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Current reading: The Greatest Show on Earth - Richard Dawkins

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This interview is taken from the December 2009 issue of FINE Music Magazine.

Interview by Chris Rhule

How did you first start playing music and what instruments did you play?

My mother started a school band program that my older brother and sister went through, so when I got to year 2 it was decided I’d learn the violin, then later the Trumpet, double Bass and French horn. At one point i was playing the horn and trumpet in concert band at the same time!

How did the trumpet become your instrument of choice?

I hadn’t had as much formal training on the trumpet and perhaps that was what made me want to drop the other instruments. Playing trumpet meant playing in the Stage Band and when i was in year 6 i formed my first jazz group and so i guess i was attracted to performing solo more than hiding up the back of a concert band.

What were some of your first musical influences?

I remember going to James Morrison concerts at the Opera House and falling asleep on the floor, but i think he was one of the first people to really inspire me to play music for a living. His brother John has been something of a mentor to me over the years and they demonstrated how music could be enjoyable and entertaining. Later I met Phil Slater and Warwick Alder, which is when I started discovering more modern and improvised music which largely influences me today.

You are currently studying at the Sydney Conservatorium Of Music.

Can you describe that experience?

Perhaps the greatest thing, as I near the end of the degree is the musical friendships I’ve developed with people. My peers have been Alex Boneham, Steve Barry, James Jennings and Jeremy Rose and they have as much as the teachers inspired me to write and play improvised music. The con provides us with teachers to guide us and the facilities to allow us to make hours and hours of music.

Who are some of the local musicians and teachers who have influenced and inspired you?

Mike Nock has been very supportive towards me and in support of the Dilworths from the first day he heard the band almost 2 years ago. Along with Mike, Judy Bailey, Dale Barlow and Phil Slater I feel have help shape my views and direction in music.

Is there a particular style of jazz that you would like to concentrate on in the future?

One of the things I like about jazz not being a mainstream music is that there aren’t enough gigs to be playing with the same band night after night so therefore you find yourself playing in all different styles so right now i have no idea what style in the future I’d like to play. I love sitting in at Unity Hall and playing Jazzgroove so at the moment I guess im in a place where id like to absorb lots of different styles which hopefully in turn will help shape a sound for me in the future

You have also played in groups like Kid Confucius and Beautiful Girls. How do you find that experience playing in a broader musical spectrum.

There is a different playing demand in pop music. Improvising and soloing comes second, the challenge is night after night to be able to play with a high intensity and nail the parts exactly like the record as the thousands of fans expect to hear. Those bands were the first time id played to crowds in the thousands!

How do you find the current music scene in Sydney, particularly as it relates to jazz?

There’s so many great musicians and bands around which is super healthy regarding the scene. There are a few venues with weekly gigs and others come and go. I guess the biggest challenge we have trying to play jazz is getting the money in from the punters so that the venue operators stay happy.

You have played at some of the great overseas Jazz Festivals. Can you tell us about those experiences?

I was lucky enough to be a part of the Australian All Star Youth big band in 2004 and 2005 which gave me the opportunity to go to Montreaux, Monterey and North Sea Jazz festivals. I was able to see Michael Brecker, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Sonny Rollins, Kenny Wheeler and so many more big names so it was such a great chance to be exposed to some of the top music in the world.

Your current musical project is The Dilworths. How did this group come together and tell us about the musicians you have assembled?

After my first New York experience i was so inspired after being there for 6 weeks that I decided I needed to start my own band with guys that were going to push me to play better. I called the best players I had ever met at the time and fortunately they agreed to get together and it was an instant vibe that we had to keep playing together. Karl’s been one of my favourite players for years and have always been inspired by the energy he can create when he plays. Alex and I have been playing together since we were 13 so naturally i added him and when put together with Hugh and Cam they make one of the most supportive an attentive rhythm sections in town. These guys are more than just band members, they are my brothers!

You are launching your new album for Jazzgroove this month. Tell us about the music on that album?

This is high energy, highly interactive jazz. They are all tunes I’ve written over the last two years and are inspired by the energy and vibe I discovered whilst hanging in New York seeing music every night.

Ideally, where would you like to see your music career heading in the future?

Next year will see the band doing some touring, and i will spend 3-4 months overseas on a scholarship from the Big Brother foundation where I plan to play with as many different people as I can in New York and Europe. Further than that I have no idea but hope it’ll involve making music with many more people.

-Eamon

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