Overseas or at home, Freedman projects set high standards

Update! – congragulations to Christopher Hale, 2012 Freedman Jazz Fellow

Not surprisingly, this year’s four finalists in the Freedman Jazz Fellowship see the award as an important and very welcome part of the Australian jazz landscape. Jeremy Rose (saxophone), Zac Hurren (saxophone), Evan Mannell (drums) and Christopher Hale (bass guitar) are all bringing unique projects to the award and the concert this Friday 10 August is once again be a highlight of the Australian jazz calendar.

The fellowship takes the form of a proposal submitted by musicians, and a final concert featuring each of the four finalists.

As in previous years, the range of inspiration for finalists’ projects is broad.

Jeremy Rose with saxophone
Jeremy Rose | photo © Karen Steains

Jeremy Rose’s project will take its impetus from a Balkan Brass Music workshop in Greece this month and involves the creation of new material, a recording and a promotional tour to Europe with the new CD. The Vampires will play at the concert, with bassist Lloyd Swanton (The Necks, The catholics, The Field) substituting for Alex Boneham on the night, as Boneham is overseas. The Vampires is Jeremy Rose on alto saxophone, Nick Garbett on trumpet, Alex Masso on drums and Alex Boneham on bass.

For Rose, the Freedman is significant for a number of reasons, not least because the judging panel is made up of mentors, and the Fellowship is respected in the jazz community. ‘Peer recognition, whether we like to admit it or not’, he says, ‘means a lot to artists, and gives us great confidence in what we do’. The ‘no strings attached’ financial incentive provides the winner ‘a unique opportunity for an artist to self-design a career building project on their own terms’.

Drummer Evan Mannell agrees, and adds that ‘It’s one of the few times there is enough money being invested for this type of music in Australia to have such high production values – great space, concert environment, attention to detail with the sound both on and off stage.’

He acknowledges that his idea of ‘jazz’ involves more audience interaction, ‘like shouting out and dancing and drinking.’, but admits that ‘whatever it is it’s a nice treat to play your own strange music in that setting to a full house of happy punters’.

Evan Mannell at drum kit, black and white
Evan Mannell in 'analog' mode!

Mannell’s project involves spaces – the creation of a garage studio and a website with capabilities to present the work created in the studio. Mannell enjoys the challenge of working in the studio and is inspired by what’s possible with today’s technology. ‘The music market is changing rapidly and there are now many more ways through the forest of producing and presenting music,’ he says. He believes that great things are now within reach of musicians who have access to a well-equipped studio space.

Mannell will be performing with the Alcohotlicks at the Freedman Jazz Fellowship finals. The band is 10-year collaboration between guitarists Aaron Flower, Ben Hauptmann and Mannell. He’s planning to use some ‘fun electronic elements’ in the performance, developed and worked on in the studio space included in his project proposal.

Christopher Hale, black and white
Christopher Hale

Bass player Christopher Hale will be exploring cross-cultural collaborations and mentoring with his project. His project will involve the application of Korean traditional drumming techniques to his bass guitar practice and he’ll be working with Australian drummer Simon Barker and master musician Kim Ju-Hong, director of the percussion group Noreum Machi. Hale’s work with Barker has mentorship at its core; it’s an example of how the mentored can become mentors, passing the baton in ways that enrich the local landscape immensely. For more information about Barker’s musical journey, read our piece on Emma Franz’s film Intangible Asset Number 82.

‘Simon has absorbed the approach of Korean drumming into an improvising language distinctly his own, with a depth and beauty that is well known, says Hale. ‘He has been very encouraging of my ideas and the possibilities for this music for the bass, and has introduced me to many musicians in Korea who are on similar quests of adapting traditional techniques and awareness to improvisation in the jazz orbit.’


Hale will be performing at the concert with vocalist Gian Slater, nylon string guitarist Nathan Slater and saxophonist Julian Banks. Simon Barker will perform on drums and percussion and the group will also be joined by Hale’s long-time colleague from Flamenco company Arte Kanela, dancer and percussionist Johnny Tedesco.

He says that the focus on the music itself is an important aspect of what sets the Freedman apart, including ‘the importance placed on the finalists being able to present their music in their own way.’

Saxophonist Zac Hurren’s project is inspired by ideas of collaboration, co-writing and mentoring – but he’s bringing the focus right back home to Australia, and talks about finding an Australian vernacular in the music. He’s emphatic that there is an Australian sound and is keen to explore it with strong local voices.

‘Australian musicians have something no-one else in the world has’, says Hurren. This idea of a unique Australian musical language is at the core of his project, which he says is characterised by a kind of ‘cross-generational cross pollination’.

First Seed Ripening cover
CD - First Seed Ripening - Zac Hurren is the beardy one!

Co-writing with musicians such as Vince Jones, Dale Barlow, Matt McMahon, Simon Barker, Scott Tinkler, Stephen Magnusson and the elusive and gifted Mark Simmonds is one way he will explore this idea.

Co-writing has been a revelation to Hurren. ‘When you co-write with someone, you open up in a completely different way,’ he says. ‘That applies not only to my artistry, but to my life.’

His inspiration for the project came from co-writing he has been doing with musicians such as Stephen Magnusson; their collaborative work appears on Elixir’s ARIA award-winning CD First Seed Ripening.

Hurren is enthusiastic about the Freedman, and says that although there are many valuable awards in Australia, this one is unique because of its focus on playing and conceptualisation. ‘It’s incredibly motivational because it shows that somebody cares!’ he says. He’ll be performing on the night with his trio, and the band will be joined by singer Katie Noonan.

What can audiences expect on the night?  The Studio is a venue that admirably suits a mini-festival such as this. And as for content, let’s quote finalist Christopher Hale: ‘The presentation of a night of music that genuinely celebrates even a small selection of the music being made by young musicians in Australia is an exciting, affirming experience.’

In other words, expect to be excited and inspired.


Concert details

Date: Friday, 10 August
Time: 7.45pm
Venue: The Studio, Sydney Opera House
Cost: $28 Full/$23 Concession + Booking Fee
Book: Sydney Opera House Ph: 02 9250 7777