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08 June 2021

Venues featured in this article

If there’s one thing I think we can all agree on here in the Ōtepoti music community, it’s that we’d quite like more spaces to perform and experience music in, which is why it pleases me greatly to see a new initiative intent on giving us exactly that.

Dubbed the “Albany Street Jazz Loft”, the project aims to take the unused loft of the Playhouse Theatre and fill it with the effervescent burble of “cutting edge, sublime, stimulating and quality contemporary jazz”.

The entity behind it is the Dunedin Jazz, Cabaret & Performing Arts Trust, which formed in 2014 with the goal of bringing more touring jazz musicians to Dunedin. I talked to some of its individuals, Karin Reid (artistic director) and Alex Wolken (project assistant) who also form the music duo, Reid and Wolken.

“I feel very passionate about presenting live performance, or live music in this regard, in a variety of spaces. And this is not a bar or a cafe, it’s not a commercial space” explained Karin.

“And also the intimacy of it, it’s not a large auditorium, it’s not a hall, it’s not a small noisy bar either. So there’s that element of a listening audience as well.”

But it’s not just about providing a vibey space where the people behind you won’t talk through the whole damn thing.

They’ll be bringing six different acts to the loft, roughly one a month for the rest of the year. As Karin puts, it’s “almost like a festival but spread out”. The project wants to provide an environment for the edgier jazz, the jazz on the fringes, different from what you might typically see in Dunedin.

“[The goal is] to bring a program of exciting music that falls under the Jazz milieu I guess, something that’s not really happening down here I suppose.”

“I mean there’s a lot of swing, there’s a lot of bebop or jazz orchestra kind of music, but I don’t think there’s enough variety of jazz, and hopefully we will be able to present that variety.”

But what exactly is jazz anyway? I posed the question to Alex.

“I guess any music that really draws on the jazz tradition of improvisation I would see as having a place.”

“People might describe it [with] some kind of crossover terminology, but I mean for me anything from free improvisation to jazz funk, to you know like, contemporary jazz outfits which crossover with R&B, or even if they crossover with, I don’t know, prog or something.”

“That all has its place, drawing on a particular kind of language, a particular kind of improvisational language rhythmically and harmonically.”

“But that doesn’t mean that people have had to go to jazz school or learned their chops from jazz musicians necessarily to earn a place within the jazz milieu in my opinion.”

Given that’s the definition they’re working with, I’m excited to see what sort of far-out critters end up in the Jazz Loft. And Alex reckons you might be too, even if you don’t realize it yet.

“People underestimate just the plethora of different pathways which people find through music.”

“So there’s a lot more kind of potential crossover from people who are interested in the more experimental or alternative end of, like, rock and pop or indie music, to jazz.”

“So yeah, we want to be reaching out to anybody, from people who are just dabbling their toes in jazz, right through to people who are died in the wool hardcore jazz collectors, and so on.”

All of this is, however, is contingent on the crowdfunding campaign which will pay for stuff like the venue rental, so if you want to support that you can do so here:

Obscure and unofficial media from gigs in Dunedin, New Zealand since 2014.
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