Paul Van Ross

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Paul Van Ross

Last year, acclaimed Melbourne saxophonist Paul Van Ross headed overseas to lay down two albums. In the lead up to the release of the Cuban album, I sat down with Paul to chat about the writing and recording of the new material.
Creating space between where the songs were written and recorded as well as getting some of the most accomplished players around has allowed for a “more natural sounding” and great collection of songs, as Van Ross relates. With a jazz trio, Van Ross is set to hit the Castlemaine Jazz Festival over the Queen’s Birthday weekend in June.
“That show is going to be very fun because I’ve got a bass player and a drummer with me and it will be more standard jazz than what I have been working on recently, but still fun nonetheless. I recorded a few tracks in Castlemaine a few years ago, so it is sort of a homecoming in a way. I can’t wait.”
With two albums of material at the ready, there is something for everyone in these upcoming releases. “I think that this Cuban record is something a little different to what you would expect from a jazz saxophonist.” The album, which was recorded in the same studio that the Buena Vista Social Club recorded, was an experience that was “pretty awesome”, and I could tell that Van Ross was holding back his excitement in telling me about the experience.
“I remember when I first got there, I had a contact on the ground and he helped me set everything up. We walked into the main room in the studio and it was just like walking into a history book. All the musicians in Cuba say that EGREM is the best recording studio in the country and I remember thinking about all the famous musicians that have been in there over the years. It was quite a pinch yourself moment, really, looking back; a surreal experience and definitely something that I’ll never forget.”
In 2014 Van Ross is one of the most acclaimed jazz saxophonists in the country; however, it took a while of working up through the woodwind instruments to finally start learning to play saxophone. “I started out playing the organ and then moved on to playing the recorder. I stayed home for a couple of days from school until I could play ‘Greensleeves’ absolutely perfectly – and so I could impress my teacher. From there I moved to the clarinet, and then eventually to the sax.”
From just one look at the instrumentation list on Van Ross’s website, it is easy to see that all of the instruments are up to eighty years old. The main reasoning behind this is due to the vintage and old-fashioned sound that can be achieved. “I think the oldest instrument in my collection is my 1933 Tenor saxophone. The tones that you can pull are quite unique and different because sadly those older technologies have been superseded over the years.”
Although there is no massive tour schedule planned just yet, Van Ross has scheduled a few dates around Melbourne and is hoping to play in Geelong and Ocean Grove in the not too distant future. Having previously done some work with ClaveMania, Van Ross feels that they are the perfect fit for the newly finished Cuban album. “We’ve got a few shows coming in May and June and it would be good to do a few more around Victoria. It’s a great mixture of personalities and tunes in this outfit and I am really excited to get out on the road and play to as many people as possible.”
If you want to check out what the Cuban album is all about be sure to head over to Paul Van Ross’s website for a free download of one of the tracks. The New York record is slated for release in 2015, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for that one, too.
When&Where: Paris Cat Jazz Club – May 23
Written by Tex Miller