The tyranny of distance – there are some amazing players in Perth, and we just don’t get to hear them enough on this side of our island. Daniel Susnjar is one of those players with a huge list of awards and credits in Australia and the US

“This album represents to me the culmination of so many close personal and musical friendships. I’m elated to have these musicians perform on my new album, and am deeply touched by their spirited performances and highly personal interpretations of my music.” Says Susnjar ass we we catch up with him to talk about his latest album is Moth to a Flame.

“We recorded the whole album in 24 hours. I was on tour with the Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian sextet at the time. We did a bunch of gigs in the US and we had a day-and-a-half off in the middle of this tour. I booked a studio in Brooklyn called Systems Two, rented a hotel for the guys and set up the drums while they were resting. We did a night session, then a full day session, then we went straight to a gig in Washington the next day.”

Perhaps the most fascinating fact behind Susnjar’s passion for Afro-Peruvian music is that he stumbled onto the genre entirely by accident. Having just graduated with a Masters of Music degree from the University of Miami, he decided to briefly visit New York City before flying back to Perth, and a friend invited him to a New York club to see Gabriel Alegria’s Afro-Peruvian sextet. Susnjar had never heard Afro-Peruvian music before and he says it blew him away.

“Five months later I was back in New York, taking a break from my doctoral studies. I phoned up Gabriel to see where he was playing that night. He said his drummer was sick and asked me to fill in. That was the start of it. A few weeks later we were all at Festival of Miami and they got me up as a special guest with Shelton Berg, Dean of Music at the University of Miami. We were at dinner afterward and they suggested I study Peruvian music. Gabriel took me back to Peru to play with the band on the road and study.”

Susnjar’s debut release “Su Su Nje” makes reference to master Peruvian percussionist Freddy “Huevito” Lobaton’s pronunciation of Susnjar’s family name (Su Su Nye). The album gained critical success and prestige, and offered Daniel the opportunity of recording his original music and arrangements of Peruvian songs with Gabriel Alegria’s band which includes top-shelf Peruvian musicians Gabriel Alegria – trumpet, Laura Andrea Leguia – saxophone, Yuri Juarez – guitar and Freddy “Huevito” Lobaton – percussion and spontaneous vocalizations aka “guapeo.”  Also included are Alex Norris – trumpet, Troy Roberts – saxophone, Chad Bernstein – trombone and conch shells, Paul Bollenback – guitar, Sam Anning – bass and Daniel’s father Danny – guitar.

“Moth to a Flame” signifies a forward advance in the development of Susnjar’s Afro-Peruvian-inspired drumming and composing skills, as well as his abilities as an arranger of popular songs. For this recording, he chose to augment the rhythm section by adding piano to the guitar/ bass/drums/cajon combination heard on “Su Su Nje,” whilst foregoing the use of trombone in favour of a streamlined two-horn frontline of trumpet and saxophone. Taking full advantage of this refined lineup, Daniel composed a piece inspired by the steadfast resilience of Auschwitz concentration camp victim Pius Ludwik Bartosik (1909-1941). “Pius Bartosik” won the 2015 WAM Jazz Song of the Year Award.

Susnjar has an outstanding lineup including several world-class guest artists – all of whom are outstanding bandleaders in their own right – including saxophonist Troy Roberts, vocalist Vivian Sessoms, trumpeter Alex Norris and Daniel’s father Danny – who performs a brilliant guitar solo on “Feeling Good.” Martin Bejerano and Renato Diz share the piano duties, and Alegria’s sextet members (including standout Peruvian bassist Mario Cuba) round out the lineup.

Daniel Susnjar launches “Moth to a Flame” in Sydney on Thursday, December 8th at 8pm at LazyBones Lounge (294 Marrickville Rd, Marrickville).

Tickets are available from Featuring Luke Minness – soprano saxophone, Karl Laskowski – tenor saxophone, Steve Barry – piano, Nicolas Villanueva – guitar, Zac Grafton – bass, Giorgio Rojas – percussion, Daniel Susnjar – drums/compositions

More info on Daniel Susnjar

Editor of Jazz Australia, formerly contributor to Sydney Morning Herald and Women's Money MagazineMusic programmer and producer