Darcy McNulty: ‘Jazz Party just wanted to do something that was loose and spontaneous’

Here’s a little Melbourne tip. You haven’t really been to Melbourne, unless you have been to a Jazz Party gig. Their Monday Night residencies – rotating at different pubs every month – are on their way to becoming a Melbourne institution and a symbol of the city’s musical identity, mixing New Orleans style jazz with gritty blues, ’50s rock’n’roll and more modern jazz stylings, delivered with irreverent humour, raw sexiness and a punk attitude. But if staying up late – and sometimes that means really late – on a Monday night is a luxury to you, don’t worry; you can still catch Jazz Party in more appropriate settings, like the Summer Sounds festival taking place at Bunjil Place on Saturday 22 February. Here’s saxophonist and band leader Darcy McNulty presenting the Jazz Party mission and vision.

What is the Jazz Party story?

The band started by accident. A friend was given a month to put on gigs and basically do whatever he wanted at the old Builders Arms Hotel in Fitzroy, before it got renovated and turned into a fancy gastropub.

We decided to do a regular Monday night because it’s the musicians’ night off. We were all in serious bands that rehearsed a lot etc. and we just wanted to do something that was loose and spontaneous; no sets, no planning, invite our friends and just play whatever we felt like – have a good time basically. Jazz Party emerged out of that.

How different is your act, when you are playing in type of open festival events, like Saturday’s Summer Sounds, compared to your Monday Night performances?

We always try to have the same approach wherever we play. Namely bring a lot of energy and have as much fun as we can.The only difference is we rehearse and have a set list at bigger shows, because dead air in between songs doesn’t go over so well on a big stage.

You are arguably one of the greatest live acts in Melbourne, regardless of genre; what is it that you enjoy most about your performances?

Haha thanks! Well it sounds like a big cliche but you try to be in the moment. I don’t love playing the kind of music where I have to think too much when performing. You obviously think, plan and prepare when you’re practicing and rehearsing, but when you get on stage you don’t want to be analysing everything. That’s not entertaining.

Gospel music for example, that’s just pure spirit and feeling. And punk music, when it’s good, that’s just pure energy. That’s what were going for.

What has been the biggest highlight of the Jazz Party trajectory so far?

We’ve had people come up to us at gigs and tell us they hate Jazz, but they love our music. It’s nice to change people’s perspectives.

If you could invite anyone, any artist – no restrictions whatsoever – to come join the band for a night, who would that be?

Andre 3000 comes to mind. I heard in an interview recently [that] he’s taken up bass clarinet and has been taking it to the park to jam with random people. Tom Waits would be fun too.

Who are your heroes?

Some musical heroes: Iggy pop, Aretha Franklin, Tom Waits, Sonny Rollins, Ben Webster, Roberta Flack, Mary Lou Williams, Jelly Roll Morton, Tyler the Creator… the list goes on…

What is ‘jazz’?

Jazz isn’t dead, it just smells funny.

Which tune best describes your current state of mind?

‘Dolphins’ by Fred Neil

Jazz Party perform at the Bunjil Place Summer Sounds free music festival on Saturday 22 February