Fine Music subscribers, meet your Associate Artists-in-Residence for 2020. As States of Chaos, the trio has been reborn and things are about to get improvisatory in the Founders’ Studio. Casey Golden is the pianist, back in Australia after two years leading ensembles in London. The bassist is Bill Williams, who studied the double bass at the Australian National University before going on to tour as a jazz, blues and rock musician. The drummer is Ed Rodrigues, a graduate of the same university. He was recognised as one of the ‘Next Generation’ of Australian Jazz Drummers by Drumscene Magazine in 2014 and now teaches at the University of Western Sydney.
What unites the three men is an interest in classical idiom and in fusing this with a decade of experience on the Sydney Jazz scene. For this reason alone, Fine Music seems the perfect base: a radio station and network of classical and jazz lovers with the facilities for both. As Golden explains, in what is a city unfortunately scant of rehearsal space, finding one with a concert-grade piano is an even greater challenge. I spoke with him shortly after he’d visited the Founders’ Studio which had exceeded his expectations, not least for the Kawai Shigeru grand piano waiting to be played.
In Golden’s words States of Chaos is ‘an improvising instrumental trio’. “Nothing else is set in stone.” While the name is meant to be more tantalising than evocative, chaos and the trio seem a perfect fit. On the one hand, there is the Greek term χάος referring to the void state preceding the creation of the cosmos, alluding perhaps to that moment before any composition/improvisation can begin. Then there is the mathematical definition where chaos theory states that within an apparently random system, there are underlying patterns, feedback loops and principles of self-organisation that must occur. Is that not improvisation itself, where the potential for something new relies on an internal organisation, the pianist, bassist and drummer each knowing their roles and how best to play off one another?
Establishing these patterns, however, takes time and that is why States of Chaos is so grateful for the support that Fine Music can provide. Golden describes how he, Williams and Rodrigues have a backlog of ideas, emerging from the years they spent playing together in 2010-16 as well as from their own, more personal, experiences. Being Associate Artists-in-Residence permits them the time to explore.
States of Chaos is a burgeoning idea and the hope is that after a year of testing and trying things out, the trio’s place on the Jazz scene will be forged. On this point, I ask Golden how his time in London made him reflect on the Sydney scene. Golden’s answer is considered. While he concedes that there is ‘heaps going on in London’ his experience made him appreciate how much actually does go on in Sydney, considering its size and relative isolation. Golden feels that it is time to acknowledge that we have our own, rich, musical culture with a lot of creativity emerging from regional areas. We have to move on, he says, from the perception that one hasn’t made the ‘big-time’ if based in Australia. If States of Chaos can contribute anything, it’s a commitment to this city, this country because the ensembles and the music scene reciprocally strengthen each other.
It is this ambition that requires bravery, and it is programs such as Fine Music’s Artists- in-Residence that are here to nurture. The goal of States of Chaos for 2020 is to ‘put a bunch of music out there’ by ‘recording original music’ and becoming ‘a bit more adventurous with what we perform’. Within the Founders’ Studio, both aims are easily achieved. Aside from being a recording studio, the space is often filled with small audiences for Fine Music’s live-to-air broadcasts. It’s the perfect setting in which to be experimental, cosy yet professional, the risks feeling bounded by the space.
It will be exciting, for all of us, to see what emerges. The Casey Golden Trio had a clear sense of purpose. It brought together three, strong-minded composer/performers eager to explore the potentials of their combination. They recorded, performed, became established and then pressed pause. Now, rather than simply re-starting with a new name, the group wants to move beyond. The musicians are rolling the dice of possibility, embracing chance and disorder to confront that which often frightens us, the States of Chaos that permit invention.
This article appeared in the October issue of Fine Music magazine.