Jazz in winter – Paige Duggan

Jazz vocalist Paige Duggan’s approach to jazz is raw and honest; revelling in jazz as an art-form with experimentation, improvisation and risk central to the approach of every song. Paige’s extensive and diverse experience as a contemporary singer naturally feeds into her unique jazz style.

We asked Paige a few questions in the lead up to her performance with the Paige Duggan Trio for the Ballarat Winter Festival Sunday July 8 at Craigs Royal Hotel Bar.

JAZZ series Q. What does jazz mean to you?

Paige A. Jazz is expression, innovation, improvisation. It’s the aural equivalent of modern visual art. Diverse in its styles and forms and open to interpretation. The sort of jazz that I like to listen to, and I hope make, is honest, and real in it’s humanity. The songs have personality and a direct link back to their composers, arrangers and performers. It’s exploration and telling of stories. It’s pushing yourself and your musical skills regularly and willingly.

JAZZ series Q. What jazz musician inspires you?

Paige A. I find inspiration from a wide array of jazz styles and musicians. Music which is purely instrumental, or includes vocals, solo through to big bands. I think it’s important to listen to an array of musicians so you don’t emulate them. That way they own their identity/sound and you make your own. But the jazz musicians and music which most inspire me are almost always artists who are innovative, expressive, experimental and approach their music as an art form with musicality central to that. I listen to a lot of modern Australian jazz. And some of the Australian musicians who inspire me most, and who I admire most are Michelle Nicolle (she demonstrates that the voice can be approached as an instrument like any other), Julien Wilson (remarkable saxophonist), Vince Jones (he’s gone on a journey through his music and has come to a place of understated singing which is harder than it may seem, and his songwriting is gorgeous), and bassist and composer Sam Anning who has just released his latest album of songs which are so exceptional. There’s a lot of talented young female musicians coming through the scene too which I find exciting, inspiring and motivating.

JAZZ series Q. Whats your favourite thing about winter?

Paige A. That I get to wear my beloved Cherry Doc Martins. Every. Single. Day.

JAZZ series Q. Whats your favourite thing about Ballarat?

Paige A. How to choose one thing?! I suppose it’s Ballarat’s cultural identity… I’m very involved with the arts/music scene in Ballarat. And I think it is a very supportive one. The town is big enough that there’s is a good diversity of art forms, styles and lots of very passionate, talented people working in those forms. But it’s not so big that you get lost in the crowd, struggle too much to get gigs/jobs or step on each other’s toes too much. It’s a perfect little balance. There are also a bunch of great venues who are genuinely community minded and supportive of the arts, which is a win win for venues and artists alike. I enjoy seeing Ballarat’s cultural diversity continue to expand too. It plays out in the people you see making Ballarat their home, through to the food people love to go out to eat, to the success of cultural associations and festivals in town. Ballarat has become a real festival town, hasn’t it?! I think that regional areas still hold a real ‘cultural cringe’ for city-slickers: if only they knew what they’re missing out on! Plus, the lifestyle here is great: there’s no way I could get a house like mine, on a block like mine, in a relative position to town like mine in a big city for my rent. Not even close.

JAZZ series Q. Whats the best thing about live jazz performances?

Paige A. Given the ephemeral nature of live music, especially fluid forms like jazz, which involves improvisation and innovation, every performance is likely, or guaranteed to be unique. Improvisation, innovation and composition by their very natures expose something of their creator. Sometimes it is brimming with technical skill and confidence, sometimes it is vulnerability and emotion. It’s a bit like watching reality tv. Voyeristic. It’s wonderful to see magic unfurl in front of you. To be surprised and delighted.

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

Paige A. I’ve seen and been in SO many live performances over the years. It’s hard to choose. Seeing Burt Bacharach live in Melbourne in 2012 was pretty amazing. And when he sang ‘Alfie’ solo, his vulnerability as a performer, being less in control of his voice as an old man compared to his younger years, was a beautiful and reassuring thing. Too often, in music, but also in life generally, we are groomed to believe that we must be perfect or why bother? And I’ve certainly struggled with that a lot over the years as a musician. But as a audience member, I’m happy to take a bit of perfect imperfection over technical perfection. Seeing musicians who I admire, for an array of reasons, showing something real of themselves, making ‘mistakes’, taking risks, will always move, inspire and reassure me more than seeing a flawless one that I can’t aspire to reach. Being a muso, you can’t help but watch music through your musicians lense, can you?!

JAZZ series Q. How long have you been performing with Wayne & Barry?

Paige A. I first had a gig with Wayne in very late 2014, I think? When Dani Fry was still coordinating music at Main Bar, she asked me if I wanted to sing a night of jazz standards with her house band. So I rocked up with my list of songs and keys, no practice, and did not only my first gig with Wayne (as he was a member in the band) but it was also my first real jazz gig. Sometime after that Wayne asked if I’d like to do some duo stuff with him, which of course I did. So we’ve been playing together since 2015 really. And last year Wayne mentioned that his buddy Barry Deenick was interested in having a play. And when Barry Deenick says he’s interested in making music with you, you don’t say no! So I feel very lucky to have two musicians who are both so talented and knowledgeable to work with.

The Paige Duggan Trio will be performing at Craigs Royal Hotel Ballarat, Sunday July 8 as a part of the Ballarat Winter Festival.