You got to give it to Michael Griffin. The saxophonist has been relentlessly keeping the bop flame alight in Sydney, with a fervour and passion that can be contagious. All it takes is to see him play – and the lucky people in Sydney get to do this every Sunday at the Potts Point hotel. This week, it’s the one year anniversary of this residency and he has planned a Jazz Party that should not be missed.
What have you planned for Potts Point anniversary gig on Sunday?
I’ve been doing Potts Point Hotel every sunday for over a year now, always with a Quartet. This Sunday will be one big jazz party with some wonderful guests. It will be a sextet featuring myself on alto sax, James Sarno on trumpet, Lachlan Hamilton on tenor sax, Arthur Washington on guitar, Jacob Graham on bass, Tim Geldens on drums and Kate Wadey on vocals. There’ll be some truly swinging hot playing from a band that features some of the best talent in Australia.
How has this residency been so far?
After one year the residency has been fantastic; I always believed it would be good and succesful. It’s packed every week with many regulars turning up every week to hear the band which I really appreciate. I’m always honoured when Australian alto sax legend Bob Bertles comes down to hear me play, along with many other Australian jazz legends, including Warwick Alder, Chris Qua (from Galapagos Duck) and many others.
How is a Sunday afternoon pub gig different to a ‘proper’ jazz club nightly gig – or a concert hall performance? How do you adapt to each?
To be honest it’s no different – I play the same wherever I am and as a band, we really go for it, playing a range of great standards and beautiful ballads – but we also put the pedal down and break out some blistering tempo modern jazz too.
Being on stage at Potts Point Hotel is great, it’s such a great positive supportive place to play. In particular because of the fact it has built up over time and now has so many regulars coming to support it. We all give it our all, we’re not playing background jazz at all. We’re all really going for it and it’s an environment where we can play whatever we want; you can really unleash yourself there and go for stuff. The people there really appreciate the music. It’s also great because I don’t have to talk, I can just show up and spend my time playing.
What is your take on the role of live music within the community?
There have been many people that have told me what a great impact this gig has had on the community. The Kings cross and Potts Point area is home to a lot of artsy people. That area has also been starved for live music as it has gone without for a very long time. The lockout laws didn’t help, but that area was especially thriving in the ’70s and ’80s with so much live music. It makes Potts Point Hotel such a standout venue in the area, being one of the only venues with live music, especially Jazz. The gig is packed every week and people watching across the street. They say you can hear the band along the whole strip of the cross. I didn’t envision that this gig would have quite the effect it’s had but it really does lift up the feeling of the area.
What has been the highlight of your musical journey so far?
It’s hard to pick the highlight of my musical journey. Obviously going to USA and being in the Thelonious Monk Jazz competition was great. I’m really glad that I’ve managed to record four albums in the last year; I’m trying to get them released. The biggest challenge I’ve had to face, to be honest, is having to do so much myself – I guess that’s the game being a musician, especially playing jazz. There’s not much help around and you have to do everything yourself; Trying to juggle finding time to play and practice, compose/arrange, book gigs, promote gigs, make money and survive is very challenging. Trying to ensure the rest of your life is in balance is important and tricky and playing a genre that has so much against it, it can all get a bit much sometimes.
What is your greatest aspiration?
One of my greatest aspirations would be to be a guest with the Sydney Symphony or something. To perform in concert halls; I’d love to do more of that.