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Luke Sellick: The Alchemist

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Bassist Luke Sellick completed his undergraduate degree in the Jazz Studies program at the University of Manitoba in 2013, then headed to New York City for graduate work at Juilliard. Now an active member of the jazz scene in the heart of the jazz world, Luke is releasing his first recording as a leader. I checked in with him to catch up on his news.
Charlene Diehl

It’s been awhile since you packed your bass and headed for New York City. Can you give us an update?

The first two years in New York I was at Juilliard where I studied with Ron Carter. Ron was a mentor to me and helped me zero in on my sound, technique and concept. My colleagues and teachers from Juilliard are now my closest friends and musical collaborators.

After graduating I spent several years working with pianist and singer Johnny O’Neal (Art Blakey, Ray Brown, Sarah Vaughan, etc). We worked weekly gigs at three New York clubs. I consider my time with Johnny as my jazz apprenticeship. He knows thousands of songs, which he would call at any time, in any key, with no rehearsal and no charts… It was the real deal!

Recently I’ve been performing more with my own group, which is exciting because I love writing music. I’m also playing with a number of amazing musicians here in New York and elsewhere. One of my favourites is Russell Malone. We’re recording a new album next week and will be back at the Village Vanguard for a week in June.

Tell us about your debut album, The Alchemist!

The alchemist is an allegory for the composer/improviser. The medieval alchemist’s primary objective was to create gold by combining and refining common materials. As musicians, we all use the same base materials—notes, chords, rhythms—but when combined perfectly, something magical and pure can result.

The second aim of the alchemist was to discover the elixir of youth, the key to immortality. I feel that true art goes beyond material existence, and that a great work can become more perfect and lasting than the artist himself. That’s the goal!

The group features nine of my favourite New York musicians, many of whom are my colleagues and closest friends. There are also nine tracks, all original compositions of mine. Jimmy Greene adds his unmistakable sound on three songs. The album is being released on a great jazz label from Vancouver called Cellar Live.

Something I’m extremely happy about is the beautiful cover by Winnipeg artist Ed Becenko. The composition perfectly fits the theme of the album, with the four colours representing the four stages of the alchemical magnum opus. (Look it up!) Thanks Ed. (Look him up too!)

How do Winnipeg fans get their hands on this recording?

I really hope to bring my group north sometime in the coming year, but in the meantime, the CD is available from all the familiar sources. If you’re able to get it from or, that helps us the most!

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