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Sunday, November 08, 2020

Q & A with Blair Latham


They often say that music is the universal language, that it has a special power and place in society, but can jazz take you back in time? For the upcoming Wellington Jazz Festival musician Blair Latham has created Karla and the Divide is a two-part suite of original music that will envelop the audience in the highs and lows of the modern day, presented by the chamber jazz group The Noveltones. Portrayed through sound and visuals created live on the night, this experience will unsettle yet exhilarate. 

To find out more about this exciting project, the CoffeeBar Kid, obeying all the conditions of Level 2, emailed Blair to find out more:

Kia ora, Blair, welcome to the hot seat. Tell me a little about yourself?   

"I'm a professional musician of over 20 years experience, born and bred in Wellington. 
I went through jazz school studying jazz saxophone plus composition and arranging, then like many others went overseas to get some flying time in various musical groupings and styles in the US and eventually in Mexico.  I've been back in Wellington for about six or so years, enjoying the energy that emanates from our live music scene."      

Have you always been a bass clarinet player?   

"No, I started playing Bass Clarinet after forming an all sax trio around 2003, but had always admired it from afar as I was and am a big fan of Eric Dolphy, probably the best bass clarinetist in jazz that has ever touched foot on our planet."     

Tell me about your youngest memory with music and what inspired you to be a musician? 

"Like many others my earliest memory of music was from playing the recorder, in this instance with my Mum on my parents bed (she is a trained teacher so had that skill set there). An inspiration to really delve deep into music and it's possibilities was from listening to John Coltrane's Impression (live in '65) and feeling drawn to the message he seemed to be transmitting." 

We all agree that the Covid-19 lockdown has been a pretty tough time for musicians. What have you been up to? What have you learned about yourself? 

"It was definitely hard, I've learned that my main goal is to play live music to people in the same room. Like many of us I was involved in remote musical projects, and taking a bit of time to relax in the evenings for a change."        



Let's talk about the Noveltones, your partners in crime for the Jazz Festival.  Tell me about soprano saxophonist Jasmine Lovell-Smith, bassist Tom Callwood and violinist Tristan Carter. How did you get together?  

"I've known Tom since I was 13, he and I learnt music together through the years. Noveltones really is Jasmine's project that she started a few years ago, and I am very happy that I was able to nab the Bass Clarinet chair as it's an exciting and unique group."

You mentioned time in Mexico earlier. What did you learn about music there and how does it influence your work?

"Mexico really is something else, and is a daily lesson just being there. Musically I learnt that music is as important to humans as food. Over there that seems to be accepted more as the norm than here. A big part of my family is Mexican, so everything I do is touched by Mexico's history, culture and present."     

Karla and The Divide is a two part suite – tell me about it. What will the audience hear? 

"It's definitely a cliche but I do try to tell a story with the music that I put together, so people can expect to hear something that could take them for a ride, if they're willing to give it a chance. There'll be many, many moods to traverse.   I believe there are visuals, too. What will we see and how do they work with the music? I'm in for a surprise as much as anyone else. Andy Wright creates beautiful images, but for this he has taken his own path based upon the sounds that we've created and sent to him, so we'll see!"

Karla and the Divide by Blair Latham: Wednesday 18 November 8PM @ St. Peters 

Featuring: 
Blair Latham (Bass Clarinet) 
Tristan Carter (Violin) 
Jasmine Lovell-Smith (Soprano Sax) 
Tom Callwood (Upright Bass) 
Dan Beban (Sound Effects) 
Andy Wright (Visual Effects)






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