Old Time Jazz revival in the streets of Freo

Old time jazz spills from a cafe at the south end of the colonial built street. The faint swing beat drums in course with the low pitched strings of a double base, overtones of a saxophone and intermittent licks of an archtop guitar.

The music is of the Perth-based jazz group The Limelights and they play each Saturday at Moore and Moore, a café in the old Moore’s building on Mouat Street in the West End of Fremantle. The venue is one of the few embracing their space as a collaborative venue for local artists and musicians.

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Richie Kahaupt, the Moores Building gallery manager, says the jazz band plays an important part in developing a local arts scene.

“The jazz band is part of the cafe’s efforts to maintain an art feel and support local musicians,” he says.

The drummer picks up a jazz brush and deftly sweeps the snare. All the instruments quieten save the saxophonist, Damian Drac Denyer who now unaccompanied dances his fingers up and down the keys. The guitar player picks up a pot of tea and pours a cup bobbing to the solo and then resumes playing along with the rest.

“It’s very relaxed,” Denyer says. “You’re not trying to entertain people so much.”

Before the band began playing paid gigs in cafes they played in exchange for coffees and the odd breakfast. Due to the accessibility and popularity of digital music opportunities for instrumentalists to play at venues like cafes have become sparse, Denyer says.

“Music goes in cycles and you have to adapt. Sometimes you have to DJ but people will always appreciate that live element,” he says.

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Phil Banfield, the manager of Moore and Moore, first witnessed the band playing at his local cafe when he moved to Fremantle. Since then he has hired them at a number of venues he has managed.  

“They just have so much vibe. Whether it’s busy or quiet they bring such a great atmosphere which the community loves,” he says.

Fremantle has been implementing a holistic approach to sustainable community development, acknowledging the importance of culture and the arts. The band and the Moores Building venue has been a collaborative effort by the cafe and council to continue to support the Fremantle community and local talent.

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“To ensure sustainable and vibrant communities it’s important to support local arts,” Corrine Van Hall, the Public Art Coordinator for Fremantle City Council, says.

With more than 25 years of experience in the visual arts as a project manager and exhibition coordinator Van Hall believes the strength of the local community is highly dependent on supporting grass root talent in the arts.

“The council tries to provide platforms that support local artists. Fremantle has always oriented itself toward the arts so it’s important that we ensure it continues for the community.”

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Tess Dillon, a Law student at Notre Dame, believes the old-time jazz complements the nostalgic gold-rush era architecture making it a favourite place of respite between lectures.

“It’s good to see timeless music in a timeless building. It makes the atmosphere of the street and the university really inviting. There needs to be more of it,” she says.