A chat with Brenda Earle Stokes

When did you first start making music?

I started classical piano lessons at age four, but the real turning point for me was when my high school music teacher played an Oscar Peterson recording. Hearing jazz made me realise that I was meant to be a jazz musician.

Is there much crossover between for you when it comes to growing as a musician or educator?

Being a teacher means I’m constantly listening for ways to improve the music in every aspect. This has really developed my ear and has made me a more creative and innovative musician. It’s also taught me a lot of patience.

When performing live, what do you want your audience to appreciate?

I want the audience to feel surprised and engaged by the material and especially the interaction between the musicians. I play a lot of very diverse repertoire and I love to feel like the audience can’t wait to hear what comes next.

How does the New York jazz scene compare to that in Melbourne?

The jazz scene in NYC is massive and there are a lot of different “scenes” – from Latin to bebop to free playing to big bands. You have the option of hearing at least 30 different shows on any given night of the week. 

You will be performing as a quartet for your upcoming Australian tour, how did the collective come together and who makes up the group?

I made up the group using recommendations from my NYC-based Australian friends. I had the pleasure of playing with guitarist James Sherlock when I was in Toowoomba last year and he helped me put the band together.



Brenda Earle Stokes plays The Jazzlab on Thursday January 24 and The Paris Cat on Friday 25 and Saturday January 26. Tickets via the respective venues.