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 2014 runs from Friday 31 October to Monday 3 November. Find out more at wangarattajazz.com
This year the awards feature guitar players and the ten finalists are: Quentin Angus from New York (originally from Adelaide) | David Gooey from Melbourne | Ryan Griffith from Melbourne | Peter Koopman from Sydney | Paul Mason from Sydney | Carl Morgan from Sydney (originally from Canberra) | Michael Anderson from Sydney | Hugh Stuckey from Melbourne (originally from Adelaide) | Jeremy Thomson from Perth | Oliver Thorpe from Sydney
With parents named Dorian and Lydia, I think it was inevitable that I pursue a career in jazz. My father has been a jazz musician all his life, so from the day I was born there was always jazz in the house. I never had a chance.
Which musicians (jazz or otherwise) have been your greatest influences? What about them stood or stands out for you?
There are so many, but three in particular come to mind. When I first came to Sydney as a vocal student, Jonathan Zwartz really took me under his wing, giving me the opportunity to perform with him and introducing me to many great Sydney musicians. In more recent times I’ve been playing (and getting into trouble) with great jazz pianist Gerard Masters, which has been an incredible learning curve.
Finally my teacher at the con [Sydney Conservatorium of Music] for the last two years, saxophonist Mike Rivett. He has been an incredible source of knowledge and the best teacher I’ve ever studied with.
When composing or arranging, where do you get your inspiration?
I am quite new to composing and arranging. I suppose the biggest source of inspiration is the music I’m listening to and the gigs I am doing. I hope to expand this concept next year.
What’s your favourite place to play or practise?
My favourite place to practice is my little bedroom in the heart of Newtown. It’s surrounded by beautiful trees, and usually doused in sunlight. My favourite/least favourite place to play is the 1-4am slot at the Coogee Bay Hotel. If you can get through that gig, you can get through any gig.
What are you most looking forward to at Wangaratta?
One of the great things about the Wang comp is you get to meet and hang out with so many amazing like minded musicians from all over Australia, many that you might not usually hear. My dad is also coming down. He’s proud as punch.
What are you listening to now?
Dutch guitarist Reinier Baas, Ben Hauptmann, Mike Moreno and Mike Rivett’s latest release which features so many great Australian players.
About Oliver Thorpe
“He was loud and intermittently funny…”
Originally from the Central Coast, Oliver Thorpe was born into a jazz family. With parents named Dorian and Lydia, there wasn’t much chance of a non-musical career.
In 2011 Oliver was accepted as the only jazz vocal major at The Sydney Conservatorium of Music and studied with Kerrie Biddell. The following year he reauditioned and was accepted as a Jazz Guitar Major and is currently in his final year of study.
Oliver has been heavily influenced and a regular with many Sydney groups and bandleaders including Gerard Masters, Jonathan Zwartz, Clayton Doley, and Ilan Kidron.