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Jazz festival ready to bring thousands together


Port of Tauranga National Jazz Festival turns 61 this year and a great line-up of events awaits the visitors (Image Supplied)

Praneeta Mahajan
Hamilton, February 13, 2024

Nina Simone once said, “Jazz is not just music, it is a way of life, a way of being, a way of thinking,” and the thought is echoed by every Jazz lover around the world.

The spirit of music, jazz and life will come alive once again in Tauranga as the widely beloved Port of Tauranga National Jazz Festival turns 61 this Easter and celebrations will include a dazzling programme of events which bring the swing to Tauranga Moana from March 23, 2024, to April 1, 2024.

Every year, the Festival showcases performances by some of the best jazz musicians in Australasia and the world alongside some of the country’s best emerging jazz musicians. The country’s longest-standing and best-regarded jazz festival brings thousands of people into the heart of Tauranga, including audience members and jazz lovers from across the country.

Festival Manager Marc Anderson said, “The longevity of our event is an indicator of the power and timeless nature of jazz across generations. While the genre continues to evolve, and our artist base grows, at the same time, the classics and true heart of jazz music remain. Jazz lovers across the country plan their Easter holidays around our festival and the city welcomes our relaxed, cool, and grooving jazz festival crowds with open arms.”

Jazz Street party will see musicians serving up soulful sounds and entertaining crowds as well as food, market stalls and children’s entertainment (Image Supplied)

Youth takes the lead

The festival always opens with the three-day Wright Family Foundation National Youth Jazz Competition, in which some of the most talented jazz artists from schools across the country meet and compete for the 23 coveted trophies and prizes which include cash prizes, as well as gold, silver, and bronze awards.

The 46th competition offers audience and participants everything from performances to workshops and jams from March 26 to March 28, 2024, at The Baycourt Community and Arts Centre.

Versatile New York-based jazz guitarist and composer Russ Spiegel will perform a variety of styles (Image Supplied)

A unique street party

The Katikati Jazz Street Party on Saturday, March 23, 2024 dishes up soulful sounds alongside food, market stalls and children’s entertainment.

The festival’s very own ‘French Quarter’, the family-favourite Jazz Village on Good Friday, delivers entertainment for everyone in true New Orleans style. Featuring luscious big band jazz with the All-Girl Big Band, fresh and exciting fusion jazz with the Michal Martyniuk Quartet, funky swingin’ jazz and blues with Shaken Not Stirred, poppy dancing tunes with Chill Winston, and red hot rhythm and blues with The Flaming Mudcats, audiences can also stroll through the funky shops, meander down bustling aisles of artisan market stalls, enjoy a wide variety of food and refreshments including wine and beer while they enjoy live music and make a day of it.

At the hugely popular Downtown Carnival on Saturday 30 and Sunday 31 March, tens of thousands of jazz lovers immerse themselves in the vibrant sounds of New Zealand’s finest musicians performing live on multiple stages and in top-notch bars and restaurants in Tauranga city’s Strand, Wharf Street, and Red Square.

Downtown Carnival will see the city center come alive with Jazz, Blues and Funk (Image Supplied)

Biggest Names in Jazz

The Baycourt Community and Arts Centre Jazz Festival programme offers some of the biggest names in jazz and soul from New Zealand and around the world. A powerhouse 18-piece all-girl jazz band from Ōtautahi, All Girl Big Band, the multi-instrumental Australian jazz legend James Morrison, New York city-based jazz guitarist and composer Russ Spiegel, “infectiously groovy neo-soul” (NZ Herald) artist Louis Baker with an epic band, and Tauranga’s own Akash Dutta each host special concerts.

In Blue Eyes – The Music of Frank Sinatra, opening from March 23, 2024, to March 28, 2024, New Zealand playwright April Phillips has created a touching storyline into which she has woven several Frank Sinatra classics.

Tauranga-based pianist Akash Dutta will present a musical jazz journey from pop to the rich cultures of India, Persia, and Arabia (Image Supplied)

The Speakeasy Supper, Kitchen Takeover and St Amand on The Strand will transport food and jazz lovers into the heart of a New York Speakeasy, in all its sumptuous, secretive allure, with a five-course degustation filled with the era’s decadent flavours and delicious, free-flowing cocktails accompanied by exquisite live jazz.

Tauranga Big Band will take guests on a magical journey around the world through the medium of jazz. Featuring some of Tauranga’s premier musicians and outstanding local young performers, the musical richness of Tauranga Big Band embodies the spirit, diversity, and innovation of big band jazz.

A scenic jazz cruise on the historic Kewpie over the sparkling waters of Tauranga Moana will be a highlight in the evening (Image Supplied)

A rhythmic cruise

There is a scenic Jazz Sunset Cruise on the historic Kewpie, a wonderfully quaint cruiser which will take guests on a gentle harbour tour of the sparkling waters of Tauranga Moana, with onboard jazz as the sun goes down and the city lights up.

Guests can experience the joy of dancing, too, in a ‘dance till you drop’ Hurricane Party at Baycourt Community and Arts Centre and a swinging Big Band Tea Dance at the Tauranga Citizens Club.

After a day at the festival, audiences can relax in a fantastic jam session at the Jazz Café & VIP Bar in the comfort of the Hotel Armitage bar. Featuring a local house band with surprise guest musicians, this is the place to be for late-night music fun.

The festival will close with Jazz at the Mount, a day of great music in the heart of Mount Maunganui’s main shopping area with bands that include Lockie Bennett Quartet, Big Tasty, Kokomo, Ke Lo Ke and RetroGroove.

To see the full Port of Tauranga National Jazz Festival 2024 programme, seek more information or book tickets, please visit www.jazz.org.nz

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Hamilton.

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