LIBBY Hammer had a long and varied list of jobs “just to make a dollar” before a revelation one day sent her down the career path of singing jazz.
“I always wanted to be a performer and I didn’t care what kind of performer, I just wanted to be on stage,” Hammer said.
“I did circus for a few years, was a birthday party clown, was Wilbur the Wildcat mascot for awhile and did singing telegrams.
“Then I was pumping petrol in my clown outfit one day and someone looked over and made a comment. I didn’t feel cool and I just wanted to be cool, so I decided to be a jazz singer.”
Hammer had discovered jazz when she was 19 while visiting her older sister who was playing a Billie Holiday record and drinking black coffee.
“I thought she was cool and I’d never heard music like it,” she said.
“I was brought up on classical music, and boogie-woogie and blues. My dad plays boogie-woogie piano and I loved Patsy Cline and Judy Garland.
“I always loved retro music but I hadn’t heard of modern jazz, so it was a new sound for me and I loved it.”
Hammer, who had studied a French languages degree at UWA, successfully auditioned for the jazz course at WAAPA and graduated in 1997.
“I think studying jazz taught me more about myself,” she said.
“Back when I wanted to do music theatre I would have been learning how to be other people, but in jazz I was learning to be myself.
“I love the jazz scene and of course, it’s cool.”
Hammer will share her jazz coolness at the Perth International Jazz Festival, from November 9 to 11, where she will lead the Jazz Club Choir inspired by the Pub Choir concept.
Anyone can join in rehearsals to sing swing in three-part harmony, on November 9, 10 and 11, 10am-noon, at the State Theatre Centre Courtyard.
There is then the option of performing these songs with Hammer and a band on the Perth Cultural Centre Wetlands Stage at 3pm on November 11.
“It will be nice and easy, nothing too difficult and something we can get together quickly,” Hammer said.
“There’s no pressure, you don’t have to learn anything and you don’t even have to sing in tune; it’s jazz. It’s a bit of an unknown for me but we’ll have a ball, I’m sure.”
The Perth International Jazz Festival program is at www.perthinternationaljazzfestival.com.au.