The 17th annual Australian Jazz Bell Awards acknowledged and applauded excellence of creativity, recording, performance and presentation of jazz in Australia.
“Music comes and goes,” Leo Genovese says. “[It] is not property, it doesn’t have an owner. It is air moving. It is magic, it is medicine. Even if you compose something, it is not yours, it is patrimony of every human. I know the law works different, but the cosmic law is another thing.”
“Nancy Wilson’s tone, phrasing and interplay with the band on that record had a huge impact on me as a musician. After going deep into those tunes, I think that it’s allowed me to approach my own music in a different way, particularly how I tell my stories through song.”
While Frank Gambale regularly unleashed a dazzling torrent of notes, the quality that lingered in my mind after the show was the melodic instinct that underpinned so much of his work.
Upon first entering Bird’s Basement, I was immediately conscious of the crystalline sound of the piano, each unamplified note lingering in the space, untrammelled by its neighbours. The audience, in darkness, appeared hushed, as if intensely focused on the music: lyrical, melodic and restrained. As I was drawn into this music, I was conscious of its fragile delicacy, as Mark Isaacs mined the upper register, unafraid of summoning sheer beauty from his instrument.
“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.”
Genius pianist Barney McAll dominates the shortlist, being featured in four categories with his visceral masterpiece, ‘Hearing the Blood’, while brilliant newcomer saxophonist Evan Harris follows with three nominations, each representing a different generation of Australian jazz.
“I had to distinguish myself as an artist, having grown up in the era of Ella and Sarah and Betty. I couldn’t do what they did as well as they did it, so I found my own voice, my own truth.”
– When did you realise that you have found your own voice as an artist?
– I feel that my individual voice started to really become solidified on my previous CD, ‘Rush’. I hope to keep refining it.
“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.”