GETTING TO KNOW: WAYNE KELLY

Wayne Kelly has been a professional musician for over 30 years and has played or recorded with notable musicians including Wynton Marsalis, James Morrison, Dale Barlow, Andrew Speight, Don Burrows, Roy Hargrove, Walter Blanding, Marcus Printup, Andrew Dickeson and Eric Alexander. Wayne plays as a solo jazz piano player as well as with his own trio and with larger ensembles. He has performed overseas for a number of years including residencies at the Venetian Resort in Macao; the Park Hyatt and the Peninsula Hotel in Shanghai; and CJW in Beijing. Wayne has a Graduate Diploma in Jazz Studies from the Australian National University. Over the last few years, the Wayne Kelly trio has a residency at Australia’s iconic café, Tilley’s.

The Street talked to Wayne before his gig with his trio, Brendan Clarke and Andrew Dickeson, on 20 February.

WHY JAZZ?

Jazz for me is a way of expressing myself and tapping into what I call ‘The Freedom Realm’…. I love listening to Jazz and playing Jazz – Duke Ellington, Jelly Roll to Monk of course….Hank Jones to Marcus Roberts…..Keith Jarret and Brad Mehldau….and many more Jazz pioneers are my inspirations….I love playing Jazz piano that covers intense to introspective to mellow and reflective….a whole range of emotions and intellect….I love investigating and exploring the universe of Jazz….it’s a never ending passion for me….at 51 I feel like I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg  and that’s exciting for me….keeps me young….I love the feeling of swing and blues which are the main ingredients that make up Jazz….it makes me cry, makes me laugh, makes me move, makes me dance…..

WHAT ARE THE POSSIBILITIES OF THE PIANO FOR YOU?

Endless….I’ll never master it…. but always wanting to flow and improve on this magnificent invention more and more….able to bring what I hear in my head and dreams to fruition and make it a reality. I am so fascinated by the diversity of the Piano…..Jazz is my flow but I also love the Piano classical repertoire…. such as Bach, Beethoven, Chopin and Rachmaninov. I love that sound….my heart flies when I hear that music played….classical piano also helps me tap into that ‘Freedom Realm’.

THE FIRST HALF OF YOUR PERFORMANCE WILL SHINE A LIGHT ON THE SOUNDS OF THELONIOUS MONK INCLUDING MISTERIOSO, THE FIRST ORIGINAL 12 BAR BLUES WORK MONK RECORDED. WHAT DID YOU CHOOSE THIS PIECE?

The Blues is the essence of Jazz….Misterioso is a slow swinging soulful piece and I really like Monk’s take on the blues…He has a unique perspective and understands the blues and brings a breath of fresh air to a deeply rich art form born out of despair and hope I chose this piece because it brings everything in perspective….it sets the mood….real, raw and honest.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT MONK’S WORK THAT INSPIRES YOU?

His approach to music is out of the Box….It’s not the ordinary….he investigates the art form so thoroughly and makes it extraordinary….I love his way at looking at Jazz Music. His music makes me think….makes me dance….makes me want to play like that….makes me sing for joy….makes me cry….He is definitely a genius….a true pioneer….I love the way he plays the piano….his use of space…. his trills, his attack, his humor, the way he dances, he puts himself wholeheartedly into his music and you can’t help but come into his world 

THE SECOND PART FEATURES YOUR OWN COMPOSITIONS INCLUDING THE WILD GAZELLE, WRITTEN FOR YOUR WIFE ARY. TELL US MORE.

10/10/2020 I just recently married the love of my life – Ary….I wrote this composition on 28/3/2020 – it just flowed….I had in mind the elegant female Wild Gazelle….how it can move ever so swiftly and gracefully. It has a innate sense of what to do in tricky situations, I looked up the mountain Gazelle and how it defies gravity….amazing…. that’s like the miracle in my life my now wife Ary…. 

HOW DO YOU DESCRIBE YOUR OWN SOUND?

I was given the best compliment when I was playing a gig at Tilleys with my Trio….a man came up to me and said ‘I’m an atheist but I must admit you guys remind me of the Holy Trinity’….I was blown away…. when I think of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit I think of a pure loving, interweaving, harmonious, trusting, perfect in every way, total groovin community….I aspire to that….I’m going for that pure love, that pure joy sound, whether solo piano or a community of three guys giving all they got….whether it be quiet and introspective or as Bold as a Lion….hopefully to the listener the sonic waves will take the listener to a world of Love, Joy and Peace….

TELL US ABOUT YOUR TRIO AND HOW YOU COLLABORATE WITH OTHER MUSICIANS.

My Trio for over 30 years of being established have had different drummers and double bass players….The longest standing members were Mark Sutton on Drums and Ben O’Loghlin on Double Bass….hoping in the future to work with them again…For the Street Theatre I’m playing with the amazing Andrew Dickeson who understands profoundly how to swing and challenges me to play my best….that’s the same with world class Double Bassist Brendan Clarke….he possesses a deep groove and believes in jazz music and how the music changes atmospheres, changes lives and brings hope in these uncertain times….What I like to bring to the table when I’m working with musicians is how can I contribute to this community of sound and be encouraging and uplifting.

WHAT HAVE BEEN AND CONTINUE TO BE THE CHALLENGES OF WORKING DURING COVID-19?

At the start of COVID-19 there was no gigs….

So in that time I made a conscious decision to be proactive…. I pondered on what was important for me as a musician. How can I inspire and be inspired… I dug deep and I started composing at the piano…..I also just played piano at home every day,  missed playing to people….now the gigs are picking up…. I’m grateful for any work. Also I teach piano….that took a hold also at the start of COVID-19….but now it’s improving.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME A COMPOSER AS WELL AS A MUSICIAN.

There’s nothing quite like having created something that’s uniquely you and composing I feel draws the me out into the stratosphere to inspire and be inspired….I love the process of composing.It’s like being a woodworker and being in your workshop and chiselling away at something you’ve conceived in your head and then bringing it to life….Working on your art….

From a young age I’ve always wanted to be a musician….I just love the fun in it….the exploring….the discoveries….the Goose bumps….I remember my first ever band I was in….I was 13….it was a garage band….We jammed playing blues, pop stuff and it blew my mind…I was in another world….I didn’t want to leave that World….now at 51 years young I still don’t….I’m still having fun….

HOW DID YOUR STUDIES AT THE ANU SCHOOL OF MUSIC INFORM YOUR CAREER?

It gave me a focus on Jazz and working on the craft… hanging out with fellow students….communal listening over a coffee and then talking about what we just listened to….eg Miles Davis,Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane etc:…The teachers also being great Jazz players were supportive, inspiring, trained and prepared us in  some many ways….Such as….How to improve on your musical talent, How to practice, Playing in a band situation, Arranging and composing, Transcribing, Theory, Harmony and analysis, History of Jazz. . . Truly great training ground for me to become an informed Musician 

WHAT’S MOVING YOU IN MUSIC TODAY?

A whole lot….I’m loving music more than ever….There’s so much good music out there….I love Bob Dylan’s new double album Rough and Rowdy Ways and Murder most Foul…. I’ve also been listening to one my favorite jazz piano legends Bill Evans 10 box cd set (I still play cds) live at New York’s jazz club The Village Vanguard…. I have been listening to Cannonball Adderley… I was going to play this music with Andrew Dickeson’s project in Sydney last year but didn’t come off due to COVID-19. I love Keith Jarret and been listening to him play Bach’s Well Tempered Claviers Book 1. When I sit at the piano I still love playing Jazz standards, improvising, playing Boogie Woogie, stride, playing Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag and slowly working on Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and Chopin….

WHAT’S ON THE HORIZON FOR YOU?

Digging Deeper In music. Becoming a better musician. Flowing more on the piano….that is spending time with just me and my Piano. And face the never ending passionate journey day by day….Compose more….Increase my repertoire. Play more concert type gigs….Focus on The Wayne Kelly Trio and promote that to the world and chisel away at the art of Jazz piano.

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