5 minutes...with Alister Spence

5 minutes...with Alister Spence

Alister Spence is recognised as one of Australia’s most original, distinctive contemporary jazz pianists/composers. With a performing and composing career spanning more than 25 years, his wide-ranging talents have led him to perform with and compose for some of the world’s most respected artists in the areas of contemporary music, improvisation, film and theatre. 

We are delighted to have Alister here soon in residency to present 'Kira Kira,' a commissioned work especially for MIJF 2017. We caught up with him as we get closer to the premiere!

How did your collaboration with Satoko come about?

Satoko and I first began collaborating in 2008 when both my trio and her quartet were booked to play on the same stage at the Tokyo Jazz Festival. We first met when Satoko played for Sydney Improvised Music Association SIMA December 2007. Satoko got to know my partner Sue through a Japanese music critic Masahiko Yuh. Sue helped Satoko set up the 2007 Australian tour then.

In August 2008, my trio came to Japan and we all played together for Raymond MacDonald’s (mutual friend/sax player from Scotland) 'International Big Band'  with other friends and the recording of the show came out as the CD "Buddy.” Satoko and I also played a two piano concert at a club called Cremona and the double bill at Tokyo Jazz Festival, Satoko Fujii Quartet  and Alister Spence trio.

2011: We played together in Sydney in June 2011 for SIMA and also recorded a piano duo for ABC radio.

2015: We also played in an improvisation concert in Berlin in January 2015 with Magda Mayas and Andrea Parkins.

2016: January 2016 we played a piano-rhodes duo in Sydney, and then in February 2016 I had a Japan tour with a band called ‘Sensaround’ and also three concerts with Satoko Fujii’s orchestras in Kobe, Nagoya and Tokyo playing a suite of music I had written called ‘Imagine Meeting You here.’ Satoko and I also played another two piano concert at Koen-dori Classics in Tokyo.

I will be going back to Japan in September for more Orchestra and duo performances. This is due to an Australia Japan Foundation grant that has also enabled Satoko and Natsuki's visit now to Australia

5 minutes...with Alister Spence

Photo: L-R Alister with Satoko Fujii and her husband, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura 

Who/what most inspires you?

Many many things and people! I’m inspired by qualities such as compassion, honesty, courage, adventurousness, creativity, creative risk, and artistic insight; and also beauty (as I perceive it) in many forms, and sound.

Who are you listening to at the moment?

A wide range of things: Les Amazones d’Afrique, Satoko Fujii, Joshua Abrams, Ben Johnston, Dans Les Arbres, Radian, the Tedeschi Trucks band, Mike Cooper, Steve Coleman, Tony Conrad…and a lot to myself (I’m trying to finish a new trio recording)!

What’s been your most memorable performance?

There have been many for many different reasons: I don’t have an absolute favourite.

Some of them include: 

The first concert performances in Bondi, then overseas at the North Sea Jazz Festival with Clarion Fracture Zone in 1988 and 1990, because it was with those inspiring people (Sandy Evans and Tony Gorman) and because it was the first time I had played my/our own music nationally and internationally.

Performing in India with Clarion Fracture Zone and then the Australian Art Orchestra.

Playing just about any of my trio gigs with Lloyd Swanton and Toby Hall!

Touring Canada with my trio in 2006 including Vancouver and Montreal Jazz Festivals.

Playing at the Tokyo Jazz Festival in 2008 with my trio and alongside Satoko Fujii’s quartet and playing duo piano with Satoko.

Playing at the Vivid Festival curated by Brian Eno in 2009 with my trio as a support for (trumpeter) Jon Hassell.

Touring in Australia with the Sunnyboys in recent years.

And also playing small venues last November 2016 in Oslo and Berlin with Raymond MacDonald and last week’s gig with Satoko and Natsuki and Simon Barker at venue505 in Sydney.

5 minutes...with Alister Spence

If you weren’t a musician, what would you be?

I’m not really sure! Something that has me outside more? I love surfing and camping? Maybe carpentry (don’t know why I say that!)? I was a school teacher for a while a long time ago, but not a very good one! I’ve been enjoying studying and researching in recent years, but that would seem pointless and claustrophobic if it wasn’t for my music playing and composing.

What do you do in your down time to relax?

Surfboard riding, camping, reading, talking and being with my partner and family.

What can audiences who attend ‘Kira Kira’ expect to hear?

Strong and beautiful melody and rhythms, at times urgent and propulsive, and at times lyrical and reflective. A blurring of distinctions between written and improvised musical components, between sounds and between solo and group improvisation. Three of the most distinctive, creative and original musical voices and myself working with brand new music commissioned and written especially for MIJF 2017!

What have you got in the pipeline for the rest of 2017?

On August 5th the Alister Spence trio will release our 7th CD entitled ‘Not Everything but Enough’ at the Soundlounge in Sydney.

In September, I will tour again with Satoko and Natsuki in Japan including duo performances and Satoko Fujii Orchestra concerts in Kobe, Nagoya and at Sengawa Jazz Art Festival Tokyo perfoming my suite ‘Imagine Meeting You Here.’

In November I will tour in Australia with Ed Kuepper.

Other releases are also in the pipeline with Raymond MacDonald (duo), with Sensaround, and with two friends from Stockholm. Release dates yet to be decided.

See Alister Spence perform 'Kira Kira' with Satoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura for MIJF on Thursday 8 June at The Jazzlab. Book tickets here

Kira Kira is proudly supported by the Catalyst - Australian Arts and Culture Fund and the Australia Japan Foundation.

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