NJA Finalist Q&A – Luara Karlson-Carp

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.

Luara CarpThis 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?
I first started singing lessons in year 11 – classical lessons – and was doing the AMEB thing. It’s beautiful amazing music and an incredibly technically difficult and satisfying way to sing, but I remember sometimes singing a piece, getting really excited about it and in the moment adding or diverting slightly from the notation, and then being chided for not doing exactly what the composer had intended. To me that felt so incongruent with my relationship to music and I realised that improvisation and the ability to freely interpret sound was what excited me most about music – so naturally jazz was where I ended up next.

Miriam: Which musicians (jazz or otherwise) have been your greatest influences? What about them stood or stands out for you?
Luara: Joni Mitchell is definitely the big one. I didn’t grow up in a musical family and wasn’t exposed to much music growing up, but Mum was a huge Joni fan so albums like Blue were played a lot around the house (thanks Mum!). I think Joni’s music is the epitome of raw emotional honesty expressed in sound, and I was always pretty blown away by that. I remember when I was little almost feeling confronted by how deep and beautiful it all was – and then as I got older that turned into awe and affinity and appreciation. I think most music that now means something to me, vocal or instrumental, whilst not sharing the same sound language does share that common sense of honesty and intensity and beauty.

Miriam: When composing or arranging, where do you get your inspiration?
Luara: I guess it’s just a giant snowball of everything… my mood, who I’m listening to, the recent gigs I’ve seen, interesting conversations with people, stuff that comes out when playing with other people. I guess it’s about constantly trying to distill specific sounds that I identify with from the myriad of inspiration out there and then applying those sounds to the task at hand.

Miriam: What’s your favourite place to play or practise?
Luara: Well I guess it’s always best when you’re in a situation with other people that you share a personal and musical kinship with. Playing music with people that you trust and understand is the best thing ever, and I’d always say that place is best. But specific places? In the dark, somewhere very very quiet, in nature, the sneaky bathroom sing…

Miriam: What are you most looking forward to at Wangaratta?
Luara: Hanging out with the many stupidly cool lovely awesome people in the scene! Sharing ideas, exchanging inspiration and having fun; I guess that’s what it’s all about. I’m looking forward to seeing some of my favourite singers do their thing, hearing some killer bands, playing with the awesome rhythm section and getting feedback from Vince, Michelle and Mike. It’s so very cool and exciting to be a finalist, I’m so grateful for the opportunity and I can’t wait!! Yaay!!!

Miriam: What are you listening to now?
Luara: Lots of new stuff – I went to New York in June and saw some incredible gigs, and since then what I listen to has expanded a lot. I’m listening to more improvised music and singers who are taking jazz voice somewhere new. The Swedish band Paavo is definitely doing that for me. Something I’ll never stop loving is Jeanne Lee and Ran Blake’s 1961 The Newest Sound Around. That’s some of my favourite music ever 🙂

Audio: Detour Ahead


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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