Eric Pozza of CanberraJazz.net writes a synopsis on contemporary jazz in Canberra for the Jazz Journalists Association (JJA) 2012 Jazz Day Blogathon
Canberra’s jazz scene is small but vibrant. It’s centred on the Australian National University School of Music and its Jazz Faculty, with its capable professionals and a crew of keen students. Several bars or cafes have jazz as entertainment one or more nights a week. These change regularly but they provide income for students and local professionals. The professionals need to cover the waterfront and teach, but that’s common everywhere. Currently, the main listening venues are The Loft, a small weekly venue run by two recent graduates from the ANU, and the Gods, a monthly jazz series run by noted Australian poet, Geoff Page. Both feature the best local acts, visiting Australian acts and occasional international visitors. A few other listening venues immediately come to mind: the School of Music Band Room, the Street Theatre, the alt-styled Front Café, Hippo Bar and the CGS Gallery.
As is the way, students leave for the big smoke at the end of their courses, so jazz is a changing community and it’s not formally organised. The Canberra Jazz Club exists and has an illustrious history with a string of festivals but the members have aged and their interests are more trad than contemporary. The Jazz Uncovered festival ran for two years (2010, 2011) and we are now looking forward to the second coming of the Capital Jazz Project (2011, 2012) featuring visiting ex-Miles sideman Bennie Maupin. Canberra has a notable community radio station, ArtSound FM, that has supported jazz for over 30 years and has years of recordings of everyone from students (some now-made-good) to visiting internationals in its archives. The National Film and Sound Archive and the Australian Jazz Archive are also in Canberra, and have significant historical jazz collections.
Canberra’s most famous jazz export must be Frank Gambale, guitarist with Chick Corea on a string of albums, but Canberra also has a recent history of seeding Australian and international jazz scenes with its graduates. A few names include Craig Schneider, Kristen Cornwell, Carl Dewhurst, Andrew Robson, Nick McBride, Brendan Clarke, Michael McQuaid, Andrew Swift and the a-cappella quartet Idea of North. Like many new, planned, national capitals, Canberra has a poor image in the national consciousness, not least given its association with Federal politics, but Canberra is a worthy and intelligent city. Its population is only 300,000 people, but the attraction of Parliament, national collecting institutions, Commonwealth departments and agencies, embassies and 4 universities has drawn a well-educated population with an interest in the arts.
To learn more about jazz in Canberra, start with my blog, CanberraJazz.net, for the period since 2005. For history before that date, seek out A cool capital : the Canberra jazz scene, 1925-2005, by John Sharpe, [Torrens, A.C.T.] : J. Sharpe, 2006