Q&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 the stage at the inaugural Coffs Coast Jazz Festival from November 11-13 at Coffs Harbor Regional Conservatorium.

Q: What can festival-goers expect at the Coffs Coast Jazz Festival in November? What is your role in the Festival?

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A: They will be able to discover a wide variety of styles and compositions. The Festival offers classical and original compositions. Musician development workshops. Funky, contemporary grooves and tunes.

It’s an opportunity for people to experience “live” jazz that’s so different from the recorded medium.

Jazz has a “here, now” aspect in which performers create new interpretations and improvisations every time.

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

My role will mainly be to play the saxophone on the front line as well as to share my passion and my understanding of improvisation.

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

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

We had been together for many years recording two albums.

It was a great thrill to support and meet Count Basie, which led to us performing at the Monterrey Jazz Festival in 1979.

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

We continued to play many festivals across 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 funky/soul touring/recording band “Invisible Inc”.

In 1990, I participated in the creation of the Bellingen Jazz Festival.

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

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

What do you like most about teaching and how has it changed over the years?

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

Hear the development and joy that each student achieves.

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

Q: I heard that you will be playing in two bands at the festival: How About That and Triptych.

Can you tell us about these ensembles, how you formed and what kind of music you will play?

A: Yes, I’m looking forward to both performances – Friday night I’m playing sax with ‘How About That’ – a quartet playing a selection from our guitarist Glen Hodges and my original compositions.

The rhythm section includes Emiliano Beltzer on double bass and Ivan Pliaskin on drums which complete a very strong and creative band.

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

Then on Sunday afternoon, I play alongside great musician friends Bruce Stephen on double bass and drummer Phil Stitt to create a unique approach to jazz grooves and style and original compositions that only ‘Triptych’ can produce.

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

What role will the Stage Band play in the Festival?

A: I have been leading the Stage Band for almost five years now.

This is the last of many ensembles I have led over the years.

It became an extension of the saxophone band to allow more instrumental students to get involved – learning to play in a larger ensemble and working with a rhythm section exploring a range of music.

Q: In addition to performing at the Coffs Coast Jazz Festival, you will be presenting a ‘harmony in improvisation’ workshop.

Is anyone welcome to this workshop?

Where do I start to improve my improvisation skills?

Why is it important to learn harmonization?

A: Everyone is welcome at the workshop even if you don’t play an instrument.

This will be an overview of what makes jazz work.

Participants will have the opportunity 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 in a chord progression as well as more advanced improvisational information.

Q: What do you think the future of jazz music looks like in Australia, particularly in the North Coast region? How can we collectively support arts and culture in Coffs Harbour?

A: I think the future is bright with a lot of young people wanting to experience what jazz has to offer.

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

Please continue to come out and see music, especially jazz, as this is live and exciting music for attendees and audiences alike.

Q: Thanks Chris for your time – it’s 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 to your younger self?

A: I would suggest doing more aural 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/

Willie J. Johnson