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December 2003-January 2004

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...I remember hearing Steve Newcomb and I thought 'He just plays so beautifully, how are they going to judge it?' ...


Seasons Greetings...


I hope this posting is a good read, and inspires you to do some listening. There is some fantastic music being played live and appearing on CD around Australia at the moment. Even just in Sydney - I wish I had the energy to go out every single night - I'd be able to at the moment!



Don't forget to let me know if there is someone or something in the Australian jazz scene you'd particularly like to hear about. And thanks for all your feedback. I love hearing from you and welcome your emails.



All the best for a peaceful and joyful festive season, and here's to a wonderful 2004.



~ Miriam



In this edition:



Andrew Robson, alto saxophonist, is originally from Canberra but is now based in Sydney. He won the MCA / Freedman Jazz Fellowship in July 2003 with his trio [Steve Elphick, bass and Hamish Stuart, drums]. All About Jazz caught up with him soon afterwards.



All About Jazz: Why the alto? Why jazz?



Andrew Robson: I'm not really sure... music was always important. Mum and Dad both played the piano. My grandmother was a violinist... she used to play in the pit orchestras for silent movies. I was about ten years old when she died and she left me her violin in her will. I was only ten and I wasn't a musician at that point. So that was unexpected. It was one of those lovely unexpected things that happens. My grandmother also left us a piano, so we had that at home and I took lessons when I was in sixth grade.



When I went to high school I tried the flute. It just wasn't really me. We had the flute in the house for six months, and then back it went. But later I had a really great music teacher ... and he told me he was putting a jazz band together and they needed an alto player. All I had to do was convince my parents to buy me one and I could be in it. I was about 13 or 14 at that time.



AAJ: What was it about that offer that interested you? Had you already played around with the saxophone before?



AR: No, not at all, but it just seemed like a really great idea. Because of the way it was put to me, I suppose.



It's a strange one... I remember doing the standard music assessment and I did alright in that. And I sang in the Canberra boys choir, so there was a lot of music going on, but it wasn't until I got the saxophone and that was it. It was just it. It was easy and I was into it. I mean easy, in that it wasn't a problem to practice. And then the band, that year... I'd only been playing six months and we were entered in the national Eisteddfod and we won! We thought we were pretty hot. I think a few little experiences like that – being in the right place at the right time, a very enthusiastic music teacher. An element of serendipity.



AAJ: I was reading something John Shand said about you and the alto. He was saying that the instrument often has a really piercing sound and that you rise beyond that.



AR: I think the alto can sound bright, very bright and I'm always trying to work on that... trying to keep it dark.



I think most of my favourite players are tenor players — obviously Coltrane. Lovano and Bergonzi and Dewey Redman and Albert Ayler — and they're all tenor players, so I don't know whether maybe there's anything in that ... Bernie McGann has a very very dark sound. I know it's happened many times where someone's listened to Bernie and thought it was a tenor. And I guess I lean a little more in that direction as well.



It's one of those things... I can't tell you why, but the alto is my instrument. I've dabbled with the tenor, but not for many years. When I was about 20 I thought maybe I'm supposed to be a tenor player, but no, I'm not.



AAJ: Are there other instruments you like?



AR: Yeah, the piano. I've definitely come back to the piano but I think it's really a necessity for a horn player - a single line player - to have access to harmony... Maybe some players don't need that but I do. I need to sit down at the piano.



It's very visual too... The saxophone is quite abstract, in a way. Horns generally, the trumpet. It all sort of has to happen out of your line of vision.



AAJ: So who do you listen to? When you go home and you put a CD on...



AR: At the moment I'm listening to Aretha Franklin, the Amazing Grace concerts. It's just absolutely astounding.



AAJ: Is there consistently something that you enjoy, in listening to music.



AR: That sort of emotional quality that cuts across style. I have a lot of jazz records in my collection but I have a lot of other music in my collection as well. There's something that Bob Dylan has, that Coltrane has, that Aretha obviously has ... Dewey Redman, for me, has the same kind of quality, Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra has it.



AAJ: These are also qualities you aim for in your own music?



AR: Yes, for sure. I mean folk music does seem to have it. It's almost like an intrinsic quality because it's just simple honest music. The performers aren't getting hung up about playing their linear dominance or whatever. It's just music for music's sake. So I guess that's probably the thing that would attract me to folk music. And is that the drive behind Mara! for example.



Michelle Morgan is someone I would rate very highly as well... it's such an emotional thing that she does.


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