“I’ve been an activist in my music for a long time and I’ve been writing about police brutality for a long time, but oddly enough, I have never went near Strange Fruit,” says Vivian Sessoms.
I just keep doing things I love and playing with musicians I love and my voice shapes itself; if you are an artist, it is part of who you are, I think you are always aware of it.
“If we didn’t sound and swing like The Count Basie Orchestra has since 1935 and continues to do to this very day in 2018, then I would feel the term ‘ghost band’ would be warranted, but this orchestra has not lost one beat since Basie passed in 1984. In many respects, it may even be stronger.”
“I grew up thinking of jazz as dance music, just like the music you hear on the radio,” says Donald Harrison Jr. “This element was never taught in school or discussed by any of my music peers so that alone made me realize I had a different thought process then even the cats from New Orleans like the Marsalis brothers and my partner at the time, Terence Blanchard. They are all great players, but including a dance feeling did not seem to be high on their priority list in the early ’80s.”
The duality of the MFG’s European and Australian identities is also manifested in their playing, with Maas and Goralski weaving a delicate and intricate harmonic net around Gemma Farrell’s direct, robust melodic lines.
“It’s been an interesting experience as a band, because we’ve been able to interact directly with the dancers and that’s been fantastic. They are part of the band. The most interesting thing for me is the interaction between the front line players and the dancers. Musicians are starting to solo differently and think about their solos, anticipating what the dancers will do; and you can see the dancers anticipating the instrumentalists as well. It’s an interesting process, I think we’re at the beginning of something.”
“My music sounds like me and it sounds like someone who has not grown up in a major centre like Melbourne, or New York, or London. For a long time I was ashamed of this. But I have begun to realise this is also what makes my music worth listening to; its a part of what makes it unique. Matthew Sheens is also from Adelaide (although he’s been living in NY for many years) and Myele Manzanza comes from Wellington in NZ (which is even smaller and more isolated than Adelaide, where I am from). All three of us are coming from the outside of the centre of the worlds we love, participate in and contribute to. The Outsiders is my reflection on all of this.”
“This project deals with subjects that were big issues in America from the ’30s to the ’70s and the female singers at that time raised their voices, trying to change things with their singing. If some people may have been thinking that these issues were solved nowadays, Donald Drumpf’ s America and the #metoo movement show that it’s not the case. So by covering these songs, we raise our voices too, and keep on trying to open consciousnesses with music, which is our only weapon.”
“When you think of Bob Marley or Peter Tosh and their music, it’s a snapshot of what the political landscape is, they’re saying: this is the world we live today; wouldn’t it be better if it was a better place? I think that’s the question that I want to raise in my music.”
There are not many singers around whose name is always mentioned alongside Aretha Franklin’s and this is pretty much all anyone needs to know about Ann Vriend’s timbre, but you may know all that, already.