Prove your humanity

“This is about having fun. So, we’re here to have fun.”

On October 2nd, a packed Ellington Jazz Club saw the inaugural performance of colourful Jazz group Rubaclava Orchestra, presenting skill, creativity and an enjoyable time.

Consisting of young musicians from UWA and WAAPA, the 16-piece band started off with Woody Herman’s Woodchoppers Ball and Bobby Darin’s The Good Life. From the get-go, you could feel the vibrations of a powerful brass section accompanied by an elegant piano part and candid bass-playing.

They performed vibrant renditions of swinging tunes from classic names like Woody Herman, Frank Sinatra and Buddy Rich which featured funky clarinet, trombone and sax solos from Thomas Hamilton-Stone, Alex Parkinson and Harry Brooker.

Drumming away with the band was founder William Chiew, who addressed the crowd a few songs in.

“We wanted to infuse the power of the big band – the swinging big band – with the party vibe of Latin music,” he said humbly, dressed in a crimson floral-patterned shirt.

“The main thing, why we’re wearing colours, is we wanted to separate ourselves from other Jazz bands sitting in suits and stuff.”

True to their message, they performed with both visual and musical colour, approaching every song with energy and precision. The show’s most memorable part was when Chiew’s incredibly raw drum solo captivated the audience on the tail end of Buddy Rich’s Nutville. Everyone in the room had their eyes on him, including the members on stage.

While some songs were purely instrumental, Count Basie’s Shiny Stockings introduced the silken voice of Lucinda Marley, and Lucy Iffla’s sonorous vocals led a powerful performance of Frank Sinatra’s Pennies from Heaven. Not to mention, vocalist Owen Measday’s suave presence on Everyday.

Their final tune – Natalie Cole’s Route 66 – was fun and unique. Taking a fun approach to the improv aspect of Jazz, the song involved one of the vocalists randomly pulling names out of a hat, while whoever was picked gave a solo. You could tell there was a small sense of tension on the stage, the eager performers waiting for their turn to play, but none of them made a single mistake and the result was thrilling.

Well-received by the mixed audience of youthful faces and older souls, Rubaclava showed everyone their devotion and skill to giving new life to the old-school songs.

I usually spend my time attending gigs from the alternative music scene, so reviewing a big band Jazz gig was a bit different – the crowd was tamer, the music arguably more complex, and the sound travelled around the space with a distinctly jazzy character.

All in all, these musicians performed an exciting burst of music with great energy, so if you’re into zippy jazz and a jolly time, Rubaclava is a group to check out.