When Andrew was 12 years old he heard jazz for the first time, and decided that's what he wanted to do with his life. He didn't understand it and his parents didn't understand it, but over 25 years later Andrew is an award-winning jazz musician and educator. Only last year he won the Jazz Category at the Queensland Music Awards as well as being awarded the Churchill Fellowship award, which enabled him to spend two months in the US.
Andrew was able to meet with jazz musicians from all over the world, such as renowned saxophone player Branford Marsalais, and share his ideas with them. “I was going out to maybe two or three clubs a night and seeing all the different musicians perform,” he says. “When I was there I took every opportunity that I could get, so by the end of it I was pretty exhausted.”
Butt visited iconic jazz high schools attended by the likes of Jimmy Hendrix, Quincy Jones and Macklemore, and returned to Brisbane with a new sense of confidence in his music and teaching ability.
When you listen to Andrew's music, you can tell it has been created by one with years of experience in the industry. It's refined in a way that really pays tribute to the jazz of the past, but is implemented with elements of Butt's own style; elements that he's discovered and honed during his time touring the world and composing with other musicians. “As a performer you have to be centrally focused to get your individual craft together, but the whole experience of being a jazz performer is one of interaction with others,” Andrew says.
“You have to try and bring the audience on a journey and play music that connects with them, and once you've got them in then you're at a place where you can experiment with different genres.”
When asked if he prefers festival gigs or smaller shows, Andrew responds: “Festivals are a very focused environment, where everyone is sitting down and listening in a more classical concert style, and I enjoy that, but I also enjoy playing in a more relaxed atmosphere. One where people are interacting with each other in the space as well as interacting with the music. So I wouldn't want to give up either one.”
Improvisation is the very heart of jazz, and is — as Andrew says — what separates it from most other genres of music. Being very much inspired by the jazz musicians that dominated the scene in the '60s and '70s — musicians such as Coleman Hawkins and John Coltrane — Andrew often plays tributes to them during his performances.
But like the jazz-standards of the past (Broadway songs used to inspire new sound and musical structure), Andrew says to keep jazz fresh, musicians have to use modern music as a vehicle for improvisation, including modern pop songs. Andrew's enthusiasm to explore new ways to create jazz music is what makes him an award-winning innovator in this very nostalgic genre of music.
During his travels of the world, Andrew recalls one trip he made during the '90s as his biggest eye-opening experience. “One time I toured to Irian Jaya, which is up in the highlands of Indonesia. That was a pretty amazing experience, seeing a culture that was fairly removed from Western culture. I probably wouldn't have toured to a place like that if it wasn't for my music. It's enabled me to have some fantastic musical experiences, but some general cultural and life experiences as well.”
ANDREW BUTT TOUR DATESMonday August 25 - Marist College (Brisbane)
Sunday August 31 - Brisbane Jazz Club (performing with the Enthusiastic Musicians Orchestra)
Thursday September 18 - Brisbane Jazz Club
Sunday October 12 - Jazz Upstairs (Brisbane) (performing with Abbreviations Workshop)
Saturday January 10 - Bernie's Piano & Jazz Cafe (Cairns)