BYRON Shire Council’s regulatory services manager, Wayne Bertram, tested the limits of his job description this week when called to ‘audition’ critically acclaimed local jazzman David Ades for a busking permit.
Though ‘blown-away’ by Ades’ not-so-dulcet tones, the self-confessed simple bloke with a penchant for Cold Chisel tunes admitted he was well and truly out of his musical depth.
“I really wouldn’t know what’s good when it comes to jazz,” he laughed.
Ades – who has played some of the world’s hottest jazz clubs from New York to Paris, and shared stages with likes of Michael Franti, Dr John, Vince Jones and The Cat Empire – was equally bemused as he filled the council chamber’s foyer with the sound of his 1932 tenor sax.
So why does a saxophonist of his calibre want to play on the street?
“I’m a musician. This is what I do. I live to play,” said the man who once famously scored a ‘fiver’ from actor Dennis Hopper while busking in Central Park, New York.
“Gigs are scarce this time of year with all the bands up from Sydney and Melbourne, so busking can be the best way to get amongst it.”
Ades, an artist who lives for spontaneity and creative freedom, was initially apprehensive at the prospect of needing a permit to play in his own town.
To this musician, pulling out his saxophone and playing to people on the street is the purest form of performance and one of his favourite ways of connecting with an audience.
“During schoolies week we played the streets and the vibe was fantastic. The schoolies loved us and so did the cops. Everyone was happy,” he said.
“After playing with the Cat Empire at Bluesfest we took the band busking through the streets and donated the proceeds to charity. It was just amazing.”
While Byron Shire’s busking policy is currently under review, Mr Bertram clarified it wasn’t so much abouttalent or taste as it was about public safety.
“We leave the judging to the public. If you’re no good you won’t survive. The public will vote with their feet,” he said.
“I think we’ve only ever failed two applicants, but they turned up to the audition drunk.”
“The council acknowledges that busking adds to the character of Byron and the atmosphere on the street, so the policy is really about managing the footpath, giving everyone a fair go and keeping everyone safe. We’re moving towards self-regulation in the new policy.”
Ades, who can now add‘licensed busker’ to his impressive resumé, becomes Byron Shire’s latest registered street performer.