Five Minutes with...Julien Wilson

Five Minutes with...Julien Wilson

Australian Jazz leaders Zac Hurren and Julien Wilson deliver an incredible tribute to close friend and musical giant David Ades as part of our Summer Sessions on Saturday 16 January.

David Ades was regarded as one of Australia’s finest saxophonists. He developed a unique sound and enjoyed taking it around the world, playing with some of the finest musicians on the planet.

After receiving a terminal diagnosis, his spirited approach to life was once again demonstrated when he took a final trip to New York to record one last album, which he titled A Life in a Day.

Julien Wilson has been kind enough to chat with us and share some more intimate details during the time the album was created and the significance this show has for the entire band.


Tell us about this project and why it means so much to you?

David Ades was a very dear friend and inspiration (in life and music) for both Zac and I.

I toured with Dave in 2012 playing his music with different rhythm sections in Melbourne, Hobart and Adelaide. This was only a month after he discovered he had advanced stages of lung cancer and it was heavy experiencing the ways in which he was dealing with the reality of a terminal diagnosis.

Zac played with him in Brisbane and Sydney on that tour. Dave always made every moment count, but from that moment on it became clear that our time together would be extremely limited.

He continued to attack life with the same vigour and vitality he always had. He visited Germany a number of times to receive treatments. His last defiant act was to fly to New York to record another album. The mastered album arrived express mail two nights before he passed away and he got to listen a few times to the music he had created with his New York mates. He felt these were the best tunes he'd ever written.

I promised Dave's family that we would make sure the music got out one way or another. Eventually the best way to do that seemed to be on my new label. I established Lionsharecords just to release my own recordings but this seemed like a natural and obvious extension of/departure from that.

At the same time that I was preparing the production and release of the album Zac was organising a tribute gig to Dave at Wangaratta Jazz Festival. It happened that the two events happily coincided and we were able to release his album at that performance. The gig was a joyous celebration channelling Dave's upbeat and infectious spirit as I'm sure the concerts on this upcoming tour will be


How long had you known David? 

I met Dave in 1999, but he had been in my consciousness for 10 years before that as a legend of Australian saxophone playing. He almost seemed like an urban myth to me, so I was knocked out when I met him how down to earth he was. The first thing we shared before any words was a big hearty laugh. After that we played every time we met, and often just talked on the phone from our homes in Melbourne and Byron.

What was it that you admired most about his music?

With the best artists music is an exact reflection of their personality and Dave was the best of the best. I loved him for his directness, his honesty, his passion and his singularity. And his SOUND!! What a sound. One note could pierce you straight through the heart and lift you up off your feet. The next note could make you feel like weeping. He had an incredible strength of character. 

Who were some of the key influencers of David's work?

It was hard to pinpoint as he'd created such an individual voice of his own, but Charlie Parker was undoubtedly his first and strongest influence. Those who knew him when he first started playing said he used to play reams of bird licks, whole solos even, but very quickly he started taking those phrases and twisting them and seeing how many different contexts he could apply them to.

He loved Cannonball Adderley too. Then there were all the people he worked and played with. The musicians he played with in Harlem when he moved there as a 19 year old were definitely a huge influence. People like Stanley Turrentine, Joe Locke, Larry Smith, Steve Coleman. Phil Treloar was a huge influence on Dave's attitude and concepts. As was Mark Simmonds who Dave worked with in Treloar's band but also in many other contexts.

There are many stories of those two blowing up a storm and tearing the roof off venues together in the Cross and Surry Hills in the 80s. Of course he loved Bernie McGann too. We used to listen to Ellery Eskelin and Tony Malaby together a fair bit and talk about their sounds and concepts. He seemed to really have a thing about listening to the sound of the tenor sax more than the alto. 

Have you played with Zac or the other band members previously? If so, what projects have you worked on together?

Zac and I have played together in a number of situations, most importantly the recent tribute concert at Wangaratta. All the other musicians on the tour have musical and personal connections with David. That was very important for us in choosing who to work with. if I started listing the projects we've all done together here it would go on for ever. There are two musicians I haven't played with before so I'm really looking forward to meeting them musically. 

What can the audience expect about the show that make it unique to others?

Firstly, many of these tunes were written specifically for Dave's final recording so they've never been performed in public. We'll also play some of his older tunes. The concerts are in tribute to an incredibly intense, forthright and beautiful man who we all loved dearly so the music will be emotionally charged but I can guarantee it will be a joyous celebration of Dave and his music. You couldn't ever accuse David Ades (or Zac Hurren for that matter) of holding back or taking it easy or doing things by halves. If I had to describe it in one phrase I'd say you can expect "Heart-on-sleeve" music. 

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