After almost a year of selecting repertoire and intense rehearsals NMIT Contemporary Music tutors have unveiled a new jazz group to a rapturous reception. Calling themselves MINT , NMIT Creative Industries’ staff Doug Stenhouse (drums), Craig Agnew (guitar) and Liam Ryan (keyboards) have joined with Tasman bassist and good friend Fraser Campbell to create the music collective.

“It’s more than just gigging for us” says Stenhouse. “MINT is a vehicle for work- shopping original compositions and pulling apart jazz standards and giving them our own twist. And it’s been great for our students to sit in on rehearsals and see the project grow”.

The band debuted in early March to an enthusiastic crowd of 400 at Woollaston Estates and followed up quickly with an invitation performance at the Nelson Jazz Club. Both outings were received warmly by Nelson jazz aficionados.

The band meets to play fortnightly and have been pleased with the direction and artistic chemistry of the new line up. All four musicians have academic credentials as performers but all agree that live gigging is the ultimate finishing school.

“We care deeply about what we do as a band and we pay attention to detail. We have been lucky to have John Irwin follow us to our first gigs with a tripod and camera,” enthuses keyboardist Ryan.”This means we have great video and audio footage our first performances to review and critique. It’s a taste of what we put our students through!”

Perhaps the most talked about aspect of the MINT debut has ben the premier performances of original compositions written by Agnew and Ryan. The originals range from Agnew’s brooding After Five (For Weegie) and Very Good Dead Friends (a response to a Richard Brautigan short story) to Ryan’s landscape-inspired Hymn to Her and Sky Walker. The plan is that all members of the band will eventually write. A CD project is in the wind.

“To really cut it with a jazz audience you still need to be able to deliver jazz standards so we have also delved into the jazz canon and dragged up some tunes not heard so often. It’s a buzz to play an original and then dive down into some Coltrane or Miles and be reminded of the deep roots of jazz,” Ryan reflects. “And when we played those first couple of gigs it was fantastic to look up from the keyboard and see our students in the audience.”

MINT JAZZ have their next performance at the Nelson Jazz Club at Vic Macs BrewBar on Tuesday May 1st. Go to the gig... or go to  the band’s facebook page and “like” them!