Part way through my conversation with Perth jazz (and more) musician and composer, Ryan Daunt, while he’s earnestly waxing lyrical about how much he loves his craft, I broke into his stream of consciousness to ask, “So, do you have a partner?”
“Yes, I do have a girlfriend,” Daunt came back, no hint of irony, “and I’m very lucky that she loves jazz and enjoys coming to our gigs. I’m very fortunate.”
That’s pretty much all you need to know about Ryan Daunt – he lives for his art. Not even my attempt at humour could redirect his flow. This man is 24/7 musician. When he’s not playing board games, going to the gym and drinking AeroPress coffee, that is.
“I guess it’s a bit snobby, but it’s delicious,” said Daunt of that last one, again no hint of irony.
We’re here to talk about the upcoming launch of Daunt’s second album, Essence, happening at the Ellington Jazz Club (where else?) on 22 July, but being the ever curious person that I am, we did make that brief excursion into the other sides of Ryan Daunt. Very brief. Suffice to say, when they make the Daunt biopic it’ll be 120 minutes of the musician and about 30 seconds or so of him cuddling his girlfriend while playing Monopoly, probably with the other two members of the Ryan Daunt Trio.
So, let’s talk about the music, then.
“For me, the best thing about jazz is you have the freedom to express exactly how you’re feeling at that time,” said Daunt. “What’s incredible is when you get other musicians together and you play together, you’re basically hanging out and talking through musical language. I love the freedom aspect of jazz and the improvisational aspect, it’s never the same. You’re always in it for good or bad, I guess (laughs).”
That laugh still haunts me. I should have asked him what it meant. I think he meant that, with jazz, there is no bad, but I’ll never be sure now. Let’s go with that, it feels like a very Ryan Daunt way of dealing with being in love with his craft.
“It’s complete fulfilment,” Daunt continued. “Your creativity and that spark… It’s just an incredible feeling, full stop. It makes me very happy as a human being.”
OK, now I’m envious. Genuinely. It’s been a good while since I’ve spoken to someone who has expressed their love of making music quite the way Daunt does. People like him should come with a public health warning for those of us who struggle daily with finding meaning and contentment.
And so it went on.
“When you’re really in the moment, the flow state as people call it, you really forget that everyone’s there,” said Daunt. ‘However, you can kind of feel the audience’s engagement as well. When the audience is really vibing it and really enjoying it that feeds you and feeds the moment. Complete bliss. You don’t have any worries or cares and it’s nice to be in the moment and enjoying that moment.
“It’s really exciting to be able to play my music to an audience that’s enjoying it. Hopefully.”
Ah ha! The chink in Daunt’s armour! “Hopefully.”
Because there’s a danger in being so deeply into the music. You can leave your audience behind. Fortunately for Daunt and his audience, that’s not a path he’s ever going to take. While Daunt is as pure muso as you’ll ever get, he lives equally as much to share his music with an audience.
The media release for Daunt’s second album, Essence, trumpets the massive streaming audience for his first album, Fragile Information, and spruiks an impressive list of festivals he’s played at, including Perth Jazz Festival, Perth Fringe Festival and Blues at Bridgetown, as well as national and international tours. This is a muso who, like every other muso who ever dreamed of making it, is hungry to find an audience and, in doing so walks the fine line between pleasing himself and making music that will play well with the public.
Talking about Essence, Daunt said, “The more I’ve performed with other musicians and listened to musicians that I look up to, and developed my own approach to music and the drums, I think what’s really interesting is that, when it comes down to it, each musician has their own sound and approach, which is their essence. What’s really interesting is, whatever the instrument is, if you got two different musicians to both play the same thing they would approach it differently. Everyone has their own essence. This album for me was about capturing compositions and ideas and my thoughts about music, free of any external preconceptions. It was about writing pieces that try to truly sum up my own essence and approach to music.”
Daunt’s approach to music is influenced by jazz, contemporary and classical music and he is particularly into European jazz. This brings further influences of folk and avant garde and, in some respects, is distinctly ‘non-American’, even though European jazz musicians have, for decades, toured and worked with their US counterparts.
Mostly, though, for all its influences and derivations, Daunt’s music come fresh from the source.
“I definitely think that the music and the album is 100 per cent me,” said Daunt. “It’s very Ryan Daunt, and you can take that however you want. It’s all the things I love in a piano trio setting and I’ve written compositions that I’m very proud of. I’m happy to share it with everyone.”
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Ryan Daunt launches Essence at the Ellington Jazz Club on 22 July. Get tickets here.