Mace left Geelong nearly 15 years ago to begin his
studies at the WA Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA). Since then he’s made
himself right at home in Perth, becoming a staple of the west coast jazz scene
and picking up some impressive nods along the way (2007 Most Out-Standing
Individual Contribution to Jazz in WA” by the Perth Jazz Society and a finalist
in the 2010 MCA Freedman Fellowship to name a few).
His big band, Mace Francis Orchestra, has toured
Australia 4 times, recorded 6 albums and received the 2015 APRA AMCOS Art Music
Award for Jazz Work of the Year for their 2015 album ‘Music For Average
Photography’. He’s also artistic director for WA Youth Jazz
Orchestra (WAYJO) and somehow he managed to get a PHD in amongst all this
too. You can read more about Mace and his work here.
Perhaps his most impressive accolade however is his
French Bulldog named Duke – in honour of the one and only Duke Ellington of
Simone managed to catch him right in the lead up to
the Perth International Jazz Festival this weekend, of which he’s festival
Can you tell us a little bit about the festival and its origins?
The festival was started by Graham Wood in 2013. There had been
different International Jazz festivals in WA, the Fremantle International Jazz
Festival, The Bunbury International Jazz Festival and York Jazz Festival. He
saw that there was a want and need for an International Jazz Festival in this
great city because of the audience that had been build with WAAPA, WAYJO and
the Ellington Jazz Club. Perth deserved an International Jazz Festival so he
started one. Graham passed away in 2017 and I was approached by the board to
see if I wanted to take this on. I agreed and here we are. I changed the time
of year from late May to early November to take advantage of Perth’s great
spring weather and align with Wangaratta Jazz Festival and the Sydney
International Women’s Jazz Festival on the east coast.
How are you feeling for the festival this year?
I am feeling the usual amounts of excitement, stress, proudness and
terror as I was last year, however this year I have a great team with me, some
experience from last year and many lessons learnt… so in a better place. Each
day the feeling is different, especially just after 7am when I check on the
previous days ticket sales.
This will be the
seventh year the festival has been running, what do you attribute that success
I think it is because of the passionate jazz audience in Perth who we
love very much.
Can you talk to us
about the artists you’ve got performing this year?
This year we have artists from the USA, Canada, Japan, Brazil (via
Austria), Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. I am very conscious to deliver a
varied and diverse program that has something for everyone. We have everything
from Veronica Swift how is an amazing jazz be bop jazz vocalist to a free jazz
Japanese quartet… almost every other style is covered in between these two
extremes of this wonderful genre of music.
How would you
describe the Perth jazz scene?
The scene here is very strong. Every year WAAPA and WAYJO pump out great
young musicians and always have new venues opening up. The younger generation
are really motivated putting bands together, recording, finding spaces to
perform and it keeps us old folk motivated to keep finding new ways of
presenting our music. I am really excited to see lots of larger ensembles being
formed and new music being written – this will keep this art form moving
What would you
suggest to those who want to get into the jazz genre but don’t know where to
I suggest coming to the jazz festival! Haha! …but seriously, a great
place to start is the free community stages where we has lots of amazing local
bands. There other free events over the weekend including artist In
Conversation, to hear from the artists themselves. These are always really
interesting and inspirational. If you like what you hear on the free stage
during the day, then come and try something from the ticketed program. Each
concert is ticked separately, with concerts starting at $25 up to $45.
What are you listening to at the moment?
Right now I am listening to the Terry Gibbs Dream Band, which is one of
my favourite big bands from the late 1950s to early 1960s
Can you tell us a
musical guilty pleasure?
I still love listening to the hip hop that I used to listen to a high
school – Public Enemy, Ice T and Ice Cube etc
You can take one
album to a deserted island for 3 weeks, what is it?
Sinatra and Basie
Who is your biggest
You can perform one
gig with any artist, who is it and what are you playing?
Playing trombone in the Basie Band in the late in 1950s
Tell us what you’ve
got coming up in the next 12 months that we can keep an eye out
2020 Perth International Jazz Festival! I am putting together the 2020
WAYJO annual program at the moment which I am excited about because we will be
working with lots of great Australian artists. 2020 is my 20th year
living in Perth and will be the 15th birthday of my own big
band, the Mace Francis Orchestra (MFO) I plan to do a new recording with them
and present a series of gigs with new music throughout the year. Also I have
started a new quartet called Spatula which I have some collaborative recording
and performances planned. I hope to write more music in 2020, which is
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