balance and decided to go ahead with this long-held plan.
The Friday night outdoor stage programme started at six with the Kirwan High Big Band. The Pimlico High Big Band followed. These are both fine bands and set the scene for the polished 1RAR Big Band under the baton of Captain Andrew Ryder. Then Sharny Russell, Brisbane pianist/vocalist took the stage, backed by Brisbane’s Adam Thomas Quintet. Sharny included some tracks from her award winning 2003 CD A Good Thing On Hold. The weather, as usual, was perfect and people enjoyed the freedom to walk the street, take in the outdoor concert, have something to eat and drink and sample the music at other venues along the street.
The River Stage, as in the 2003 Festival, hosted Junior Jazz on Saturday. On Saturday night there was another (free) concert on this stage. The line-up included the Sunshine Coast’s Trevor Hart Quartet, Sharny Russell and the Adam Thomas Quintet, the Peter Uppmann Band, the Stokes Nicholson Big Band and the Air Force Jazz Ensemble from Melbourne. Licensed drinks ; food were again available.
A key factor in the organization of the 2004 Festival was the role played by Jeff Jimmieson of Access All Areas Events Management. The Townsville City Council hired Jeff to assist the Festival by managing the logistical administrative aspects of setting up stages, street closures, licensing of food and drink on the street and associated tasks. Jeff worked closely and effectively with the Festival Committee and his expertise in managing major events enabled this challenging task to be accomplished smoothly. He also happens to be a musician, a drummer, which helps when you’re arranging sound systems and lighting.
A (free) wind-up concert, Jazz by the River, was held on the River Stage late Sunday afternoon into the evening and as in previous Festivals, pubs and restaurants provided the intimate venues that have always been a feature of the Festival.
The Sydney group Exposed Bone, led by trombonist Jeremy Borthwick, got rave reviews. They played a concert at the Perc Tucker Gallery Friday lunchtime, at Bistro One that night, at the Shamrock on Saturday afternoon and had a lunchtime gig at Benny’s Hot Wok Cafe on Sunday.
An informal arrangement with the Bistro management had them playing a Sunday night gig with many musos sitting in. The other group members are a sister and two brothers, Zoe Hauptman on bass, Ben on guitar and James on drums. They’re all in their twenties and Jeremy is a little older. The energy of youth! By contrast, Aucklander Murray Tanner who again came to Palmer Street to play his flugel horn superbly, is close to eighty. Jazz knows no generational barriers.
The Festival was an unqualified success and enabled the public to share top jazz for free.
Planning for the 2005 Festival hinged on the question of whether adequate funding could be found to repeat the street closure/outdoor stage components of the 2004 Festival. The Festival’s major sponsor, the Townsville City Council, was supportive of this enlarged Festival format and the necessary funding followed.
The Council would fund a “star” as a headline act on the outdoor stage and again hired Jeff Jimmieson to organize the associated infrastructure. It was important that this headliner be a jazz artist and vocalist Katie Noonan was engaged.
Katie is well known as the vocalist with George, the popular and innovative group, but also has her own jazz group, Elixir. Her husband, Isaac (Zac) Hurren, is an excellent jazz saxophonist. The other group members were Melbourne pianist Sam Keevers, bassist and fellow Melbournian Philip Rex and Brisbane drummer Ken Edie.
The plan was to again have this concert on Friday night but a late decision that the Cowboys (the local Rugby League team in the national league) were to have a home game Friday night caused a rethink. It was decided to reschedule the concert for Saturday night – you can’t expect to draw a crowd when the Cowboys have a home game!
As it turned out, Saturday night was probably a better choice than Friday. In balmy weather the street came alive and Katie and her group provided what was for many a new musical experience and the large and appreciative audience included many young people.
The 2005 Festival line-up included Sue Bond’s excellent quartet. Brisbane pianist Clare Hansson on a return visit joined with Peter Uppmann to form the Uppmann-Hansson Quartet and Melbourne saxophonist Roger Clark brought his outstanding Quartet to the Festival. Roger is founder and owner of Dizzy’s, a leading Melbourne jazz bar.
Two additions from the local music scene were Captain Nemo, which includes James Cook University students, led by lecturer David Salisbury with wife Vicky on vocals and some of 1RAR Band’s musicians in the Six Pack Jazz Band, an exciting sextet.
The outdoor stage concert on Saturday drew the biggest crowd in Palmer Street’s nine year history. Junior Jazz was again presented on the River Stage on Saturday. Media coverage was extensive and the Townsville Bulletin produced a 16-page colour liftout for the Festival.
Music was again provided in a variety of settings to cater for a growing number of the public, some of whom were introduced to live jazz for the first time. This growth in the audience for jazz is an encouraging outcome.
Thanks to Neal Sellars and the 4ttt Palmer St Jazz Committee for their Tenth Anniversary History Book for this information.