Last night, Thursday 25 February, The Hon Tim Holding, Minster for Major Events and Tourism launched the 2010 Melbourne International Jazz Festival Program. The launch featured a enthralling performance by MIJF artist Paul Capsis.

The spaces and streets of Melbourne hit a resounding common chord in the first week of May, celebrating the universal language of jazz in an extraordinary program that invites the entire city to get involved and play along. In their second year, artistic team Michael Tortoni and Sophie Brous have brought together an unprecedented program of leading international and Australian musicians in premiere projects and first-time collaborations, presenting more events than ever before in the city centre for the 2010 Melbourne International Jazz Festival.

Melbourne will be bursting with the sounds of the world’s leading masters of jazz – luminaries like Charles Lloyd (USA), Zakir Hussain (India), Ahmad Jamal (USA), Mulatu Astatke (Ethopia), Peter Brotzmann (Germany), Avishai Cohen (Israel), John Hollenbeck (USA) and Grammy-nominated vocalist Theo Bleckmann (Germany/USA). Ten different Masterclasses enable participants to get into the heads of the world’s greatest jazz thinkers.

A sample of other Festival artists and highlights include the extraordinary Claudia Quintet, Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra showcasing the exhilarating interaction between exploratory improvisation and symphonic music with the Metropolis Series; celebrated Australian musician Jamie Oehlers and Paul Grabowsky, collaborating with Eric Harland and Reuben Rodgers on a double bill with acclaimed US pianist Jason Moran, Han Bennink (Holland), Brian Chase (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, USA), Seth Misterka (USA), My Disco (Australia), Mick Turner (The Dirty Three, Australia); Kim Salmon (Australia); Kram (Spiderbait, Australia), Cor Fuhler (Holland), Kim Myhr (Norway), Oren Ambarchi (Australia), Evelyn Morris AKA Pikelet, Bum Creek, Anthony Pateras, Paul Grabowsky and the Australian Art Orchestra (Australia), Claire Bowditch, Lior, Whitley and Megan Washington with the celebrated Joe Chindamo Trio, Grammy-winning percussionist Dave Samuels with Sweden’s Anders Astrand and Australian pianist Mike Nock, gifted NY/Australian vocalist Jo Lawry, Australian pianist/composer and producer Stu Hunter with his critically acclaimed suite The Gathering, young New York saxophonist Noah Preminger with famed US drummer Matt Wilson, local favourites Flap! and Nels Cline and Glenn Kotche in an exclusive improv-Wilco sideshow.

The Jazz for Kids program is bigger than ever before with 14 events specifically for kids. The program includes an exclusive season of Play School’s Big Jazz Adventure with Big Ted, Little Ted, Jemima, Humpty, Justine Clark and Jay Legaya with some very special new musical friends, presented at the Melbourne Town Hall on the Opening day of the Festival.

With over 400 performers, over 95 events, 20 free concerts, 16 world premieres and 21 Australian premieres incorporating film, visual art, public art installations and forums – this year’s huge, multi-layered Festival program rolls out in concert halls, bars, clubs, galleries, tram stops and garden beds. Even the stairs of Southern Cross Station are transformed into a massive piano staircase from which music can be created for the duration of the 2010 Festival.

For absolutely all lovers of music – from Jazz for Kids to the avant-garde to elder statesmen – this is a time to be entertained, to discover, to be inspired and, most importantly, to participate.