Back in my formative baby boomer years I was a keen jazz fan. I loved Dave Brubeck and singers such as Ella Fitzgerald and Mel Torme. Then the Beatles and the 60s took over and jazz slipped into the background. Over the years I didn’t completely eschew jazz, enjoying the smoky sounds of masters such as Miles Davis, but have added many genres to my aural amusement list ranging from the classical – I’m a long-time subscriber to the Australian Chamber Orchestra – to blues, country, bluegrass, zydeco, world, you name it.
Now I’m being reintroduced to the evolving world of jazz through the work of my Paris-based nephew, Alex Stuart, who is winning awards in his adopted country for his complex compositions and playing style. It’s very different to the jazz that caught my early attention and reflects the multicultural nature of today’s world, especially his world in cosmopolitan Paris, with its melting pot of post-French-colonial citizenry. The City of Light is one of the world’s jazz hotspots keeping company with the likes of New York and Montreal.
Alex’s music assimilates this urbane mix with inspiration from rock musicians such as Dirty Projectors, Bjork and Grizzly Bear, and African, Asian and Latin American accents. The acclaimed spirit and techniques of West African music have infiltrated as a result of a stint in the group ‘Abakuya’, led by Camerounian Francois Essindi, and a 2009 residency in India with master sarodist Anindya Banerjee added the beautiful melodies and complex rhythms of the Hindustani classical tradition.
Alex moved to Paris in 2005 after completing his Bachelor of Music at the Australian National University School of Music. The city was already familiar: he lived there with his family for four years when he was a schoolboy. But not even Paris can dull the call of the Australian surf and beautiful South Coast New South Wales with Alex strategically planning an Australian tour to promote his new album Place to Be that incorporated a gig at the newly completed Windsong Pavilion at the Four Winds Festival site at Barragga Bay, Bermagui. It drew a sell-out crowd including many baby boomers like me who obviously harboured fond memories of a beatnik past.
After-gig drinks on the lawns in the sylvan environs of the Windsong Pavilion at Barragga Bay.