Meet Chris O’Dea

The Weatherley Jazz Scholarship was set up thanks to a generous bequest from our late jazz presenter, Ken Weatherley, a passionate jazz lover, long time broadcaster and supporter of young musicians. The scholarship itself is available to a Sydney based jazz musician up to the age of 30, to support their particular project which will significantly enhance the development of their career.

This year we were delighted with excellent applications from young passionate musicians. A panel of four jazz presenters analysed each of the applications, the requested projects and the sound files submitted. Quite a challenge, with talent abounding, so much so that you can be assured of hearing these musicians on our FineJazz programs.

This year’s winning application came from Chris O’Dea. A saxophonist with experience both here and internationally, he plans to use his Weatherley Scholarship to write and record an album’s worth of compositions inspired by his two greatest musical passions: traditional jazz and Cuban “son.” The compositions will have a similar flow to traditional jazz songs but with extended harmony either written in the music or improvised.

About Chris

Chris O’Dea grew up in a musical family and was lucky enough to learn the saxophone playing his great-grandfather’s instruments from a young age. Since age 15, he has been performing professionally both nationally and internationally with a diverse array of jazz ensembles including Scotch and Soda Circus (with Matthew and Eden Ottingnon, Lucian McGuinness, Benjamin Hendry), The Milk Crate Bandits (with Brad Shigeta who was a member of the Ellington Orchestra) and Swing Rocket, (Daniel Barnett, Mark Elton, Stephen Grant, Anthony Howe) with whom he performed at the Havana Jazz Festival in 2017.

He continues to perform regularly in Sydney with local artists such as Geoff Bull and the Finer Cuts, The Unity Hall Band, Dan Barnett and his big band, James Greening, Nic Cecire, Carl Dewhurst, Warren Trout, Mary Rapp, Andrew Dickeson, Warwick Alder, Matt McMahon and Paul Derricott. Since 2013 he has co-hosted an ongoing weekly residency at the Cricketers Arms with the Arthur Washington Sexytet. Chris was also the founding member of The Brassholes which performed many gigs (and appeared on Australia’s Got Talent). He also studied in New York with saxophonists Mark Turner, Joel Frahm, Ellery Eskelin

Chris’ compositions have been featured on several recordings including Kate Wadey’s latest album (2022), the Arthur Washington Sexytet’s self-titled album (2016), the soundtrack of “Sea Change” (2019) and the Australian short Film “Figure 8” by Michael Bradley (2022).

About his Weatherley Scholarship Project

His aim for this project is to write and record an album’s worth of compositions combining group improvising from traditional jazz and various South American music styles, such as Son, Bolero and Choro. The compositions will have a similar flow to traditional jazz songs combined with harmonic and rhythmic elements from various South American influences. The forms will also be extended, moving beyond the typical AABA form, and adding different sections. This will be combined with different rhythms and grooves from traditional music styles from Cuba, the Balkans, and Spain.

This will be presented in an open “Sonny Rollins Trio” format, meaning there will be no chordal instrument. Playing without a chordal instrument allows more freedom for the front-line instruments to play with the tonality of chords, which is a skill set that he feels allows more freedom in improvisation.

The core personnel will be Chris on Saxophone, Abby Constable on Drums and James Greening on Trombone, with Sam Golding on Sousaphone and Matthew Lamb on Bass also featuring on some tracks. Chris also hopes to have guitarist Ben Panucci and an additional percussionist for part of the album.