Sandy Brown Jazz

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The monthly Tea Break is a series of short, fun items in What's New Magazine that also gives jazz musicians an opportunity to update us with what they are doing. Here are the Tea Breaks they (and I) have taken since 2015.

Carl Orr (Guitar) - February 2016

Carl Orr


Carl playing Mirage with the Billy Cobham band.




Hi Carl, tea or coffee?

Coffee please. Espresso. 


Hob Nob, Bourbon, Garibaldi or digestive biscuit?

Bourbon please 


Charlie Christian, John McLaughlin or Pat Metheny?

I’m influenced by all three of them. Charlie blasted on the scene with a new instrument, the electric guitar; his playing was completely original and highly charismatic. John defined jazz-rock guitar. Pat rebelled against what John was doing and steered things in a completely different direction which has turned out to be extremely influential as he very quickly grew into a musical visionary who simply could not be ignored and he has created a body of work of a degree of breadth and ambition that no other guitarist comes close to.However, John is my guy. He was the first guitarist to figure out how to play the guitar as a powerful virtuoso instrument of improvisation to rival the saxophone. He has also written a lot of highly original music. I transcribed many of his solos and spent countless hours practising them so I know his improvisational approach intimately. 


Milk and sugar?

One sugar please. No milk.


Tell me about Fletch’s Brew.

Fletch’s Brew grew organically at Ronnie Scott’s Club. Mark Fletcher started to get lots of gigs doing the ‘Late Late Shows’ on the weekends; he was booking a lot of different musicians and then, as I turned out to be available most of the time, I wound up doing most of the gigs, and eventually all of them. The same thing happened with the other musicians, trumpeter Freddie Gavita and bassist Steve Pearce. We had a couple of good years from about the beginning of 2013. We played mostly original tunes and developed a unique, highly interactive style, and had a huge dynamic range from super quiet all the way up to 11. It was a lot of fun for a while, we did dozens of great gigs. I am very thankful to Fletch for the opportunity to play so much great music.


Fletch’s Brew playing Invitation in 2013.



What gigs have you been doing since Fletch’s Brew?

I’ve been playing with my band, which is very different to Fletch’s Brew, funkier and more accessible, and sounds at times like a modernised Headhunters with a lunatic playing the guitar out front. The band is Bill Mudge on keyboards, Giovanni Pallotti on bass and Davide de Rose on drums. You may be familiar with Bill, but you probably don’t know the names of the two Italians as Giovanni is very young and Davide mainly plays with African artists and isn’t known in the jazz scene, despite being one hell of a jazz drummer He is the son of highly respected Italian jazz pianist Nino de Rose.I am also spending a lot of time promoting my latest album, Forbearance. It’s a very lavish project based around my acoustic guitar, produced by Tim van der Kuil, who plays guitar with Adele, and boasting strings and horns arranged by Grant Windsor, and my dear friend Billy Cobham is guesting on one track.


What are you planning for the coming year?

To do an Australian tour and to expand my audience, both geographically and airplay-wise.


Who else have you heard recently that we should listen out for?

As far as live music goes, I heard Chick Corea play recently and Charles Altura, his guitarist is a monster with a very likeable, persuasive style, as is his drummer Marcus Gilmore, Roy Haynes's grandson. I also like the Israeli guitarist Yotam Silberstein and the amazing young Scottish guitarist Ant Law. I also heard Nils Petter Molvaer a couple of months ago and I was mesmerised for his whole set.As far as recorded music, I discovered an underrated masterpiece recently, Jeremy Lubbock’s Awakening and I listen to it, in whole or in part, almost every day.


Listen to Jeremy Lubbock’s Awakening.





How do you think the world of jazz is looking at the moment?

I am thinking that jazz has no chance of increasing in popularity as long as musicians fixate on impressing other musicians as their main focus, driving the music inexorably into deeper and deeper obscurity and demoting it increasingly to the preserve of fellow musicians and a tiny minority of non-musician aficionados. Billy Cobham taught me about realising that the audience have paid good money to hear us play and we have to really communicate with them, and the best way to do that is to cast aside the ego and just be natural and present yourself with a degree of light-heartedness.

There’s a dearth of humour in jazz. I have witnessed many gigs in which nobody in the band so much as cracked a smile. There’s no Carl Orrneed for showbiz “stage-smiling” or joking around, but, if the performers have a sense of gratitude for the privilege of playing music for a listening audience, happiness should naturally manifest itself. The great jazz musicians of the past such as Armstrong, Ellington and Goodman played music of the highest quality that was palatable to the average person. I do not play music that even vaguely resembles the music of any of those gigantic musical geniuses, but I am inspired by their example and seek to emulate it in a totally modern way. 

I also believe that it’s important for musicians to seek out older musicians, bandleaders and composers, that is, to train with them onstage. Just practising and writing and studying is not enough. When I was young I sought out such training and as a result I worked with a great bassist/composer Jackie Orszaczky in Sydney for a few years, and he really trained me in playing effectively as part of a rhythm section. Then I trained with the great Australian saxophonist Dale Barlow (he played with Cedar Walton and Art Blakey), and he trained me in improvisation, keeping it interesting and using a different approach in every tune. 



Carl playing Visby with Dale Barlow in 1995 at Wangaratta Jazz Festival Australia.




Then finally I trained with Billy Cobham, who gave me invaluable guidelines on how to play my instrument better, and trained me to really project and command the audience through finding a way to just be natural onstage, and to truly embrace and enjoy all good music, regardless of genre. And remember, music is your contribution to world peace. If you keep that in the centre of your focus, you are able to rise above all the “noise” in your head (“Am I playing good enough?” etc).



Listen to Carl’s cover of Donald Fagen’s Tomorrow’s Girls.




Another biscuit?

Yes, I’ll always have another biscuit! Can’t you tell from my photos?


Carl Orr’s latest album Forbearance is reviewed here. As Carl says: ‘It’s not a jazz album, so it will grievously disappoint from that perspective, but, it’s a finely-crafted showcase of my playing and composing with the intention of appealing to a large audience without an ounce of compromise’. Listen to How Can I Say? from the album.




[Click here for Carl Orr’s website. Carl also has his latest news on Facebook - click here]


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More Tea Breaks
Tracks Unwrapped
Full Focus
Jazz Remembered

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