Take it from the heart

Originally published March 27, 2013 in Capital Times. 

The way Albert Dadon sees it, being a successful musician means being a good businessman. Fortunately, he’s both.

“I’m a business musician. Music is part of everything I do,” says the man who plays jazz under the banner Albare, but signs important property development documents with the name Albert Dadon, executive chairman of Ubertas Group. He founded the Melbourne residential property development company in 2003, the same year he also founded the Australian Jazz Bell Awards and while he was chairman of the Melbourne Jazz Festival (which, yes, he also founded, in 1998.)

“It’s all very well to be a musician but if you don’t have the professionalism that comes with it, so what? You can stay home and play, but if you want to be on tour and organise yourself you become a businessman. Music was first. Later, business came along.”

The reality, he says, is that both sectors see him as an anomaly. “The business world calls me a musician and the music world calls me a businessman.”

The music world also calls him a very good musician. “Albare’s sextet of jazz musicians from all around the world complemented his unique playing perfectly, and left the capacity crowd utterly frothing,” wrote Vulture Magazine about his Melbourne Jazz performance.

He’s recorded several albums over the years, but 2012’s Long Way, which featured a powerful lineup of jazz greats, including George Garzone and Antonio Sanchez, really put him on the international map, as well as on the US Top 50 Jazz albums for 20 consecutive weeks. With it, he toured Europe, Asia, the United States, and Australia. This week, he performs for the first time in New Zealand.

Asked how it’s possible he’s never played for Wellington, which has such a rich jazz culture and scene, he says, “I never had the opportunity. Really, New Zealand is close to Australia, but it’s far. It’s easier to jump on a plane to the United States. I’m quite aware of the cultural life in New Zealand, but the opportunities were never offered to me. The release of Long Way and all of the international touring, one has to stop and ask the question, ‘What about New Zealand?’”

Dadon was born in Morocco, but raised in Israel, where he grew up listening to American accents from the nearby military base and lots of jazz – always jazz, he says. There were no Middle Eastern influences at the time in his house. When his mother gave him a guitar at the age of eight, he began lessons in the classical form of playing.

“I was totally bored,” he recalls. “When I was 12, I discovered guitar meant freedom, rock, long hair. It was totally cool and my mom suddenly wanted to take my guitar away.” He got into rock and roll, blues and jazz, playing in European cafes, until he emigrated to Australia at the age of 27.

“Love brought me here,” he says of the move. “I met my wife in Paris and got married and we came to Australia.” With Debbie Dadon, (née Besen, of the Sussan clothing chain) he has three children, now grown, which has also freed him to perform more overseas.

Dabon is often credited with starting the acid jazz movement in Australia, but he says he just began jamming with DJs and things took off. “It was weird at the time,” he says. “I had some rappers, too. Those guys would take a mike and any word that came out of their mouth was amazing. The rappers were improvising and that was part of the jazz thing.”

Writing music comes easily to him, like a gate he opens and closes, he says, as he moves between business, music, and teaching at Monash University. “For me, there are not two or 10 personalities. It’s one. I’m the same guy who talks to a business journalist. Everything is present at all times. I cannot be one thing at one moment and then something else.”

That continuity is at the heart of how he performs. “All serious musicians understand there are stages. First is that you like it and it touches your heart. To reproduce it you have to get it up to your brain, then for the rest of your life you’re trying to bring it back down to your heart because you can only play it with your heart. When I play if I’m not playing from the heart I’m wasting everyone’s time.”

“You have to really, truly, be in that moment in that place and that’s where you’re able to communicate. And from then it’s a service. You can change people’s lives.”

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