On the Couch with Michael Tortoni

Michael Tortoni AAR On the CouchWho is Michael Tortoni?
I’m a simple man that has made a lifelong commitment to music, and perceives Jazz as an intellectual pursuit for freedom.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
Nothing! I have my Jazz club and finally hit the sweet spot when I met my Sicilian wife Santina and had our two gorgeous children – there’s an art to staying there and not wanting more sugar…

Who inspires you and why?
Apart from Herbie Hancock, almost 80 and still influencing musicians all over the world, Troy Miller is a really interesting individual. He is a talented conductor, producer, multi-instrumentalist and composer. He has performed with musicians as diverse as Amy Winehouse, George Benson and Roy Ayers and has arranged and conducted for the London Symphony Orchestra. I find that level of versatility and diversity highly creative and inspiring. He will be conducting our collaboration with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Gershwin Reimagined – Opening night, Friday 31 May and Saturday 1 June, featuring amazing vocalists Laura Mvula and Jose James.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Bring back Paul Keating as Prime Minister and teach everyone to improvise.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
New York of course, never get to much jazz!

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
The JazzLab – it’s the beneficiary of having 25 years at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club to perfect it. It’s now the quintessential concert club for jazz, where you can hear the most creative musicians improvise any night of the week.

What are you currently reading?
Jazz improvisation will change your brain – Dr Charles Limb, works extensively with two of my favourite musicians, Vijay Iyer (appearing as part of the MIJF at the JazzLab, Friday 31 May and Sunday 2 June) and Esperanza Spalding.

What are you currently listening to?
Kamasi Washington – Harmony of Difference. Raw and sophisticated at the same time. Ghost note and Rafiq Bhatia Trio.

Happiness is?
The space between the notes.

What does the future hold for you?
Lots of music to listen to and compose and looking forward to touring with my teenage rock band TASTE in June.

Michael is the Artistic Director of the Melbourne International Jazz Festival which runs 31 May to 9 June 2019. For more information, visit: www.melbournejazz.com for details.

Image: Michael Tortoni (supplied)

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