Q&A with Pat Thiele – 2010 NJA finalist

When did you start playing jazz and why? For example, was there a ‘moment’ when it came to you as a calling or vocation?
I remember when I was 13 rehearsing in the school jazz band and the teacher asked me to improvise. I told him I didn’t know how and his answer to that problem was to shout out what to play whilst I’m playing. If I got the note wrong he shouted louder until I played the right note. I remember thinking this is awful I don’t want to have to do this again. A year later a clarinet player moved to the school and we started a trad band, and practiced out of class time. Without the teacher there it became a lot more enjoyable.

I originally was going to study classical playing at the Elder Conservatorium. What changed my mind was a discussion I had with one of the trombone players in the brass band I was playing in. He said “You should study     classical playing, get your technique up. You can worry about jazz later, they just play anything anyway.” I was intrigued to find out how a course in jazz could run for 3 years if there wasn’t much to learn. I thought it would be a breeze, so being the lazy person I am I applied to study jazz.

Towards the end of the course I travelled down to Melbourne a few times. This first time I heard Paul Williamson play with his sextet. He was doing ‘On the surface, in the core’ material.  I decided then that I wanted to play jazz with the freedom that I heard with his group.

Which musicians (jazz or otherwise) have been your greatest influences? What about them stood or stands out for you?
When I was at uni a great Adelaide sax player, Chris Soole, used to have a regular gig on tuesday nights. My friends and I would go along every week and sometimes he would let me sit in. I learnt so much playing with him and he certainly helped shape my playing during uni.
When I moved to Melbourne I learnt from Scott Tinkler and he has been the biggest influence on my playing, maybe a little too much.

Recordings of trumpet players such as the usual suspects, Freddie, Woody, Clifford, Tom Harrell, Louis Armstrong, Booker Little, Miles and of course the sidemen they played with. Plus guys like Eugene Ball, Phil Slater, Paul Williamson, Peter Evans,  Marc Hannaford, Simon Barker, Julien Wilson, Ken Edie, John Rogers, Elliott Dalgleish. All of these players have a strong concept when they are improvising.

When composing or arranging, where do you get your inspiration?

I’ve never really given much attention to composing.  At this stage I prefer to play the music of existing composers in my own way.

What’s your favourite place to play or practise?
I don’t do many gigs but venues I’ve enjoyed playing in have been 505 in Sydney and Uptown in Melbourne. My living room has great acoustics for trumpet playing so I enjoy practising there.

What does Wangaratta Jazz represent for you?

Inspiration to work on my own thing.

What are you listening to now?
Peter Evans – More is more, Artisan’s Workshop, Eric Dolphy – Other Aspects, John Coltrane – Sunship, Ornette Coleman – Science Fiction, Daorum.

Return to the main Q&A page… These annual Q&As with National Jazz Awards finalists are coordinated by Miriam Zolin.