Aaron Choulai

Aaron Choulai is unique. He is the only Papua/Chinese/Polish/Jewish/Australian albino. Aaron was born in Papua New Guinea in 1982. His early years were spent playing in the village, fishing, eating mangos, coconuts and mud crabs.

At an early age Aaron was exposed to a wide range of music from traditional Motuan mourning chants, to the songs sung around the table at Passover, to Beethoven, Brahms and Bach played to him by his grandfather.

At the age of 12, Aaron was living in Melbourne, and discovered the blues. Within a year he was playing piano regularly in blues clubs around Melbourne with some of Melbourne's finest players: Paul Neuendorf, Andy Baylor and Ian Collard. Aaron then started playing the piano seriously at age 14 (after having lessons from an early age), and was accepted into the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School, a performing arts high school for outstanding students in dance and music. During his studies at VCASS, Aaron immersed himself in the music of Charlie Parker, Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Miles Davis and many others. At this point it became clear that jazz would be the basis for Aaron's music. In 2003 he completed a tertiary music degree at the Victorian College of the Arts where he studied with Paul Grabowsky.

Whilst attending college, Aaron, with other students, formed VADA, a highly original quintet and received critical acclaim, playing around Melbourne clubs and festivals including the Wangaratta Jazz Festival. Aaron also played regularly in the trio of legendary drummer, Allan Browne at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club featuring Aaron's original compositions.

It was at Bennetts Lane in early 2003 that New York saxophonist Tim Ries, in Melbourne for the Rolling Stones tour, discovered Aaron playing. Tim was so impressed that they played together in Melbourne and Tim encouraged Aaron to come to New York to record with some of New York's finest jazz players, James Genus (bass), Clarence Penn (drums) and Scott Wendholdt (trumpet). Aaron travelled to New York, writing tunes for the occasion based on his impressions of that city.

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