Prolific Australian trumpeter, singer, and composer/arranger Roscoe James Irwin (The Cat Empire, The Bamboos) hits the Adelaide Cabaret Festival this weekend presenting a hauntingly beautiful journey through the sounds and songs of one of the most revered, yet tragic figures in popular jazz history.
Joined by jazz trio and string orchestra, Irwin will present his own re-workings of Chet Baker’s classic material, with all the cinematic romance, heartbreak, and soul of 1950’s California. Roscoe gives Hi Fi Way greater insight to his show Lost in A Dream: The Musical Life Of Chet Baker.

Are you looking forward to getting back to Adelaide for the Cabaret Festival?
Yes, very much so. I’ve been to the Adelaide Cabaret Festival many times playing with other artists (The Cat Empire, Andrew Lippa, Emma Pask, Julia Zemiro), so I’m very excited to be presenting my own show this year.

What was the lure about Chet Baker’s music that got you thinking about turning this into a show?
I’ve been a big fan of Chet Baker since I was fourteen years old. His mellow and poignant sounds have influenced my playing and singing for many years, so it was only a matter of time until I felt it was time to pay tribute to him in my own way.

Was it an interesting process re-working the material of Chet Baker?Did you feel that this project really challenged you?
His legacy definitely holds a lot of weight, so I guess there’s a challenge in meeting my own expectations of presenting his musical life. But really it’s been a joy to spend this much time living with his voice and trumpet playing, and conceptualising how I’d like to arrange those songs for the small orchestra/band I’m using at the Cabaret Festival.

While putting together the show, did you learn anything about Chet Baker that you didn’t already know?
The more you look into Chet’s life, the sadder you realise it was, which is why his musicianship seems so special retrospectively. He spoke from a place of deep struggle, yet presented love and romance through music in a way that has captivated people for decades.

What’s next on the horizon for Roscoe James Irwin?
A couple of days after Cabaret Festival I jump on a flight to Europe to go on tour with The Cat Empire. We’ll be playing Glastonbury, plus a bunch of other summer festivals across Spain, Germany, France, Switzerland and The Netherlands. Then when I get home I’ll start working on a very special new project with Kate Ceberano.

Interview By Rob Lyon

Catch Roscoe James Irwin’s show Lost in A Dream: The Musical Life Of Chet Baker on Saturday 15 June and Sunday 16 June at the Dunstan Playhouse. Tickets from the Adelaide Cabaret Festival

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