If you’re in Sydney and feel the urge to take a trip around the globe, without leaving the city, you can always catch a Vampires gig. The quartet has managed to create a magnificent patchwork of global sounds, incorporating elements from all kinds of styles – from latin, to balkan, to afro-carribean, to funk – while maintaining an identity of their own. Now they are adding a guitar to their sonar texture – and not just any guitar. Their latest project features Lionel Loueke, the guitar virtuoso from Benin, whose blend of jazz and the musical tradition of his country proved to be a breath of fresh air in the American jazz scene. The project is about to be recorded – they even have a pozible campaign under way to make it happen. At this point, any fan of the Vampires, Loueke, or good music in general, should be sold. But in case anyone needs further proof, they’re currently on tour around Australia. Jeremy Rose, the quartet’s saxophonist and main composer (along with trumpeter/composer Nick Garbett, bassist Alex Boneham and drummer/percussionist Alex Masso) offers a first-hand account of this collaboration.
AustralianJazz.net: How did this project come to be?
Jeremy Rose: The band has been a huge fan of Lionel’s for quite a few years after hearing his co-led band Gilfema. As a celebration of 10 years playing together, we decided to do something special and form a new collaboration. Through a mutual friend we were able to get in contact with Lionel and send him some of our music and propose working together. We were thrilled he was happy to work with us and so we set about putting the project together and seeking festivals and shows in Australia. So far the project has been going very well. We have done several shows with guest guitarist Ben Hauptmann over the last year in Sydney and have been workshopping new material featuring guitar in the group.
AJN: In what way is this project a continuation of your previous work?
JR: The Vampires’ music has always been about absorbing musical influences from around the world, in particular African diasporic and latin influences, and creating new perspectives on old forms, whilst developing our own improvised interactions and dialogue. This new album is no different, with influences from Afro-beat, Reggae, Afro-cuban, Brazilian and of course, some free jazz. Adding a guitar to the Vampires distinct chord-less sound world is of course new, however we feel that Lionel’s contribution will help inspire and spur us onto new musical territory. Nick and I have also composed music with Lionel in mind, and so the music will accommodate and make way for his unique style of playing.
This project is also different due to the addition of two replacement members in the Vampires; our regular bassist, Alex Boneham, is set to graduate from the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz in Los Angeles and so couldn’t make it. Our drummer, Alex Masso, is also about to have a baby and had to pull out, although he will be playing Wollongong and Sydney, and playing on some of the recording. These players have been replaced by Jonathan Zwartz and Danny Fischer, some of the finest instrumentalists in Australia.
AJN: Why did you choose to go through a crowd-funding campaign to make it happen?
JR: This project has a number of funding sources. The PPCA’s Recording Initiative and the Australia Council of the Arts, New Work grants, as well as a crowd-funding campaign through pozible, that you can visit to take a look at the special rewards available, including pre-ordering the new album.
AJN: What is your greatest aspiration regarding this project?
JR: We hope to create the best Vampires album to date and play our best on the festival performances and recordings.
AJN: How do the Vampires fit in alongside your other projects?
JR: The Vampires is the oldest running project of mine, at 10 years, and includes some of my best friends, and so we have a great rapport and love of not only the music, but for each other. I hope this comes out in the music. It can be a challenge to juggle many projects but we seem to make it work.
AJN: The Vampires’ sound is an eclectic blend of different styles, elements and sub-genres. Are there any boundaries as to the styles that you incorporate to your sound?
JR: We don’t apply boundaries no, we try to be as open as possible. Nick and I have also composed a lot of material that hasn’t ended up staying in the book too, so I suppose it just depends on each new composition.
AJN: How do the Vampires fit it in the mosaic of the Australian jazz scene?
JR: It’s difficult for me to say as I’m right in the middle of it, however I would say Australian jazz music can often be eclectic in nature. The Vampires similarly have an eclectic aesthetic, and Lionel Loueke’s open palette of influences is an excellent fit for the band.
Friday 2 June
WOLLONGONG CONSERVATORIUM OF MUSIC
Wollongong Conservatorium of Music, Murphys Ave, Keiraville, NSW
Friday 3 June
WINTER JAZZ presented by SIMA
With support from Miriam Lieberman
The Sound Lounge, The Seymour Centre, City Rd and Cleveland St Chippendale
Saturday 4 June
MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL JAZZ FESTIVAL
Bennetts Lane Jazz Club, 25 Bennetts Lane, Melbourne
7:30pm & 10:00pm, $55/$49
Sunday 5 June
PERTH INTERNATIONAL JAZZ FESTIVAL
The Ellington Jazz Club
Friday 10 June
BRISBANE INTERNATIONAL JAZZ FESTIVAL (*Matt Smith replacing Loueke)
With Trichotomy (Brisbane)
QLD Multicultural Centre Auditorium, 102 Main St, Kangaroo Point