Sirens Big Band is a 17-piece super-collective formed in late 2009 when founding members, bassist Jessica Dunn and saxophonist Harrison Harding, were awarded the Jann Rutherford Memorial Award. The group was formed as a direct response to the underrepresentation of women in the jazz music community and brings together some of Australia’s strongest and most innovative young female jazz musicians and improvisers. Under the direction of bassist, Jessica Dunn, Sirens Big Band has a unique Australian voice that explores the intersection of traditional Australian Jazz with the rich musical traditions of our multicultural society.
Sirens Big Band is committed to the commissioning, presenting and recording of works by Australian composers. Their debut album, Kali and the Time of Change – released in December 2012 - includes a work by leading Sydney jazz musician Sandy Evans (Order of Australia Medal), local composers Jenna Cave, Paul Murchison and Nadia Burgess, and current band members Ellen Kirkwood, Harriet Harding and Ruth Wells. The album was workshopped and developed at the beautiful Bundanon Trust as part of the prestigious Bundanon Trust residency program in mid-2012 and recorded not long after at ABC studios Sydney. The music on this album mixes a fresh Australian sensibility with elements of musical styles from around the globe, including South Indian music inspired by the Goddess Kali (Evans), Malian grooves (Cave), Balkan melodies (Kirkwood) and Ethiopian folk music (Wells).
Since their formation Sirens have been a force to reckoned with; establishing themselves as a vital and innovative addition to the Australian jazz community. The band has worked with Australian artists Lanie Lane, Jeff Duff and Dan Barnett. They have appeared as the house band for Sydney Festival’s highly successful Trocadero Dance Palace – in 2011, where they performed alongside Royal Crown Revue and Orkestra del Sol, and again in 2012 on Festival First Night in front of a 10,000 strong crowd. In 2011 Sirens opened the Darling Harbour Jazz and Blues Festival as well as appearing at Brisbane Festival, Manly Jazz Festival and the 2011 Capital Jazz Project. The band has built a reputation as engaging and exciting live performers who create an inviting atmosphere.
Sirens recognises the need to support young musicians and composers. The band is currently offering annual mentorships to two young female jazz performers as part of the Jann Rutherford Memorial Award program in collaboration with SIMA and the Young Women’s Jazz Course. They are also currently working in collaboration with the Sydney Conservatorium of Music to give student composers the chance to have their pieces workshopped and performed – a rare opportunity for emerging composers. The group is comprised a large number of experienced musical educators who share their passion for Australian jazz with future generations through the band’s school workshops program. Two members recently travelled as far as Palestine and Ethiopia in order to offer musical opportunities to disadvantaged groups.