Nick Mulder: ‘I’ve absolutely loved co-leading the Mulder/Pulford nonet’

The Mulder/ Pulford nonet are back! Not that they had gone anywhere, but an interstate band faces some specific, distance-related challenges, which makes it hard to keep a regular performing schedule. On the upside, this actually makes every gig a special occasion and there’s certainly something special regarding their upcoming gig at Melbourne’s Paris Cat Jazz Club. The band’s performance will be recorded as testament to the excellence of this hard-swinging, inventive ensemble that keeps the flame of straight jazz – and pushes it further ahead. Melbourne-based trombone player Nick Mulder, who co-leads the nonet with Adelaide-based alto sax player Tom Pulford, explains how he expects for things to work out.

AustralianJazz.Net: What would you say to a casual listener – who is not familiar with your music – as an invitation to your Paris Cat gig?

Nick Mulder: It’s hard swinging music with a large ensemble sound and the intimacy of a small jazz group. The ensemble writing is featured, along with great soloists and a stellar rhythm section that will make you smile all night.

AJN: What kind of audience would you like to attract?

NM: Anyone who’d like to listen!

AJN: Why do a live recording?

NM: The idea of a live recording is really to capture the energy of a live performance, and that’s the advantage. We decided to record this performance because we felt it was a good time to document the work we’ve done so far, and also because the musicians are so good. We’ve been very lucky in Melbourne to have worked with great players; it’s a great privilege to have your music played by such fantastic musicians.

AJN: What is the greatest challenge in this case?

NM: The big challenge with a live recording is that there are no second chances. If it doesn’t sound the way you want it to sound on the gig, it won’t sound good on the recording either.

AJN: What is your favourite live album?

NM: Miles Davis’ Four and More album from 1964 without a doubt. The gig was a charity concert and apparently Miles told the band they were playing for free just before the concert. The story goes that they were all furious, but the record is just incredible.

AJN: At what point of a band’s journey do you feel that it’s time to record?

NM: That’s a good question and I’m not sure there’s a definitive answer. I think the main thing is having confidence in the band’s sound, in the music and the players and feeling like you have something to say. That will obviously be a very personal thing and be different for different people. Tom and I have to also be a little bit opportunistic because being an interstate collaboration it’s not a regular working band, but that has it’s advantages also!

AJN: How did you select the set/track list? What kind of story are you hoping to tell with that?

NM: The tunes we’ve chosen to record are the ones we feel have resonated best over the last few years of performances, and there are a few new ones for this performance which will balance the set out nicely. Another priority is to showcase the players on this gig; our intention when writing this music has always been to feature the musicians.

AJN: How did you choose the players that will form the nonet this time?

NM: There are a number of Melbourne regulars who we’ve played with over the last few years who make up the band this time. Eamon McNelis has worked with us before and his incredible time feel and musical language is always a joy! Jon Hunt’s baritone saxophone is the rhythmic foundation of the horn section and there’s none better than him at bringing things together. David Theak joins us again on tenor and his energy and drive are infectious for the band and audience alike. Also on tenor is Julien Wilson, who is joining us for the first time. He is one of the finest tenor players in the country, always makes an incredible contribution on the gig. Our rhythm section is my dream team of Mark Fitzgibbon, Sam Anning and Hugh Harvey; always swinging hard and having a great time.

AJN: How are you expecting to be surprised yourself on the gig?

NM: I’m hoping there won’t be too many surprises on this gig! I’m always amazed by the beautiful sound this band makes and by Tom’s incredible writing, but that’s not surprising anymore. I’d like to be surprised by a huge crowd!

AJN: How has your experience with this project been so far?

NM: I’ve absolutely loved co-leading this band, and the greatest joy is always the music. We’ve played with many different musicians over the years and everyone has contributed something to the group as it’s evolved, and it’s again a great privilege to have your music performed by such great people.

AJN: What has been the most memorable moment?

NM: Our dear friend and extraordinary tenor player Mike Stewart passed away a couple of years ago and I wish we’d recorded him playing the ballad feature Tom wrote for him. We played that at his funeral; Tom played the solo part and played out of his skin. I’ll never forget that performance.

AJN: As a co-leader of an interstate band, what do you think is the thing that makes the Melbourne scene different than that of other parts of Australia?

NM: I’m not sure what makes it different from other cities, but one beautiful thing about Melbourne’s music scene is the diversity. You can see music all the time in any style, and there are hidden treasures everywhere!

AJN: What song best describes your current state of mind?

NM: My state of mind fluctuates more than that! My favourite songbook tune at the moment is Prelude to a Kiss, which you can hear on Thursday night at the Paris Cat!