It’s been almost a decade since Melissa Aldana relocated to New York – after her studies in Boston’s Berklee School of music – leaving behind her hometown, Santiago, Chile. During this time, she has cemented her reputation as one of the brightest stars in the New York jazz scene. Now the saxophonist is back to Australia, to perform at the Perth International Jazz Festival, and she was keen on answering some questions.
What are you going to present at the Perth International Jazz Festival?
I will be presenting the music that is going to be released next year on my fifth album.The name is Visions and is inspired by the life of the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.
What are your expectations from an audience?
No expectations, every audience is different and unique.
What is your preferred setting to perform?
My preferred setting is when we get to play acoustic, where everything sounds good like it should be. Also it is sometimes easier for me to feel inspired that way.
What is your take on the role of women musicians in jazz, particularly in light of the #metoo movement?
It’s hard for me to talk about this, because I do not have any bad experiences, I have always felt respect from male musicians. But I think it is important that women who have experienced this talk about it and take action as well. But my take is that to me, music transcends genders and cultures. It is all about telling your own story and being strong about it.
What has been the highlight of your musical journey so far?
Meeting my idol, Sonny Rollins.
What has been the greatest challenge you had to face?
Life… you just deal with it and learn something new everyday.
What does jazz mean to you?
Jazz is the way I have to express what I feel, and the way I get to know more about myself.
How did you get into it?
I started playing becausemy father was a saxophone player as well.
How did you discover your own voice?
I havent discovered it… it is a life time search.
Who are your heroes?
On saxophone? Don Byas, Sonny Rollins, Mark Turner.
If you could go back and meet your teenage self, what would you tell her?
What is the main thing that drives your creativity?
Experiences in life.
Which song best describes your current state of mind?
Hard to say… but I have been listening a lot to‘Never let me go’.
Melissa Aldana Quartet is playing as part of Perth International Jazz Festival on Friday 9 November at 9pm at State Theatre Centre Courtyard; and on Saturday 10 November at 9pm at The Ellington Jazz Club.