We check out some of the international acts joining local talent at the 2018 National Jazz Festival Tauranga.

The Canberra Times called him “dazzling”.

London’s The Times said one of his performances “set the club alight”.

And the Chicago Tribune called him a “remarkable trumpet virtuoso” who deserved to be a household name.

UNO. Magazine, James Morrison
James Morrison

With reviews like that, it’s a major coup for the National Jazz Festival Tauranga to snare the attendance of Australian jazz legend James Morrison and his band, the James Morrison Quartet.

But the festival’s director, Craig Wilson, says that Morrison is just one of several high-quality overseas acts lured to the city – and that there are plenty of gems amongst the Kiwi performers as well.

“James is truly a star, and we’re absolutely thrilled to have him here,” Craig says. “But we’ve lined up five days of quality music across the entire Easter weekend, and we believe there’s something there for everyone.”

Craig could well be right, because the jazz festival isn’t just about jazz. Look more closely at the line-up and you’ll see gypsy, creole, ragtime, blues, and contemporary pop.

And that’s just from Caitriona Fallon, the Irish-born diva who will perform at Baycourt Community and Arts Centre on Thursday, 29 March.

Caitriona Fallon
Caitriona Fallon

The pernickety will say that Catriona is no longer an international act – she moved to Tauranga some time ago and performs with a local band. But hey, she was the lead singer for famed performance troupe Riverdance.

On Good Friday, six-piece Melbourne band Shirazz will offer their take on the traditional Dixieland jazz style that emerged from the smoky basement bars of New Orleans in the early years of the last century.

“Expect tight arrangements with hot solos and driving rhythms,” says Craig. “They’d be the first to say there’s a bit of ‘larrikin’ to their approach – this is a band that deserves to be enjoyed irresponsibly, and in excess!”

One reviewer for Australian radio station 3BBR FM named Shirazz the most exciting Dixieland band he’d ever heard.

Also on Friday, Americans Dewayne Pate (bass) and Dave Wilson (saxophone) will team up with local talents Dr Rodger Fox and the NZSM Big Band.

Rodger Fox
Rodger Fox

Pate has worked with Huey Lewis and the News, Boz Scaggs and Pat Benatar, among others. Wilson’s collaborators have included Engelbert Humperdinck, Tears For Fears and Dave Stewart (Eurythmics).

Saturday features a wealth of quality options, with the already-mentioned Morrison and his band hitting Baycourt’s Addison Theatre at 8pm.

Born in the tiny New South Wales town of Boorowa, hall-of-fame jazz musician Morrison clawed his way to international stardom through talent and sheer hard work.

His status grew to the point that, by the year 2000, he was asked to compose and perform the opening fanfare for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.

Since then, his resume has continued to expand. His two dozen albums include an ARIA award-winner, and five ARIA finalists.

He has played with Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles and BB King, and has also worked with Herbie Hancock, Quincy Jones, Whitney Houston and Frank Sinatra.

Also on Saturday, award-winning Canadian guitarist Joel Fafard will perform a mix of Southern roots and blues classics.

Joel Fafard
Joel Fafard

His voice has been described as “sexy sandpaper”, which suggests a core fan-base of female carpenters, but Craig says his live show has the polish and professionalism to appeal much more widely.

“Joel has the street cred of a Beale St busker, with a touch of contemporary urban attitude,” Craig says. “He’s a bit of a character, too, and that comes out in the stories he tells between songs.”

Fafard’s axe skills have earned him a Juno nomination and a Western Canadian Music Award.

Yet another talented import is Australian bluesman Isaiah B Brunt, who was voted Sydney Blues Society Performer of the Year in 2010. He will join Shirazz and local legends Kokomo at the Hurricane Party Blues night at Classic Flyers on Sunday.

Isaiah BBrunt
Isaiah B Brunt

“Isaiah Is an electric blues storyteller,” Craig says. “We’re talking classic American blues with plenty of slide and a fair bit of wah-wah pedal, but he’s also influenced by funk and soul.”

Craig says that with so much talent coming to Tauranga – not to mention all the Kiwi acts – he can see no reason to leave town this Easter.

It is, he says, the perfect excuse for a staycation.

56th National Jazz Festival Tauranga

Wed, 28 March

41st National Youth Jazz Competition 1pm Baycourt (Addison Theatre)


Thu, 29 March

41st National Youth Jazz Competition 8.30am Baycourt (Addison Theatre)

Caitriona Fallon 6pm Baycourt (Blink Lounge)

Lisa Tomlins: Joni Mitchell tribute 8pm Baycourt (Addison Theatre)


Fri, 30 March

41st National Youth Jazz Competition 8.30am Baycourt (Addison Theatre)

Shirazz (AUS) 6pm Baycourt (Blink Lounge)

Dr Fox Brings the Funk 8pm Baycourt (Addison Theatre)


Sat, 31 March

Downtown Carnival 12-6pm Downtown Tauranga

The Birth of Jazz: Take Two 1pm Baycourt (Blink Lounge)

High Society 6pm Baycourt (Blink Lounge)

James Morrison Quartet (AUS) 8pm Baycourt (Addison Theatre)

Joel Fafard (CAN) 9pm Baycourt (Blink Lounge)


Sun, 1 April

Downtown Carnival 12-6pm Downtown Tauranga

Hurricane Party Blues 6.30pm Classic Flyers Museum


Mon, 2 April

TECT Big Band Bonanza 10am-3pm (music from 11:30am)    

                                    Waterfront Tauranga

Tickets available from: 0800 842 538 / 07 577 7188 / www.ticketek.co.nz / Baycourt Community & Arts Centre