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Newcastle Jazz Festival

52 bands with over 200 musicians are taking over Newcastle this August | Returning 2024

The 34th annual Newcastle Jazz Festival brought music lovers from around Australia and beyond to the iconic Newcastle City Hall. Fifty-two bands with over 200 musicians performed more than 60 hours of music across four stages during the weekend, from August 25-27.

This year’s lineup was one of the most diverse and exciting yet, with an eclectic program encompassing everything from traditional New Orleans jazz, swing bands, jazz orchestras, and funk and blues to solo jazz piano through to contemporary, Gypsy, and Brazilian jazz.

This year’s program featured some of Australia’s best female jazz musicians. The Emma Hamilton Quartet channelled Edith Piaf across vocal, piano, and accordion. Internationally-acclaimed bassist/vocalist Nicki Parrott was unmissable on Saturday and for the first time, the festival featured an all-female jazz band, Mousai.

The festival also welcomed the internationally-renowned Gregg Arthur and his tribute to Tony Bennett. Guitar virtuoso Bruce Mathiske featured on Sunday. The Blues Point Vocal group sang acoustic jazz accompanied by one of Australia’s best double bass players, Craig Scott, and Bob Henderson led talented Sydney jazz players in his quintet.

Popular Newcastle performers to entertain the crowd included the Terrence Koo Trio with Brynn Hulls, Fish Fry, Half Nelson, Heather Price, and the Dungeon Small Band, the Australian Army Newcastle Big Band, and young talent with the HSPA Stage Band.

New to this year’s festival were the Civic String Quartet with a tribute to Duke Ellington, fun band Exploding Happiness, and guitarist Steve Brien giving insights and observations on the evolution and style of Jazz, from Bebop to Broadway. 

The Hunter and Brown Quintet played vibrant swing-style music and the Paul David Trio presented a Jazz/Latin combo. The Chris Dawson Band featured original songs composed by Chris.

Those who love traditional jazz would have found it hard to choose their favourite performance over the weekend. Acts included The Bridge City Jazz Band, The New Orleans Ramblers, The Port Hunter Jazz Band, Canberra’s Zackerbilks, Sydney’s famous Unity Jazz Band with Dan Barnett and George Washingmachine, and Bill Dudley led his New Orleanians.

Guests could also catch the ever-popular Licorice Allsorts, and Greg Englert presented a tribute to Louis Armstrong. The Jack McLaughlin Memorial Band celebrated the life of a committed trad jazz clarinetist.

Sunday mornings at the festival are always popular, and this year jazz fans could enjoy a taste of New Orleans Gospel music with the Geoff Power Jazz Band and acclaimed jazz Gospel singer, Lee Gunness. 

Swing was king in this year’s program, with dance floors available to those who like to move to the music. Dancers enjoyed the Dungeon Big Band presenting ‘You and the Night and the Music’ featuring vocals and double bass from the multi-talented Heather Price, and The New Empire Ballroom Ragtime Dance Orchestra hosted a roaring twenties dance party on Saturday evening. 

You could also catch The Jive Bombers, Geoff Power’s Great Gatsby Jazz, Swing Company with vocalist Renee Berger, the Swing Kings with Sheriden Nelson on vocals, and the Rehab Brass Band.

Those who like their jazz with a modern twist enjoyed the sounds of the Freddie Stafford Trio, the Steph Russell Band, the Zach Horne Quartet, Miau, and the Chloe Gill Trio. Dedos Curiosos brought acoustic Brazilian jazz to the mix while Cygan Groove brought a touch of Gypsy Jazz to the festival. 

Steve Edmonds and Daryl Aberhart featured blues in their sets. Andrew Dickeson, Peter Locke, and Craig Scott were crowd pleasers with their classic piano trio.

Newcastle Jazz Festival

Where: Newcastle City Hall | 290 King St, Newcastle
When: Returning 2024
Tickets: From $40pp
More Info: click here