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Peter Auret: Turning the Tide

By Published: September 12, 2011
AAJ: Can you talk about how you formed your own trio, and also how you met Kevin Davidson?

PA: I met our pianist, Roland Moses, about six or seven years ago whilst working with a local jazz-fusion group called Absolute Zero. In that time, we became good friends and started performing together more frequently. He has always been one of my favorite piano players to work with, so when I decided to form this group he was the obvious choice. Roland has also been instrumental in helping to arrange my tunes, and his performance on the album took the songs much further than I could have ever imagined. Although I had played with bassist James Sunney before in pickup jazz bands, our working relationship really started about four years ago when we were both booked to work as the rhythm section for a popular South African rock band. We immediately hit it off both musically and socially. So I decided to put James and Roland together to feel out the tunes, and instantly realized that James's expressive musicality complimented Roland's fiery intensity. Since recording Turn the Tide, the trio has developed even more of a sonic identity and a synergy.

I've known about Kevin Davidson since I was 18. He's a lecturer at TUT and [has] a wealth of knowledge about jazz harmony and improvisation. I really got to know him while I was playing with Jonathan, and from time to time we'd perform together. I think it was in 2009, maybe 2010, when he booked me for some gigs. Roland Moses also lectures at TUT, and so he and Kevin are colleagues. We assembled on these gigs with Kevin, and while I was in the process of finalizing my own album, Kevin sent me a message after a concert saying, "It would have been incredible if we had recorded that!" I thought that this would be a great opportunity to record him and get this label going with another artist. We ended up recording Kevin's album in one day.

AAJ: Your album you did in four days, correct?

PA: Yes, we had more time with my album—not as much time as I would've liked, though, given the costs associated with rehearsing, recording, and mastering.

With Kevin's album, the charts were spectacular and clear, but there was still a challenge in coming to grips with his music. But we walked in and went for it. Sometimes you can hear some uncertainty, but as Kevin says, "It's got a sense of adventure."

AAJ: And it sounds like a live gig.

PA: That's essentially what it is. I was hoping that it would be more of a planned production, but Kevin has his own method. We are going to do a second album for Kevin, which is going to be a bit different. It'll be more of an intense funk-type project. I've also recorded an album for Roland, which features Pete Sklair on bass and Rob Watson on drums, who I think is one of the country's greatest talents. So it just needs to be mastered and then it'll be ready, and we'll release it through the Afrisonic label/collective.

AAJ: Regarding your own album, most of the songs are original compositions of yours, and quite ethereal in sound.

PA: Yes, it took me quite a few years to develop and select the music. I'm a drummer, and not formally trained as a jazz musician, so it took me a while to come up with the tunes. Roland and James interpreted the tunes and captured the mood I wanted perfectly. Obviously, I love the improvisation, but the tunes had to be strong and moody. It's not super complex, there's room for freedom and improvisation, but still strong melodies. That's what I was trying to go for—I don't know how memorable they are. I've also started working on new music, and that might even push further in this direction.

AAJ: How are you handling distribution as you drive this forward?

PA: I went to see a company called Maxplay SA, and they distributed to music stores like Look & Listen, which I think draws a stronger jazz crowd than [its competitor] Musica. So Maxplay distributes to these stores, and the owner agreed to take my album and Kevin's album. I also distribute through CDBaby, and they distribute throughout the world digitally. It may not move massive numbers of units, as they have a hell of a lot of artists, but I've already sold some records and had nice download activity. So I'm happy with that—my goal is to build my profile and promote my career and music.

AAJ: Like a business card?

PA: Yes, exactly. I've given a hell of a lot of the albums away. Most recently, I also got an email from a guy in Japan, who is an independent distributor, so he's taken on some albums too, and I think it's available throughout Japan. It's not something I would've thought would be an avenue, so the fact that it happened this way is quite cool for me. My hope is that I can now go over to Japan for performances.

I've done some shows with my group locally, but mostly they're gigs where we play standards and only a little bit of original material. The trouble with this country, and especially Joburg, is that there aren't set places to go and see jazz. I mean, you've got jazz in coffee shops and restaurants, but it's mostly standards. What I'd like to do is set up formal events, more like what's going on in the States. Our idea with the collective would be to book venues and showcase all our bands and our styles.

To the Afrisonic catalogue, we're also going to be recording guitarist Hugo de Waal, as well as saxophonist Joel Penner's band, The Trench Ensemble.

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