The 2018 Perth International Jazz Festival will be held on 9 – 11 November with performances at the State Theatre Centre of WA, The Bird, Ellington Jazz Club and the Perth Cultural Centre Wetlands Stage. Ahead of the Festival, Kira checked in with local Kate Pass of the Kate Pass Kohesia Ensemble, who are nominated for WAMis this year in both the Jazz and World Music categories.
Having recently released their debut album, the Kohesia Ensemble serves as a platform for bassist Kate Pass’ original compositions, which are influenced by her passion for both jazz and Persian music. This ensemble explores unusual time structures and microtonal melodies, combining the sounds of Persian and jazz instruments for a truly unique listening experience.
Since forming in 2016, the Kohesia Ensemble has gone from strength to strength, receiving nominations for three West Australian Music Industry Song of the Year Awards for both the Jazz and World Music categories, a nomination for a Music Award at Fringe World Festival and performing at Fairbridge Festival.
Hi Kate, can you tell us a bit about your journey into jazz music?
Hi Kira! My love of jazz started in high school, when I was playing trombone in the school Jazz Band. Initially, I was really into Big Band music, and enjoyed improvising and playing in a section with other people, but I soon discovered my love of playing bass! After a few weeks of learning bass guitar, I decided that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, and worked towards auditioning for the Jazz course at WAAPA. At WAAPA I was encouraged to switch to double bass, and I’ve never looked back!
You’ve studied and played jazz all over the world, from New York to Penang to Amsterdam. What came first for you, jazz or travel?
I’ve always loved travelling and knew that I wanted to incorporate that into my work life, somehow. I feel extremely fortunate that being a jazz musician has given me so many amazing opportunities to travel around the world, meeting wonderful people and musicians everywhere I go. It’s a great joy to experience connecting with someone musically, even if you don’t share the same language or culture. Music is a great way of breaking down barriers and bringing people together on a much deeper level.
You formed the Kate Pass Kohesia Ensemble in 2016 as a platform to explore elements of Persian music in your original jazz compositions. How did you discover your love for Persian music?
In 2012 I started playing in a world music ensemble called “Daramad”, and through this met some amazing Persian musicians, including the singer Tara Tiba. I worked closely with her for a few years and learnt as much about Persian music as I could. I developed a passion for the expressive aesthetics of Persian music, the microtonal scale systems, rhythms and improvised nature of the music. I decided to study it for my Honours course at WAAPA, and have been on a path to continue learning about Persian music ever since. I enjoy exploring how elements of Persian music can be used in a jazz setting, trying to create a sound that is neither strictly Jazz, or Persian, but something new.
You have been nominated for WAM Song of the Year Awards for both the Jazz and World Music categories. What does ‘world music’ mean to you and what makes it special?
I find “world music” a difficult term in general, as it tends to be a blanket term to describe anything “non-Western,” but it is a label that is most recognisably used to describe the genre I am in. I think “world music” to me is a celebration of the universality of music, and connection that humans have had to it, all over the world for millennia. It celebrates the commonalities of the human spirit and the way it is expressed through music. Although “world music” may present listeners with unfamiliar instruments, scales and rhythms, it is the human expression of the individual performers that transcends any sense of unfamiliarity, to connect with listeners in a more profound way.
What are you most looking forward to at Perth International Jazz Festival?
The Perth International Jazz Festival is my favourite weekend in Perth. It’s a time to marvel at the amazing local talent we have here, and the great sense of community that jazz musicians have created in Perth. I’m looking forward to checking out some amazing concerts of local and International musicians, especially some of the album launches that are happening.
I’m also really thrilled with the gender diversity in this year’s line-up. Apart from performing with Kate Pass Kohesia Ensemble, I’m playing with Gemma Farrell Quintet, Sara McDonald (USA) and an all-female Big Band called “Artemis”, which will feature some young female musicians from WAYJO, performing a set of music by Australian female composers. More than anything, I’m looking forward to the “hang”, the coming together of musicians to celebrate the thriving Jazz scene that we have in Perth.
What advice do you have for readers who may be new to jazz, in experiencing the Festival?
There is such a wide variety of music under the label of “jazz”. Be open-minded, try something new. Discover what you personally like about music and jazz, and seek that out. Whether you’re into vocal music, big band music, hard swinging jazz, rock-inspired jazz, world music inspired jazz, or modern instrumental music, there is something for you!
Where do you enjoy spending time in Perth when you are not playing music?
I enjoy checking out other live music, particularly at the Ellington Jazz Club, The Moon and Four5Nine. I love Perth beaches in summer, especially Scarborough, and enjoy walking along any spot on the Swan River. I’m also very passionate about food, and love finding places with great vegan options like Little Shop of Plenty in Maylands and ‘Pear’fect Pantry in Wembley.
This year PIJF will see a series of new free community events including:
Open Rehearsals: Observe the inner workings of collaborative rehearsals between local and visiting artists to produce a festival performance.
Artist In Conversation: Informal conversations with visiting guest artists with a local artist mediator.
Jazz Club Choir: Renowned local jazz vocalist Libby Hammer will work with anyone who wants to sing, creating a community jazz choir especially for the festival period and culminating in a festival performance.
Head to the Perth International Jazz Festival website for more information and to book tickets.