“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.
As both a trumpeter and composer, Chris Botti has established a reputation as a versatile musician in both jazz and pop music for his ability to fuse both styles.
“The greatest challenge is doing something different with standards that still feels natural. I think we achieved it on this album. We were very open and just tried to play like ourselves with no judgment.”
“If you want to actually follow the tradition of jazz, you have to respond to your story and the place that you live in. Jazz has always been questioning and curious and absorbing other influences. And this is one of the most exciting things about being an Australian musician, being surrounded by lots of different cultures”.