Prior to posting his review of the Divergence Jazz Orchestra CD The Opening Statement John Hardaker asked Jenna Cave some questions.
John Hardaker: What was the spark that led to the formation of The Divergence Jazz Orchestra?
Jenna Cave: For so long it was one of those ‘dream scenario’ fantasies that seemed impossible but that I couldn’t get out of my head. I remember about seven years ago (when I was 22) I had a saxophone student who was about ten or 15 years older than me. I think he thought it was inspiring that I was a musician. He asked me ‘If you could do anything with music, what would you do, ultimate dream scenario’, I thought for a minute and just blurted out of nowhere ‘to have my own big band that I get to compose for’. On election night 2010 one of my friends had a house party and a bunch of musicians were there. Paul Weber and I were chatting and he told me he wanted to form a big band, then I said, ‘Hey! I want to form a big band’. By the end of the night we’d pretty much decided we were going to form a big band together down the track. Then when we both had some time to dedicate to it in 2012, so it began.’
JH: To compose, organise, record and perform with a jazz orchestra is a huge undertaking. What is the rush that makes it all more than worthwhile?
JC: I love composing. I love getting in the creative zone where all that exists is you, and the music in your imagination. It’s a fun place to be. Having your music performed really well, especially when it carries forth your emotional intentions, is an incredible feeling. For me there is no better way to express how I experience the world.
JH: The band is pretty much packed with some of the best and brightest of today’s young players. Do you seek them out or do they gravitate towards you?
JC: When we started the band Paul and I had many a long discussion about who to recruit. In the end the bulk of the band we first put together were in the Con big band when we were both there (Paul doing jazz trombone, myself doing masters in composition). As time went on some players moved on as people do, and the new players we got on board tended to be people we knew and had worked with, or that other people in the band had worked with. Rapport is very important, considering we don’t rehearse all the time, existing musical relationships are very handy to draw from. Equally, it’s important to have players who are willing and keen to put in the group rehearsal hours. Even if someone is a great player, if they don’t want to be a team player there’s not much point with what we are doing here.
JH: Your compositions have always struck me as highly original in concept – where do they come from?
JC: I have heaps of influences, there so much music I love. But I don’t think this inspires me to go and write music to sound like those musicians. I mean sometimes I’ll like a groove and want to write something with that feel, but mostly other people’s music just opens up my imagination to all the possibilities. So when I compose I just sit down and write what I’d like to hear.
Sometimes this can take me a long time, because ill have a vague concept in my head of a sound that I imagined, but then actually getting that on to paper can take a lot of fumbling until you can hear it clearly. It’s very exciting composing this way though. It means you are following your instincts and intuition which is a lovely way to express yourself and have your own voice.
JH: What are your thoughts on the state of large jazz ensemble musical today?
JC: There seems to be a fair bit happening!
JH: What are your thoughts on mainstream music in general today?
JC: Not much, I don’t really follow it. Occasionally there’s something mainstream that I will really enjoy, but mostly I just listen to music that catches my ear.
Divergence Jazz Orchestra on Bandcamp – divergencejazzorchestra.bandcamp.com
… on Facebook – www.facebook.com/DivergenceJazzOrchestra
John Hardaker reviews The Opening Statement