James Morrison is, by anybody’s standard, a virtuoso in the true sense of the word. Besides the trumpet, this multi-instrumentalist also plays piano, all the brass, saxophones, and double bass.
At the age of six he began on piano, at seven, he was given his first brass instrument, at nine he formed his first band and at thirteen he was playing professionally in nightclubs. His international career developed just as quickly. At only age sixteen James debuted in the USA with a breathtaking concert at the Monterey Jazz Festival.
Following this were performances at the major festivals of Europe including Montreux, Pori and the North Sea, playing with many of the legends of jazz; Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Brown, Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock, Cab Calloway, Woody Shaw, Red Rodney, George Benson, Ray Charles, B.B. King and Wynton Marsalis to name a few. There were also gigs in the world’s most famous jazz clubs – The Blue Note and Village Vanguard in New York, the New Morning in Paris, The Tokyo Blue Note and Ronnie Scotts in London.
Now 51, James Morrison’s career thus far has been diverse and perhaps not typical of most jazz musicians. He recorded Jazz Meets the Symphony with The London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Lalo Schifrin, performed concerts at the Royal Albert Hall with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden for Princess Anne. Royal command performances on two occasions for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and for US Presidents Bush & Clinton at Parliament House in Australia. James has also performed his own ‘Concerto for Euphonium’ with the Tonkünstler Orchestra at the Muskverein in Vienna.
Other highlights include performing at the Hollywood Bowl with Bill Cosby’s All Stars and Dave Brubeck and guesting with artists as diverse as Phil Collins, Chaka Khan and rock legends INXS. In 2000 James composed and performed the opening fanfare for the Olympic Games in Sydney.
James was also the artistic advisor to the Sydney Symphony’s “Kaleidoscope” series, which has included performances by Chick Corea, Dianne Reeves, Gary Burton and Kristjan Jarvi.
James spends much time in education, doing master classes and workshops all over the world and presenting the James Morrison Jazz Scholarship at Generations in Jazz.
When not writing film scores, composing or being patron of several youth orchestras, James relaxes in some fairly unconventional ways for a musician – flying his private plane or driving in a rally championship. His love of cars is well known, as he was a host on the TV program Top Gear Australia.
In 2012 James was appointed Artistic Director of the Queensland Music Festival, a State-wide music initiative whose vision is to “transform lives through unforgettable musical experiences.”
In 2013 James conducted the World’s Largest Orchestra, breaking a Guinness World Record with 7,224 musicians at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.
In 2014 James presented ‘A Tribute to Oscar Peterson’ at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival as part of the Commonwealth Games celebrations.
James has been recognized for his service to the arts in Australia by being awarded a medal of The Order of Australia by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, with particular mention of his contribution to music education. He is a Doctor of the University at Queensland Conservatorium of Music and has received a Doctor of Music from the Edith Cowan University Western Australia. He is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of South Australia and Vice-Chancellor’s Professorial Fellow.
The latest chapter in his diverse career sees James in Mount Gambier, South Australia, establishing the James Morrison Academy of Music, an innovative school dedicated to teaching jazz and offering an Associate Degree in Music. This exciting initiative involves educators from all over the world, transforming young musicians’ lives with inspiration and a love of jazz.
With interests so broad and a career so filled with highlights it seems that James Morrison must have done just about everything he could want to do – but not so…
When asked, “What is there left to do?” James’ reply is typically “This is just the warm up!”