Leo Larratt under the wing of the jazz greats

Leo Larratt performing at The Grand Hotel on Valentine's Day. Picture: Ian Dunn
Leo Larratt performing at The Grand Hotel on Valentine's Day. Picture: Ian Dunn

HE is just 19, switched on to jazz and has been mentored by some of the best in the business. Newcastle guitarist Leo Larratt looks set for a sterling career in music.

Larratt blew away the home town audience at a performance at The Grand Hotel’s the Underground on Valentine’s Day, where he played in the Josh Hindmarsh Quartet. Hindmarsh is considered a jazz guitar virtuoso. The quartet also featured  Andrew Wallace and Aaron Jansz in a performance that those in the audience described as “on fire”. 

Larratt picked up guitar about seven years ago but only got serious about jazz in year 11 at the Hunter School of Performing Arts.

“My passion for jazz really started when I started playing upright bass, getting lessons off Andrew Wallace,” he said.

“I’ve developed a big interest in jazz and it’s all I have been doing really.”

Since tinkering with the double bass Larratt has switched back to  guitar. His keen interest in jazz really took off with the discovery of a Wes Montgomery album at Rice’s Bookshop. 

“Listening to his album [The] Incredible Jazz Guitar that whole album got me really hooked in and after that it became an obsession,” he said. “I listened to it non-stop.

“I then listened to a lot of Sonny Rollins, one of my favourite saxophone players;  Jim Hall [jazz guitarist],  Emily Remler, a guitarist from America that lived in Sydney for a bit.”

Remler died in 1990 while on an Australian tour at 32.  

Larratt said it was the improvisational nature of jazz that drew him to it. 

“The element of self expression, nothing is ever played the same twice,” he said. “It is constantly moving and as a musician your only option is to constantly evolve with your technique and ability.

“Every day I feel like I am changing as a musician.”

He said another aspect of jazz he appreciated was the way the music also changed depending on who you played with.

“Every musician is different and that reflects into the music you are playing as well,” he said.

“You play with someone really good and it is one of the best feelings ever.”

Larratt also plays guitar in a six-piece funk band Doctor Peach. 

Larratt tributes Wallace and Hindmarsh as mentors who have helped him develop as a musician. 

“I met Josh about two years ago, and he has taken me under his wing and taught me so much,” Larratt said. 

Newcastle Improvised Music Association hosts regular gigs at The Grand Hotel on a weekly basis.

For more information on upcoming gigs at The Underground visit: nima.org.au