The Women’s Club was the venue for the opening night of the 2023 Sydney International Women’s Jazz Festival. Thinking of a refined salon rather than a jazz dive will convey an impression of the room. It looks more suited to classical music or some cocktail piano rather the creative improvised sounds we were treated to, but as the mission of The Women’s Club is to promote culture and fellowship amongst women from all walks of life it is a perfect venue to host events from the festival.

The performers were saxophonist Flora Carbo and pianist Wilbur Whitta and their styles pleasingly complemented each other. Wilbur Whitta’s piano playing is very melodic and he has a delightful and gentle touch. Flora Carbo’s sax playing is more adventurous and her full, rich flowing sounds are mixed with some intensely rhythmic passages to create some special ideas and tones.

They opened with a tribute to the recently deceased American jazz composer and pianist Carla Bley. Wilbur’s piano playing is reminiscent of her delicate and playful style and makes a good match. The concert also featured Wilbur Whitta’s Red, his impression of the 2019 Canberra bush fires. They captured the power and threat of living on the edge but also the beauty and awe of a bushfire environment. Coincidentally the evening included Flora Carbo’s song Green, although as she pointed out colours were not the motif of the night.

Leave to Enter by Wilbur Whitta, a song inspired by the process of applying for a British artist’s visa, featured fascinating harmonies that seemed to produce a third voice blending with the piano and sax. A highlight of the closing stages was Flora Carbo’s composition about how the world is in chaos but as a society we are still able to form queues, and the mindfulness behind that contradiction. You could almost hear her sax crying and weeping for the chaos surrounding us.

Flora Carbo + Wilbur Whitta performed at The Women’s Club as part of Sydney Int’l Women’s Jazz Festival, presented by SIMA (Sydney Improvised Music Association). The festival runs until 5th November and includes a rich and diverse program and is highly recommended. See https://sima.org.au/siwjf/