‘Jazz has always represented freedom of expression’ – David Austin Grey

Did you know that 20 years ago on 30th April International Jazz Day was born? It was officially created by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to recognise jazz music’s role in bringing people together around the world.  

Our Career Development programme artists play a wide range of instruments with unique and varied styles, but a love of jazz runs deep in their veins and is a passion that influences and connects them. 

So what better way to mark jazz month than by chatting to mentee, pianist, composer and educator David Austin Grey?!

Jennie: What’s the first jazz track you can remember hearing and what reaction did you have to it? 

David: I couldn’t even say, my Dad always used to have jazz (and other music) playing in the house, so I definitely absorbed a lot during my formative years (Miles Davis, Coltrane, Weather Report etc.)

One distinct memory that I do have is of discovering ‘Black Codes From The Underground’ by Wynton Marsalis. I love that album, and I remember really getting into the tunes and the way the players in the band interact with each other.

Jennie: What is it that makes jazz a special and powerful genre of music to you?

David: I just love the freshness and the organic nature of it. I’m a fan of so many different genres of music, but I certainly hold a special fondness for jazz. The music always feels alive (both recorded and live), and it doesn’t matter whether I’m listening to classic albums from the ‘50s and ‘60s or something that was made last week.  I love to hear each musician’s passion, intention and unique voice.

Jennie: What jazz musician or composer has had the most influence on you and why?

David: This has changed consistently throughout my life as my tastes have evolved. Certainly Herbie Hancock is a long standing influence, especially because of his work as a composer and his key involvement in Miles Davis’ ‘Second Great Quintet’. 

Other extremely notable (jazz) influences include Mulgrew Miller, Brian Blade, Dave Douglas, Wayne Shorter, Ambrose Akinmusire and Nina Simone.

Jennie: How does jazz speak to young audiences in 2021 and beyond?

David: Well, it seems to be very popular and prominent at the moment. There will always be jazz fans, but right now jazz is finding its way into so many other genres and sub-genres of music that it’s almost impossible not to notice and appreciate it. 

There’s so many talented and engaging jazz artists out there at the moment and I feel as though it’s becoming less niche and more visible as a result. It also helps that the wider music industry is more invested in it presently.

Jazz is no longer only associated with a certain demographic. It can appeal to audiences in their ’20s and ’30s as much as those in their ’60s and ’70s.

Jazz has always represented freedom of expression. That’s very much still the case, and more and more people (both young and old) are finding unique, engaging musical ways to express themselves.

David’s performing as part of NQ Jazz’s series of seminal sci-fi film nights at the Yard, Manchester on 15th August 2021 with an improvised score to the 1916 American silent film, ‘20,000 Leagues Under The Sea’ – get your tickets HERE.

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