Jazz Under the Kimberley Moon
Classic jazz-fusion piano met with sultry jazz vocals under the Kimberley moon when internationally recognised jazz pianist and composer Dr Allan Zavod performed his concert “Broadway Under the Stars” with renowned Melbourne based jazz singer Nichaud Fitzgibbon.
Considering jazz singer Nichaud has travelled all over the world she still describes the East Kimberley “as the mecca, and everyone should come to Kununurra and experience it. I’ve never seen anything compared to the beauty of this landscape, the colours of the Kimberley landscape, that’s what really entranced me.”
Bruce and Dianne Livett, owners of Zebra Rock Gallery, are also patrons in creating a sophisticated music culture in the East Kimberley, hosting Allan and Nichaud during Kununurra’s annual Ord Valley Muster.
Not only a jazz singer but also an avid rock collector, Nichaud was right in her element performing at the Zebra Rock Gallery, surrounded by 600 million year old striped zebra rocks found only in this region of the East Kimberley.
“The night was blissful, the performance was a very special experience; I found it to be one of the most beautiful experiences I have ever experienced because the audience was so attentive – and they really appreciated us coming up this far, and we brought them something they had never seen before.” said Nichaud
Dr Zavod lived 30 years in the USA with a stellar career as a Classical-Jazz Fusion Pianist and Composer. Only in the last 7 years of living in Australia has he experienced travelling his own country.
I’ve now had the opportunity to see parts of Australia that all Australian’s should see. Coming to Kununurra is just perfect and the environment here is so inspiring, the rock formations are amazing, we are talking 600 million years of history! If that doesn’t inspire you then go somewhere else because you missed it.” Allan says laughing.
“Playing jazz music in the East Kimberley countryside was inspiring” he says as he recalls the “Broadway Under the Stars” concert. “Here we were outdoors playing our stuff with the Ord River going past and the reflection of the moon and with everybody being so attentive.”
To say Dr Zavod has a way with music is an understatement. He can make a sophisticated music form like Jazz very accessible and easy to listen too.
“Jazz is a form of spontaneous composition, its a form of music that you make up, you improvise, it can be very difficult to listen to for some people unless you have a way of keep coming back to the melody, I bring in a friendly way of improvising so that people of all ages, whether they have been to a Jazz Concert or not, can enjoy it. So that’s what we do!”
Dr Zavod has a keen interest in furthering the musical skills of school-age students. One of his favourite moments was playing piano at St Joseph’s Primary School and meeting the kids.
“Well what an experience that was! Here’s these 5 and 6 year old kids, they are all laughing and delighted, you know they absolutely got it straight away, their vibrancy and their openness to music was very powerful, it was really strong, they were attuned, they were ready for something. They weren’t dulled by the fact there was a lack of music culture, say compared to Melbourne or Sydney, they were the opposite, they were completed open and ready, and they understood everything.”
Dr Zavod was a teenager when he got his break into the big time – being accepted into a prestigious music college in the USA on the recommendation of the American jazz great ‘Duke’ Ellington, . This break lead him into a career as a composer, pianist and bandleader of jazz orchestra spanning 30 years, and with many awards under his belt, most recently his achievements include a Doctor of Music from the University of Melbourne for recognition of his original contribution to musical knowledge.
Dr Zavod likes to support young musicians and promote his unique blend of classical and jazz music by offering young jazz musicians an opportunity for further development with the Zavod Classical-Jazz Fusion Performers Award, administered by Monash University and the Zavod Classical Jazz fusion composers award administered by university of Melbourne.
“That’s why I like to come to remote area’s like this and promote the music Award, its not just for Melbourne, that’s why I came here and had a look at the school education system, One day I hope there will be a University here. We could also possibly open a program here that could be a ‘stepping stone’ that could take students to the University in Darwin. I am also interested in doing a Secondary School Scholarship administered through Monash University. We hope that students from Kununurra will take an interest so that we can reach out to this part of Australia.”
Kimberley Exposure interviewed Dr Zavod in Kununurra just before his departure to Cambodia and Phnom Penh, invited by the late king’s nephew to play jazz and perform a couple of shows. And the main thing that he would tell the king’s nephew about Kununurra? “First of all it has the nicest people; the beauty and uniqueness of the place I will also talk about.”
“After our concert we just went down and started talking to the audience, it is very much a friendly town, everybody was just lovely and they make guests feel welcome. This town opens their hearts to you, it’s a very big impression I have of Kununurra.”
After two visits and concerts in Kununurra at Zebra Rock Gallery Dr Allan Zavod says he almost feels like a local. “It’s just wonderful here, in a way I feel like I’m a part of this place. I’m so glad I could bring Nichaud this time, I knew she would go nuts. You know the silliness of being in the water with a cocktail, sitting on a noodle, and it all made sense in this beautiful body of warm fresh water called Lake Argyle”
“This is paradise. I don’t want to go, I want to stay. I’ve never seen so much water and mountain ranges – and Lake Argyle is a visual heaven. I’ll be coming back don’t you worry, and I will bring some more people. I am going to tell everyone they need to experience it” Nichaud said