Bassist and bandleader Steve Purcell shares the story of the Pearly Shells, a band that he literally dreamt about, and talks about the perennial appeal of swing music, the Melbourne music scene and his signature Belmar records ‘Altona Swamp’ sound
“My journey in jazz and improvised music has been all working out so well ever since I moved toAustralia.As a foreigner in the country and an international student, I felt very fortunate and thankful to be welcomed by the safe, family-like environment of the Australian jazz scene. So many generous musicians and friends shared their knowledge without hesitation and encouraged me to explore my own sound and ideas. Even when my work doesn’t turn out so well, there has been no judgment, but continuous trust and support.”
“Accordion, cello and guitar are instruments that all play a melody, so we often switch up who backs who. It’s very transformable. We don’t feel like there are any limitations. Except that as people, we love to play music outside but actually can’t stand the rain or the sun (laughs). That’s about the limits of our art, the weather.”
“Our string section is much more than just a lush carpet of sound. They interact and improvise with the rhythm section and combine melodic structures with our vocalist and saxophonist.”
“My singing has helped me to create more lyrical stories when I’m playing the piano. Instrumentalists cancertainly get comfortable running changes, and singing has really taught me to slow down and be more aware of melody.”
“In Bridge of Dreams, the collaboration between myself, Shubha and Aneesh was at the core of the creative process. I am not in any way expert in Hindustani music – they are! They generously share their knowledge, are willing to experiment, trust, take risks, and allow me to use my instincts to shape and recontextualise the musical materials they offer. “
Horst Liepolt’s motivation to support Australian jazz was never fiscal. “I did it because I had a good time doing it,” he says. “I loved doing it, I loved Australia, and I loved my buddies.”
– Which song reminds you of your favourite journey?
– ‘Detour Ahead’ – the Vince Jones version.That song is incredible and I think Vince sings one of the best renditions of it. It reminds me of my favourite journey, because my favourite kind of journey is the one where you end up in a place you weren’t intending.
“Sometimes I will sit down at the piano and just begin to sing, and the melody and lyrics will magically appear and the flow will keep going until the song is finished all in the one evening. Other times, I will hear a little riff that gets stuck in my head, and I will write something off the base of that, but won’t finish the song for months – or years ! “
“I did not expect the music that came out of me to be political, to be conscious jazz. I thought I would write a beautiful lovely AABA jazz standard that could swing.I didn’t realise that I was so angry or desperate.I didn’t realise I was so opinionated.”