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Jazz at the Gods 2016 at The Gods Cafe, ANU Arts Centre, Canberra

2016 Jazz in Concert at The Gods. ANU Arts Centre. Light meals available from 6pm, music starts at 7.30pm. Admission $22/$15 concession. Bookings: thegodscafe@gmail.com or 6248 5538.

Tributes, Australian talents and locally trained musicians will all feature in the 2016 Jazz at the Gods season, says Geoff Page, who's been organising the concert series for more than a decade.

"They're all top-quality musicians, from highly-experienced, older-generation players to younger ones," Page says.

The season begins on February 2 with Sydney sextet Hammerhead, led by tenor saxophonist Jason Bruer.

Hammerhead played at The Street Theatre as part of the Capital Jazz Project in June and Bruer says the performance sold out.

"It got an outstandingly positive response," he says.

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In 2014, Hammerhead released their debut CD Mozaic, a mix of original compositions, mostly by Bruer, and interpretations of some well-known pieces. In their Gods appearance – for which David Theak will replace Andrew Robertson on alto sax – they will be continuing in this vein. They will be performing a combination of original music, mostly by Bruer – "heavily influenced by the '60s Blue Note hard bop era and all sorts of other influences", he says – and a tribute to one of those influences in particular, Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers.

The Adelaide-born Bruer has been a professional musician for more than 30 years but didn't begin playing until he was nearly 19. As a teenager, he worked in a series of jobs in London and started going to jazz performances at night, which he enjoyed, and when he returned to Australia he began listening to recordings of Weather Report and other artists and bought a saxophone.

"The bug got me – I practised eight hours a day for three years."

He then undertook a Bachelor of Music at the age of 22 and moved to Sydney where he formed his first band, won the talent show Starstruck and began his career, which has taken him around Australia and overseas and seen him perform with many big-name musicians including Joe Cocker, Sting, Eric Clapton, BB King and Madness.

On March 1, the Calum Builder Quartet will feature a mix of musicians from Sydney and Canberra. Sydney saxophonist Builder, a recent graduate from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, will join forces with Tate Sheridan (piano), Thomas Botting (bass) and Mark Sutton (drums) to play standards as well as Builder's own compositions.

The Clarinet in Jazz is the theme for the gig on April 5 when the Jon Hunt Quartet from Melbourne perform with explorations of the music of Benny Goodman and Sidney Bechet. Page says, "It's an instrument not heard as much these days in jazz as it was in the 1930s and '40s."

On May 3, the Casey Golden Trio from Sydney will present a program of what Page calls "fairly cerebral music" and on June 7 the Andrew Dickeson Quintet, also Sydneysiders, will perform a swinging concert.

"Andrew Dickeson is one of the best drummers in Australia by general consensus," Page says.

Two piano-led ensembles are in the next couple of slots, the Gavin Ahearn Quintet from Sydney on July 5 and on August 2, the Sally Greenaway Trio, led by the composer-performer who studied at Narrabundah College when Page taught there.

"She was always going to be a great pianist," Page says of Greenaway, who is a classical musician and film composer as well as working in jazz.

Another Canberran who studied at Narrabundah College and went on to graduate from the ANU School of Music, Damien Slingsby, will be performing with his quintet on October 4.

"He's a very talented pianist in the style of Bill Evans," Page says. The set will feature acoustic and electronic music with the other musicians being Ben Marston (trumpet), Aron Lyon (guitar), Lachlan Coventry (bass and guitar) and Kay Chinnery (drums).

Two more tributes end the year. On November 2 the Leigh Barker Group from Melbourne present The Music of Duke Ellington, a salute to one of the giants of jazz, and on December 6 guitarist Victor Rufus and pianist Tate Sheridan team up for a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the release of Bill Evans and Jim Hall's duo album Intermodulation with a selection of their favourites from that album and the other Evans/Hall duo release, Undercurrent, as well as contemporary standards and originals.

Page says he hasn't received any funding from artsACT for the past couple of years for Jazz at the Gods. While he's grateful for the financial support he has received and acknowledges that the event has been operating in the black, he says that even a relatively modest grant can make a difference, in helping to bring a wider range of artists to Canberra, for example.

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