‘I once had a dream that I was playing piano on top of a pancake stack’
Each year since 2005, in the month leading up to the jazz festival in Wangaratta, Miriam Zolin interviews the finalists in the National Jazz Awards. The awards are decided at Wangaratta in a series of heats culminating in a finals performance on the Sunday of the festival. Wangaratta Jazz festival in 2012 runs from Friday 2 to Monday 5 November.
This year’s ten finalists are: Cyrille Aimée, France (currently based in New York) | Kristin Berardi, Sydney | Briana Cowlishaw, Sydney | Luara Karlson-Carp, Brisbane | Kate Kelsey-Sugg, Melbourne | Joshua Kyle, Melbourne | Chantal Mitvalsky, Melbourne | Judith Perl, Melbourne | Liz Tobias, Adelaide (currently based in Boston) | Katie Wighton, Sydney
Miriam: When did you start playing jazz and why? For example, was there a ‘moment’ when it came to you as a calling or vocation?
Jude: I remember seeing Singin’ in The Rain, An American In Paris and a few Fred Astaire films at the Astor Theatre when I was a teenager and wanting to be able to tap dance so badly. Unfortunately, I was (and still am) terrible at tap dancing, but luckily I realised what I really loved about the musicals was the songs. I fell in love with all the Gershwin, Berlin, Porter, tunes from those movies and stumbled across an Ella Fitzgerald CD somehow, recognised all the songs from the musicals, and after hearing Ella sing them, I just fell in love with the songs even more and had to learn as many of them as I possibly could! It’s a good thing too, otherwise I might be doing a really bad tap dance at Wangaratta next month…
Miriam: Which musicians (jazz or otherwise) have been your greatest influences? What about them stood or stands out for you?
Jude: Stevie Wonder and Carole King have definitely been my greatest influences. I never get tired of listening to them. To me what stands out about them is their extreme generosity to the audience. I have been lucky enough to see them both in concert, and the amount that they give and share to the audience and to their fellow musicians is so inspiring, and leaves the entire audience filled with love. I think you can hear that in their recordings as well. I feel the same way about Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan and Louis Armstrong.
Miriam: When composing or arranging, where do you get your inspiration?
Jude: I just get inspired from listening to music. If I hear a song I love that I haven’t heard in a while, a new song by one of my favourite performers, or if I see a local artist play, I get moved and want to write something new… Also when I see something funny like a bird trying to eat an entire loaf of bread all at once…
Miriam: What’s your favourite place to play or practise?
Jude: I once had a dream that I was playing piano on top of a pancake stack… It was pretty nice in the dream so I wouldn’t mind doing that… Although I can see some potential logistical problems in re-creating said scenario… (I’m sorry I didn’t answer the question did I?)
Miriam: What are you most looking forward to at Wangaratta?
Jude: I’m really excited to play with such a great band, and also to be performing on the same stage as so many phenomenal singers is a real honour!
Miriam: What are you listening to now?
Jude: ‘Ghetto Life’ Rick James (hahahaha)
Visit Jude Perl on the web www.judeperl.com
The National Jazz Awards have been presented at the festival since it began in 1990 and were designed to contribute to the development and recognition of young jazz and blues musicians up to the age 35. The Awards have become a much anticipated highlight of the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues.