Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with Kinderjazz

Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with Kinderjazz

Kinderjazz is a 12 piece big band for young children from Sydney, Australia. How did they end up on my blog? That’s a great question, because, to be honest, I don’t listen to this style of music very often. But the guys over at MTS Management introduced me to them, they wanted an interview, and I figured it would be entertaining. It was! This band is a hoot, and it was fun learning more about their passion for creating music and what the music scene is like in the Land Down Under. This isn’t typically what you find here, but it is my pleasure to introduce you to Kinderjazz.

I have to admit… I am not familiar with Kinderjazz. Tell me more!
Kinderjazz is the only working jazz orchestra for children in the world. It’s a 12 piece big band playing original tunes for children.

You guys are based in Sydney. What is the music scene like in Australia?
Sydney is starting to feel alive again after many years of very little live music.   The Sydney Festival a month long festival in the height of summer that sees huge audiences from around the world and the line up is pretty amazing. Most venues had to pay a hefty licensing fee to have music so it quickly disappeared but this has been repealed so the music is back. Most pubs have rock music, restaurants have piano and duos or trios, the bigger venues have indie or pop and there are several jazz clubs with a loyal following.

It sounds like fun is your M.O. What makes you fun?
We’re the definition of fun! When the big band plays, it’s interactive with all those magnificent musicians. The solos, the creativity, the high energy vibe and crazy lyrics all add up to much joy for both audience and band. For instance, once a feather flew into the air from our singer’s boa just when the trombone player had to stand up and solo. Without missing a beat, he kept the feather in the air for over two minutes while soloing. He had the audience on the edge of their seats. There’s always a lot of clowning around and kids love the humour as well as the complexity. They are never bored.

You are a collection of jazz, ragtime, and blues… The list goes on. Where does an act like this find inspiration?
Our inspiration comes the golden age of music i.e. The 1930s and 40s. There’s also the musicals of the 60s such as Mary Poppins, Sound of Music and Jungle Book. Having said that, the main inspiration for the songs come from our own children growing up and their friends. All the band are parents so we live with our research.

Your band is for children… But do you ever perform for adults?
There are times when the Kinderjazz band transform into the KJ Allstars and play to an adult audience using standard charts such as George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, etc. It’s paying respect to the rich cultural heritage that is jazz. Once we played at the Zoo in Sydney and the audience kept shouting out requests so we did everything from the Rolling Stones to Queen to Elton John. The band can pretty much play anything. We always get told that the adults like Kinderjazz just as much as their kids.

How did Kinderjazz get started?
Kinderjazz happened as a response to trying to take our first baby to a “children’s show” only to see that there was nothing live about it. Everyone was miming and the music was dumbed down. We then realized that children were missing out and wanted to do something about it. We never thought it was going to be so well received and fill that hole so well. Every child is magnificent and we play to that magnificence. Keeping the standard high has been the priority right from the start.

There are 12 of you. Name all 12 members, what instrument he or she plays, and how you all met.

Here you go:

  • George Washingmachine – Lead Vocals
  • Jessica O’Donoghue – Lead Vocals
  • Al Davey –   Lead Trumpet
  • Mike Kenny – 2nd Trumpet
  • Mark Barnsley – Trombone
  • Vanessa Patterson – 1st Alto Saxophone
  • Glenn Henrich – 2nd Alto Saxophone
  • Jason Morphett – Tenor Saxophone
  • Kevin Hunt – Piano
  • David Groves – Double Bass
  • Martin Highland – Drums
  • Aykho Akhrif – Congas

Basically we all knew each other from other gigs around town. I booked the best of the best and fortunately they all said, “Yes!” We’ve been together since 1997.

Have you had the chance to travel/perform outside of Australia?
No, but Kinderjazz is now old enough to leave home so we can’t wait to get over to America. That’s the immediate goal. We have a loyal following there and are excited about the future.

What is the best concert you’ve ever been to?
The Berlin Philharmonic playing at the Sydney Opera House. Nothing comes close!

Speaking of the Sydney Opera House, what was it like performing there?
It was a dream come true. We sold out 30 concerts which is totally insane. There were strollers as far as the eye could see. The view out to the ocean was competing with the little kids in the audience closing their eyes and feeling the music with their hands in the air. Magical!

Christobel founded the band and was the 2012 Australian Person of the Year. Tell me more about that… Very cool!
This was recognition of the tireless work she does for children with special needs for the last 20 odd years. Sharing quality music with children is here passion. From teaching piano to running workshops to choirs, taking Kinderjazz to schools, chairing committees at music competitions and producing seven Kinderjazz albums. She will be starting the very first Sydney special needs choir for children 9-12yrs which will also include deaf kids. She has commissioned a fine young Australian composer to write a song for the 200th birthday of the Botanical Gardens in Sydney in an appropriate Aboriginal language which will be sung by the choir on New Year’s Eve in the gardens before the fireworks.

Where do you find inspiration for a new song?
Most often it’s a small child, usually around four years old that says something or has a unique perspective on the world. It’s always something real. The songs seem to come out of ether. They are always there. The challenge is finding the time to write them down.

What’s next for Kinderjazz?
I’d have to say an overseas tour. Album No. 8 has already been written and that will probably be recorded next year.

In all of the interviews I do, I always give the artist the last word. Go.
My big picture vision is that music will be recognized as essential to humanity and not the frill to be cut at the first budget constraint. My hope is every child that goes to school will learn to sing and learn an instrument as a normal part of their education. We want to change the world.