At home with Michael Griffin

Local saxophonist Michael Griffin has been nominated for 2016 Young Jazz Artist of the Year and performed in bars all around New York City. He’s returning to the Inner West’s own jazz scene on May 1st to play at LazyBones Lounge, Marrickville with his Sextet. He tells us about coming home to Haberfield, and how to make a great broccolini side dish.

When did you first pick up the sax?

I’ve been playing the saxophone for 16 years, starting at age 11, although I knew I wanted to play it since I was about 2. I heard it around the house from my dad playing it, and it was a real calling and obsession for me. It’s such an amazing instrument and very personal – the closest instrument to the voice. Every saxophonist has a slightly different sound, just like a singer.

You’re returning home to play for the first time in years – what was the highlight of your time away?

You haven’t heard jazz until you’ve been to New York. It’s the Jazz mecca of the world and a true eye opener. So many great musicians and Jazz every night across the whole city. I’d be getting on trains and hopping around the city through all hours of the night going to different jazz places. Not to mention the history there. The first thing i did when i arrived in New York was walk to 52nd St – the most famous street in jazz history – which was filled with Jazz Clubs in the 1940s. Everybody from Billie Holiday and Charlie Parker to Miles Davis played there. I just sat for two hours and took in where I was.

What’s exciting about returning to the Inner West this time around?

There’s so much genuine international cuisine, which is something I feel lacked in New York. A lot of food in USA is very Americanised. If you want high quality genuine Chinese, Thai, Middle Eastern or Italian food, the Inner West is the place. I’m a huge Italian fan in particular, so I’m a frequent visitor of Haberfield – the true Italian hub. Amazing not only for the great restaurants, but excellent grocers and delis. I love the IGA Lamonica, which is a heaven for Italian groceries. I always go crazy at the deli and buy way more than I need: olives, salami, prosciutto, ham, ricotta cheese, parmesan, provolone, and not to mention the beautiful bread. It’s also a great suburb for high quality genuine fresh produce, and not expensive. That’s the way it should be.

How have the culture and community here influenced your musical pursuits?

The Inner West has always been home to many musicians, and in particular Jazz musicians. It just has such a good feeling – sort of indescribable but I don’t think I could live anywhere else in Sydney. It just feels right. Down to earth.

What do you love about cooking?

Cooking is probably my second biggest passion. I truly love food and wine – I got into it about six years ago and decided that I wanted to learn to make food that tasted so good that I couldn’t stop eating it. I love Italian the most, so I’ve intensely studied the books and TV Series by Antonio Carluccio. I would set myself a challenge to learn every recipe from one of his books.

Broccolini in tomato

This recipe is a great vegetable side dish. It makes a wonderful accompaniment to meat, or even just on its own.

• 1 bunch Broccolini cut in half (use stalks)

• 1 Garlic clove (roughly sliced)

• 1 small chilli

• 1 tablespoon of Capers rinsed

• 4 Cherry Tomatoes chopped

In a saucepan fry the olive oil, garlic and chilli over a low medium heat for a brief minute. (Don’t cut the garlic too finely otherwise it can burn, just roughly sliced.). Then add the rinsed capers, cherry tomatoes, broccolini and a little water (100ml). Cover with a lid and simmer for 15 mins. Serve.