When John Lennon sang”Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans”, he might as well have be talking about Melbourne’s weather. So, if you are based in Melbourne and your plans for this Saturday were to go to St James Park in Hawthorn with a picnic basket and lie on the grass enjoying a performance by Steve Sedergreen and Points in Time, you may need to make other plans.The event has been cancelled, due to the thunderstorm, but the relentless pianist is not defeated by weather conditions – he is moving his band to the Central Club Hotel and rebranding the event as ‘Jazz Party’. That is the good news. The bad news is that this interview is now rather irrelevant. No worries though. Life goes on. It is what it is.
What are you going to be presenting
at Jazz in the Park on Saturday?
We’ve got some amazing musicians, vocalists, and young performers – Axle Whitehead on vocals, Mal Sedergreen on saxophone, John Mackey also on sax, Dave Palmer on trombone, myself on the keys, Nick Haywood on bass and Scott Lambie on drums. We’ve all been playing together for many, many years. John hails from Canberra and is especially here for this gig so he’s someone we don’t normally play with which will be really, really special.
It’s going to be a concert for everyone.
It’s a free concert at 6 o’clock this Saturday in St James Park, Hawthorn and we’re going to be playing some music that we perform well at the moment – it’s really hard hitting but also very, very acceptable music that everyone seems to love. It’s family friendly and cutting edge without being egotistical and too intellectual; just music that you can really have fun and listen to. How does this open-air setting affect your choice of material?
You really have to be in tune with the audience and make sure the music engages them on all levels. We won’t prepare a program, we’ll just prepare what’s needed in the moment and play whatever’s needed to help people enjoy their afternoon or evening.
What is your take on community events such as Jazz in the Park? Well, a whole lot of people can’t get into shows because of their age or timing so it’s a great chance for them to come and check out what jazz is about. The picnic setting makes for a beautiful atmosphere, and there’s nothing better than an outdoors venue where you can really let your hair hang down and there’s no pressure on anyone to act in a certain way – it’s just an enjoyable day.
What would you say is the role of jazz as a community-building tool?
Jazz has the ability to make magic and create experiences for all who come and enjoy our music.
What is the greatest joy that your journey in jazz has offered you so far?
Well, I’ve had lots of great experiences. I’m only 50-something – a young 50-something! – and over the years, I’ve loved watching great musicians, young and older, from all around the world. I’ve been lucky enough myself to travel and also have a lot of young kids playing in the band that I know one day will be fantastic. So it’s making every experience a unique one and memories for years to come.
Which tune best describes your current state of mind?
There’s a Charlie Hunter tune that we’ll probably play at this Saturday’s gig called ‘Nothing but Trouble’. I play guitar to that tune and it’s one that we all get around to – it has trombone, sax and vocals going and it’s got that double shuffle groove.
That’s the tune my mind’s thinking right now.