Divergence Jazz Orchestra’s new album “Fake It Until You Make It” is out now and can be purchased at https://divergencejazzorchestra.bandcamp.com/album/fake-it-until-you-make-it
For more information visit www.jennacave.com
There’s bands, and then there’s big bands (or jazz orchestras as they are known now). They all started back in the 1930s when swing dancing was all the rage and have since evolved from being a vehicle for dancing and enjoyment to an orchestra capable of performing art music. The sound of the big band is mostly associated with America, where you can hear jazz orchestras almost every night of the week (including the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and Maria Schneider’s jazz orchestra). However, it would seem you don’t have to be in New York to hear great jazz orchestras, and Sydney is home to one of the greats, Divergence Jazz Orchestra.
Divergence was formed in 2012 by trombonist Paul Weber and composter/conductor, Jenna Cave. Since that time they have released two recordings, and their most recent, Fake It Until You Make It was launched a few weeks ago to a sold out crowd at Foundry616. The album is an eclectic mix of styles, from classic swing (Sammy Nestico style), to funky grooves and tender reflective moments that make you melt like butter.
The orchestra was put together with the idea of a community in mind. Cave wanted it to be a vehicle where a group of talented and dedicated people could come together and make new music. The album features and eclectic mix of original compositions by Jenna Cave, Brendan Champion, Luke Davis, Paul Murchison and Miroslav Bukovsky. “It is a collection of some of our favourite material that we have performed over the last 3 years, including two very old pieces of mine written 10 years ago,” Cave says. “When Paul and I established the band we wanted it to be a place where we could play music composed by myself and other members of the band, as well as from other composers in our networks; in doing so strengthening a sense of community and collaboration for composers as well as all the performers getting together.”
The idea of this community also extends beyond the orchestra. In 2016 Divergence commissioned new works from Paul Cutlan and Jenna Cave, and a new arrangement of an existing piece by Brendan Champion. This was made possible with the assistance of the Australian Cultural Fund and their fundraising platform and the generous patrons who donated funds. Divergence were awarded a Sydney Conservatorium of Music New and Contemporary Classical and Jazz Music Performance grant in 2013, and to date have performed and promoted original music by 16 Australian composers including William Motzing, Rafael Karlen, Elliot Hughes, Judy Bailey, Cam McAllister, Jessica Wells, Nadia Burgess and others. On their CD launch night at Foundry616 they also premiered a piece by Jessica Wells called “Bonnie and Clyde” and a new piece by Paul Cutlan.
For jazz composers, the challenge of writing for a jazz orchestra might be one of the biggest that there is to face. Cave relishes in the challenge, and like her fellow composers and band members, is excited to partake in the creation of new material for this medium.
“There is just so much great musical energy there with 18 instrumentalists and a conductor coming together to creating something as one, it can be a breathtaking and humbling experience standing in front of Divergence as they play. As a composer I find that when writing for jazz orchestra there are just so many sounds you can get, it’s like a journey of discovery writing for them with so many colours to play with and endless combinations and possibilities,” she explains. “I think I pretty much approach composition from the heart, and let that dictate the music,” explains Cave. “For me jazz is so joyful and expressive, so I like to draw on the stylistic aspects of this music that move me the most when writing for Divergence – the feel, groove, rhythm, expression and great melodies,” she adds.
So, what drives a group of talented young jazz musicians to record an album you might ask? “Recording albums of course does help with our “commercial” success with a few CD sales and opening up more performance opportunities. But that’s not why we do it. We record because of the artistic fulfilment, the need we feel to get this music captured and share it with people,” says Jenna Cave.
What remains to be said about Divergence is that it enjoys an obvious advantage over most other contemporary jazz groups and like its very name it diverges from the crowd, it has it’s own rules and doesn’t follow trends. What we have is a group of young, fresh and exuberant composers and musicians who have joined forces to create their own exciting take on the world of jazz. There’s certainly no faking it here.
– Samuel Cottell