Flora Carbo: ‘I am striving for total honesty’

You can hear Flora Carbo‘s determination in her playing. Her saxophone produces a colourful palette of ideas and she’s eager to explore them all, following each path that comes out; for the listener, it is a rewarding experience to follow her in this adventurous journey, particularly since she’s a very insightful leader. The exact moment when you think that you haveddeviated and are now walking towards the unknown, she tightens up all loose ends and gets you back on track. All this is evident in her album, Erica, launched this week at the Jazz Lab. Which is a perfect opportunity for an interview.

What are you going to present at the Jazz Lab on Friday?

Isaac, Maddi and I are going to present the music from Erica, music that I have been writing and working on throughout the year and am super proud of! It is an absolute honour to have this opportunity thanks to All In, an incredible organisation supporting female and non binary musicians in Melbourne – check them out, they are the best!

The incredible Louisa Rankin and band will be playing the first set at 6.30pm, which I am very much looking forward to! It will be a great evening and we are so excited to share this record with the world!

Who is ‘Erica’?

My friend Bill and I spent a whole day thinking up names for each other’s instruments, but in the end we both settled on the names that had come to us first. Bill’s guitar is Bella and my alto is Erica. I love the name! It is also a reference to the legendary Eric Dolphy, it serves as a nice constant inspiration, a reminder to stay motivated and keep creating. I thought that it would be a fitting title for the album!

What is the album’s backstory?

This project came out of my desire to pursue the instrumentation of the saxophone trio. I love the combination of the individual voices and the triangular relationship that holds them all together, almost like a spider web of sound. Some of my favourite records of all time have featured this instrumentation and I have always been intrigued by that world. Thanks to Lee Konitz, Melissa Aldana, Sam Anning, Bernie McGann and Ellery Eskelin.

How would you describe your music to someone not familiar with it?

With my music I am striving for total honesty, with the ultimate goal of reaching a genreless beauty while being true to the moment.

It comes out of a musical place somewhere in between completing my Bachelor of Music at the James Morrison Academy, growing up around all kinds of music festivals and my ongoing love of Australian jazz and my peers, mentors and heroes that constantly inspire me. Musically, I like the idea of keeping music borderless and open to all kinds of influences. It really excites me when I hear new music that is difficult to categorise into a specific box. I suppose that is the ultimate goal for me, to create something musical and clear that fits in its own unique space.

How are the dynamics among Maddison Carter, Isaac Gunnoo and yourself?

I love playing with these guys so much! They were definitely my first choice for this project, as we have played together for a couple of years now, with my brother and guitarist, Theo, in our band called Carbo/Carter/Gunnoo. With this group we have built up a repertoire of original music and developed a musical rapport between us that feels amazing! This mutual trust allows us to maintain a freedom and fluidity, which I really love. It was so easy bringing this new music to Maddi and Isaac; in my opinion, they can turn music into magic almost instantly.

Honestly, the only challenge with this project is that I have been living it up in Mount Gambier over the past three years. Being a five-and-a-half-hours drive away hasn’t made things easy, but it is just another credit to Maddi and Isaac’s infallible musicality

If you were to expand this band to a quartet, who would you invite as a guest?

Of course it would be my brother Theo, as I have never felt more grounded and inspired than when playing with Carbo/Carter/Gunnoo. He is an incredible musician and a constant inspiration for me. Otherwise, maybe Andrea Keller or Zac Hurren or Eugene Ball or Julien Wilson – I could very easily go on! So many people, especially in the Australian jazz scene, have been incredibly influential to me and anything that they would bring to my music would be a dream!

Who are your heroes?

Aside from the huge list of incredible people and musicians that have inspired me, some of my greatest heroes are these amazing women; Melissa Aldana, Andrea Keller, Ange Davis, Shannon Barnett and Tamara Murphy. Their music and support has been a huge part of my life!

How did you get into jazz?

When my brother and I were little, our parents used to take us to Wangaratta Jazz Festival every year. I never really understood what was going on, until one year when I was in Grade 2, I saw Murphy’s Law, Tamara Murphy’s band, and I was totally engrossed. I remember walking away saying: “I get it!” It was a little while after that when I started to play and improvise, but having such a strong background of many years of music festivals (thanks Mum and Dad!) along with some incredible teachers, it felt very natural for me, I loved it.

What does jazz mean to you?

Jazz to me means the freedom to be who you are through music. We study the history and tradition and obsess over the great players, but as young musicians, it is our responsibility to take that knowledge and apply those processes to create a musical version of ourselves. I am very much a green seedling, but I am keen to keep learning and I am very excited for what the future of this music will be like!

Which tune best describes your current state of mind?

Harry James Angus’ ‘The Banker’ pretty much fits all, but today it is Andrea Keller’s ‘For Bernie’.

All In presents Flora Carbo Trio launching Erica on Friday 24 August at the Jazz Lab

UPDATE: The Flora Carbo Trio is playing at the Stonnington Jazz Festival on Saturday 11 May

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