Join us in Town Square every Thursday night in February as we launch Jazz Sessions a series of four live performances featuring some of Melbourne’s best Jazz and Blues artists.


Bossa Mendoza Trio

Playing an expansive repertoire of jazz, the Bossa Mendoza Trio explore the melodic strains the bossa nova, Brazilian rhythm and the soul of New Orleans. The trio bring music alive with all the energy and style usually reserved for the tropical city of Havana.


Nichaud Fitzgibbon

Jazz was always the destiny for Nichaud Fitzgibbon. She was born into a  Victorian family famous for vaudeville and jazz for four generations. Her exquisite, sultry vocals traverse the great American songbook to the bossa nova in warm and stylish expression of the greatest music of the twentieth century.

Fem Belling Quintet

An award winning singer and actor, Fem Belling’s African Jazz and theatre roots augment her unique musicality. She is breathtaking on stage; a rising star whose talent had all four judges of The Voice 2015 spellbound. Experience the Fem Belling Quintet break the rules in New York Jazz style.

Ruth Rogers-Wright

Ruth Rogers-Wright smouldering vocals invoke the tunes of Nina Simone and Billie Holiday with soul when she sings their unforgettable music. Her likeness to jazz’s beloved artists moved the critics to acclaim her talent at recent performances at the Edinburgh and Adelaide festivals. She is accompanied on stage by renowned jazz pianist and composer Mark Fitzgibbon as he plays the piano, double-bass and drums with the skill of a 3-piece backing band.


Ruth Rogers-Wright will take on the roles of both NINA SIMONE and BILLIE HOLIDAY in the staging of BLACK DIVA POWER, two compelling productions in one night starring the critically acclaimed powerhouse singer/actor and touring theatres in regional Victoria and South Australia, with one landmark metro performance in Adelaide in October, 2015.


Proudly presented by Art Events Australia and Brad Hopes Promotions, Black Diva Power brings to life the powerful characters and music of jazz legends with Rogers-Wright performing the songs of the great BILLIE HOLIDAY before transforming into a mesmerising NINA SIMONE.


Fresh from Edinburgh Festival and the hit of Adelaide Cabaret Festival, award-winning playwright Neil Cole’s portrayal of musical storyteller and passionate civil rights activist, NINA SIMONE features Rogers-Wright in an astonishingly profound performance as one of the most extraordinary artists of all time, focusing on Simone’s friendship with Lorraine Hansberry, playwright (A Raisin In The Sun) and black activist.


Testament to her performance, a TW Edinburgh critic wrote, “I hope that in the not-too-distant future, an actor playing the legend of Ruth Rogers-Wright will do the same.”


Accompanied by a three-piece backing band headed by musical director Mark Fitzgibbon, Rogers-Wright will open the show with an intimate insight into the seminal influence of BILLIE HOLIDAY on jazz and pop music, touching on the tumultuous upbringing of the woman they called Lady Day.


Described in Broadway Baby as “spectacular”, the vocals of Ruth Rogers-Wright take the audience on an absorbing journey through the music of two early 20th century greats.


Currently creating a buzz and garnering four-star reviews at Edinburgh Festival 2015 and the hit of Adelaide Fringe 2014, the accolades keep coming for Cole’s portrayal of musical storyteller and passionate civil rights activist, NINA SIMONE, which has been listed for the Amnesty International Freedom of Speech Award.


Australia’s eminent pianist and composer Mark Fitzgibbon is reunited with Rogers-Wright when he joins the tour as Musical Director, giving audiences a full live music experience as part of a three-piece backing band which includes himself on piano, a double-bassist and drummer.


Lauded as one of the most swinging, insightful pianists that Australia has produced, he was born into a strong entertainment tradition, being the son of well-known Australian entertainer, jazzman and restaurateur Graham "Smacka" Fitzgibbon, nephew to actress/singer Maggie Fitzgibbon and grandson to pianist vaudevillian Min Fitzgibbon.













"An Audience With Billie Holiday'' is a compelling and moving musical stage play, written by award-winning playwright Neil Cole.


The legendary jazz singer,Billie Holiday was one

of the greatest singers of all time, and had a seminal influence on jazz and pop music. Her tumultuous background as a black woman brought up in abject poverty in early 20th century, underwrote her unique singing ability.


"An Audience With Billie Holiday” is a tribute to the woman they called “Lady Day”; told in the first person by Ruth Rogers-Wright as the great artist, the story focuses on her development as a singer, her tragic back story that shaped her personality, talent and success,and the songs that saw her achieve unprecedented popularity.






Nina Simone was one of the most extraordinary artists of the twentieth century; an icon of music who crossed the genres of jazz, blues and soul. She was the consummate musical storyteller and passionate civil rights activist.


Melbourne-based and Brixton-born-and-raised jazz diva, the acclaimed Ruth Rogers-Wright all but embodies Ms Simone in Nina Simone Black Diva Power by award-winning playwright Neil Cole, telling the story and exploring the music of Nina Simone from 1958 to 1965: the period during which she went from popular jazz, blues and folk singer to become "the voice of the civil rights movement" in the United States.


This compelling play focuses on the developing friendship with Lorraine Hansberry – playwright and black activist (A Raisin in the Sun), played by Zuleika Khan, who persuades Nina to become active in the civil-rights movement. Although initially reluctant, Nina Simone ascended to greatness with her activity and songs of the movement she would perform, many of which she wrote.


This production is replete with popular songs like My Baby Don't Care and Nina Simone’s songs of the civil rights movement, including Young Gifted And Black, a song based on Lorraine Hansberry's play of the same name.






Neil Cole - Playwright


PLAYWRIGHT Neil Cole has had seventeen plays produced in Melbourne, Sydney

and Brisbane and Chicago including 'Alive at Williamstown Pier;' 'A Policewoman’s

Absurdity; 'Billy Possible;' 'Dr Cade,' 'The Campaign,' 'Personality Games'

which he  co-wrote with Prof. Gordon Parker from the Black Dog Institute in Sydney,

and  'The Trial of Adolf Eichmann' and more recently  'Every Grain of Sand'

and  'Nina Simone Black Diva Power'. He has won the new writing for theatre

in  1999 and was shortlisted for the Victorian Premiers Literary Award in 2001.




Ruth Rogers Wright - Nina Simone/Billie Holiday


Hailing from Brixton, Sth London in the UK, acclaimed singer/songwriter Ruth Rogers-Wright relocated to Melbourne, Australia in 2000.


In the 15 years she has lived in Australia, Ruth has performed her jazz originals at renowned clubs and events in Melbourne and Sydney, including Bennett’s Lane, Dizzy's, York Festival, and soon found herself gravitating towards performing the works of Nina Simone.


Like Simone herself, Ruth's approach to music is not always easy to pin down as it is so varied. Her velvet blue tone voice has been compared with the likes of Sara Vaughn, Sade and of course, Nina Simone. Her singing style sometimes ranges from an emotional whisper to an industrial scream.


In 2013, she was invited to take on the role as Nina Simone in award-winning playwright, Neil Cole’s play, BLACK DIVA POWER: NINA SIMONE, which played to sold out shows at Melbourne’s Chapel Off Chapel, Adelaide Fringe 2014 and Edinburgh Fringe 2015, earning Ruth more critical praise wherever she goes.


In her homeland, she first came to prominence in the mid 80’s as part of the 'new British jazz  movement" as described by seminal London DJ Giles Peterson with her band Moontwist which featured Australian pianist Mark Fitzgibbon along with his sister Nichaud Fitzgibbon, who performed backing vocals.


Now in Australia, it would be fair to say that Ruth Rogers-Wright has planted her own very firm footprint on the local jazz scene.

Zuleika Khan - Lorraine Hansberry


Zuleika is an actress, singer, dancer, writer and a Division 1 Registered Nurse. She is originally from Sydney and has studied performance at NIDA, VCA & DW301. Her most recent stage roles include Avenue Q (Gary Coleman), Rent (Joanne), Godspell (Morgan/Sartra), West Side Story (Anita) & Linda/Mama Cass cover in the Australian Premiere of Flowerchildren: The Mamas & the Papas Story (winning a Greenroom & Broadway World Award). Recent TV credits include Please Like Me Season 3, webinars for The Australian Nurses & Midwives Federation and being documented on shift as a Div 1 nurse in the reality TV series "Medical Emergencies, The Alfred Hospital". She is featured in commercials for Coles, MYOB & Chemist Warehouse.


Zuleika has also produced and performed her semi-autobiographical one woman show Triage! A Nursing Cabaret, to sold out audiences in Sydney and Melbourne and looks to take it to nurses world wide. She is so grateful to be aligned with the brilliant Lorraine Hansberry in Nina Simone: Black Diva Power, having grown the show from Melbourne to large audiences at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Proud Equity member.


Chris Baldock - Director


Originally from New Zealand and based in Melbourne for over 20 years, Chris is the founder and Artistic Director of Mockingbird Theatre and a director of over fifty productions here in Australia and in NZ. He directed the acclaimed production of  The Laramie Project  at Chapel off Chapel, which won the Victorian Green Room Award for Best Independent Production, received a rare five star review in The Sunday Age and made many 'Best Of' lists at year's end including The Age and Theatre Notes. He revived the production in 2012 to great critical acclaim as the inaugural production for Mockingbird Theatre and, for the company, followed it with the highly lauded Blue/Orange, How I Learned To Drive, Equus, Kiss Of The Spider Woman, The Temperamentals and Quills. He also received critical praise for his productions of Love! Valour! Compassion! for Midsumma, The Dining Room at the Victorian Artists Society, Burning for Mad As Us starring Logie winner Libby Tanner and the Australian premiere of Shining City for Hoy Polloy. He has directed in and performed many musicals and concerts including Chicago, Hair and the highly lauded Melbourne premiere of A Slice Of Saturday Night.  His three directing efforts for the Melbourne Short & Sweet Festival all made the finals in 2012/13. Winner of over 40 awards for his directing, acting and set designs, Chris is also a theatre reviewer and adjucticator.



Mark Fitzgibbon - MD


Mark Fitzgibbon was born into a strong entertainment tradition. He is the son of well known Australian entertainer Graham “Smacka” Fitzgibbon nephew to actress \singer Maggie Fitzgibbon and grandson to pianist \ vaudevillian Min Fitzgibbon, his sister Nichaud is a famed jazz vocalist and brother Andrew a great drummer. Mark studied music and piano under Fred Thomas, Marie Driscoll, Trevor Barnard and alto sax with Peter Clinch. Mark worked with many leading Melbourne bands in the  80’s including the Vince Jones band and Wilbur Wildes “Blowout”.


In the  80’s moved to UK and performed throughout Europe for the next seven years. In London worked as a freelance pianist regularly performing at the 606 club, Pizza Express and Ronnie Scott’s jazz clubs. Notable bands included Tommy Chase Qt, Alan Barne’s Pizza Express Modern Jazz Sextet, Clarke Tracey Gerard Presencer qt, Jean Toussaint, Ruth Rogers Wright Moontwist, The Moodists,  Bryan Spring trio, Don Weller ,Art Themen , Henry Lowther qt , Tina May and Claire Martin. Mark returned to Australia in 91 and won the Wangarratta jazz festival prize. He has performed throughout Australia with many leading Jazz Artists such as Dale Barlow, Bernie Mcgann, Chris Mcnulty, Grace Knight.


A highly regarded jazz pianist ,Mark has continues to be   demand within Australia as a solo artist, accompanist , composer and recording artist on stage , tv and radio. He has accompanied American jazz stars Scott Hamilton ,Lee Konitz , John Stubblefield and Mark Murphy on their Australian tours and continues to tour Europe and Asia.  Mark performes in Melbourne with his piano trio and quintet, Dave Rex qt, Nichaud Fitzgibbon qt,  Dave Graney , a duo with violinst Sussanah Ng and is accompanist to many of Melbournes best vocalists.  He was artist in residence at WAAPA in 2009 lecturing in jazz and piano and his new quartet  CD “Closer”  is on Jazzhead records Mark is recently returned from Shanghai  where he worked with Theo Crocker Quintet , Robin Eubanks ,Wayne Escoffery and many of the best Chinese musicians



Martin Holoubek -  Double Bass


Bassist and composer Marty Holoubek was born and raised in Adelaide Australia, where he spent his formative years studying in the prestigious Marryatville High School Special Interest Music Program. After graduating in 2008, he was selectedas one of six national finalists for the coveted James Morrison Jazz Scholarship,announced at the Generations  of Jazz awards in Mount Gambier. Joining the Elder Conservatorium at the University of Adelaide to further his musical education,Marty was awarded Mitzi’s prize for the ‘Top undergraduate bass student’ in 2010. The following year he was awarded the ‘Most Outstanding Undergraduate Student’ award at his graduation. Also in 2011 Marty was selected as one of three finalists from across Australia for the inaugural Wendy Wicks Scholarship. Since his move to Melbourne he has had much professional experience performing nationally and internationally with artists such as Leroy Jones, Chuck Findlay, Bobby Rydell, George Garzone, Dave Douglas, Kenny Werner, Wycliffe Gordon, Elaine Paige and Liz Callaway as well as celebrated Australian artists James Morrison, Kate Ceberano, Aaron Choulai, John Morrison, Emma Pask and Paul Grabowski.

currently performing with the very finest jazz, country/rock and funk/soul groups

across Melbourne, Marty is proud to endorse Alien Audio Bass Guitars."



Sam Bates - Drums


Sam Bates is a highly sought after drummer/percussionist/composer specialising in jazz and improvised music. His work with leading improvisers such as Scott Tinkler, Marc Hannaford, Julien Wilson and Joe Chindamo has earned him recognition within the Australian jazz scene. This includes;


-       Twice a finalist in the National Jazz Awards

-       Recipient of the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music Fellowship

-       Winner of The Alan C Rose Memorial Trust Scholarshi


Bates has released two albums under his own name which have enjoyed critical praise, including a 4.5 star review in The Australian newspaper for Backblocks released on Newmarket Music in 2014. In addition to his work in the jazz world, Bates has collaborated with Aria Award winning singer/songwriters Ollie Browne and Katie Noonan, and is a regular member of the Christine Anu band.

REVIEWS: Nina Simone - Black Diva Power


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