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Pop ‘n’ Jazz with the Jindalee Jazz Orchestra

I’d offer to apologise for disturbing those sitting near me during the Jindalee Jazz Orchestra’s Pop ‘n’ Jazz, but I know I wasn’t the only one tapping my toes and dancing in my seat.  

Over two sets, the Jindalee Jazz Orchestra offered exciting and vibrant big band renditions of traditional jazz and swing (‘Sing Sing Sing’, ‘Blue Skies’, ‘Freddie Freeloader’), contemporary pop jazz (‘Zoot Suit Riot’, ‘Don’t Know Why’), rhythm and blues (‘Hallelujah, I Love Her So’), and straight up pop (Earth Wind and Fire’s ‘September’, Jim Croce’s ‘Big Bad Leroy Brown’, Queen’s ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’). 

The skill of each member of the orchestra was clearly demonstrated throughout the evening; if I listed every performer I was impressed by, you’d have a list of every musician on that stage. Solos featured heavily in many of the songs, and I particularly enjoyed the clarity of Edward Kennedy’s trumpet in ‘Four’, Katrina Rooney’s smooth alto sax in ‘Take the A Train’, and Callum Kennedy’s powerful grooving drums in ‘Sing Sing Sing’. Tenor saxophonist Justin Bales was a notable stand out as a soloist though, from his sultry, steamy feature in ‘Skyfall’ (Adele) to his bright and soaring solo in ‘The Chicken’ (Alfred Ellis). There was a short pause before anyone in the audience applauded the latter – a communal moment of disappointment that the solo wasn’t longer!  

Singer Cash Rooney added his smooth vocals to the band for a few numbers, performing classic jazz (‘All of Me’), rhythm and blues (‘Hallelujah, I Love Her So’) and pop (‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’), all with equal ease and charm. There was a great sense of balance and connection between the band and Rooney, speaking to the skill of not just all the musicians on stage but the venue’s (Arcana, Moorooka) sound engineer. Arcana’s lighting technician also deserves credit for the atmospheric lighting work throughout the show.  

There were a couple of fun surprises in the orchestra’s pop repertoire – I’d never imagined Toto’s ‘Africa’ could be played with such lyrical big band majesty, and an invitation to sing along with a bold and rollicking ‘Sweet Caroline’ (Neil Diamond) was met with rambunctious enthusiasm from the audience. 

Band leader and trombonist Mark Watkins also played MC throughout the show, introducing each song in a warm, conversational way. Adding in tidbits of interesting information about the music or the arrangement or the composers, Watkins offered colour and context to the music, without slowing down the night’s upbeat flow.  

There’s clearly a great sense of connection between the members of the Jindalee Jazz Orchestra; a connection evident in their crisp timing, beautifully tight harmonies, and the toe-tapping joy they brought to the audience. It was quite sweet to see the saxophone section sharing high-fives after they’d taken their final bow – and from the thunderous applause of the audience, I think everyone considered the high-fives well justified.  

Review by Sylvia Speakeasy, Saturday 22nd May, at Arcana, Moorooka. Presented by the Jindalee Jazz Orchestra.