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Take Five Minutes With... Stella Roberts

The second installment of our Take Five Minutes with… segment features homegrown pianist, Stella Roberts, who will be performing at the Bramall Music Building on Thursday 31 March.

1. When and how did you come to start playing music and then how did you get into jazz?

When I was 7 I began piano lessons, as my older brother had them. I was very fortunate to have such an amazing primary school piano teacher who had a lot of knowledge of music education. She knew about a school called Chetham’s which specialised in music, and it was there where I met jazz pianist, Les Chisnall; who along with some of his pupils, got me interested in jazz.

2. What are your fondest musical memories?

My first fondest musical memory is playing duets with my best friend at primary school, whether it was in our house or in a competition, it was always the most fun I had. Another fond memory was when I played with my band ‘FRIDA’ at Chelthenam Jazz Festival

3. Tell us a bit about the path of your musical development. How did you get to where you are today?

I began playing classical, and eventually found what I loved in jazz music. Whilst studying jazz at university, I began to develop and interest in composition. I now enjoy composition and would like to further my understanding and knowledge of it.

4. When you are composing, what are the key elements do you aim to incorporate in your music?

I love melodies that are singable, I like to listen to music with strong, lyrical melodies. When I compose I want to create contrasting music, so that there is a journey in the set of music. It is also becoming more and more important to have a story to the pieces of music that I compose, I find it inspiring to write about an image, person or situation.

5. Which musicians/bands/composers have had a key influence on you and your music?

Bill Evans was the first pianist I listened to and he has been a huge influence to me. I really enjoy Monk’s compositions, they are extremely idiosyncratic and I think that is inspiring. I also am hugely influenced by Brad Mehldau, especially his album ‘Highway Rider

6. If you were introducing a friend to jazz music for the first time, what 3 artists or albums would you recommend to them?

Miles Davis – Kind of Blue, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald – Ella and Louis, Bill Evans – Explorations

7. Please explain a bit about your upcoming project or tell us about any musical ambitions/plans you have for the future (new projects, collaborations)

My upcoming project incorporates portraits of my idols with music written for and about them. The band is a quintet made up of trumpet, trombone, piano, bass and drums. The music is inspired a lot by Brad Mehldau ‘Highway Rider.’ My objective is to help the audience to empathise with each portrait by hearing a bit about them, seeing a photo and listening to the music written for them. I hope that by using this mixed media, it will help the audience to understand the character being the portrait. In the future, I would like to develop the presentation of the project by using more visual effects to present the portraits on a bigger screen. I would also like to incorporate audio recordings of each of my idols talking within the music, giving the musicians the opportunity to improvise reactions to the audio clips.