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Don't just point yourself aimlessly at Stonnington Jazz Festival – check out Michael Dwyer's picks

Seasoned Australian drummer Allan Browne has played everywhere with everyone since his Red Onions Jazz Band galvanised Melbourne hipsters in the early '60s, but he hasn't missed a Stonnington yet.

"It's because I live here," growls the patron of the annual jazz fest in the city's inner east. And there's this, too: "It's a people's festival. It caters to everyone. And it’s all Australian. That's important."

The local/ inclusive vibe means regular drop-ins from jazz-pop giants like James Morrison and Vince Jones, as well as an expansive welcome to trad stalwarts, ethnic influences and high-concept hybrids from every nook of the big jazz tapestry. Here are five other corners worth unravelling:

The Melbourne Rhythm Project

Vintage combo Leigh Barker & the New Sheiks hit on a hot new dynamic when they nabbed choreographer Ramona Stafford and a troupe of swinging tap dancers to form this spectacular 12-piece jazz-dance hybrid. With all new compositions and "plenty of scope for improvisation," says Barker, "in many respects it’s a completely unprecedented sound." Malvern Town Hall, Sun May 18.

Martin Martini

The luxuriant moustache of Melbourne's bohemian underground cracks his first jazz festival with a top-shelf band of veterans and young guns performing his suite, Vienna 1913. Commissioned for the National Gallery of Victoria's modernist exhibition of '11, he sees its merger of Klimt, Hoffmann and sousaphone as a "weird reflection of Melbourne's current synthesis of art, design and music". Malvern Town Hall, Fri May 23.


The purpose of Acquacheta, says Italian saxophonist Mirko Guerrini, "was decided between me and one of my favourite musicians in the world, [guitarist] Steve Magnusson: simply to play some beautiful melodies." Cue the Beatles, Keith Jarrett, select film soundtrack and original tunes skewed with the classically inspired Italian jazz tradition. Chapel Off Chapel, Fri May 23.

Chantal Mitvalsky

Long a silky foil in the Cat Empire/ Jackson Jackson stable, chanteuse Mitvalsky unleashes her new direction "at the edge of contemporary jazz, neo-soul and hip-hop" at her Stonnington debut. Her beat freak pianist/ co-writer Aaron Choulai is off on secret jazz business, leaving the keys to her new band Skycha in the dexterous fingers of Sam Keevers. Chapel Off Chapel, Sat May 24.

The Syncopators

Frontline horn guys Peter Gaudion, Richard Miller and Chris Ludowyk began bending the old-timey jump and wail of Dixieland and New Orleans to their own eccentric formula back in '84 and copped a Bell Jazz Award for their umpteenth album in '09. Expect a few sneaky cameos at their banjo-tastic 30th anniversary bash. Malvern Town Hall, Sat May 24.

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By Michael Dwyer   |  

Stonnington Jazz Festival 2014 details

Around Stonnington, Prahran 3181

Telephone 03 8290 7000

Date 15 May 2014-25 May 2014

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