New string to violin competition’s bow

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Queenstown’s Michael Hill International Violin Competition breaks new ground, incorporating a jazz concert. 

The June 2 Queenstown Memorial Centre concert features reworked jazz standards by five-piece Jason Thornton Group. 

The band includes sultry local jazz/blues singer Karen Hattaway and a guest appearance by 2011 competition winner, Russian violinist Sergey Malov. 

Malov will play three numbers with the full band and one solo. 

“He won the violin competition on the strength of his jazz,” musical director Dr Jason Thornton says.
Competition executive director Anne Rodda adds: “Sergey is ridiculously talented and versatile – we really wanted to showcase another of his instrumental styles and a jazz concert will offer something a bit outside the norm of the competition.” 

Thornton, who’ll play saxophone, has toured with world-famous musicians like Frank Sinatra, Shirley Bassey, Cher and Cat Stevens. 

The programme showcases Thornton’s favourite material from the likes of Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane plus rewritten standards such as The Police’s Roxanne and I Was Made For Loving You by Kiss. 

Thornton says it’s taken two years since shifting to Queenstown from his native Australia to assemble the musicians he wanted. 

The others are pianist John McLelland from Toronto, who’s teaching in Invercargill, double bassist Dominic Stayne from Wanaka and drummer Jeff Sinnott from Cromwell. 

Thornton says of Hattaway, the daughter of Simon Mehana from legendary Kiwi 1960s duo Lou and Simon:  “She’s a wonderful singer who just sings with all of her heart and soul – it’s almost a lost art with a lot of musicians these days.” 

The concert, dubbed Come Play With Me, will also include a Thornton original that’ll be part of a full-length album he and Hattaway are compiling. 

Despite being within a violin competititon, the concert also serves to relaunch October’s annual JazzFest as the Queenstown International Jazz & Blues Festival. 

Tickets are $30 via Ticketek – door sales are $35.