Australian trio Woolhouse - Michailidis - Robertson 'Ascent' into world of dreams on new album

When Woolhouse - Michailidis - Robertson takes Ascent on their new album, it is into the world of dreams. Maybe it's no coincidence that the trio is from Australia, where Aborigines believe in the Dreaming, a concept in which our souls existed before they found their physical hosts. 

Similarly, the otherworldly music of Woolhouse - Michailidis - Robertson seems to have emanated from another plane of existence. On the opening track, "Mandala," pianist Jeremy Woolhouse paints images of desert vistas with his atmospheric tones as guitarist Lucas Michailidis traces the spider's web of stars in the skies with spellbinding guitars. Bassist Ben Robertson's deep, heavy bass lines infiltrate the groove with a hypnotically ominous undertow. In "The Window," Woolhouse's meditative piano seems to be embarking on a spiritual journey of its own as Michailidis' sweetly tuneful smooth-jazz riffs keep the listener grounded. 

If this all sounds like high-I.Q. experimentation, it doesn't come across the way to the ears. Woolhouse - Michailidis - Robertson produce music that has a calming, therapeutic effect; whether that evolves into a transcendent experience depends on if your imagination has renewed its passport. Woolhouse reveals the secrets behind his own magical musicianship in this interview. 

When did this passion for music first happen to you?

As a child I always had a fascination for music and my parents encouraged and supported this interest. They remind me that even in my earliest lessons, I had trouble playing what was written and preferred just to make it up. No surprise then that I was attracted to jazz. I did have some influential teachers who introduced me to jazz; without that exposure, I may never have pursued music. I spent a few early years on learning the Electone (Yamaha's electronic organ, the rage of the ‘80s), switched to trombone for my teenage years, and eventually made my way to piano by the end of my first music course. I'd never considered not being a musician. Nothing else seemed to be as much fun.

How has your music changed since you began?

I'd have to say in my early years I was very attached to genre. I was set on being a jazz musician. As a reaction to the intensity and pressure of the jazz degree I studied, I switched to tango for a while. I later had to take some time off playing due to injury. During this period I meditated on the music-making process and what I wanted to do. I gave up on genre altogether and just wrote music and played that.

It was immensely freeing. Everyone puts it in the genre of jazz, but I just think of it as music. I'm much more open-minded now and broader in my tastes. I allow influences to seep in for as far and wide as I can.

One of the great advantages of living in Melbourne is that there is such diversity in ethnicity one can experience authentic music from a vast host of places. That's just one view on music which has changed over time. I think that my perspective on absolutely every aspect of music has matured, and it is my fond wish that it should continue to evolve.

What are your goals as an artist?

My primary aim is to enjoy my music. I don't see that as simplistic; it carries with it the complexities of what it takes to please my aesthetic. It is also the process that brings people to my music, I think. I'm always drawn to an artist engrossed in his work, and I'd so much rather watch a band who are having a ball than one who may be more proficient but have no fun. So I think that honours my audience as well. 

I tend not to think of goals for my music, but following processes of artistic development. I like to leave open where my music might head. It's much more exciting that way, and I frequently surprise myself with what I come up with.

 

By Robert Sutton for jazzcorner.com

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