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Tim Nikolsky: Getting Real Down Under

By Published: April 20, 2011
AAJ: Will the Aussie Jazz Real Book include transcriptions of solos?

TN: I would certainly like there to be transcriptions of solos. I think it would be particularly useful for students in high school. Students in high school don't have jazz to play in the various syllabi. There's a subject called music performance, which you can do in your final years of secondary school. If you are doing saxophone, you'll probably do a [John] Coltrane piece, another 20th century thing and you might do a Bach thing or something like that, but there's a real absence of Australian content in those lists. The government talks about having quotas for Australian content in educational curriculum but there aren't the resources available for them to do that. There's a lack of Australian Jazz in education. and I think solo transcriptions would be great for students to learn.

AAJ: Is there a danger that the Australian Jazz Real Book or indeed any Real Book might actually stifle creativity among young musicians?

TN: It's an interesting question. It's a double edged sword because you talk to some university lecturers and their approach is that, yeah, it's great students learn transcriptions and language but you're not developing your own style, you're not developing your own improvisational voice. Some people believe it's better to enable the students by having the space to improvise so that they can express themselves. If you look at the average teenager in high school who has picked up an instrument and are starting to get serious, the people of this generation are so switched on and so open to any music from anywhere around the world. Their potential to be inspired by different things is essentially unlimited. There other side of the coin is that they get bombarded with so many things that there's a danger they can't see the wood for the trees. Hopefully, young musicians will feel inspired at the availability of tunes composed by their peers, and feel that, one day, they might have their tunes in a Real Book, too. I think learning tunes doesn't stifle creativity; it opens you up to more possibilities, and also stops you from trying to reinvent the wheel.

I would like to see the Australian Jazz Real Book widely used but I don't think it will be overused because I think people will always be doing their own thing, and creating their own voice.

AAJ: What stage is the book at? When do you hope it will be published?

TN: I'm pretty much done with the fourth draft and I don't think there'll be many more changes . I've been talking to publishing companies to negotiate the rights to publish composers' works legally, which is obviously important, and I think that's going to be quite a process. There are probably only a couple of dozen Australian jazz artists who have existing publishing agreements in place that I would have to negotiate with and, once I know what I'm able to negotiate and how much it would cost to license those particular tunes, I'll look at publishing it. I'll probably end up doing it myself, and I hope to apply to the Australian Council for funding to go towards the costs of printing it. I'm still a little ways off at the moment but getting closer and closer all the time.

AAJ: How do you hope the Australian Jazz Real Book impacts on the Australian jazz scene?

TN I hope that the Australian Jazz Real Book brings the jazz community closer together. I'd really like us to play each others' tunes more. If I see [trumpeter] Paul Williamson on a gig, then we'll actually have shared knowledge about each other's tunes that we can blow over. The best thing would be that the pathways of communication between people open up a bit more. And hopefully, people will contribute their ideas for what they'd like to see in Volume 2. But I'd just like to get Volume One out first, and see how it goes. Hopefully, it'll get into educational institutions, and the next generation of jazz musicians will be checking out Jamie Oehlers and [multi-instrumentalist] Dale Barlow, as well as John Coltrane. Hopefully the AJRB will help there to be a bit more of an awareness of Australian jazz, and encourage the development of an Australian jazz sound.

Photo Credits
Pages 1, 3, 5: Kaye Pratt

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