Sun and a saxophone: The wonderful world of Melbourne jazz

Melbourne is a melting pot of culture, a hub of excitement and Australia’s answer to London when it comes to young artists seeking solace in the creative communities springing up like flora. Musicians from far and wide are drawn in like bees, the buzz in this hive the sweet, sweet sound of soulful jazz reverberating along the Australian coast. 

Melbourne isn’t just a hub for musicians but a source of inspiration, as their narratives of licks and lilts recollect that day spent meandering around the bustling laneways adorned with art. Drawing inspiration from the people they meet and the paths they tread adds a depth to each note, turning jazz from a genre into a native tongue here, spoken between locals through sweat soaked air on a dusky dancefloor.  

“Their memories turn to music notes cascading through the air, lost amidst perspiration, a product of coastal heat and the proximity of bodies moving in motion.”

Filmed at ‘The Grove’, an unassuming yet vibrant bungalow in Northern Melbourne, Sunny Side Up showcases the candid and almost cathartic creative atmosphere that forms when like-minded musicians unite under one roof. This Brownswood Recordings documentary previews the potential that an open and fearless approach to jazz can have when the boundaries are raised and influences from soul and R&B are carried into the mix like a mellow afternoon breeze.

Sunny Side Up manages to compact the sentience of the jazz genre metamorphosis happening there into just ten minutes, presenting individual artists distinct enough from each other to have their own sound yet all sheltered beneath the umbrella of jazz – ripping off its label and daring you to give it another. 

The jazz scene here is very much in its formative stages, reminiscent of the punk scene in England when the biggest and best were finding their feet and sound in safe, social spaces. The striking nature of what is happening in Melbourne is that the only intentional direction of the music scene is to not appropriate that which already exists, but to unite all artists in a mindset of give-and-take, simultaneously working off of the audience and composing for them.

Jazz is less of a genre and more of a social activity – “you cannot play jazz on your own.”

The multiculturalism of these communities invites different influences and styles into the mix, spilling the stories of their hometowns between the beats and changing Melbourne with every mix. Their memories turn to music notes cascading through the air, lost amidst perspiration, a product of coastal heat and the proximity of bodies moving in motion.

Artists like Laneous use jazz as a cement to bind bricks of R&B and soul beneath the scaffold of their sound in tracks like ‘Nice to See You’. Whilst in ‘Enumerate’ GODTET glides beneath a wave of electronica, incorporating synths and percussion to replicate the to-and-fro instruments found in traditional jazz.

The hour long 2019 Sunny Side Up compilation album is but a taste of what each of the artists featured has in their armoury. The tracks ranging from three to eight minutes feel like concentrated showcases of the variation in their sounds. Opening with Phil Stroud’s ‘Banksia’ sets us in familiar stead with conventional jazz progressions and soundscapes, though as the song carries along, the influence of Eastern melodies become almost unmistakable. As we glide towards the end of the album, Allysa Joy closes with ‘Orbit’, an ethereal emblem of the ease that jazz can emanate when soulful vocals guide it into a new age.

In Sunny Side Up, artist Audrey Powne connotes jazz as “a collective experience”, less of a genre and more of “a social activity – you cannot play jazz on your own”. Audrey is one of many prolific musicians making her name in the burgeoning soul and jazz scene over there, her vocals in ‘Flowers’ like a breath of fresh air on a sunny afternoon. She is at the core of her community, one of many sonic societies formed through a love of jazz.

The stylistic nature of the genre commands a constant ‘newness’, demanding collaboration in order to grow the breeding ground of innovation this city has come to be. Melbourne is the cultural node for the new wave of jazz, the constant dynamism at play during every set and every gig emanating an energy you cannot help to gravitate towards – so lean in.

Dip your toe in with this playlist from Brownswood…

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