Henry Manetta Q & A
By Crimson Cat
You have the talent of vocally transmogrifying unique Jazz, Blues and Soul sounds. When did you learn you could do that?
Thanks for saying that. At a really young age, sixteen or seventeen, when I first opened my mouth with a group of musicians, and it really kicked in when I stepped onto the stage not long afterwards for the first Bijou concert in Adelaide. I remember it really well although it was a long time ago. It was a huge lift, like a star transport, which is what it has always been about for me, and still is, a cathartic thing. Stylistically I have always come from that Jazz Blues Soul realm, all the artists I love are from that town, so to speak, but they are also unique and so the whole thing is to take that and try and create your own thing out of your influences.
How did your love for jazz begin?
I remember my mother, who studied opera at the Conservatorium of South Australia, playing operas and classical pieces for me as a child and the one that got me even then was Porgy and Bess so the blue note attraction must have been already there. Later on I discovered Billie Holiday and Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Sun Ra through Aretha and Tim Buckley and Gil Scott Heron. This was at maybe twelve and fourteen years old so it was through serendipitous exposure sometimes, but also through a natural affinity to the music I guess.
You’ve been the vocalist with a vast number of distinguished bands such as Precious Memories, Jump The Gun and The Immortals, and also alongside renowned artists such as Kate Ceberano and Paul Kelly. How was it like performing with other famous names?
Oh, immensely exciting, the Kate Ceberano shows were when she was with I’m Talking, a whirlwind of a soul band, so much energy, and we were honoured to be on the same stage. Paul Kelly I met years before at The Catacombs in Adelaide and at one of the Bijou concerts Precious Memories organised, but by the time we were asked to play on the same bill (in Jump The Gun) he was a national icon. My most treasured memorex is a duet with Wendy Saddington at The Rainbow a few years ago. Just one song, a spontaneous occurrence during her show that night. She has been a seminal influence from when I was a child, an amazing and unique Australian artist, and I was totally thrilled, not to mention a bit in awe.
Why did you decide to create your own band?
I’ve always been really stubborn about singing the way I want to, no compromise, but I also had a nascent vision of an ideal band in its entirety, a sound for the whole thing, and I wanted to try and make that happen. On a more prescient level I had also just recorded my first album ‘Shiver’ and needed to put together a live outfit for the launch.
How did you meet the band members that form The Trip?
I met the remarkable Adam Rudegeair, my main man on piano, at the original Dizzy’s, the one in Swan St. run by Steve Sedergreen. It was at the jam sessions and I still needed a pianist to complete the band and on this particular night we played together first and introduced ourselves afterwards, just improvised, and it was kind of a magical connection. So we have been writing the Trip songs and performing together for about ten years now. The rest of the lineup has changed over the years. The current Trip, which has been together for quite some time now, is Ron Romero on sax, who I originally met at Dizzy’s as well during his first foray to Australia. When he returned for good I just snatched him up, an amazing player. Adam Spiegl, on bass, we found through his playing with Jack Pantazis, also of great pedigree. And Sam Hall, on drums, was suggested by Adam R when his predecessor suddenly took wing to ‘find himself.’ I had seen Sam play a few times and had met him once or twice and thought he was a force of nature on that percussive altar and was very pleased that he became a Tripster.
How did the name ‘The Trip’ come about?
Well, it has connotations to do with Dr. John and there is a definite late 60’s reference going on there. There was a club in L.A. during that period called The Trip as well, I think the word ’The’ was hung upside down…plus it was Adam’s favourite of the names we came up with. I think it’s fairly apt and descriptive and evocative, hopefully, of what we do.
Henry Manetta and The Trip produced shows for The Melbourne and Adelaide Fringe Festivals that were huge successes. What was the highlight of that?
We tend to do thematically special performances for The Fringe such as Brainville, our Sun Ra Tribute, which is just such a blissful thing to do, gold hats man, I loved it. The Trip is usually an extended version at these times, with poets and theremins and guest musicians such as Justin Ashworth. So I think the highlight was definitely Ra, we’ve only done it twice, so it remains a very special dream.
You also launched your second band album ‘Bijou Box’ to a packed house at Dizzy’s Jazz Club in Melbourne, The Governor Hindmarsh in Adelaide and Soup Plus in Sydney. Which would you say was the most successful and why?
Dizzy’s, I guess, because it kind of gave birth, or at least was the midwife, to the Trip zone. I actually cried when it closed, it was my second home for many years.
What was the most bizarre thing that happened during one of the launches?
The Mothership landed on top of The Gov during a piano solo and vacuumed up the Green Room into the vortex of eternity. No, whatever happens on tour stays on tour I am told, so my lips are sealed.
You also recently released your third band album ‘Sexjazz’. What sets this one apart from your debut album ‘Shiver’ and ‘Bijou Box’?
‘Sexjazz’ is further along the continuum, it’s a bigger lusher sound, more saxophone thanks to Mr. Romero. There is even a string section on a couple of songs, not to mention vibes and harmonies courtesy of the luminous Clare Moore. The soul thing, which has always been a major mix with our jazz, is even stronger on this album, I think. ‘Bijou Box’ was much more a small group recording, essentially piano, bass, drums and voice. ‘Shiver’ was a solo project which was recorded with various guest musicians I kind of roped in, you know, as opposed to a band, so there is a specific single mindedness and sound to that album. I was blessed to have Bob Sedergreen and Geoff Kluke on that recording, two national treasures of Australian music. Also, with ‘Sexjazz’ the band had been together for quite sometime beforehand so there is the organic growth that occurs from that kind of familiarity with each other.
Henry Manetta & The Trip will be performing at Red Bennies on Wednesday, 7th of July.