On the Couch with James Morrison

James Morrison Arts Review On the CouchWho is James Morrison?
I’m a passionate person… about music, education, food, cars, sailing, flying… everything that I love to do. I spend my time mostly touring the world and playing with everything from my quartet to symphony orchestras – when I’m not at my Academy in South Australia. This is a place where I can work for extended periods with young musicians who share my passion for jazz. It’s a university program and it’s inspiring to join them for a small part of their journey.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
I wouldn’t. If I would be doing something differently… then I’d be doing it that way already… so it wouldn’t be different. It’s not that everything works out perfectly to plan (on the rare occasions I have one) – it’s just that I acknowledge that I have no idea how the unbelievable web of interactions in life mesh together – and so I just do ‘what I would do’ in any situation and trust that this will lead me to where I’m supposed to be – so far so good!

Who inspires you and why?
My parents, my students, my heroes… Mum and Dad set an example that made it easy to navigate life and know when you’re on the right track. My students inspire me as they search for their expression and face the challenges of becoming what they’re destined to be. My heroes (Dizzy Gillespie, Erroll Garner, Oscar Peterson and more) opened my ears to the possibilities and taught me that music expands your consciousness.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
I’m doing whatever I can with what I’ve got. For me that means using music to ‘lift’ people’s spirits and connect them to reality. This takes many different forms – I’ve been lucky to work with Indigenous communities in Northern Queensland over a number of years, also with kids from disadvantaged areas all over Australia and with Generations in Jazz in Mount Gambier for the last thirty years. All these things make a difference and while ever you’re doing things for this reason, it all seems to help.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
A hard one… I rarely take holidays. I love to sail on Pittwater in Sydney, I also love to sail the Dalmatian Islands in Croatia. Safe to say that my favourite holiday is not a destination, it’s a journey – by sailing boat.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
If I’m in Sydney I always take them out sailing on Pittwater, because they experience one of the main reasons I love that city, the waterways. If I’m in Mount Gambier (my other home), I take them to two places. Morrison’s Jazz Club, because the atmosphere there with so many young musicians jamming is fantastic – you never know what’s going to happen, or who’s going to get up and play next (the chips are good too). The other place is the Barn Steakhouse – it’s the best in the world.

What are you currently reading?
I’m re-reading Michael Talbot’s The Holographic Universe. This is a book that changes your paradigm of reality and I need to read it again every couple of years to see what it means to me now – it keeps changing!

What are you currently listening to?
My students’ final recitals! It’s that time of year and I hear a feast of creativity and great jazz from a collection of the brightest young musicians in the country.

Happiness is?
Something you bring to what you’re doing – not something you get from what you’re doing. Just this simple understanding makes life a very different game…

What does the future hold for you?
Growth, discovery, remembering, new experiences in all facets of life. Whenever I contemplate the future I get excited – not by what I know is going to happen but by the fact that I have no idea what’s going to happen. I just know that it will be eye opening and inspiring.

Celebrating the centennial of Ella Fitzgerald’s birth, James joins Patti Austin and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra to perform timeless hits from the Great American Songbook in A Celebration of Ella and Louis – presented as part of the 2017 Melbourne International Jazz Festival at Hamer Hall on Friday 2 and Saturday 3 June. For more information, visit: www.melbournejazz.com or www.artscentremelbourne.com.au for details.

Image: James Morrison (supplied)