The 2016 Australian Jazz Bell Awards – acknowledge excellence specifically for jazz performance, creativity and presentation .

Inspiration and aspirations for the three finalists of the Young Australian Jazz Artists category at this year’s awards.

Feature image Niran Dasika

Niran Dasika – Vancouver born, Melbourne raised trumpeter, at home in a wide range of musical settings from the straight ahead to the avant-garde, always with a focus on lyricism and beauty. Niran has performed at the Melbourne International Jazz Festival, the Wangaratta Jazz Festival and TILDE New Music Festival as well as regular appearances at venues around Melbourne with bands including Movement 9, the Monash Art Ensemble and his own ‘Manticore’ quartet, set to release a debut album in late 2015. As part of the Monash Art Ensemble, Niran has performed and recorded with musical luminaries such as George Lewis, Mike Nock, Barney McAll, Nasheet Waits and Mark Helias.

JK: What inspired you to be a jazz musician:
ND: I guess I started playing the trumpet when I was about 10 through the Mordialloc Brass Band, which is now called the Mordialloc Jazz Orchestra. I was introduced to jazz playing classic swing big band charts, played a fair few notated solos and eventually was pushed on to start ‘making it up’. Booker Little’s recordings continue to be an inexhaustible source of inspiration and humility.

JK: Your greatest moment to date?
ND: In January this year, as a kind of graduation present to myself, I spent about a month traveling the south coast of Japan by motorbike with not much more than my trumpet and a change of clothes. Despite being woefully underprepared for the cold, I found some beautiful moments of connection through music – several impromptu performances, hostel jam sessions, practice sessions with the ocean. Came back pretty inspired!

JK: What’s your dream gig?
ND: Recently I’ve been listening almost exclusively to the music of Joanna Newsom, so I can’t imagine anything more exciting than a gig with her! Other fantasies lately have included collaborations with some of my favourite electronic music producers – Four Tet or the Satanicpornocultshop crew would be pretty wild to work with.

Olivia Chindamo is best known for her natural and effortless ability to improvise or “scat”. Her win of the Generations In Jazz Vocal Scholarship at James Morrison’s GIJ Festival ‘14 brought her voice into the spotlight, making her one of Melbourne’s most sought after jazz vocalists. She has since released her debut album “Keep an Eye on Spring” (2015) and has performed numerous sold out shows around Australia, including her Sydney, Darwin, Brisbane and Perth debuts with none other than James Morrison himself.  Often compared to a horn player, at 24 she has already earned the respect of many of her peers and has performed on stages of all sizes, including Bennetts Lane Jazz Club, The Basement (Sydney), Melbourne’s iconic Hamer Hall and several large scale festivals and concerts, including Sydney’s Twilight at Taronga Zoo Summer Series 2015 and 2016, and Darwin’s Jazz On The Green Festival ‘14. Olivia has studied locally and overseas in both Italy and New York where she met and received high commendations from jazz greats such as John Taylor (UK) and Sheila Jordan (USA).

JK: What inspired you to be a jazz musician?
OC: I grew up surrounded by music, so I was exposed to many different genres very early on. I think I was drawn to the creative liberty of jazz, it’s just so exhilarating to be able to spontaneously collaborate with other musicians to make something that can be everything from joyful to poignant, and even a little bit nuts.

JK: Your greatest moment to date
OC: Having 5,500 music students screaming and cheering for me after a scat solo was definitely something to remember. I’m pretty sure I know what it feels like to be Taylor Swift now.

JK: What’s your dream gig?
OC: If I could go back in time and sing with Ella Fitzgerald or Frank Sinatra, I would be a very, very happy girl! Otherwise, a duet with Harry Connick Jr would be nice, provided I can hold myself together and quit fan-girling.

James McLean: at 25 years of age, James McLean is fast establishing himself as one of the leading young voices in Australian Jazz.  James is best known as a drummer in numerous ensembles, however his work as a solo performer and bandleader is increasingly important to his artistic practice. 2015 saw the recording and release of James’ debut solo album Counter Clockwork.  This project explores intersections of composed and improvised material for the drumset, with a focus on polyrhythmic materials and physical movements as methods of musical development.  James was also featured on two other releases in 2015: Praxis, by the Joe O’Connor trio, and Space Available, by the Callum G’froerer quartet.  The second half of 2015 saw the foundation of Dispositions, a flexible ensemble with James and composer-percussionist Phil Treloar at its core.  James received an Australian Council grant for Dispositions to tour Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, performing both improvised works and premiering new compositions.  Recordings of Dispositions are due for release in 2016.

James bell awardsJK: What inspired you to be a jazz musician
JM: My older brother played in big bands through high school, and so I was exposed to Jazz both through seeing his concerts and hearing the music he would play at home.  When I was about 14 he drove me somewhere and he was playing a Charles Mingus album in the car (I can’t remember exactly which one, I think it was just a compilation album). Over the next year or so I devoured every Mingus album I could find, and that was that.

JK: Your greatest moment to date
JM: I can’t isolate a single moment, but launching my solo album earlier this year was a pretty special night for a number of reasons.

JK: What’s your dream gig
JM: I’m pretty lucky, in that I already get to do a lot of gigs that not so long ago would’ve been my answer to this question.  It’d be amazing to work with Henry Threadgill at some point.

Ceremony to be held in Melbourne on Monday 20 June at Bird’s Basement. Tickets are now on sale for the awards which will feature performances from some of the winning artists. For more information on nominees click here