KATE PASS KOHESIA ENSEMBLE Something else entirely

Kate Pass Kohesia Ensemble will launch their new album Silver Lining with a special preview performance at The Rechabite on Friday, September 24, before releasing it digitally on Friday, October 8. Led by double bassist Kate Pass (pictured above), the group have made a name for themselves in recent years for their unique cohesion of elements from both non-traditional jazz and Persian music, culminating in an award-winning Fringe World series that inspired the new release. BRAYDEN EDWARDS caught up with Kate Pass to find out why, as its title suggests, Silver Lining is a nod to the opportunities that have come from life during the pandemic.

How did your journey into music start and what drew you to it in the beginning?

In the beginning, I was drawn to the challenge of playing music. It was like learning a new language, and I still feel like I’m learning new things all the time! I started playing piano when I was nine but took up the trombone in high school as part of a school Music Program. I think it was the only instrument left. This is how I got into jazz and Big Band music. Sitting next to the bass guitar player in Big Band made me realise what a great instrument that was, and it inspired me to take it up. I enjoyed playing so much I decided to try to make a profession out of it and went to WAAPA after high school.

And what was it about the double bass that made it feel like the right instrument to build your musical creations from?

It took me a while to find the double bass…it was my fourth instrument, and I was 18 when I started, but as soon as I first played the instrument, I knew it was the right one for me. I love the acoustic sound, and the physicality of playing it. I also love the way the bass holds the music together, and supports other musicians in an ensemble. I love writing music from this perspective – thinking how to create songs that let other musicians shine. Double bass also has this great ability to inhabit all the facets of music – melody, harmony, rhythm – and it’s fun to play around within these different roles.

Kate Pass Kohesia Ensemble

What is it about Persian music and jazz that make them such a good pairing? And what are some of the challenges in combining the two styles?

I think the acoustic nature of the double bass and the fact that it’s fretless, works really well with the traditional instruments in Kohesia Ensemble, like the oud, saz, ney and daf. The shared emphasis on improvisation between both Persian music and jazz mean that musicians from both traditions have some shared language through which they can communicate.

The modes and use of microtones that are central to Persian music make it quite different to jazz. Trying to honour the sound of these modes when writing for a combination of jazz and Persian instruments is a challenge. Because it’s such a unique combination, and there aren’t really any other bands that have the same instrumentation as us, it’s been a constant process of learning, and trial and error, to see what works and what doesn’t. It’s taken the band several years of playing and performing together to really understand each other’s sound and style, and how we all fit together in the ensemble.

Silver Lining is out Friday, October 8

Where did the idea for this album come from and how has it changed into what is getting released next month?

This album is a continuation of the ideas developed on our first album Kohesia which we released in 2018. Most of the compositions on this new album are from our Fringe World show, Shahnameh: Songs of the Persian Book of Kings, which was narrated by Saeed Danesh. The album is mainly my original songs, but there are also compositions by other Kohesia members, Esfandiar Shahmir and Reza Mirzaei. The title track of the album Silver Lining is a song I wrote in Perth’s very short initial lockdown in 2020. It’s a reflection on how lucky I am to be living in Perth and that with every curveball, there seems to have been some positives.

And how does this translate onto the stage? Do you approach the songs differently in a live setting?

We actually recorded this album straight after doing a 10-show run at Fringe, so we really brought the energy of these live performances into the studio. I generally compose with the intention that the songs will be performed live in front of an audience, so this is always at the forefront of my mind. Our songs also evolve through the process of performance. Because of the improvised nature of our music, every performance is slightly different. How we are feeling and whatever we’ve been doing effects how we approach the music.

What’s next for you for the rest of 2021 and beyond? Any more projects or live shows in the works we can look forward to?

I hope to take a little bit of a holiday after the launch. We’re also planning some exciting things for Fringe World 2022.

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