The New Nite Owls came together in 2014 as the successor to the late Hugh De Rosayro’s New Orleans Nite Owls which he had formed in 2005. Now led by Pat Miller, Hughie’s legacy is a hard driving, trumpet-less trad band that just loves to play for dancers, bring your dancing shoes.

We asked Pat Miller a few questions in the lead up to their performance, Hot Mix of Jazz Saturday October 27 at 7.30pm at Miners Tavern.

JAZZ series Q. What does jazz mean to you?

Pat Miller A. Jazz to me is the most exciting and accessible music. It is steeped in the cultural history of American popular music. It allows a freedom of expression and individuality that can be missing from so many other forms of music.

JAZZ series Q. What Jazz music/musician inspires you?

Pat Miller A. I like all types of Jazz music but I draw my main inspiration from a number of genres. I am familiar with and I like to play my version of the earliest New Orleans music. I also enjoy greatly the big band era regardless of whether it’s great Jazz like Basie and Ellington, or the schmaltzy stuff – I like it all. But perhaps the era that grabs me most is the smaller jumping and jiving bands like Louis Prima and Louis Jordan.

JAZZ series Q. Whats your favourite thing about spring?

Pat Miller A. I can find something good to sat about all of the seasons but I do like the rebirth and promise of Spring. New growth, the return of the sun, the emergence from our drab winter clothing – it’s an uplifting time of year.

JAZZ series Q. Whats your favourite thing about Ballarat?

Pat Miller A. Ballarat is where my mother was born and where my partner Liz grew up. It’s a gracious town with a mythical past. The importance of the gold era is visible everywhere you go. There’s also a palpable civic pride that is evidenced in the retention of so many fabulous historic buildings.

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

Pat Miller A. I’ve been playing jazz music for over 50 years and I still get the same kick out of it as I did back in the late 1960s when I started. Playing this music is both challenging and satisfying. Improvisation is terrific fun, but only as long as it swings. When I play with like minded musicians we like to set up an irresistible rhythmic basis for our swinging melodic reinterpretations of familiar songs. I also love to sing because in the heyday of popular music lyrics and melody used actually mean something.

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

Pat Miller A. Back in the late 1960s I saw the Duke Ellington Orchestra live at Festival Hall in Melbourne. Not only was the music an absolute knockout, it was just being able to see heros like Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney and Cootie Williams who had been playing with the Duke since the 1920s.

JAZZ series Q. How long have you been performing with the New Nite Owls?

Pat Miller A. The late Hugh De Rosayro and I started the current band about 15 years ago because both of us had a commitment to playing melodic Jazz in our own way. Perhaps naively we shared the view that
trumpet players tend to dominate Jazz bands and treat us saxophone and trombone players as their assistants. We wanted a band where the tenor voices of the trombone and saxophone could take the lead without the shrillness of the trumpet. Poor Hugh died a few years ago but we have a terrific player now in Rob Moffatt on trombone. The rhythm section of Steve Paix on piano, Simon Vancam on bass and Richard Opat on drums forms a tight unit with a big sound.

JAZZ series Q. Tell us more about what’s in store for the JAZZ series performance in at the Miners Tavern in Ballarat on the 27th October.

Pat Miller A. We’ll be playing and singing our way through swinging hot jazz including old pop songs, blues, boogies, R&B, latin and show tunes. We really enjoy seeing people dancing to our music and that’s what inspires us to play. We always enjoy playing in Ballarat, a town that is both knowledgeable about and appreciative of live music.