Q&A with Evan Mannell – 2011 NJA Finalist

Each year since 2005, in the month leading up to the jazz festival in Wangaratta, Miriam Zolin interviews the finalists in the National Jazz Awards. The awards are decided at Wangaratta in a series of heats culminating in a finals performance on the Sunday of the festival. Wangaratta Jazz festival this year runs from Friday 28 to Monday 31 October.

The National Jazz Awards have been presented at the festival since it began in 1990 and were designed to contribute to the development and recognition of young jazz and blues musicians up to the age 35. The Awards have become a much anticipated highlight of the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues.

This year’s top ten finalists are: Ben Falle, 25, Perth | Graham Hunt, 27, Sydney | James Waples, 28, Sydney | Tim Firth, 29, Sydney | Hugh Harvey, 30, Melbourne | Evan Mannell, 32, Sydney | Sam Bates, 33, Melbourne | Craig Simon, 34, Melbourne | Dave Goodman, 34, Sydney | Cameron Reid, 34, Sydney

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 think there was a moment on a high school big band tour down the south coast where I was playing on stage and the band sounded tight, and we partied afterwards and then got on the bus the next day for another gig and I thought, “this is where it’s at.”

It’s still the same feeling now – good gig, party after, do it again tomorrow.

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

The more I play and the older I get, the closer in age and distance my influences become. I’m more influenced now by what my mates do or don’t do than someone on a record from across the seas.

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

At the moment I’m using machines a lot. I’ve got a new band called Check My Machine and we use machines to make our music. The material is in development but it’s going to be quite a leap for me, using triggers and samplers and all that. It’s quite a heavy sort of dance vibe. I guess the machines are inspiring me.

What’s your favourite place to play or practise?

I like playing jazz at 505 in Sydney. Cam and Kerri have made a fine venue there. I like small, intimate venues like Bohemian Grove and Caravan for my own projects. The people are relaxed and they open up to let your music take over. I can’t tell you where these places are but if you go, the people who run them deserve to be congratulated.
I like to practice in ‘the Shred Shed’ at my place. That’s the little studio I built with my wife Zoe Hauptmann, and it’s got a real nice feeling in there.

What does the Wangaratta Jazz Festival represent for you?

Always a real good time. There’s a warmth for the musos and I think we all enjoy that and get a little high from the concentrated energy. It’s a good place to play.

A few years ago at Wang I scratched my eyeball somehow and had to go to the hospital. They were all really nice in there, but they just all said I had “Christmas Eye.” I still don’t know what that means, so if someone can tell me that’d be great.

What are you listening to now?

Right now I’m listening to Richie B mix the new Alcohotlicks record, which sounds hot. It’s called ‘aspic’ at the moment and hopefully it’ll be out soon. Watch Bazzy’s website yumyumtree.com.au for details. But by the time you’re reading this… I’ll be listening to something else.

See other NJA finalists from this and previous years >>>>

The National Jazz Awards semi-finals and final rounds will be held at the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues, October 28-31. Festival Passes are available for blues only venues or all venue access. Purchase your early bird tickets now from www.wangarattajazz.com