Four finalists were chosen from 15 nominees, and Hilary Geddes was chosen from among the four finalists. The other finalists were saxophonist Flora Carbo, electric bass guitar and double bass player Joseph Franklin, and drummer Maria Moles. See all about Hilary below.
So three out of four were women, an enormous and sudden reversal of what has been normal since jazz was invented a century ago. The selections were made entirely on merit. While the Music Trust supports greater inclusion of excluded classes, whoever they may be, there was no affirmative action program here.
The nominees were chosen by senior jazz figures from around the country. The nominees who choose to become candidates (and they all did) send in video and sometimes audio recordings of their performances. The music is of course crucial in the judges’ choices of finalists. Normally, the Fellowships are in the end decided in part through the finalists’ live performances at a concert at the Sydney Opera House. That couldn’t happen this year and the music trail ended with the recordings.
Most such competitions consider only the candidates’ musical achievement. The Freedmans are different. How will the candidate use the fairly substantial prize to benefit their own music, their contribution to the art form and to the communities of audiences and musicians?
To address this issue, candidates send in descriptions of projects on which they would spend their prize money if they win. As you will see, the projects this year are unusually unusual! – and give a sense of the diversity and imaginativeness of the front edge of jazz in Australia.
In choosing the winner, the judges interviewed each finalist online, mainly to discuss with them their project proposals. Here are brief descriptions of what each one planned.
THE FREEDMAN JAZZ FELLOW FOR 2021: HILARY GEDDES
Hilary Geddes grew up in the NSW country town, Griffith, and for her project is taking her triumph home. But it’s more than that. She will take her band with her and give public performances across the Riverina region, Goulburn and Canberra. They will give workshops in schools, regional conservatoriums and other community and regional organisations and foster a great elevation of the amount and quality of music making in the area. Hilary intends to begin long-term creative relationships with these organisations.
Hilary will write new compositions for her band members. The band will travel to the Cad Factory, a professional rehearsal and recording studio at Boree Creek, south of Narrandera. There it will take up residency and have a rare opportunity for extended rehearsals. It will make a recording. To promote the recording, it will extend its tour to Sydney and Melbourne.
Hilary was already a rapidly rising star in Australian jazz. The Freedman Fellowship will quickly lift her to national status.
Flora Carbo’s career has also been advancing rapidly. She has won major awards, performed with some of the best known Australia jazz musicians, toured within Australia and internationally. She is very articulate and her submission revealed a clear, interesting and well organised thinker.
Flora’s project is unusual in jazz. I will describe it as though she had won the award and expect that she will follow through on her plan to some extent. She will create ‘site-specific’ music – compositions, improvisations for her ensemble that amplify and complement the sounds of the environment, whether a children’s playground, the environs of a creek, an urban traffic bridge, sounds of a river, movement on gravel… Like Hilary, she will work collaboratively with local Indigenous people.
Also, she will participate in Speak Percussion’s year-long artist mentorship – support in conceiving, developing, managing projects, audience development, funding research and its application, learning more about artistic leadership. The compleat jazz musician.
Joseph Franklin is active across a wide range of musical forms and has performed across Europe and the USA. His project has three highly imaginative components. Firstly, composition, performances and recording of original solo music for contrabass guitar, his instrument. The performances will include innovative concepts suggested by experience with Stambeli music (see second component) and visual projections that guide the listeners. Secondly, collaboration with a Tunisian Stambeli musician. Thirdly, composition, performances and recordings with his quartet comprised of percussion, double bell trumpet and electronics, prepared nylon and electric guitars, and his own bass instruments, resulting in two recordings and a series of performances.
Just as jazz resulted from the collision between the music of the West African diaspora with the European culture via the trans-Atlantic slave trade, Stambeli resulted from a collision via the cross-Saharan slave trade where displaced African slaves came into contact with the Islamic world. Stambeli, says Franklin, is a trance ritual featuring highly structured long-range musical forms eliciting a physical change in the listener. He has been deeply affected personally by this music and would begin a searching engagement with it, working with the Tunisian musician Salah Oergli.
Maria Moles impressed the judges at the outset with her video of a 20 minute solo drum performance of one of her own compositions. Solo performances are the course which has already proven especially successful for her, and which she intends to be central in her musical career. Her project will be to compose a suite for solo drummer, inspired by five solo drummers – Tony Buck, Will Guthrie, Susie Ibarra, Simon Barker and Laurence Pike – each of whom she will interview as a source of inspiration for the composition. She will complete an extended compositional process with a one week retreat in which she can work in isolation. Then she will record the suite and release it world-wide on the Berlin-based Black Truffles label (led by Oren Ambarchi, an Australian), supported by an international promotional campaign which she hopes will lay the groundwork for international touring. The Freedman would have supported a very thorough developmental process that is rarely available for an Australian jazz musician.
The Freedman candidates are interviewed each year as part of the assessment process. They always show their passion for the direction they take in their projects and even if they do not win the Freedman cash prize, intend to pursue that direction to the extent possible. In some cases, the cash is essential to following any part of the project. In others, it enables the project to be done far better or taken further than is possible with no assistance. They always say that the process of planning the project has been very positive and has taken their thinking and aspiration to new places.
The young candidates for the Freedman Jazz Fellowship reveal the cutting edge of jazz in Australia. This is art music created in nearly all of its aspects by the performers. It being jazz, they mostly are not only performing it, but inventing it through composition and improvisation, and the Freedman candidates do that superbly. Jazz is not much supported by the funding bodies nor by the commercial music industry. Jazz musicians must depend mostly on themselves to build their musical skills and develop projects that take them to an audience.
Jazz is not found on the “charts”, but as we can see from the achievements and resourcefulness of the Freedman finalists, it is a vital music that in Australia, is going places.
The judges for this year’s Freedman Jazz Fellowship were saxophonist Loretta Palmeiro, trumpet player Naadje Noordhuis, pianist Stuart Hunter and guitarist Ben Hauptmann, former Freedman Fellow.
In the second phase of their project design, the Fellowship provided them with assistance from the mentor of their choice. For Hilary, the mentor was bassist Jonathan Zwartz. Flora chose Jim Denley, Joseph chose Anthony Pateras, Maria, Barney McAll.
Hilary was nominated by Zoe Hauptmann, Flora by Jessica Nicholas, and both Joseph and Maria by Scott McConnachie. Good one, Scott! The Music Trust appreciates the support from each one.
The Freedman Music Fellowships are made possible by the financial support of Laurence and Kathy Freedman and the Freedman Foundation. The Music Trust and the jazz community are very appreciative of the opportunities they have created.