NJA Finalist Q&A – Kristin Berardi

‘…it’s a wonderful hang at Wangaratta. I’m also – very excited about hearing Gregory Porter LIVE!’

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 in 2012 runs from Friday 2 to Monday 5 November.

This year’s ten finalists are: Cyrille Aimée, France (currently based in New York) | Kristin Berardi, Sydney |  Briana Cowlishaw, Sydney |  Luara Karlson-Carp, Brisbane | Kate Kelsey-Sugg, Melbourne | Joshua Kyle, Melbourne | Chantal Mitvalsky, Melbourne | Judith Perl, Melbourne | Liz Tobias, Adelaide (currently based in Boston) | Katie Wighton, Sydney

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

Kristin: I started playing jazz tunes and learning about improvisation around age 14 when I was playing the alto saxophone in the high school stage band. However it was a bribe from my music teacher that got me singing jazz, as he said I could only sing with the Jazz Combo if  I played sax in it too. I felt like I was able to express myself better through voice than any other instrument I had been learning up until that point, and so I accepted the offer, under those conditions, and became the singer and sax player in the school jazz combo 🙂

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

Kristin: My greatest influences would probably have to be, in order…

Mariah Carey – her voice is sooooo beautiful

Vince Jones – he was the first jazz singer I heard and thought – ‘if that is jazz, I like jazz!’ I love his tone, his freedom, his writing… he has been a very big inspiration, and that he is Australian has been a big factor also.

Ella Fitzgerald – her ability to make all she does sound easy, when it’s not! Her ability to swing hard, her improvisations, her humour and personality comes through when she sings… I enjoy that.

Keith Jarrett, Bill Evans, Brad Meldau – three pianists who have greatly influenced me….

Bill Evans’ honesty and beauty when he plays.

Keith Jarretts’ writing and improvisations; his musicality floors me.

Brad Meldau’s groove and feel – and his improvisation ability is very inspiring.

Pat Metheny, Jeff Tain Watts and Brian Blade have also greatly inspired me with their writing and improvising abilities.

Alison Krauss is a constant source of beauty and inspiration to me…her tone , her intonation, and with it – her emotional connection are astounding. She is my greatest influence of all.

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

Kristin: Either from other music I am listening to, or from experiences from my life –  be it someone or something.

Miriam: What’s your favourite place to play or practise?

Kristin: Favourite place to practise is just in my music room, with my inspirations on the wall, and the piano there to tinkle on 🙂

Miriam: What are you most looking forward to at Wangaratta?

Kristin: Hearing the other singers in the Vocal Competition, and seeing and hearing so many jazz folk from all around the country… it’s a wonderful hang at Wangaratta. I’m also – very excited about hearing Gregory Porter LIVE!

Miriam: What are you listening to now?

Lizz Wright – I looooove her tone!

Gregory Porter – WOAH – can’t believe he is coming to WANG!!! he’s sooooo awesome!

Brad Meldau and Pat Metheny.

Visit the Wangaratta Jazz Festival website >

Listen to music on Kristin Berardi’s website >

Listen to a podcast interview with Kristin by Helen Simons

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.