Australian band Backlash Jazz Quintet keeps hard bop alive and kicking on energetic new CD
(Perth, Australia) Written by Robert Sutton. The Backlash Jazz Quintet weren't kidding when they used a photo of a collapsed building on their album cover or named the record Through the Rubble. The opening track "Djiti Djiti" alone is more than six minutes of boisterous rhythms, shaking the walls with its soaring trumpets, snappy drums, and jamming keyboards.
There should be no question as to why the band likes to categorize itself as hard bop as the quintet is the literal definition of the ‘50s-spawned jazz subgenre. But the group knows how to expand its palate as well, such as the Middle Eastern-flavored horns that inject an exotic spiciness to "Egyptian Dream."
The nucleus of the band - or the eye of the hurricane - is trumpeter Benn Hodgkin, who formed the Backlash Jazz Quintet in 2002. Hodgkin's road to becoming a musician is a tad unique considering that there was some government intervention involved.
Q: What attracted you to the trumpet?
A: I started learning through the state government school system. I was offered a choice of trumpet or clarinet. Because my sister already played clarinet, I went for the trumpet.
My local high school was also one of the two specialist music programs in Perth so by going there I was mixing with some of the best music students in my age group and had opportunities to play in well-balanced, high quality ensembles as well as participating in sizeable music tours. While I was there, a couple of friends introduced me to jazz, and we started our own jazz combo.
Q: What was it about jazz music that you especially liked?
A: While I'd always enjoyed classical playing, jazz was what actually made me want to become a musician because the improvisational aspect of it allowed me to really create music of my own. I also made first attempts to compose at this time.
Most of the artists that ultimately influenced my playing the greatest amount were players that I didn't hear of until university, but some Australian groups that I had the chance to see live included James Morrison, trumpeter Scott Tinkler, who I also attended a workshop with, and the Perth Jazz Orchestra, which I am now a member of. Seeing successful local artists made the concept of becoming a musician seem far more realistic, and live music rather than recordings was the real inspiration.
Q: What would you say are your current goals in music?
A: I see myself as a performer more than as a writer, so my goal is to become the best trumpet player I can possibly be, both within more commercial settings and also in developing an individual style.
I'd like to ultimately incorporate my basis of straight-ahead jazz bebop language with elements of more ‘outside' harmonic choices and the inclusion of some world-music inflections and rhythms, particularly Middle Eastern music such as Mahmoud Fadl that I have begun listening to quite recently.
I feel that in studying and performing some less mainstream music, I have developed a slightly different approach to improvisation from most of the other musicians that I mix with. But these explorations are relatively new and so there is a great deal more to be done to combine the ideas in a cohesive way.
Q: But music is a business as well. How do you feel about that side of it, especially with living in Perth?
A: It's important to recognize that in a city the size of Perth, most musicians have to diversify their playing in order to remain visible in the music scene.
As I have a young family, it doesn't make sense to leave a supportive environment so I need to have aims that fit realistically within what Perth has to offer. I have spent many years accepting gigs in a range of settings, and I like to feel that
I am able to adapt well and play stylistically appropriately. I enjoy this aspect of my music and would like to become more established as an all around session player locally.
More Information: http://www.backlash.com.au