Hilary Geddes (left) and Jodie Michael play 2020 Sydney International Women's Jazz Festival.
Part of Sydney International Women's Jazz Festival (SIWJF) 2020 line-up, Sydney's new generation will ignite the Foundry 616 stage in a special festival double bill when the Hilary Geddes Quartet and Jodie Michael Trio join forces.
Winner of the Jann Rutherford Memorial Award in 2019, Hilary Geddes' music making is split between contemporary jazz and improvised music, and playing with Sydney indie band The Buoys.
As a jazz guitarist, Hilary has become an in-demand collaborator with the likes of Barney McAll and Mike Nock, while The Buoys are regulars on the local festival circuit.
Jodie Michael was the recipient of the 2013 Jann Rutherford Memorial Award. After gaining experience playing in jazz ensembles at the Wollongong Conservatorium of Music, Jodie earned multiple scholarships.
After touring the USA with her local Jazz Orchestra, Jodi returned to immerse herself in the US jazz scene playing with world-class drummers like Michael Carvin, Eric Harland and Kenny Washington, and studying in the Global Jazz Master's programme at Berklee College of Music.
How has the pandemic affected you when it comes to your music and general lifestyle? [Hilary] I suddenly had a lot of spare time in the evenings, so I ended up enrolling in a German course through the Goethe Institute, which has been a lot of fun.
I also live in a sharehouse with people who aren't musicians and while they've always been unbelievably easygoing with me on the noise-making-at-home front, there was a period when everyone was working from home so I found it extra important to try and not be too loud during their work hours.
[Jodie] These past seven months have been a period of renewal and incubation, musically and personally. It's allowed me to become clear on my direction as a musician and also reflect on how I can create an impact that is as valuable to the greater community as it is to the music scene.
Have you undertaken any specific music projects during the lockdown periods? [Hilary] During the lockdown period I was thrilled to have the opportunity to be mentored by Vanessa Tomlinson and Andrea Keller through the Australian Art Orchestra's and Sydney Improvised Music Association's respective mentorship programmes.
I've found it to be really invigorating, to be exploring different approaches to improvisation and composition with these two amazing artists.
[Jodie] I have been working and contemplating different ideas regarding composition and also solo drum repertoire.
What role do you think events such as the Sydney International Women's Jazz Festival play in revitalising the music scene ? [Hilary] Events such as the SIWJF play an incredibly important role in revitalising the music scene – both in terms of providing support to those who work in the arts, as well as creating space(s) for the greater community to be able to come together safely and enjoy live music.
[Jodie] I think the festival itself is a symbol of hope, as it is one of the first formally organised music events to take place post-lockdown. It creates optimism for musicians and audiences about the health and future of live music.
From the other musicians you have spoken with, how optimistic are you that things will gradually return to normal over the next 12 to 24 months? [Hilary] Unfortunately, I think it's hard for me to fathom a return to 'normal' in the next two years without the safety of audiences and artists (and in turn, the greater population) being compromised.
At the moment in Australia, it's also so locationally dependent as to what government policies are in place to allow for a return of normality (in whatever form that may be). Living in Sydney, I've been very lucky to have the opportunity to begin playing shows again. I have many friends who are musicians living in Victoria where this is not yet a possibility.
Every musician I have spoken to has agreed that we need greater government support of the arts to help keep the community(ies) afloat during this particularly changeable time.
[Jodie] Opinions are always varied, but the vast majority of musicians and artists, as well as keen music-lovers have affirmed their belief in increased enthusiasm and positive response of the music scene, moving forward.
Everyone, in some context, has felt the gap the live music drought has created. This is a positive as it brings awareness to its value in society and the cultural environment.
What attracted you to your particular instrument in the first place? [Hilary] Growing up, I was a big fan of The Wiggles and AC/DC. It was the theatrics of Murray the Red Wiggle and Angus Young that drew me to the guitar.
[Jodie] The energy, the rhythmic responsibility, touch and pure sensory aspect of the drum set hooked me in the first place and has kept me addicted ever since.
If you could have dinner with any musician/ group, who would it be? [Hilary] This is a tough one, and it changes all the time. I think Mavis Staples would be great to have over for dinner at the moment. I think she'd bring a lot of positivity to the table and it would be such a joy to hear her speak about her life and music.
[Jodie] Elvin Jones, one of my main influences on the instrument. As I never got to see him live or even meet him. I would love to be in his presence, as that would explain a lot and help me understand why and how he played the way he did.
In a pre-COVID world what song would you put on to get the dance floor pumping? [Hilary] 'Young Hearts Run Free' by Candi Station.
[Jodie] 'Return Of The Mack' by Mark Morrison.
In a post-COVID world, has there been an album/ song in particular that has kept you going, or that you keep returning to? [Hilary] When the gigs first stopped, 'Cars In Space' by Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever got quite a heavy workout. This song has quite a bit of forward momentum with this wonderfully indulgent, multiple-guitar riff breakdown in the second half of the song – which is great for keeping going!
Their music often has a heavy dose of yearning and melancholy and I found it cathartic to lean into those feelings a little as well. I also checked out Annea Lockwood's 'A Sound Map Of A Danube'.
The sound map runs for almost three hours and I can't remember the last time (if ever) that I've just sat and listened to something for that long. It was quite a revelatory experience and I've kept returning to the album (in smaller doses) over the past few months because I'm really fascinated by her artistic practice.
[Jodie] I have been returning to the repertoires and body of work from all of my favourite drummers and instrumentals across all genres – the very albums that made me fall in love with this music in the first place. Most notably the drummer Elvin Jones, his early as well as later work as a band leader. Also some of Larry Young's more obscure, less well-known organ ensemble recordings.