“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.”
“Half of ‘Cloud Appreciation Day’ was written before a friend died suddenly and completed after the event, so there is a bipolar quality to it. Almost every track has a distressing background, but it doesn’t always make the music depressing. In some cases, the reaction was to write more uplifting sounding music”.
There’s perhaps more of Sheens the Downbeat poll-winning pianist this time out but significantly Untranslatable ups the ante compositionally, with the Yanni Burton String Quartet leaving an indelible stamp on a third of the tracks.
The judges, Chris Cody, Andrew Gander and 2003 Freedman Fellow Phil Slater, deliberated late into the night. In a group statement, they said of their decision ‘We had four very strong musical identities and it was a most difficult choice. In the end, we chose Aaron Choulai, a very exciting young musician, a risk-taker, a very clear musical personality. Aaron already has a great deal to offer and we are sure there is much more to come. We congratulate all the candidates. They make Australia a very strong country for jazz’
I was always a fairly unconventional student. I wasn’t interested in reading the dots as a kid, and would learn everything by ear, make arrangements and compose my own pieces. I wondered why in Art class you were encouraged to make your own paintings, but in Music class you were only encouraged to learn other people’s creations.