“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.”
The Cookers is a learning experience for me. I will always learn and get my ass kicked by these guys. It might not always be a pleasant experience to get one’s ass kicked but it is an important part of one’s growth as a musician and I’m very lucky to be in this unique situation performing with and learning from some of the best and ones directly tied to when this music was at its apex.
James Carter plays the sax as if his survival depends on taming this shiny, golden reed instrument that possesses this mystical, divine energy that he tries to put to good use for the 55 minutes of each set.