Q and A with Coffs Coast Jazz Festival musician Chris Frater

Chris will perform as part of two bands at the Coffs Coast Jazz Festival.

CHRIS PRATER will take to the stage as part of the inaugural Coffs Coast Jazz Festival November 11-13 at the Coffs Harbour Regional Conservatorium.

Q: What can festival goers expect as part of the Coffs Coast Jazz Festival in November? What is your role in the Festival?

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A: They will be able to experience a wide variety of styles and line ups. The Festival has classic and original compositions. Workshops for developing musicians. Funky and contemporary grooves and tunes.

It is an opportunity for people to experience ‘live’ jazz which is so different to the recorded medium.

Jazz has a ‘right here right now’ aspect in which the performers are creating new interpretations and improvisations each time.

It is the interactions between the musicians that adds to the whole experience for the Festival.

My role will be mainly playing saxophone in the front line as well as sharing my passion and understanding of improvisation.

Q: Tell us a bit about your musical background – what are some of your career highlights and how did you establish yourself in the music scene in Coffs Harbour?

A: I started out in high school playing with ‘The Young Northside Big Band’.

We were together for many years recording two albums.

It was a great thrill supporting and meeting Count Basie which led to us performing at the 1979 Monterrey Jazz Festival.

The Young Northside Big Band was the first Australian Big Band to perform there.

We went on to play many festivals throughout Sydney and NSW as well as supporting the Duke Ellington Orchestra.

I moved to the area in 1987 and started teaching and playing with the touring/recording funky/soul group ‘Invisible Inc’.

In 1990 I was involved in the establishment of the Bellingen Jazz Festival.

Since then I have been part of the music scene playing in all manner of groups, shows and ensembles.

Q: As well as being an accomplished professional musician, you are also an inspirational teacher and educator – teaching at the Coffs Harbour Conservatorium of Music for over 30 years!

What do you enjoy most about teaching and how has it evolved over the years?

A: Meeting young people as they start to learn music, creating their own sound and expression through their instrument.

Hearing the development and joy each student achieves.

Over the years the access to a wider range of music via the web has given a greater exposure to music from around the world.

Q: I hear you will be performing in two bands at the festival: How About That and Triptych.

Could you tell us about these ensembles, how you formed and what sort of music you will be performing?

A: Yes, I am looking forward to both performances – on Friday night I play sax with ‘How About That’ – a quartet that plays a selection of our guitarist Glen Hodges and my original compositions.

The rhythm section features Emilliano Beltzer on double bass and Ivan Pliaskin on drums rounding out a very strong and creative group.

We will be joined by Sara Battery who will sing some classic jazz tunes.

Then on Sunday afternoon I play alongside great musical friends Bruce Stephen on double bass and drummer Phil Stitt to create a unique take on jazz grooves and styling as well as original compositions that only ‘Triptych’ can produce.

Q: How and when did you start directing the Coffs Con Stage Band?

What role will the Stage Band be taking in the Festival?

A: It’s been nearly five years now directing the Stage Band.

It is the latest of the many ensembles I’ve directed over the years.

It became an extension from the sax group to allow a greater array of instrumental students to be involved – learning to play in a larger ensemble and working with a rhythm section exploring a range of music.

Q: As well as performing in the Coffs Coast Jazz Festival, you will be presenting a ‘harmony in improvisation’ workshop.

Is anyone welcome to this workshop?

Where do I begin to improve my improvisation skills?

Why is it important to learn harmonisation?

A: All are welcome to the workshop even if you don’t play an instrument.

It will be an insight into what makes jazz work.

There will be the opportunity for participants to express themselves on their instrument.

Everyone will be able to improve your skills and knowledge.

The workshop will cover the important fundamentals of harmony within a chord progression as well as more advanced improvisation information.

Q: In your opinion, what does the future look like for jazz music in Australia – in particular the Mid North coast region? How can we collectively support arts and culture in Coffs Harbour?

A: I believe the future is bright with lots of young people wanting to experience what jazz has to offer.

This region has the potential to grow the awareness of improvisation and jazz expression due to the natural environment and beauty that will influence open thinking and creativity.

Please keep on going out and seeing music especially jazz as it is a live music and is exciting for participants and audiences alike.

Q: Thank you Chris for your time – it has been wonderful getting to know you and your music.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

In one sentence, what advice would you give your younger self?

A: I would suggest doing more ear training, more transcription and listening to soul groove jazz.

For more information and ticket availability, visit the website at https://www.coffscon.org.au/event/coffs-coast-jazz-festival-2022/

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