Kate Ceberano Jazzes it Up

Kate Ceberano

Kate Ceberano is a legend of Australian music, boasting a decades-spanning career in which she’s done everything from winning Dancing with the Stars to becoming Artistic Director of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival. We had a chat to the accomplished singer about her upcoming performance at the Perth Jazz Festival. Ceberano said she is thrilled to be performing with a band made up of sixteen seasoned jazz professionals.

“When you’re working with jazz artists there’s wonderful opportunities to improvise, and even though you’re performing structured charts and delivering familiar tunes, and work that has been in and around since sixty years ago. There’s always this fantastic opportunity to make it just very original for the night.” “Ceberano said.

“I mean a night performance could be inspired by the audience. It can have to do with how you’re feeling yourself, or how confident the group feels. Fortunately, because I know a lot of these guys, there’s a certain instant casualness about it. And playing at festivals as well, it always makes it so much better because if you’re doing concerts it gets very formal. I don’t reckon musicians operate very well in that kind of formality. I certainly don’t. In fact I think recording is a kind of formality that I don’t particularly enjoy much at all. I love the collaboration, the live, breathing organic nature of a real band. And that’s what turns me on.”

Ceberano said she’ll be playing a number of classic jazz tunes, including the work of legends such as Ella Fitzgerald, Betty Carter and Ray Charles. Ceberano has been passionate about the genre since early on in her career, when she attracted attention for performing both jazz and pop numbers.

“I was responding to an ache in me. When I grew up I was listening to a lot of vintage jazz and I would go and trawl all the markets and buy and wear all these vintage outfits. I had a real, very strong need to perform those standards. But there was no public then really. Certainly younger people. And it got only worse in the nineties when the whole jazz thing was seemingly very sort of ‘old fashioned’.

“But then these things come around in circles. WA right now is think is kind of the hot spot for modern jazz, and it’s exciting and the players are raw and it’s like going back in time and being at this place where it all started. It makes sense to artists to incorporate everything that they’re learning and putting it into modern work. I mean Cat Empire, a band here in Melbourne, very good friends of mine, are all jazz artists. They just make it pop, or for want of a better word, they make it more commercial, how’s that? It’s irresistible. It’s gorgeous.”

Ceberano has also been using her creative powers to steer the Adelaide Cabaret Festival as Artistic Director. In her final year as Director, she says she’s amped up the number of acts from around 370 to 470. She told us what she liked best about the role.

“Giving people gigs. You know I’ve done so many festivals all across the country over 35 years. I’ve done every Fringe, every jazz, every major festival, and the one thing that always seems to be sad for me is that there are the most amazing artists in the world and they can’t afford to live. That really pisses me off.

“I just don’t think we have a culture here that supports and honours what music and art can do to the cultural profile of this country. You know, if you invest in it, it will support you back and love you back by telling the rest of the world what’s really cool about being Australian. So when I get to get in a position where I can actually pay people to do gigs my heart swells with joy, I just love it!”

The Perth Jazz Festival is on from May 9-11, find out about the 48 artists performing at

Sophie Joske, image: Chantel Concei

Tags: , , , ,