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Live Review: Australian Jazz Bell Awards

22 June 2016 | 2:37 pm | Bryget Chrisfield

"Chindamo says his own sense of pride is 'perhaps superseded by [his] pride in his daughter right now'."

Albert Dadon, Chairman of Jazz Bell Awards and Bird's Basement owner, hosts this evening's ceremony and tells us we're assembled a month later than usual this year to present these Awards because his venue unfortunately opened a month later than expected. Dadon also points out the 2016 Australian Jazz Bell Awards mark a milestone: the voting process for the first round was opened up to include members of the Australian Jazz Academy for the very first time in an attempt to make the nomination process more transparent and democratic. And we're in fine company inside this venue tonight, since Pharoah Sanders' band is in the house (Pharoah Sanders Quartet's full season at Bird's Basement runs until 26 June).  

The Best Australian Jazz Ensemble award goes to Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra and, just as we're wondering how they're all going to fit onto the stage, the trophy is collected by the ensemble's co-founder/Artistic Director, David Theak. Allan Browne Quintet are awarded the gong for Best Australian Small Jazz Band and trumpeter Eugene Ball happily steps up to the prize podium to collect the trophy. Olivia Chindamo takes out Young Australian Jazz Artist Of The Year (for musicians up to and including 25 years of age) and is encouraged to sing a song with Bird's Basement's stellar house trio. Her spontaneous rendition of All Of Me is further elevated by Ball on trumpet, whose expressions when not playing act as non-verbal communication directed Chindamo's way: 'I like what you've done there,' or, 'I'm not sure where this is going.'

Having the winners pose for photos in front of a Jazz Bell Awards banner while still on stage in front of an audience is a bit awkward (maybe set this up out of sight next year?). While accepting her award for Best Australian Jazz Vocal Album (Where Or When), Kristin Berardi seconds, "I agree with Olivia [Chindamo]; singing's okay, but talking's a bit weird," referring to how nerve-racking it can be for artists to give acceptance speeches even though they're extremely comfortable performing on stage. Pairing cherry red Dr Martens boots with her silky dress in a dark hue, Berardi then sings Where Or When as we watch on in awe.

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One of the winners of Best Produced Album (Beginning And End Of Knowing by Mike Nock/Laurence Pike), 2009 Graeme Bell Hall Of Famer Mike Nock (who already has three Jazz Bell Awards in the trophy cabinet, this statuette makes four), seems surprised, admitting, "I voted for Barney [McCall]," during his acceptance speech. We are then treated to a spontaneous solo by the New Zealand pianist. And then Barney McCall takes out the next category, Best Instrumental Jazz Album (Mooroolbark). After gently bagging Mooroolbark the destination, McCall praises jazz musicians: "We search for the rainbow in the oil slick." It's now McCall's time to shine on piano. McCall also wins the next announced Jazz Bell Award for Best Australian Jazz Song Of The Year (Nectar Spur). 

Joe Chindamo is announced 2016's Graeme Bell Hall Of Fame inductee. Chindamo says his own sense of pride is "perhaps superseded by [his] pride in his daughter right now". "The essence of life and the essence of music is — be yourself," he encourages. He's come a long way since winning TV talent quests such as New Faces as a child prodigy and Chindamo says it's all about "making use of that larrikin streak". After praising the "urbane exuberance" of jazz, Chindamo takes his position on the piano stool to play a piece that incorporates Alphie. He then invites his daughter Olivia to the stage and accompanies her on piano while she sings Cheek To Cheek. We all marvel at the number of exquisite jazz pianists who are celebrated this evening.Legendary jazz musician and Graeme Bell Hall Of Fame member Tony Gould's earlier claim that our jazz scene is "as good as anywhere in the world, sometimes better" is perfectly demonstrated tonight.