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JAZZ series Spring -Juliarna Clark

JAZZ series Q. What does jazz mean to you?

Juliarna Clark A. To me jazz is great melodies that hook into you and take over your being for a while. It means a smokin’ rhythm section creating fantastic swinging beats that have an inherent energy to them, and lyrics and melodies fitting perfectly and sweetly right into that energy. It means variety- gorgeous ballads, driven uptempo songs, blues to make you want to shake and jive, slow blues that break your heart, swinging café French jazz, chilled out Brazilian jazz dripping in the beautiful soothing tones of the Portugese tongue, it means surrendering to the present version of a great song that is being created by this jazz band, in this gig, for these people. It means doing your homework by yourself so you really know your songs!

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

Juliarna Clark A. This is not deliberate, but my attraction to what I consider a delicious melody, leads me time and time again to accidentally learning songs from the 30s and 40s. Great melodies and sweet, snappy relatable lyrics.

JAZZ series Q. Whats your favourite thing about spring?

Juliarna Clark A. Honestly? It’s all the great songs that spring has inspired. That, and grooming out our horses’ winter coats after the first few hot days. It’s remarkably satisfying. My favourite season is really winter. Probably accounts for thoroughly enjoying living in England, and in Ballarat!

JAZZ series Q. Whats your favourite thing about Ballarat?

Juliarna Clark A. My grandparent’s had a farm in Maroona, where I spent every school holidays (I had an ugly little pony called Nugget, who was the total and utter apple of my eye and consumed every waking thought. When I wasn’t singing with the Australian Girls Choir, that is- in some ways life hasn’t changed that much). I grew up thinking of Ballarat as the once-a-week big day out destination. I loved wandering through the book clearance outlet and a trawl through the horse shop. I would happily give Nana feedback on the dresses she would try on from her favourite frock shops, and we would finish the day with ham, cheese and pineapple open toasted sandwiches at the same café every time. It wasn’t on the menu but Pa would always ask and they would always oblige. I think it was the Capri café in the mall- but I could be wrong. It would need to have been around for 3 or 4 decades if it was.

I had such a fondness for Ballarat that I very happily moved there as an adult, working at the Education Department as a speech pathologist. I had decided it was time to get a horse as a grown up so I lived in the centre of Ballarat and ‘Trevor’ lived out at Wallace. Through that period of time, Ballarat came to mean a wonderful workplace, great friends, daily walks around the lake, fantastic breakfasts at The Olive Grove, indoor tennis in winter, and lots of convenient coffees at Java Lounge. I loved calling Ballarat home. It was a really great community. I lived there for about 3 years from 2007. During this period I used to do some gigs with a fantastic guitarist and songwriter Geoff MacArthur. We would do a mix of folk, country, originals and my first efforts at some jazz. We played at some decadent bars that were downstairs in groovy dungeons, and in a novel venue that was a hairdressers by day and music bar by night. I cannot tell you how fondly I reminisce about this time.

Then in the last 4 years I’ve had a new association with Ballarat as it has been hosting the Australian Jazz Convention between Christmas and New Year. It’s a fantastic layout and vibe for festive get togethers. Punters and venue operators alike have been generous with their enthusiasm and delight, and my family and I have really looked forward to our halcyon Ballarat jazz days in that delightful vortex between Christmas and New Year where for once in the year, time seems to stand still.

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

Juliarna Clark A. That little bit of thrilly excitement that comes with not knowing exactly how the song will develop. Not only does a different lineup mean it will be different, but the same jazz musicians can and will play differently in every execution, feeding off both each other and the vibe of the room. It’s exciting. I particularly love when musicians ‘trade’ with each other. Often by the end of a set my cheeks are getting a bit sore from the huge smile that I can’t stop when I’m listening to what these amazing musicians are creating. Right there and then, to be enjoyed and relished in the moment only.

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

Juliarna Clark A. Not to be a Negative Nellie but….. hearing my beloved Cranberries sing live at the age of 20, was so upsetting as it sounded nothing like their recorded songs, (including….horrifyingly to me at the time….tuning) that I’ve never been to a rock concert. Ever. I didn’t want to be that disappointed again in the incongruence between what occurs in the studio and what occurs live. It seemed like cheating to me and I am happy to say I am a very contented consumer of live jazz, live folk or live classical music. For seven of the eight years I’ve been seriously singing jazz, I’ve had small children, so I haven’t had the privilege of attending nearly as many live jazz performances as I would like, but in about another 3 years, look out! I’ll be on the prowl like a musical song stalker lapping up my favourite singers- Michelle Nicole, Julie O’Hara, Emma Gilmartin etc. We have amazing talent here in Melbourne. And looking at that list reminds me they all have the logistical challenge of little kids. Maybe a jazz festival with a Mary Poppins tent for performers’ kids could be the next big thing!

JAZZ series Q. How long have you been performing with James, Mat & Steve?

Juliarna Clark A. I fell for James’ delightful charms when he mastered my first CD (made when I lived in ballarat) and I am very pleased to say we were already very much in love before I saw him play. It was a gig with Steve Sedergreen and Michael Jordan and I was in a bit of shock at what phenomenal musicians I was listening to- I thought I was going out with a sound engineer. Not long after that I starting getting my first jazz gigs and I have booked James and Steve for many amazing nights ever since. They were very supportive in the early days when I was mildly terrified of forgetting words or formbusting or of bravely trying to improvise and singing some really obvious bum note. Ha ha. I don’t have the abject fear anymore thankfully and I know with great certainty every gig with those 2 amazing players, who read each other so well, will be a total musical treat for me and for everyone attending.

Mat is newer to my gang of fabulous players that I feel privileged to be sharing the stage with. I first heard him at a Victorian Jazz Club tribute to Louis Armstrong in August 2017. I was compere and guest vocalist for a few Ella and Louis duets. He was the trumpeter, and he was AMMMAAAZZING. Truly gifted. I know I do not know anywhere near everything about the jazz scene but I was a bit surprised I hadn’t heard this trumpeter before but it turns out he had recently returned from 8 years in New York working as a performer and as a lecturer at The Juilliard School of Music. Of course he had! And nnow James Morrison flies him in and out each week to teach trumpet at the James Morrison Academy in Mt Gambier. In the year since I met Mat I’ve been blessed to do a number of gigs with him and it is spine tingling. I’m absolutely stoked about having a musical evening with Mat, Steve and James. It will be memorable.

The short answer to that question is about 8 years for James and Steve and a bit over a year for Mat.

JAZZ series Q. Tell us more about what’s in store for the JAZZ series performance in Ballarat on the 13th October.

Juliarna Clark A. Amazing, melodious jazz by musicians that seriously are world class. Luckily they are humble and charming too. Phew. There will likely be a bit of light hearted raconteur-ing, as you are there to be entertained from start to finish. The setlist in my mind is shaping up to look like it might include “It Might As Well Be Spring”, “ Saturday Night is the Loneliest Night of the Week”, My Secret Love”, “This Masquerade”, “Old Black Magic”, “La Vie en Rose”, “Moonlight in Vermont”, “What a little Moonlight”, and if an audience member was to request “Summertime” (James is soooo over playing that song), well, who I am I to deny the audience what they want! (I love singing it!)

POST IMAGE Steve Sedergreen, Juliarna Clark & Wilbur Wilde