November in Brisbane is awesome. Winter is gone but it is not too hot yet.
November is also when the OzManouche festival is held. Now in its ninth year, Australia's premier manouche jazz festival is a well established cultural event that filled the Brisbane Jazz Club to absolute capacity from 27-30 November.
The BJC is a perfect venue for the festival. A cozy intimate room with capacity for about 150 people, excellent sound, an expansive river deck where you can see the city lights twinkling in the river, cheerful volunteer staff, great food and a well stocked bar made sure that the audience was feeling good before the music even started.See the Ozmanouche gallery here
Manouche jazz is the gypsy inspired music of 1930s Europe made popular by guitar legend Django Reinhardt and the Quintette du Hot Club de France. It is fiery, passionate music that gets the toes tapping and the blood pumping. Thrumming guitars set a backdrop for amazing virtuosity and improvisation on guitar, violin, clarinet, accordion, double bass.
The program included an impressive array of international and interstate musicians. It also showcased the wealth of talent that resides right here in Queensland. As well as five stunning concerts featuring 10 different acts, there was plenty of room for impromptu jamming (or Djamming as it is referred to in deference to Django) both inside and on the outside deck, and masterclasses where seasoned professionals shared their technique secrets.
Identifying standout performances over the weekend is impossible - it was all so good. Amsterdam based Robin Nolan thrilled the audience with his superb technique and electric stage presence. The Harry Edwards Trio form Hobart gave us a gentler side of manouche that was utterly captivating. Local band Greshka gave us a wild and crazy Romanian gypsy ride while Mal Ver Le Bop gave us us the weirdness of 1960s TV show themes played in the manouche style with the addition of lap steel guitar - it worked. Brisbane manouche godfather Ewan Mckenzie, manouche and flamenco guitar genius Cameron Ford, Catfish from Melbourne, Ultrafox, Feel the Manouche, Salon de Swing all wowed the crowded room and had the audience yelling for more.
Many had travelled far and wide for the festival. Some carried treasured instruments with them. Many already knew each other, and many new friends were made over a glass of red or a coffee with the music providing a unifying sense of purpose.
It was was more than just a music festival, it was a community with all the joy, drama and fulfilment that being part of a close knit community can give. A shared experience of music along with stories, learning, friendship, history and wine. As I left, weary at the end of a massive weekend, it just felt so good to be alive. A joyous celebration. David Herbert.