Q&A with Nick Bowd – 2009 NJA Finalist

When did you start playing saxophone and why? For example, was there a ‘moment’ when it came to you as a calling or vocation?

I started playing the saxophone at the age of 12 at the start of high school. The school was doing “tryouts” for the band and I plucked up the courage to go and try out with a friend of mine. The funny thing is that if we didn’t convince each other to do it together i probably wouldn’t be playing saxophone today. The saxophone became like a friend to me through high school and I began improvising or perhaps “fiddling around” from as soon as I had one. By about year 10 I had moved my interest from maths and science through to the saxophone more strongly and by this time the local conservatorium had thrown me a rope and I knew I was going there when i finished high school. It was the thing that became me by then and I couldn’t see any way back. One other thing that solidified it for me was listening to ’90s Joe Henderson. I thought to myself that if I sounded that good when I’m 60 that would be a good life pursuit.

Which musicians (jazz or otherwise) have been your greatest influences? What about them stood or stands out for you?

My earliest influences were Charlie Parker and Art Pepper. I heard Au Privave at school and I didn’t know what planet that came from. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. Art Peppers’ melodic sense was something that I admired. Other major Jazz influences are John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett, Wayne Shorter, John Scofield, Joe Lovano, Chris Potter, Mark Turner, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Dale Barlow, Don Burrows and many more. Non Jazz influences: The Beatles, Radiohead, Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Michael Jackson, Elliot Smith, Mara, Bach, Stravinsky and more. Its hard to say what stands out about them as they are all different but all of them made or are making a commitment to master their art and the materials of their art. They have achieved access to great musical resource.

When composing or arranging, where do you get your inspiration? For example, do you ever find that other art forms (painting, writing etc.) feed into your own creative process?

I think my major inspiration when composing is the nuts and bolts of music itself. I have always loved learning and using systems in music. I also like using small ideas of other composers and making my own things out of them. I think Nature and the close relationships I have had have fed into my music a lot as well.

What’s your favourite place to play or practice?

I have always found the Sydney Con a great place to practice. I find being around dozens of other musicians practising really inspiring and it motivates me to keep working on my stuff. It also helps to get me away from other distractions. When I practice I need do know I’m not bothering anybody else as some things I practice must be hell for other people to listen to. I wish sound proofing wasn’t so expensive. I have spent some time practising on cliffs in the Blue Mountains. That was beautiful.

What does Wangaratta Jazz represent for you?

I whole town full of real music lovers. Its crazy and so much fun. A chance to meet and hear so many great musicians form Australia and around the world.

What are you listening to now?

Shostakovich Preludes and Fugues played by Keith Jarrett, Igor Stravinski Ballets, Chris Potter Ultrahang, Steely Dan Goucho and 2 against nature, Aphex Twin selected ambient works volume II.


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These annual Q&As with National Jazz Awards finalists are coordinated by Miriam Zolin.