Freo swingers

• Jessie Gordon is one of the diverse musicians who play the Jazz Fremantle club.

THEY’VE been swinging for 30 years.

I’m not talking about some bored middle-aged couple from Spearwood, but the Jazz Fremantle club, which since 1992 has been hosting regular gigs in the port city to raise awareness and appreciation of jazz.

The jazzers will celebrate their 30th birthday with a special gig at the Navy Club on Sunday April 10 with loads of notable guests including singer Ali Bodycoat and pianist and clarinettist Adrian Galante.

There will also be a presentation for 92-year-old Lew Smith, vice president of Jazz Fremantle and one of its founding members.

A revered musician and educator, Smith played flute, clarinet and sax with top bands around the world including the London Palladium Orchestra in the 1960s where he accompanied the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Judy Garland.

“I remember Judy Garland dangling her foot above my head in the orchestra pit and singing Somewhere over the Rainbow,” he laughs.

The spritely veteran still plays and will perform a 10-minute set at Jazz Fremantle’s birthday, including a rendition of All of Me.

“My fiancé will be in the crowd watching, as well as my family who are travelling from all across Australia to see me perform and receive my presentation.”

Smith, the original band booker, announcer and newsletter writer for Jazz Fremantle, was named a “living treasure” in 2015 by the WA department of culture and arts, and is still contributing to the music world, writing a regular online blog about jazz.

“I think the key to Jazz Fremantle’s longevity is that we play a diverse mix of jazz that appeals to a wide range of people,” he says.

Jazz Fremantle secretary Pamela Stynes says the club was initially based at the Orient Hotel on High Street, with the late Norma Penning president.

“The initial idea for a jazz club in Fremantle came because Sue and Ron Davis were the proprietors of the Orient Hotel and Leon Cole’s Sweet and Hot jazz band played there on Sunday evenings,” Ms Stynes says.

“Norma Penning was a fan of Leon’s band and she and Sue developed the idea of a club.

“At that time the only jazz clubs were Jazz Club of WA, playing traditional jazz, and the Perth Jazz club, which was modern and mainstream. Both were based north of the river.”

After the Orient Hotel was sold in 1993, Jazz Fremantle became a musical nomad for many years, before eventually putting down roots in 2005 at the Navy Club on High Street, where it hosts a regular Sunday afternoon gig.

“The club continues to fulfil its original idea to provide all styles of jazz for all ages,” Ms Stynes says.

“It is a showcase for a diverse range of live jazz performances, from small groups to large 

jazz orchestras, for established musicians and for new talent to play for appreciative audiences in a warm and welcoming atmosphere.”

The April 10 birthday gig will feature two one-hour sets by Adrian Galante and his band,  complimentary finger food, a raffle and special guest Ali Bodycoat.

For table bookings for Jazz Fremantle’s birthday gig see jazzfremantle.com.au or you can pay at the door at the Navy Club.

by STEPHEN POLLOCK

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