By TERRI LEE FATOUROS
Rob Papp wooed diners at eighteen 78 @ Brooklands in Tanti Ave, Mornington recently when he was their featured artist in Come Dine with Me A La Carte dinner during the Mornington Winter Jazz Festival. All guests were greeted with a complimentary glass of Champagne on arrival, which set the mood for the quality jazz being played.
His ensemble aptly named Rob Papp and The Manhattan Trio comprised of Dale finch on double bass, Peter Cottier on drums and Papp on Gibson L5 guitar. Their intelligent rendition of modern jazz-fusion with overtones of funk was smooth, dry and simply … cool.
Papp’s versatility and innovative musical prowess sets standards and it’s no wonder he is well loved and respected by fellow musicians and fans alike. He started playing at age 15 in his father’s jazz band then cut his teeth on rock and roll and continued to play just about everything else afterwards.
A singer-songwriter in his own right, Papp has gigged in numerous bands, duos, gone solo, as well as been a recording artist.
To quote from his bio: “Rob’s career was influenced from a very young age by College of the Arts founder Bruce Clarke who tutored Rob in a comprehensive education of reading, writing and playing music, and took him on as a protégé, teaching him all he knew about playing jazz”.
Papp left for America in his earlier years to study at Guitar Institute of Technology in LA where he met and learnt from musical greats like Joe Pass, Tommy Tedesco, Howard Roberts, Jo Pass, Ike Izzacs, Bruce Clarke, Pat Martino, Steve Vi, and Robben Ford, geniuses in their own right and gained invaluable musical and technical experiences whilst living there amongst it all.
So impressive is Papp’s unassuming biography and personality that not many realize he established Blue Note College of Music in Well St, Frankston way back in 1988. This college helps so many musical hopefuls gain knowledge, confidence and invaluable experience to go out and passionately perform. Brendan Meyers now runs the college and has done so for the past six years, who incidentally with Ross Clark, affectionately known as Rossco started the Peninsula Blues Club held on the second Sunday of each month at the Frankston Bowling Club. Peninsula Blues Club attracts big name artists and is a must see each month.
Papp’s repertoire is vast. He’s played at Crown Casino, The Melbourne and Sydney Art Centres, Melbourne Club and The Entertainment Centre, just to name a few.
Currently Papp’s main band is Blueshead, which sees him gigging all over Melbourne and NSW. However, the night I caught up with him in his Manhattan Trio outfit saw his broad jazz, blues, and rock spectrum shine through in the style of jazz he was playing.
There’s no doubt Papp loses himself while playing. With eyes closed he’s riding his muse and you get the feeling this guy knows what’s going on, and knows it’s happening around him.
Cottier’s use of brushes instead of sticks in most of the songs and Finch’s intuitive bass, which incidentally is the distinguishing sound of a guitar trio in fusion jazz works in concert with Papp’s lead. The guys ebb and flow, as each knows instinctively when to allow the other to lead or go solo within the structure of the songs.
Jazz is often played to an arrangement but with allowances of improvisation within the framework of the song.
Cottier is no stranger to jazz either. He’s been the resident drummer in the Cerberus Navy Big Band for years and played in Top 40 cover bands and an Irish band.
The same is said for Finch whose expertise on the double bass initiates that popular modern jazz-fusion sound we all recognize when heard. The guys incorporated their jazz bent with funk overtones on some cool tunes from George Benson, Eddy Harris, Miles Davis and Leon Russell.
Putting one’s own experiences into the framework of a jazz song is a noticeable thing amongst jazz players and the boys were no exception to this.
As Papp explained: “Knowing the framework of a song and understanding western harmonies and mathematics enables one to play rhythmically off ideas developed in each tune as its being played. So you can either stay close to the melody or can go right out there. The span of what we want to do, and as a guitar trio sets our parameters rhythmically as we are not stuck to it like a blues or covers band for example, where you have to just play the tune.”
Of late Papp’s been writing his own instrumentals in jazz fusion style as well as writing roots and blues based tunes with tendencies towards western harmonies.
“My reference points are everyone from Louis Armstrong, McCoy Tyner to John McLaughlin, and in the styles of improv, I emulate them within my playing of that tune. So I might take on the voice of one of them but be more out there, play the melody, put in the chords, and think ‘what would the likes of say, McCoy Tyner do with this tune as he plays his keyboard’, so I think like that. Then I don’t care what these guys do,” he says cheekily while nodding his head towards Cottier and Finch, who chorus “We just fit in”.
Papp isn’t into planning his shows as everything is different and depends on the venue. With his preferred genre of blues and his open admittance of being addicted to it, it’s no wonder his originals are laced with strong tones of blues jazz and modern rock overtones.
Papp gigs everywhere on the peninsula, up town and all over. He is well sought after by most musicians due to his vast knowledge and experience and is a real pleasure to watch.
For more info on Rob Papp, see robpapp.com