Bold as brass: Melita Gizilis pictured singing with the Queenstown Jazz Orchestra


It’s probably the biggest jazz concert you’ll ever see in Queenstown.

To mark its 10th anniversary, the Queenstown Jazz Orchestra’s putting on a celebration concert in the Queenstown Memorial Centre on August 7.

Along with its usual 16-piece ‘big band’ line-up, it’s inviting back past players and vocalists from as far afield as Waiheke Island and Stewart Island.

Orchestra secretary and sax player Sarah Lyttle — an ex-New Zealand Youth Jazz Band member — says after the full house they got in February for a concert with NZ’s foremost big band leader Rodger Fox, ‘‘the feeling from the community was exceptional’’.

‘‘They clearly wanted to hear more from us, so it was a key factor in committing to a 10th anniversary celebration.’’

The concert’s particularly special for band leader/drummer Peter Doyle, who co-founded the orchestra in 2011.

A muso in town since the early ’70s, a big band had always been his pipedream, ‘‘but we never thought there’d be enough musicians’’.

However, inspired by trumpeter Trevor Tattersfield, who’d just moved up from Invercargill, and the late Martin Wightman, another trumpeter, he tested the waters by inviting, via Mountain Scene, brass instrument players to the Pig & Whistle Pub one Sunday afternoon.

‘‘All these people turned up, and that’s how it started,’’ Doyle says.

On Tattersfield’s recommendation, they invited Dunedin jazz legend, the late Calder Prescott, to advise them on what they should play.

Prescott also suggested they call themselves the Queenstown Jazz Orchestra, due to his involvement with the Dunedin City Jazz Orchestra.

Since debuting at the 2011 Queenstown Jazz Festival, the band’s gone on to play at many events such as WinterFest, Alexandra Blossom Festival, Anzac Day, Queenstown Wine and Food Festival and corporate and private gigs.

Pipedream realised: Queenstown Jazz Orchestra leader and co-founder Peter Doyle

Without blowing their own trumpet, Doyle says from being a ‘‘a bunch of musicians who played pub music, or whatever, we feel as though when we do a big concert, we’re quite capable of doing it’’.

He’s delighted they’ve attracted many young musos, some of whom have gone on to study jazz, as well as providing an outlet for ‘‘us old buggers’’.

Tattersfield recently retired as musical director, handing over the reins to another founding member, New York-born Gen Numaguchi.

However, he’s returning for next month’s concert from Wanaka, along with the likes of Waiheke Island-based trombonist Luke Petre, who was only 13 when he joined the orchestra, Blenheim-based tenor saxophonist Robin Whiting (who’s coming via the United States) and Golden Bay-based alto saxophonist Mark Stillwell.

Supplemented by three or four Dunedin Symphony Orchestra players, there’ll be about 27 musos performing on August 5 alongside vocalists Melita Gizilis, Rachel Gerard and, if she gets back from Melbourne, Kath Brentwood.

The concert, sponsored by Harcourts Queenstown with support from the council, will feature big-band classics from Glenn Miller, Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Buddy Rich and songs from Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Michael Buble, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee and Sarah Vaughan.

Reflecting on the orchestra’s success, Doyle says there’s a sense in which jazz suits Queenstown’s demographic.

‘‘It just fits in nicely with Queenstown’s image — it’s a bit like saying New Orleans fits jazz.’’

Queenstown Jazz Orchestra 10th Anniversary Concert, August 7, 7.30pm, Queenstown Memorial Centre. Tickets $35 from Arrowtown’s Lakes District Museum, Frankton’s Summerfield’s Pharmacy, Queenstown i-SITE Visitor Information Centre and eventfinda