Scott Tinkler: Trumpet Down Under
AAJ: Even for someone familiar with the avant-garde, your solo trumpet CD Backwards presents some challenging material. Please comment on this particular session and how this ties into the aesthetics which you briefly spoke about.
ST: Roger Richards from Extreme Records asked me to do a solo album and I was very much up for the challenge. I knew the studio was well-equipped with various instruments at my disposal and I had a few ideas in mind that I wished to employ but time was limited. I had just five hours to set up and record. I enjoy interaction in music, so the approach I took up was to set up each possibility and mic it up so that I could then interact with the space and the instrument in it.
In relation to the aesthetics I mentioned, this might be a time for the music to speak for itself, though I will add that on this recording I employ rhythmic explorations, moments of intervallic playing stemming from the all-interval chords, as well as the use of extended and prepared trumpet techniques. Playing my instrument into/onto/at the various sound sources, such as drums, cymbals, a bucket of water, and a piano, requires me to respond in much the same way as playing in a group. Unexpected ideas and sounds present themselves. I then take a compositional attitude towards each of these musical events, working on the development of ideas to give a structure to the pieces.
ST: Well, I'm from a big family. I have four sisters and a brother. I am the youngest and my brother is the eldest. My father is a retired minister from the United Church of Christ and my mother was a secretarial studies teacher. My mother always wanted to learn the piano but her father died young and, being the eldest, she had to look after her brothers and sisters while her mom worked, so there was no time or money for piano lessons. Due to this, Mom made sure that all of her children had access to music lessons if they wished. I started on snare drum at age eight for a year, then piano for a year before I had an offer of a trumpet with two lessons for $20, and never looked back.
My early training was very formal, following a string classical syllabus of scales and etudes. The only listening I really had access to between 10 and 13 was an old reel-to-reel tape player that was in the house. The only music on the tapes that I liked was Louis Armstrong and his Hot 5, The Beatles, and Deep Purple (strange mix, I know). There was a stage band that had just started at the school I was at, and when I first heard the band I knew it was a music that interested me. I was much more interested in the band's music than the classical orchestra that I was in. I guess for a smallish country town (80,000 people), I was lucky that the school had a good music program.
At the age of 13, my dad got a new posting to a town in Tasmania, and there was a teacher there who was into jazz. This allowed me to continue to learn my classical trumpet studies and chord changes and how to play them. This teacher, Gordon Scott, introduced me to lots of new music and the nuts and bolts of how it was put together. I also got the chance to play with him, as he played vibes and trombone. At this age, around 14 or 15, I was really into Clifford Brown, Fats Navarro, Dizzy [Gillespie], and still Louis Armstrong; I would listen to them for hours. It was around then that I first heard the late Freddie Hubbard. He was visiting Australia in 1980 and I saw him on a TV show. I just didn't get it at all. I thought it was just all flashy technique and I couldn't hear what he was doing. But within a year he was my favorite player and I couldn't get enough of his playing.
From there, I got into heaps of Lee Morgan and Woody Shaw and some early Miles Davis. It wasn't really until my late teens that I could handle the depth of Miles' work in the late 1960s and early '70s. I also started listening to Wynton Marsalis around the mid-'80s and was blown away by his ability on the horn. I kept buying his albums up to about 1992. From high school I went on to do a jazz course at a university in Melbourne. I didn't last long, as I'd just had enough of institutions, so I joined a touring band, Blues Brothers Revival Band, and hit the road for a couple of years. I ended up back in Melbourne in a cabaret band, and was doing a few jazz gigs around the place. I sort of woke up from this period of my life at around 25 years of age and realized I needed a serious refocus back into the direction of, dare I say it, a more serious musical exploration and development.
I really hit the shed at this time. I always did practice, but I really focused my efforts at this time on not only the horn but writing as well. I had a most fortunate meeting at this time, too, of a man who became quite a musical mentor for me. Mark Simmonds is a fiery Australian tenor player with the virtuosity of John Coltrane but the sound of [Coleman] Hawkins. He is truly a monster player and I served my apprenticeship with him, I would say. He trained me rhythmically and harmonically as well as challenged me conceptually to think about the effect I was having on the music whilst improvising. This was the heaviest schooling I have had.
I was also fortunate to start working with Paul Grabowsky, the Australian pianist, in the early 1990s. We were in each other's band, and working with Paul was another huge growing experience. We put out two quartet albums, in 1993 and 1995. In mid-1995, I moved to Sydney and formed a trio with drummer Simon Barker, with the bassist Adam Armstrong. I had played with Simon in Mark Simmond's band. We really worked hard on the music in this group and did three albums and several international tours.
I also lived in Holland for a year (1997 to 1998) then moved back to Byron Bay in Australia, which is a surfing village on the East Coast. I lived there for five years. Despite much surfing and fishing, I often went two hours north to Brisbane, where two guys, Ken Edie and John Rodgers, live. They are really heavy players and thinkers. John Rodgers is a virtuoso violinist and an extraordinary composer and Ken Edie is an amazing drummer. Both have a love for very out music in the classical vein and for improvised music. The bulk of stuff I do now still involves these guys and we have been doing quite a bit of recording for the Extreme label over the past 18 months. I've been back in Melbourne now for almost five years and have a great family life with my partner of 18 years and our two girls, Mia (13) and Sunny (8).