Olivia Chindamo in Conversation

17 June 2024

New York based Australian jazz vocalist, Olivia Chindamo, does not usually perform in front of a full symphony orchestra. We were incredibly fortunate however that she did just that in our 6pm concert on 2nd May. Our fortune continued when Olivia took the time to chat with us about her love of jazz and her musical experiences.

Olivia Chindamo

Thank you for chatting with us Olivia. Could you start by telling us why jazz music is so appealing to you?

Jazz is an incredible Black American art form. It is an extremely high-level music with storytelling, communication and connection at its core, whether told through an instrument, sung with words, or sung without words, like an instrument. Jazz allows its musicians the flexibility to express a single song in an infinite amount of ways, and encourages you to let the moment inspire how you perform and that’s something I find very exciting. I love the freedom of improvisation, and I really, really love collaborating with other musicians. I love how any number of things can change in real time during a jazz performance, it commands that you pay attention and stay present, and listen fully.

Is there an artist or album that is your absolute go to?

I don’t have a single go-to but I love anything Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Sinatra, Shirley Horn, Oscar Peterson, Rosemary Clooney, Blossom Dearie and the Hi-Lo’s...I could keep going—there are so many greats. I love so many modern artists too, particularly Cecile McLorin Salvant and Esperanza Spalding. If I had to recommend one album as an introduction to jazz, I would recommend Ella & Louis which features Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong as duet partners.

Are there differences in working with a symphony orchestra compared to working with smaller jazz trios and bands?

Yes and no—a main difference is that in a symphony orchestra context, you have a conductor to follow. I get to join the team and follow the leader which is a fun experience. As a jazz vocalist, you become the conductor if it’s your project or band, and if it’s a collaborative project the leadership will bounce throughout the band. A similarity is that camaraderie is imperative to the functionality of an ensemble, which was so obviously the case with the TSO. Everyone is so kind, welcoming and supportive of each other—which is the sort of environment I’m fortunate to find myself in when I work with smaller jazz ensembles also.

Now that you are based in New York, how frequently do you make it back home to Australia and what’s it like coming back?

I’m fortunate to return about once a year for a visit, and each time feels like a healthy mix of Deja-vu and I-can’t-believe-how-much-this-suburb-has-changed. Australia will always feel like home to me, I love coming back and I go out of my way to do the things that I can’t do back in New York—like going for a walk down the local bike track to hear the Galahs, and buying a family pack of pizza-flavoured shapes.

What are some exciting projects or performances on the horizon after the TSO concert?

I’ll be releasing a duo album this year called Portraits & Propagations with my collaborator Matthew Sheens (a phenomenal pianist and composer from Adelaide who also lives in New York), and we’ll be previewing the album repertoire at the Melbourne Recital Centre next week on May 11th. This project is very dear to us and we’re very much looking forward to sharing what we’ve made. We’ll be releasing a handful of songs ahead of the proper album release as singles—listen to Things Are Swingin' here—with the final whole album estimated for October and available on all streaming services.

Thank you so much Olivia to speaking with us and we cannot wait to hear the new album once it's released! Check out Olivia's website, to stay up to date with her news.

Sign up for TSO news

Be the first to hear about TSO concerts, programs and news! Join our mailing list today.

Sign Up