Perth-raised WAAPA graduate, composer and band leader Vanessa Perica is making waves in the Australian jazz scene with an ensemble featuring eight of WAAPA’s most talented alumni making the national music charts.
Released in late February with funding from the prestigious Australia Council grant, The Vanessa Perica Orchestra’s debut album Love is a Temporary Madness made it to number 5 on the ARIA jazz and blues charts, competing against genre legends like Frank Sinatra, John Coltrane and Michael Bublé for a place in the top ten.
While this is an incredible accomplishment for an independent group’s debut album, Perica remains humble and attributes much of her success as a composer to the opportunities offered by WAAPA.
‘I was really blown away by the course at the academy; the lecturers were phenomenal and the standard overall was amazing. I had so many people I could look up to, so it encouraged me to work really hard’, she says from her new home in Melbourne.
‘I entered WAAPA on trumpet as a performance major, and I really did not know a whole lot about composing or arranging. Then, whilst there, I came to know about the West Australian Youth Jazz Orchestra and the composer’s ensemble, run by (former WAAPA mentor) Graeme Lyall…it was a phenomenal training ground. So, between that and playing in the WAAPA big band, I just fell in love with large ensemble writing.’
Moving to Melbourne with her husband, alto saxophonist Carl Mackey five years ago, through a fateful coincidence the pair found themselves in the company of fellow WAAPA graduates.
‘We decided to move to Melbourne, and some of our closest mates, including Mat Jodrell (trumpet), Grant Windsor (producer) and Sam Anning (bass) all decided to move to Melbourne within about a six month period without conferring with each other. They’d been living in New York and London. It was a really fateful move for all of us, and having them here in town presented this wonderful opportunity to have them on the recording’.
Despite the album being recorded in Victoria, both of the album’s closing tracks were written during Perica’s time in WA. Track six, Scar for Charlie, was commissioned and premiered at 2015’s Perth International Jazz Festival, and the album’s final work, Rebrahmanization, was nominated for WAM’s annual Song of the Year awards in 2008.
Even with some tracks written, not everything was smooth sailing for the band; the two days set aside for recording were the hottest days on record since 2009’s Black Saturday fires.
‘We had a massive heatwave across the two days. It was 39ºC on the first day and 45ºC on the second…there were rolling blackouts happening throughout the suburbs and apparently some right near our studio…’
‘You have some things go against you, but through the excitement of it all, it didn’t matter and it all worked out in the end.’
Love is a Temporary Madness is available for purchase on CD and Digitally from Bandcamp. https://vanessaperica.bandcamp.com/releases
Photographs by Pia Johnson