The capital has an early winter treat for lovers of the genre, writes Dionne Christian

If a a trip to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival didn't quite make it into your 2016 budget planning, no matter. Wellington has an early winter treat lined up for jazz lovers. Around 15,000 are expected to travel to Wellington for the annual jazz festival which, this year, includes more than 100 gigs at around 40 venues across five days.

"Every year, I think, 'this can't possibly get any bigger', and then it does," says artistic director Shelagh Magadza.

While it's a chance for New Zealanders to see and hear some of the world's finest jazz musicians without having to travel too far, it's also an opportunity for some international superstars to visit us.

Magadza says the festival is also drawing many more local musicians from all over the country who want to be part of it. They include festival favourites such as Rodger Fox, Reuben Bradley, Lucien Johnson and "duelling pianists" Ben Wilcox and Dayle Jellyman, while Sal Valentine and the Babyshakes visit from Auckland for the first time.


Borrowed, Blue, Old but New, on Sunday, features some of the country's most iconic entertainers as they jazz up the great New Zealand songbook. Led by the Rodger Fox Big Band, chart-toppers Hollie Smith (Bathe in the River), Mark Williams (Show No Mercy), Debbie Harwood (Melting Pot, When the Cat's Away) and Erna Ferry will present their favourite classic Kiwi pop tunes and jazz standards.

So how does Magadza suggest we get the most out of such an expansive festival? She says bookings are essential for the international acts, so if you haven't already, decide now which you want to see.

"And then just go for a wander around the clubs and the bars and pop into see who's playing. There are some venues, like Meow, Rogue & Vagabond, Southern Cross and Matterhorn, who are well established venues as well as newcomers like Moon in Newtown, Caroline in Manners Street and Laundry on Cuba."

A jazz-themed night market on Lower Cuba St promises to appeal to music fans and foodies alike while, getting into the spirit of the festival, the Light House Cinema will screen jazz-inspired movies such as The Amazing Nina Simone and 20 Feet from Stardom. St Peters on Willis, apparently known as the church of jazz enthusiasts, will host a free concert series with Lisa Tomlins, Lex French and Kevin Field and their bands.

International acts include:

Wayne Shorter Quartet (US)

Pioneering saxophonist Wayne Shorter performs with Danilo Perez, John Patitucci and Brian Blade. The Grammy-winning quartet continues to win fans with dynamic compositions and electrifying improvisations (Wednesday, June 8).

Karrin Allyson with the Tom Warrington Trio (US)

Smooth chanteuse Karrin Allyson, supported by the Tom Warrington Trio and New Zealand School of Music Big Band, is known for her impressive musical range, gliding between bittersweet and sassy, covering the greats such as Dizzy Gillespie and Duke Ellington (Thursday, June 9).

Mulatu Astatke with Black Jesus Experience (Ethiopia/Australia)

The influential father of Ethiopian jazz, Mulatu Astatke, performs with the eight-piece Melbourne-based Black Jesus Experience, promising deeply seductive hypnotic grooves and Afro-beat funk (Friday, June 10).

Snarky Puppy (US)

Get down to new jazz from the underground and revel in a night of raw "animal magic" (The Telegraph). This Grammy-winning Brooklyn-based outfit is bringing funk with a jazzed-up rock concert of synth-driven grooves to the festival (Saturday, June 11).

Lisa Fischer & Grand Baton (US)

The voice that has backed the Rolling Stones for 25 years, Lisa Fischer now steps into the spotlight. Capable of both raw power and breathtaking subtlety, she mesmerised movie-goers in the Academy Award-winning film Twenty Feet from Stardom.

A humble and inventive performer, this Grammy-winning artist brings an intimate one-night-only show fusing gospel, soul and rock (Sunday, June 12).

Jazz Festival giveaway

The NZ Herald and the Wellington Jazz Festival have a special weekend in the capital to give away to two lucky jazz lovers in June. The Wellington Jazz Festival weekend package includes return flights (ex-Auckland only), a double pass to Snarky Puppy on Saturday June 11* and a double pass to Lisa Fischer with her band Grand Baton on Sunday June 12, along with two nights' accommodation in a Deluxe King Room at the centrally-placed Amora Hotel Wellington.

Entries close May 25.

*Please note travel must be taken the afternoon of June 11, returning the morning of Monday June 13.

Enter the keyword WEEKENDJAZZFESTat to be in to win. Terms and conditions apply.

Need to know
What: Wellington Jazz Festival
Where & when: 40 venues across Wellington; June 8 - 12
Tickets: From $39- $79 (plus any Ticketek fees); see