MELISSA ALDANA QUARTET Perth International Jazz Festival

At just 29 years of age, Melissa Aldana of the Melissa Aldana Quartet (USA) is set to cause a stir at the Perth International Jazz Festival. Once a six year old saxophone prodigy, the Chilean born daughter of saxophonist Marcos Aldana has played alongside some huge names in the jazz world, cementing her status as ‘the new face of jazz’. MAGGIE BOCHAT speaks to Aldana ahead of her Perth Jazz Fest shows on Friday, November 9 at State Theatre Centre Courtyard; and on Saturday, November 10 at The Ellington Jazz Club. 

This is your first time playing jazz officially in Australia, is that correct? Are you excited?

It’s not first time; I played in Sydney at a jazz club for the international Women’s Day and then I played at the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues in Melbourne doing a masterclass. I am really looking forward coming back. I love the people, culture, food; everything! We are all very excited.

We can’t wait to have you for the Perth International Jazz Festival. What can we expect from your shows?

We are going to play music from the new album. The album has not been released yet, we recorded it a month ago, but I guess it will be mostly a preview of what will come next.

You were also the first female musician and the first South American musician to win the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition. What is it like being a young woman who is so successful in the jazz community? Is the scene supportive or have you faced some discrimination?

Not at all… I think that music transcends genders and cultures. At the end of the day it is about what is your story and how strong is the music is.

You’ve travelled to some pretty amazing places playing  jazz, do you have a place or tour that was a real highlight?

Australia! Sydney and Melbourne two years ago was one of the highlights. We got to go to Rio this year. Every place has its own charm and is very special to us.

You’ve been described as a representative for “a new sense of possibility and direction in jazz”. You’ve also studied at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, played at the Monterey Jazz Festival, and worked alongside some very impressive names in musical history. How does it feel to be at the intersection of jazz greats while also being such a figure for the future of jazz?

Mostly I just feel very lucky to share the stage and get to know so many people that have changed the way I think about music, what I want from music and just being an artists these days. I feel very inspired to stay motivated and keep growing and keep going.

Do you have any more comments on the place of jazz in mainstream music? Lots of hugely successful bands such as BADBADNOTGOOD are incorporating jazz with different genres, do you feel your music could enter the mainstream too?

I don’t really think about that either. I just want to be as honest as possible when it comes to my music and deliberate in the most honest and truthful way possible. I think that comes across to people; whatever I am playing, how can I make them feel something? How can I make them have an experience? Make them dance or whatever it is. It’s not specially about making the music mainstream. It’s mostly about how can I touch people without compromising the integrity of my music. I feel like being honest about it is one of the ways.