Jazz in winter – ade ishs

Ade Ishs is a composer, a pianist, and a bandleader residing in Melbourne, Australia. His musical style revolves around contemporary jazz, classical, folk, and meditational. With eight albums bearing his name, his music has been described as “strong … and beautiful”

(Ivan Lloyd, ABC Jazz).

We asked ade a few questions in the lead up to his performance for the Ballarat Winter Festival Sunday July 8 at The Art Gallery of Ballarat.

JAZZ series Q. What does jazz mean to you?

ade ishs A. It’s not an easy question to answer. I guess, one of the things that I find really fascinating about jazz is improvisation as an ‘in-the-moment’ element.

In a way, it’s like how we live our everyday lives. We can plan so many things for a particular day, but we don’t know what will exactly happen. For example, I didn’t anticipate that you would ask me this question. However, we always do our best to respond, and the other person we’re talking to will respond back, and so on. Having said that, improvisation is not something exclusive to jazz per se. Case in point, my hero, Johann Sebastian Bach, the renowned Baroque composer, to the best of my knowledge was an improviser.

My late music teacher, Peter Ferdinandus, from whom I learned classical performance (among other things) imparted me a piece of advice along the line of, “If you want to be good at jazz, learn [J. S.] Bach.” Although it made no sense to me at that time, I followed it anyway. I’m glad I did.

JAZZ series Q. What jazz musician inspires you?

ade ishs A. I can’t put down only a single name as my source of inspiration. I have listened to many, and they have inspired me to varying degrees.

Among my biggest heroes are Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays. I am a huge fan of Pat Metheny Group. Metheny and Mays make a team of great composers. Their tunes are just so beautiful, not to mention their performance, so illustrious. When I was younger, I listened to Dave Koz a lot.

I know that in your question, you said jazz, but truth is, I get inspired by musicians of (at the risk of being politically incorrect) various genres.

From the classical world, I already mentioned J. S. Bach. I also love [Wolfgang Amadeus] Mozart and Claude Debussy. I also like pop-folk music, and I love The Corrs. And there are younger musicians that have come up with great stuff. In the present day, I’m a big fan of Becca Stevens.

JAZZ series Q. What’s your favourite thing about winter?

ade ishs A. It’s dark. I don’t associate the gloomy sky of winter with low mood. Instead, it reminds me of contemplation, romance, and calmness. (I find bright summer sunlight to be unsettling.)

JAZZ series Q. What’s the best thing about live jazz performances?

ade ishs A. It’s live, and it’s jazz. 😃

I guess I like the spontaneity. Sometimes you can see how the musicians look surprised by what happen.

JAZZ series Q. What live music performance made an impression on you and why?

ade ishs A. If I really have to mention one…

Pat Metheny brought his Unity Group with Chris Potter, Antonio Sanchez, Ben Williams, and Giulio Carmassi to Melbourne’s Hamer Hall in October 2014. I just can’t mention any other single gig I’ve watched so far that’s more impressive than that one. At the age of 60 years old, Metheny played incredibly three hours non-stop, yet he and his bandmates could tell a single big story, and there was no single boring moment. Did I say non-stop? Well, I forgot about the three encores then.

JAZZ series Q. How long have you been performing with eMotion Band?

ade ishs A. Never. The show at the Ballarat Winter Festival would be the debut, which makes it a very compelling reason for everyone to check out this newest project of mine!

JAZZ series Q. What is emotive music?

ade ishs A. Let me google that. Just kidding. Well, this is going to be long.

There’s music that’s emotive/visceral. At the same time, there’s also cerebral music—you know, the one that makes you scratch your head and say to yourself, “I think I like it”. And then, there’s much in between.

I personally love music that’s emotive. This isn’t to say that there’s no intellectual factor in it. However, I believe that emotion is energy for motion, something that moves us from one state to another state. I love music that feels good and nourishes the soul.

Generally, when I write music, I mostly just care that it sounds good. Sometimes, the result is something easy to listen or play. Sometimes, it’s difficult. But I don’t think about that when writing. The ease or difficulty is a side effect.

Ironically, within the set of emotive music, I tend to prefer that with some complexity in it. In other words, more intellectually challenging music.

I would classify most pop music as emotive. But I don’t like pop music that’s too simple, too repetitive, or not much creativity going in there.

Some experimental musicians try to be ‘too smart’ by putting in a lot of dissonance, ‘weird’ chord progressions, fast-changing scales, and all sorts of things that might be interesting academically, but honestly, such music is very hard to listen to.

I guess, the key here is, ‘the right mix’, i.e. putting in the ‘smarts’ without sacrificing the ‘feel-good’ elements. For example, in my compositions, I don’t really care if at times, what I write happens to have irregular time signatures. If they sound good, I leave them there. I won’t try to ‘retrofit’ them into regular time signatures.

On the other hand, sometimes what I write happens to be musically very simple and it doesn’t make sense to make it more complex than necessary. The complexity can then be added on the fly during performance.

If everything that I’ve said here sounds abstract, then I guess, you’d better listen to a real example. For that one, allow me the opportunity for this shameless plug: come and check out my band on 8 July, 2pm–4pm at the Art Gallery of Ballarat!

Ade and eMotion Band will be performing at the Art Gallery of Ballarat, Sunday July 8 as a part of the Ballarat Winter Festival.