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April 15, 2010 | Author:  Peter Hodgson

project3The life of a working musician isn’t that different to the life of, say, a journalist. You have your day job, which pays the bills and keeps you in the industry (in my case it’s business journalism) but then there’s the fun stuff you do just for the love of it. Simon Patterson, Gerry Pantazis and Craig Newman are no strangers to this phenomenon. Collectively their resume includes such ‘day jobs’ as the Hey Hey It’s Saturday band, John Farnham, stage shows Mamma Mia and Wicked, and even music for Russell Coight. But at the end of the hard working day, these three longtime allies come together in the form of Project 3, a place where their jazz, blues, funk and rock influences all weave together for the sake of fun and friendship.

So before we talk about Project 3, how does one land a demanding, high profile job like Hey Hey? “Like everything else – teaching, touring, recording – you get asked to do it via association and word of mouth,” Patterson says. “That’s the way it goes,” Pantazis agrees. “You get recommended by somebody you play with, then the opportunity arises where someone needs a fill-in. You don’t necessarily do the ring-around. But then going in and actually doing it is when you have to cement yourself as a player and demonstrate to shows like Hey Hey that you can actually cut it. I don’t think that kind of gig is really suited to everyone – you’ve really got to be confident in a lot of areas.” Newman says maintaining that level of chops is an ongoing thing. “We’re just continually working on what we do.

I was lucky enough to be given a couple of opportunities to do things like that, then you get asked back again and you grow as a player. I can’t say I really prepared myself to do a TV gig or anything like that. I just had the ability to play lots of styles and I could read. But it’s a whole different thing when you get there and there are TV cameras there. For my first lot of TV gigs, for six months I wasn’t comfortable. But after you get enough experience behind you, you don’t think about cameras and all that kind of stuff.”

So with the studio scene drying up, is stage the new studio? “Overseas there are a lot of guys,” Patterson says. “There’s a guy called Jeff Campbell who was big on the scene in the 80s. He’s been playing second guitar on Mamma Mia for seven years now in New York. I think it’s one of the last bastions of professional musicians to make a living. Free-to-air TV’s in freefall at the moment, as we’re all finding out, and I don’t think that’s terribly stable any more. And the recording thing, well, we did this project at home, at any rate. The studio work isn’t really there like it once was in the 80s and 70s.”

Project 3’s latest CD, ‘Reflective Elements’ , touches on funky numbers and jazz-tinged rock, with plenty of soloing and lots of fine detail in phrasing and performance. It’s the kind of instrumental album that even non-muso listeners can get into. Newman says, “Simon presented us with a few tunes, we went around and crammed into Gerry’s studio, put down some of Simon’s things, took them home, developed some ideas… the bass tracks were put down at Gerry’s, then I redid some bass tracks at my studio. It’s hard because we don’t get a chance to develop the songs live because we don’t have a regular gig, which happens a lot. It’d be great to be able to play these tunes once a month then go and record it.”

Pantazis wrote the track ‘Blow’ as a a dedication to Jeff Beck. “I was listening to a lot of Jeff Beck’s music before seeing his gig last year,” Pantazis says. “That tune just came about from finding a loop and coming up with a guitar melody, which Simon took and made his own. And the reason why it’s called ‘Blow,’ hello, ‘Blow by Blow!’ by Jeff Beck!” Patterson adds, “I had written a few jazzy things I presented to the guys, and I thought it’d work in the format if everyone just played it how they thought they might. I love how different people interpret things, so that’s really important to me. I guess, again, there’s a bit of a reference to who you like – there’s some of Robben Ford’s writing, Jing Chi, Wayne Krantz perhaps – some of those elements that keep a bit of a blues thread in there. There’s nothing shreddy in there, just something open, dramatic.”

But though he’s a very expressive, intuitive player, Patterson is capable of bringing the shred  when the song calls for it. “It seemed to develop from Hey Hey It’s Saturday with Plucka Duck,” he says. (“We should have put a cover of that on the CD,” jokes Newman). “You go in and do a gig and you try to do the best with what’s presented to you. They wanted everything including the kitchen sink on the Plucka Duck theme, but I’m really a jazz player. I’m not a shred player at all – I’m a jazz player. Jazz is very strong for me. My first gigs were playing Charlie Parker stuff and bebop stuff. As you get older you get over the shreddy stuff. And there are so many other styles of music: funk, R&B, soul, jazz and all the derivatives that we all grew up with. It’s all in the mix. You sort of bring to bear, when it comes to doing a CD, all your influences. I guess the first CD Project 3 did was a bit rockier and bluesier, but this is just a snapshot of where we’re at at this point in time.”

Project 3’s latest CD, Reflective Elements  is available at www.

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