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30 April, 2018

The Album Challenge

A special contribution from this years PBS Young Elder of Jazz, Brenton Foster


By now you’ve no doubt seen the current ‘challenge’ on Facebook – to list 10 favourite albums that have made an impact and are still in your rotation list. In the recent times of #deletefacebook it’s a nice reminder of the more innocent and pure ability of social media to share information and inspiration. I’ve loved being reminded of some great music that I’d forgotten about, and being introduced to some I’ve not heard. I was recently challenged by a friend of mine to list my favourites.

So here they are:

Yes, I realise there are 11 albums here. Mehldau’s Largo and Highway Rider are a tie – both albums produced by Jon Brion and both absolutely stunning. It’s hard to limit yourself to just ten albums.

But each of these albums have served as inspiration in my creative practise, as a musician, a writer and listener of music. They’ve excited me, left me breathless and reminded me of the power of music to move the human spirit.

As I’m preparing for my show at this year’s Melbourne International Jazz Festival, I thought it was a good time to be reminded of these albums and the lessons they’ve taught me. If I had to distil them down to a few points, they would be:

  1. Above all else, emotional honesty is the most important thing.
  2. The absolute primacy of melody.
  3. Don’t be afraid of simplicity.

It’s easy to agonise over the smallest of details. Don’t get me wrong, that’s part of the job of the composer, but it’s important not to forget the original intent of the music in the process. As the 2018 PBS FM Young Elder Of Jazz, I’ve loved the opportunity to write this new music for my show. It’s always a great thrill to be surprised by where the music leads me and I’m excited by its direction so far. But it’s also been a challenge as I wrestle with the notion of complexity for complexity’s sake. So, I’m thankful to be reminded of these most fundamental musical considerations as I complete the compositions.

This is why the album, as conceived by the artist, is so important. In an age of listener-curated playlists, and singles, the full-length album seems to play an increasingly smaller part in music releases. But this is a chance for the artist to showcase their work, their process and their intent in a more fully realised form. It allows the artist to work through something and in the process invite their audience to be part of it.

This is why the facebook album challenge has resonated with people so strongly. It reminds people of their fundamental connection to music, to their emotions and shared experience with one another.

This is what I hope to get out of my new work, Love, As We Know It. I hope it moves people, makes them smile, reminds them of the significance and power of music in our lives.

It is certainly doing that for me.

Love, As We Know It premieres at the 2018 Melbourne International Jazz Festival in partnership with PBS FM.

When: Friday June 1 – 9:30pm

Where: The Jazzlab, 27 Leslie St, Brunswick, VIC

Tickets available here.

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