Richard Ashby - Graduate - Q & A

Q: Who are you? Where are you? What year did you graduate?

Richard Ashby - originally from Gore…been living in Sydney since 2008.  Graduated Dip.Jazz in 2002, and BMusHons (jazz) from University of Canterbury in 2004.

Q: What is your instrument and when and why did you start playing?

Guitar.  Started playing about age 12. I come from a musical family and grew up playing rock 'n' roll and country gigs around Southland and Otago. After school job during high school was playing gigs in country pubs and rugby clubs - quite a sight for a 14-15 year old at times!  By about 17-18 I was more into Blues and Rock, particularly instrumental guitar music like Joe Satriani. After a year at the SIT in Invercargill improving my music theory and reading, I decided I wanted to learn to play jazz and how to improvise. 

Q: How did Jazz school influence you and your playing? Tutors?Gigs?Workshops? 

Initially Jazz School was a shock to the system.  Coming from a rock and blues covers background I felt I couldn't say what I wanted to say on the guitar anymore, compared to how expressive accomplished jazz players could be.  After the first six months of the diploma course I realised I wanted to be able to improvise, and that was really my main motivation.  I have to credit Bob Heinz for instilling in me such a thorough knowledge of the guitar and music theory.  He helped to break down a lot of the barriers on my instrument and showed me how to access the whole instrument effectively.  Regular gigs at Vesuvio's, Sammy's, Sol Square among others helped me to build a repertoire (mostly of funk songs in the beginning!) and to gain confidence as a jazz performer. Just being able to play with experienced tutors on a daily basis was probably the greatest aspect of the jazz course - for me, having the opportunity to play with Gwyn Reynolds, Simon Lean-Massey, Harry Harrison, Cameron Pearce, Bob Heinz, Doug Caldwell and many others taught me so much very quickly.  Although at times intimidating, it was the best way to jump in the deep end and discover what could be achieved on an instrument.

Q: What is your greatest musical achievement to date? What are your current/future projects?

Since relocating to Sydney eight years ago, I've been fortunate enough to establish Spyglass Gypsies - a gypsy jazz group that has been performing for the past six years around the country.  We currently have funding through the Australian Arts Council, have toured nationally and have been lucky enough to perform at many major festivals and with several international artists including guitar luminary Hank Marvin, Dutch guitar virtuoso Lollo Meier and most recently with Portuguese Fado singer Ana Moura, in a sold-out show at Sydney's Enmore Theatre. 

Currently we are working on our second album of original music, which features influences from Gypsy Swing, Fado, Rumba and Musette. We hope to bring the group to New Zealand in 2017, so keep an eye out for us
 www.facebook.com/spyglassgypsies

Q: What is your fondest memory of Jazz school? 

Some of my fondest memories of Jazz school are of discovering new music either during ensemble rehearsals or when trawling through the extensive jazz school library.  Others include time spent performing with fellow students either on gigs or during rehearsal time, especially the early days when improvising was still a largely undiscovered skill and the moments of real expression and communication were rare and often unexpected.  I think ultimately the fondest memory is of when I realised that here was a genre of music I totally connected with, even though I didn't understand a lot of it yet. 

Here's a few quotes:  

Bob - 'Well I guess you could play Stella in 3/4, but you know it'll sound bad…'

Simon Lean - 'That's a nice new guitar.'

Me - 'Yea, I got it to play gypsy jazz on'

Simon -  'Oh, sorry to hear that' 

Harry Harrison - 'She had a vibrato that would take the air out of a sponge cake'