Sunday, October 30, 2011

Two Questions: The Australian Edition

Although it was born in the U.S.A, jazz is a music that has spread throughout the globe. As a result, it now has practitioners on every continent, perhaps most significantly, Australia. One of the ultimate examples is pianist Daniel Gassin, who does not fit the stereotype of a "typical" jazz musician, as you will learn from reading his answers to my questions. (Actually, as someone who has gotten to know so many of these performers, I can safely state that there is no such thing as a "typical" jazz musician.)

Now, on to the questions and answers:

1. Why did you decide to start playing music professionally?

First of all I guess one has to define the term "professional." If you take a traditional/financial-based approach to this question, then you'd probably find that the vast majority of professional musicians actually aren't that at all, as they need to supplement their income with a "day gig." For most musicians (in Australia at least) this means teaching music privately, predominantly in high schools. For me, it means working about 30 hours a week as a lawyer (personally I prefer this to music teaching as I think it exercises a different part of the brain, and means that I'm still musically fresh after a day of work).

Turning to the more musical definition of the word (i.e. being able to play to a professional standard) I guess it's just something that has developed organically since I did my first paid gig aged 16. Jazz isn't like golf - you don't just "turn pro" one day! Playing professionally was just a natural progression in my musical development and in following my passion for jazz piano.

2. What is it you love about jazz that made you decide to focus on that type of music?

Firstly (let's be honest, here) I probably lacked the discipline and patience required to perfect the classical pieces that I played when I began learning piano. Often by the time I perfected a piece, I would be thoroughly bored of it, and this feeling of musical staleness counteracted any great feeling of technical satisfaction created by accurately reproducing a bunch of dots on page.

The more I reflect on this question, however (I've been asked it many times), the more I think that I was drawn to jazz because it suits not only my inherent musical strengths (improvisation, interaction, use of the ear) but also my personality and outlook on life. To me jazz is ideal because it retains the purist concept of the dedicated intrumentalist playing "serious" music, but without constantly being mired in the formality and stuffiness of other "highbrow" musical genres (this is not to say that jazz isn't taken seriously by those that perform it).

I am also a great believer in the idea that musicians communicate their true personalities through the music they play, and this is particularly true in jazz given the enormous improvisational scope which the genre offers. This wide scope of musical possibilities and potential decisions is also interesting because it places a real onus on the musicians to make their choices responsibly to create quality, meaningful music. It is by making the right decisions (despite having such scope to potentially make the wrong ones) that great jazz musicians can express their wisdom (musical and otherwise).

To see performance videos of Daniel Gassin, go here and here.

For much more info on Daniel than can be included in this post, you can check his website at:

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