Keeping things interesting
An interview with James Macaulay for Jazz Australia.
JA: I believe your original choice of instrument was the trumpet. How did you eventually decide on the trombone?
JM: My uncle suggested that everyone played the trumpet, and at the age of 12, trombone definitely stood out a bit.
JA: Who were the musicians that really inspired you when you were honing your skills?
JM: I’m still honing my skills! I’ve had a number of very inspiring teachers, including Adrian Sherriff, Jordan Murray, Julien Wilson, Paul Williamson and Scott Tinkler, as well as numerous mentors, like Allan Browne, Eugene Ball, Tamara Murphy and Andrea Keller. I love so much music, I fear the length of the list I might write, and the names I’d forget.
JA: You have always had a strong interest in the Melbourne trad scene, a school of music that seems to be unique to that city. Tell us more?
JM: The first band I played in was a part of the Victorian Jazz Workshop when I was 13, called Jass Roulette. It took me a while to find my way back to the trad world, via modern jazz and numerous early musical obsessions, but nothing feels so good as playing with a great front line with the likes of Allan Browne or Lyn Wallis behind you. The history of New Orleans and revivalist music in Melbourne runs deep and is very important to me.
JA: You currently spread yourself across a wide range of genres and musical influences – can you explain?
JM: I certainly like to work in different contexts, it keeps things interesting. Playing a duet gig of wallpaper jazz in a restaurant can be as rewarding as original music in a club, or rock in a pub. There’s so much music I would love the opportunity to play and learn about.
JA: What did winning The Age National Jazz Award mean to you?
JM: It’s still surreal to me that I had such excellent fortune that day. It is great to receive recognition for my efforts, as it can be incredibly difficult explaining what it is that one does in music, even to fellow musicians.
JA: How did the recording of ‘Today Will Be Another Day’ come to take place in Tokyo?
JM: The Lagerphones (Melbourne) and the Aaron Choulai Quintet (Tokyo) had just finished tours of Tokyo and Japan, and On Diamond (Melbourne) were in the middle of a tour, so it was that a number of my favourite musicians converged on my favourite city at the same time. I organised it well in advance with Aaron’s help, and put my dream project together.
JA: Tell us about the Japanese musicians you recorded with and the experience of actually recording there
JM: Akihiro Yoshimoto is a such an inspiring musician and human to be around, as is all the Tokyo locals and Aussies on the Happy Hoppy record. I’ve since been a part of a few more records in Tokyo, with incredible musicians, and I look forward to doing a lot more over the years. I love the scene up there and relish the chance to get there a couple of times a year – which still barely satisfies my appetite for it.
JA: Where do you see your musical ambitions heading in the future?
JM: I want to plan more ambitious projects in Japan, and hopefully one day Korea and China. I kind of want to write an opera, and work more with singers in general. I want to play a lot more in Japan – and try all of the food along the way. I’m attracted broadly to all kinds of contemporary classical composition, and world musics, and I’m interested in teasing out all kinds of connections that they have with improvised music, from the weird and wonderful, to the lyrical.
JA: What can Sydney fans expect when you launch your new album at the Sound Lounge on Saturday 9 June?
They can expect to hear much of the music from the ‘today will be another day’, as well as a couple of newer pieces written especially for the incredible local band, made up of some of my Sydney heroes! I haven’t had the opportunity to make it up in a while and I’m very excited to present my music in such inspiring company.