Underground jazz series goes public

Why was there a grand piano in the staff room of Majura Medical Centre? The answer is not entirely clear. However, a group of Canberra musicians have been taking advantage of this serendipitous discovery for the past two years, hosting performances by jazz artists in an intimate ''underground'' series that has flourished by word of mouth.

Now, says one of the organisers behind Jazz at the Loft, it's time to go public.

Alex Raupach, 23, who graduated from the ANU School of Music last year with an honours degree in jazz trumpet, says pianist Luke Sweeting discovered the piano (possibly belonging to one of the doctors who didn't have space for it at home, Raupach says) and started Jazz in the Loft with fellow pianist Andy Butter.

''I've been peripherally involved for a long time and have played in it a few times,'' Raupach says. He became more central a few months ago when Butter left for the United States.

The gigs were always word-of-mouth events for those in the know, but Raupach says with the demise of the jazz performance course at the School of Music, he and the other organisers decided to publicise Jazz at the Loft more widely to keep Canberra alive as an attractive destination for talented musicians. And they're doing it by establishing a partnership with a more accessible and central venue while not abandoning the original home that gives the event its name.

On Sunday at Teatro Vivaldi in the ANU Arts Centre will be a one-off event to launch Jazz in the Loft's 2013 season. There will be a performance by an octet made up of organisers and friends of the Loft: Raupach on trumpet, Matt Handel on alto sax, ANU lecturer John Mackey on tenor sax, Tom Fell on baritone sax, Jack Palmer on guitar, Luke Sweeting on piano, Max Alduca on bass and Luke Keenan-Brown on drums.


''There will be some contemporary and original works by members of the band and organisers of the Loft,'' Raupach says.

''The ensemble functions really well and produces a really tight sound.''

In the second half will be a complete performance of Oliver Nelson's classic record from 1961, The Blues and the Abstract Truth. The idea, Raupach says, is to give a sense of what the Loft is like and the sort of music it presents. And one advantage Teatro Vivaldi has over the original venue is that it is licensed so patrons can enjoy a drink as well as the music.

''It's a different venue with its own vibe,'' Raupach says, and may be a home for some bigger gigs, yet to be organised.

Raupach says among the acts that will be playing in 2013 will be Tasmanian pianist Tom Vincent, Sydney pianist Alistair Spence, Swiss band leader Andreas Bohlen and the Mark Hannaford Trio from Melbourne. They'll all be at the original Loft.

And Raupach says there are other plans.

''We're looking at applying for Australia Council grants to pay artist fees for bigger gigs.''

But the 2012 season of Jazz at the Loft is not yet over. The original venue will play host to pianist Mark Hannaford (November 27, 8.30pm), the Mark Lockett Trio (December 5, 8.30pm) and the Steve Barry Trio (December 11, 8.30pm).

The Jazz at the Loft 2013 concert series launch is at Teatro Vivaldi, ANU Arts Centre, tomorrow at 3.30pm. Tickets $15/$10 at the door. Space is limited. The original Jazz at the Loft venue is at Majura Medical Centre, units 2-3, 151 Cowper Street, Dickson (entry $15/$10). For more information visit Jazz at the Loft on Facebook.