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Interviews

Scott Tinkler: Trumpet Down Under

By Published: August 4, 2009

AAJ: One of interesting things about you, and other white Australian artists who I've spoken with, is that you don't overtly mention the unique geo-political landscape that is your motherland, particularly the Aborigine people and their place in Australia's history.

Scott Tinkler/Antripodean CollectiveST: Well, actually, I believe that the "geo-political landscape" as you put it, has been a very influential element in my playing. For me, the tyranny of distance has been much more a positive than a negative. I have found that living in Australia and not having the history and expectation of jazz hanging over my head is somewhat liberating. I've always loved jazz but do not by any means profess that I am a jazz musician. Jazz is a style that I've studied and played but I consider myself an Improvising musician. In fact, I was never any good at imitation and as such never tried to sound like any of the players I was into. What I did aim for was to get the same feeling of intensity and expression in my music that I heard in theirs.

When I first visited New York in 1993, I saw so much music. Some was mindblowing and some was mind-numbing. I think the best things I heard were Doc Cheatham

Doc Cheatham
Doc Cheatham
1905 - 1997
trumpet
at Sweet Basil and then Slide Hampton
Slide Hampton
Slide Hampton
b.1932
trombone
with Jimmy Heath
Jimmy Heath
Jimmy Heath
b.1926
sax, tenor
. Both of these events were full of history but also passion and expression. They weren't pretending to know the history; they were the history. This was a reminder for me that I had to continue to work on creating my own style through playing music with my peers and develop a language that was relevant to us here in our "motherland." I have spent quite a bit of time working with indigenous artists here, both in the city and the more traditional setting of the outback. I have workshopped musical collaborations with them. I can't say that their music has had a direct influence, though it has been inspirational. It is more that the remoteness of the environment here in Australia has influenced us all, and as such we do have a connection.

AAJ: With the current worldwide economic crisis, are you able to sustain a career, both at home and touring-wise? Have you noticed a change in the number of people coming out to see you?

ST: First off, I haven't supported myself solely by performing for many years, if ever. Teaching has been a main source of income as well as the odd cleaning/painting/removal/plumbing job or whatever other work I've had to do. The last time there was an economic crash here in Australia, during the late 1980s, was the time I had the most live work. It seems that during a financial depression people actually seek more entertainment, or maybe they just go to pubs to drown their sorrows. Certainly, for me it is much more expensive to travel at the moment, as the Aussie dollar is not strong. So that may change some plans for overseas travel in 2009, though this can also work the other way if you're being paid in the stronger currency. As far as the immediate audience for live performances, I have noticed no change.

Scott Tinkler/Antripodean CollectiveAAJ: Let's get back to your trip to the United StatesA for the 2008 FONT Festival. Give us some general impressions?

ST: New York City certainly is a great place to hang out and see jazz—there are many gigs every night. It's a pretty safe place to be now and feels very conservative to me. I don't think it's the creative hub of improvised music that it once was; this is not to say there isn't some fantastic music coming from there, just that in today's world it's not the be all and end all of music. Personally, I found there to be huge amounts of what I might call cheesy jazz, more for the entertainment of punters than for art. I don't think this is particular to New York, more an indication of the world scene. The exciting music I hear in New York is coming from guys like Peter Evans

Peter Evans
Peter Evans

trumpet
, Jim Black
Jim Black
Jim Black

drums
, Tim Berne
Tim Berne
Tim Berne
b.1954
saxophone
, Ellery Eskelin
Ellery Eskelin
Ellery Eskelin
b.1959
saxophone
, and that whole crew, but unfortunately they weren't playing much in New York at the time of my visit. It seems that even these guys tend to do more and make more outside of New York and indeed the United States. I enjoyed the chance to play some of my music there: Carl Dewhurst and Ken Edie joined me from Australia for the trip and we performed at Cornelia Street for FONT. I also did a duet gig with Mark Helias
Mark Helias
Mark Helias

bass, acoustic
, which was great fun. I did have a good time but I wouldn't say anything really blew me away, except for Peter Evans, who is changing the way the trumpet can be played.

AAJ: In what way is Peter Evans changing the way the trumpet can be played?

ST: Well, Peter Evans has a command of extended techniques that to my ears is unprecedented. It's not just the use of these techniques but his ability to move between them with such apparent ease. Peter will use split tones, multi-phonics, embouchure manipulation, large intervallic leaps, pedal register to double high register, all while circular breathing for extended techniques on the instrument. I find his solo trumpet work particularly awe-inspiring.



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