Image Credits: Brenton Foster © Annette Ruzicka
September 18, 2018
Songs about love
We interviewed Brenton Foster, an Australian pianist and composer, author of the successful 2017 album The Nature Of Light.
> Ivano Rossato
You recently performed the work Love, As We Know It at the Melbourne International Jazz Festival after winning the PBS Young Elder of Jazz Award, could you tell us about that experience?
I was honoured and grateful to have been selected as the recipient of this year's PBS FM Young Elder of Jazz Award. It is an amazing opportunity to compose and showcase a new work with the support of such iconic Melbourne cultural institutions in PBS and MIJF. For this project, I collaborated with Christopher Poindexter, an incredible poet based in the USA. Together we wrote a collection of songs about love. Songs that reflect on heartache and hurting, and songs that celebrate hope and humanity. I'm really proud of the music that came out of this commission. The performance was a dream too! I was fortunate to be joined by some amazing Australian artists, namely Stephen Magnusson (guitar), Gideon Brazil (sax, flute, bass clarinet), Jordan Tarento (bass) and Aaron McCoullough (drums). The band made the music come alive and brought passion and energy to what had existed solely in my head for months. I'm about to release some great footage of the gig.
Which project are you working on now?
I'm currently working towards a studio recording of Love, As We Know It for a slightly expanded ensemble. It's great to revisit the songs after a little time away and I'm excited to hear where that project will end up. Apart from this, I've got a couple of other projects on the go. I'm finishing up with mixing and mastering a small trio record I made last year of some non-original material. I'm hoping to release that in early 2019. I'm also starting work on some solo piano material. It's in the early stages but I'm excited to get stuck into that.
Listening to your compositions you perceive a predominance of very singable melodies. Is it a natural process or a conscious and pre-established choice?
Thank you. I'm pleased that my music is lyrical and singable. I wouldn't say that it's a deliberate or conscious choice – I like to think that I'll let the music take me where it wants to naturally go. I suppose that I predominantly listen to music that is melodically subtle and simple. I also tend to compose melodies by singing them, which I think helps to create extended phrases that I might not conceive of at the piano.
What are the artists (even non-jazz) that you think have most influenced your style and the way you compose?
I'm constantly finding new sources of influence. The artists I keep coming back to from the jazz world are Herbie Hancock and Brad Mehldau. Their recorded output is so rich and diverse that it offers so much to receptive ears. More recently, I've been particularly inspired by the orchestration of Mehldau's Highway Rider record, which he credits influence from another favourite record of mine, Tom Waits' Blue Valentine. I also love John Mayer as a songwriter and performer. His writing is a great demonstration of brevity and a reminder to leave out anything unnecessary.
...and what are the artists of today that most excite you?
That's a tough one. Some favourite recent records are Ben Vanderwal, Tom O'Halloran and Lucky Oceans' My Name Is Nobody, Andrea Keller's Still Night: Music In Poetry, Ross McHenry Trio's The Outsiders, Matthew Sheens' American Counterpoint. I also love Jacob Mann, Louis Cole, Vulfpeck – basically any artist that is looking to do something a little different, whether it's their music or how they present it.
Streaming and the Internet: a gift or a curse?
I think streaming and the Internet are the greatest resource for musicians. A large part of my audience is based in places that I have never performed or visited. Thanks to platforms such as Bandcamp, I'm able to interact with people in every corner of the Earth and share my music with them. In the same way, I'm able to be inspired by other artists that I wouldn't have known of otherwise. I think the Internet gives artists a great responsibility and challenge to consider how they can best share their work with others in order to create a sustainable career. It's by no means easy but it's exciting (and sometimes exhausting) to consider all the new possibilities available.
What is your "dream" future project?
I'm hoping to continue to challenge myself as a composer and performer. I want to work with new ensembles, new sounds and new environments to keep developing and refining my artistic voice. I'd love to write for strings and orchestral settings. I'm keen to work with electronic artists within my solo-piano project. I'd also like to write with others – so much of my work is composed solely by me so it would be refreshing to write and perform as a band. In terms of specific artists, it was a great thrill to have Stephen Magnusson perform my music earlier this year and I'm excited to feature him on a record in the near future!
Reservados todos los derechos – All rights reserved – 版權所有 – 版权所有; An espresso with... Brenton Foster copyright Jazzespresso 2018.
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