Jazz luminary: Rodger Fox


The Queenstown Jazz Orchestra’s concert in the resort this Saturday will showcase the skills of both New Zealand’s biggest jazz star and one of its rising talents.

The 16-piece big band, which already features the region’s best jazz musicians and vocalists, will be bolstered by three or four players from the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra, founder Peter Doyle says.

But what’s really getting him excited is the presence of guest musician Rodger Fox.

As well as being a ‘‘fabulous’’ trombonist with an international reputation, the Wellingtonian’s the most influential jazz musician and educator in the country, Doyle says.

A long-time senior lecturer at the NZ School of Music in Wellington, Fox is also a big-band leader, arranger, producer and musical director with a particular interest in nurturing NZ’s up-and-coming jazz talent.

Which is why Doyle’s looking forward to seeing Fox on stage alongside a Wanaka native who fits just that bill – guest vocalist Eugene Wolfin.

Wolfin, a graduate of the jazz vocal performance programme at the NZ School of Music, is a singing and piano teacher who’s remained in the capital and become a part of its jazz scene.

He also has a passion for soul and funk, occasionally performing with Wellington band, King Oyster, as well as with his own eight-piece funk group, The Grateful 8.

Alongside the orchestra, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year, Fox and Wolfin will perform big-band classics from Glenn Miller, Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Buddy Rich, as well as songs from Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Michael Buble, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee and Sarah Vaughan.

Doyle says the concert was originally scheduled for last August, but had to be canned at the last minute when Covid restrictions were ramped up across the country after a community outbreak in Auckland.

It’s taken this long to reschedule the show because the organisers of all the other postponed events from that time have also been trying to re-book venues and talent.

‘‘To have this thing pop up in the last few days, I thought ‘you’re kidding me’.’’

He reckons this Saturday’s concert could be the orchestra’s biggest ever.

Players: The Queenstown Jazz Orchestra in action

‘‘Queenstown’s been a bit starved of entertainment because of lockdowns and because we’re not getting any overseas acts, so any shows that have been on here have been very well patronised.’’

His fellow band members are salivating at the prospect of performing with Fox and Wolfin in front of a live audience after last year’s challenges.

From March until July, they couldn’t even practise together, Doyle says.

Jazz in Concert featuring Rodger Fox, Queenstown Memorial Centre, Saturday, February 27, 7.30pm. Tickets, $35, from Eventfinda, Queenstown iSite, Frankton Pharmacy or the Lakes District Museum