Passionate, haunting, unforgettable, the album is testament to the spirit of a man who shared his heart through music and scored a 5 star Jazz Album of the Year rating from The Australian. Fellow musicians and friends Zac Hurren and Julien Wilson are touring the album, which has been released on Lionshare records, an indecent Australian Jazz Label.
On the eve of the album launch at the Bangalow Bowlo, Julien Wilson spoke with The Echo about David Ades, his music, and his influence.
Tell me how you Zac Hurren came to know Dave and his music?
As I said at Dave’s funeral, Byron locals all know who Dave is and how great he is, but are they really aware just what an incredible musician he is on a global level? In the early 90s when I was 18 I heard Mark Simmonds (another frighteningly good Australian saxophonist) and through their association together stories of the legendary Dave Ades started to seep in to my consciousness. Friends and mentors played me videos of them both playing with Phil Treloar’s band from the Beyond El Rocco sessions. It really took my breath away. For me, this was the Aussie equivalent of John Coltrane with Pharoah Sanders or Cannonball Adderley. Really – it was THAT heavy for me!! It wasn’t until 99 that I finally met Dave at Scott Tinkler’s house in Byron in the FATS days. It was instant brotherhood. But everyone says that about Dave. After that we played nearly every time we met. Dave had such a passionate burning hunger for music. He didn’t play the music. He was the music. The saxophone was just the tool that helped him manifest and release it.
What is it do you think that is unique about Dave’s work? What does he do that is signature Dave Ades?
When Dave plays it’s like when he talks. There’s no tip-toeing around the issue or smalltalk. He just gets right to the point and if that’s too much for you, then you’re welcome to leave any time. I know that almost brutal honesty that Dave was renowned for can be too intense for some people. When we played together at Wangaratta Jazz Festival in 2012 some people walked out, and others are still talking about it. Many people have told me what an emotional and personal experience listening to this final recording has been because you can hear in the music all that Dave is going through in his life to be able to make that music. When I listen to it I keep expecting to turn around and see him standing right next to me. It’s such a personal sound and creating an identifiable voice is the ultimate goal of every great musician. You can hear the connection to Dave and his experience reflected in the other players too. That’s what a truly great musicians does. They make everyone around them sound better too by association and provocation and total commitment. Musically speaking, Dave paints shapes when he plays music. I think that explains why the two great loves in his life were astounding visual artists. He draws outside the lines. He spills paint. He dances in it like Jackson Pollock. He throws it straight towards the heavens as if he is challenging the gods to respond. And his tone is composed of equal parts surgeons blade and lovers embrace.
Can you recount the story of how this album was recorded? I know it was all done in a day in New York and that Dave was very sick at the time?
Briefly: He definitely decided this was to be his final statement. He flew to NY to re-record with the best of musical brothers against the severest of doctors orders. (He refused to ‘become a patient’ and get chemo right from the start). He went there with no written music (an act of faith and courage). He started writing and sharing ideas with Mark and Tony. He got so sick he couldn’t play, so he flew from NY to Germany where he had been receiving aggressive cancer treatment. After a few weeks of treatment and composing he flew back to NY and recorded the album in one five-hour session. The gravity of the session was deeply felt by the other musicians.
Over a dozen years they had grown to be the best of friends. Mark actually told me Tony had to ‘hold Dave back’ a number of times. He just went for everything so completely. You can’t tell a great musician to ‘just take it easy’. It doesn’t work like that. When you play, everything else slips away and only the music matters. Dave was in constant pain with the lung cancer (and he had two broken ribs from a recent car accident) but he said that on the day of the session he had an amazingly pain-free day. That’s the power of music, and the power of the spiritual to overcome the physical. After the session he was too weak to leave his room for weeks though. He literally gave this recording everything he had. That’s part of what makes it so hard for people that knew him to listen to it, but also what makes the recorded music so incredibly beautiful. It’s like listening to an angel talk. OK. That’s enough for now.
(Sorry. Had to stop and play. This is so hard to talk about, but so good to acknowledge at the same time)
It’s an extraordinarily beautiful album – what was your reaction on first hearing it?
What is the best way to present this incredible music? Who is going to release it? How did he do that???? I wish I could tell him what an incredible achievement it is. Why the hell are Dick Cheney and George Bush alive while Bernie McGann and Dave Ades are gone? Honestly, it brings up so many thoughts but even more emotions.
What legacy has Dave left for you as musicians?
Be the best you can. Never give up. Take care of the important things and people in your life. No matter how much pain there is, a laugh is only a breath away and the best thing you can share.
Why did you and Zac decide to take this on? Do you think Dave has received the recognition he deserves from the music industry?
I decided to release the album on my label because I knew no-one would care as much about presenting it the right way than I could. A Life In A Day, as Dave’s title suggests is essentially the pinnacle of a lifetime of work and I didn’t want to see that relegated to the pile of just another album in a pile of albums in a warehouse. At the same time Zac was pushing to organise to play Dave’s music together to celebrate his life and legacy. It’s been an enormous help to us both in coming to terms with the friend we’ve lost and embracing all that we’ve gained through the time we shared with him. Dave had one major label deal in his life when he made Bird On A Head in 1991. I remember he told me he asked for some copies from the label a few years later and they said “Sorry. We destroyed them”. The press called the album groundbreaking, eclectic, adventurous and esteemed. That’s rough when you’re offering up your life’s work and some dullard in marketing or management just can’t see the value in it.
I think in many ways though Dave’s lifestyle choices made the apathy of the ‘music industry’ irrelevant or at least less important. He was industrious in music and his making of it in places like Byron Bay and Bali. Hunter S Thompson’s quote about the music industry being a ‘cruel and shallow money trench’ is appropriate. I think what’s important is that musicians and the ‘person-in-the-street’ recognised Dave’s unique qualities.
My fondest memories of Dave’s playing are in doorways in Byron – used to amaze me that a world class musician would still choose to busk. And the sound – it just ran through the town like water, wrapping around you… like a soundtrack for life – how did you come to experience and understand Dave’s passion for playing?
Exactly. Just what I was saying. Dave could connect with anyone in the street one night, people in a concert hall the next night. Or an intimate jazz club. Or he could break hearts playing solo at a wedding as he did many times. And on the street in Byron (I remember many times) he sounded true to himself and equally comfortable whether playing with flamenco bands, percussionists or singer/songwriters. He loved busking. Sometimes it’s a grind to get out there and do it, but at the end of the day it’s rewarding because you’re your own boss, and you get to connect directly with all sorts of people. His SOUND!! It was so engulfing that what he did with harmony was always a mystery to me. He developed a way of drifting in and out of key but never sounding out of place. Kind of like those waves that run back out to sea against the incoming ones but keep their form. So, the first time I played with Dave was at the Great Northern. I’d been jamming on the street with Greg Sheehan and I went to the pub to meet Dave and hear Mick and Gabe’s band. Dave dragged me up to play a tune together (I didn’t need too much convincing). It was packed and loud and a big rock and roll stage, and I was, lets say ‘enjoying life to the fullest’. Dave let me take the first solo (the perfect host) then he played straight after me. I’ll never forget: I started with this bent kind of Spanish phrase to put me in a different headspace in the solo. Dave started his solo with EXACTLY THE SAME PHRASE, kind of smiling at me cheekily while he did it you know? Then he proceeded to rearrange and restructure and reinvent that phrase like some kind of contortionist exploratory master surgeon! By the end of his solo I was literally on my knees on stage with my head in my hands almost sobbing from disbelief. It was so beautiful. After that I knew what to expect so it was easier.
What should we expect for your show at the Bangalow Bowlo?
A joyous celebration. Nothing too stuffy. A commitment to life and love. CD’s for sale 🙂 Going back to Bangers has felt empty the last couple of times. I’m really looking forward to celebrating David and his music there with friends.
Friday at the Bangalow Bowlo with Julien Wilson, Zac Hurren, Sam Maguire and Greg Sheehan. For bookings go to julienwilson.com or tickets at the club.