💸 WELCOME OFFER | Save up to $135: Enjoy the first 4 hours of your Beginner course FREE! Enrol now

Get jazzy on a jeudi at the Alliance Française!

French version

This article has been published exclusively by the Courrier Australien and the Alliance Française de Melbourne.

Located in St Kilda, Eildon Mansion hides a secret only known by historians and informed music lovers. In the basement of the Alliance Française’s building, there’s a little room with a vaulted ceiling which offers absolutely perfect acoustics. It is the setting for Jazzy Jeudi, which has welcomed, since April, the crème de la crème of the Francophile jazz scene. 

"The Alliance Française has always taken an interest in music" explains the director Michel Richard. But with a restricted budget, the institution doesn't necessarily have the resources to invite bands from France. "We take the wait-and-see approach, always ready to seize opportunities but not necessarily in the position to instigate them". When the jazz pianist Alexander Nettlebeck proposed a series of regular concerts, Michel Richard was quickly convinced. "The idea is to have a residence (this year: The New Impromptu Quartet) with a guest performer who adds a different flavour to each event" he explains. The result is a combination of coherence and surprise.

Interlaced influences

For Alexander, who has lived in France and whose parents (also musicians) are Francophones, coming to the Alliance Française was a natural step. He recalls all the links between American and French jazz since the beginning of the 20th century, Debussy, Ravel, and Satie all inspired new harmonies, phrases and rhythms. Even the impressionists had an impact! “Everyone was influenced by one another, and even today these exchanges continue”. At the Jazzy Jeudi concerts, his quartet attempts to bring a French touch, through covers of standards such as “C’est si bon”, “La Mer” or by playing Michel Legrand. And of course, the Francophile and French audience brings a special tone to the concerts too. Monique diMattina, a superb jazz vocalist played in April and the great pianist Bob Sedergreen played last week. In November, French duo Philippe Guidat and Pascal Rollando will take to the stage: one not to miss.

Pushing the walls

The concerts have experienced growing success. “We must admit that the space is quite small, about 50 places, like in the underground venues in St Germain” says Michel Richard. Tickets can be booked in advance but there are also tickets on sale on the night of the concert. “We’ve had to push the walls a couple of times in order to add a few seats” says Alexander. It is therefore best to book ahead if possible. Michel Richard is naturally very happy about this success which fills roughly a quarter of the room with members and students and three-quarters with people outside of the Alliance Française… “The jazz scene tends to be concentrated in the CBD or in the northern suburbs. Bringing things to St Kilda where we are situated, is rewarding and encouraging.”

A diverse audience

Jazz in France is sometimes judged as elitist and experimental. In the Anglo-Saxon scene, it’s acceptable to play classics even if “improvisation is an integral part of playing as a musician” explains Alexander. The Alliance Française’s Jazzy Jeudi is about attracting a varied but discerning audience with a program that is exciting and accessible. The cherry on the cake: surprise guests have occasionally made an appearance. “I can’t talk about jam sessions, but voluntarily welcoming artists in an informal manner” indicates Alexander. The length of the concerts varies, sometimes with an intermission. In any case, the audience is quickly won over.

Jazzy Jeudi is set to continue next year with new surprises including the creation of a prize jointly awarded by the Alliance Française and St Kilda Jazz, as a way of encouraging younger generations. As for Michel and Alexander, what concerts have they been to recently? The director mentions Tina Arena “in a very different music universe, but a magnificent artist that we know well in France without actually associating her to her native country of Australia”. As for Alexander, he has been to see Mahmoud Ahmed & JAzmaris – a galvanizing dive into Ethiopian jazz.

It’s all happening in Melbourne!

Written by Valentine Sabouraud
Translated by Ilaria O'Brien

This article has been published exclusively by the Courrier Australien and the Alliance Française de Melbourne.

Jazzy Jeudi in November presents French duo:
Philippe Guidat & Pascal Rollando.

Thursday November 9, 8pm
Alliance Française, Basement
51 Grey Street, St Kilda, 3182



For more information about the upcoming Jazzy Jeudi concerts check our cultural events page here.