Q&A with Simon Ferenci – 2010 NJA Finalist

When did you start playing jazz and why? For example, was there a ‘moment’ when it came to you as a calling or vocation?

I started playing jazz in high school – North Sydney Boys High had a great jazz program (run by Saul Richardson) and I started playing jazz in the big band there. There were a few other guys who were already checking out jazz recordings and that helped me get interested as well. There are quite a few ex-North Sydney Boys who have continued to play jazz professionally including past National Jazz Awards winner Jackson Harrison, Bell award winner Jeremy Rose and others.

Which musicians (jazz or otherwise) have been your greatest influences? What about them stood or stands out for you?

The first jazz recording I heard that really got me hooked on jazz was hearing Lee Morgan on Coltrane’s album Blue Trane. There is something about his playing that I find really direct, as soon as he plays something you have to pay attention. From that recording I was inspired to check out other recordings of Lee Morgan and from there the recordings of other musicians that played with him or were a part of the same scene at that time – Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard etc. Then the more I listened I got into a lot of other musos as well – Woody Shaw, Eric Dolphy, Booker Little, Miles, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Chris Speed, Jim Black, Tony Malaby…

Of course one of the biggest influences in your playing is always going to be the musicians you play with – for me that started in high school and continued through the Sydney Conservatorium and on to the people I play with now. It’s an ongoing thing…

When composing or arranging, where do you get your inspiration?

Every piece is different. The process of composing each piece is always different too. Sometimes by playing chords or sounds on a piano, sometimes by playing melodies/phrases on trumpet, sometimes just by thinking about what sounds I want to create without actually playing an instrument.

What’s your favourite place to play or practise?

My favourite playing experiences are usually jamming with close musical friends. Sometimes we get to do this in front of people too! In terms of venues my favourite places to play are generally small venues with an audience that is there to listen – 505 in Sydney is great, and there are a couple of other more underground venues as well. Practising is a necessary evil – for me and for my neighbours.

What does Wangaratta Jazz represent for you?

Wangaratta is such a great festival in many ways. I’ve been there almost every year since I was 19 I think, I have played there before but just as often have gone to listen to the music. It’s a great chance for us Sydney musos to hear some of what goes on in Melbourne that we don’t get to hear often in Sydney. It’s also a great hang – a couple of days where there are heaps of jazz musos who have nowhere else to be but in Wang.

What are you listening to now?

Right now – Filles de Kilimanjaro, possibly my favourite Miles album. Lately I have been listening to a lot of Tony Malaby, he’s been a big influence (and inspiration) in the way he plays and interacts with his fellow musicians. I was lucky enough to hear his band Paloma Recio (with Ben Monder, Eivind Opsvik and Nasheet Waits) play live twice and they were two of the best gigs I’ve ever seen. What I would like to be listening to – just read a couple of days on Kurt Rosenwinkel’s website that he has a new band with Andrew D’Angelo, Eric Revis and Nasheet Waits. Heavy. Hopefully they record soon!