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Jazz great gives students ‘elbow’ demo

By Patrick Nelson

James Morrison with Hermannsburg Band members James Morrison with Hermannsburg Band members

A group of VET music students from Hermannsburg enjoyed a rare treat when Australian jazz maestro James Morrison turned up in Alice Springs for an impromptu workshop recently.

Contemporary music lecturer Francis Diatschenko said the students could barely believe their luck when Mr Morrison invited them up front to jam with his Hot Horn Happening Band in the theatrette at Centralian Senior College.

“Some of the Hermannsburg boys played a couple of songs and then Mr Morrison gave some feedback and invited questions, some of which were really interesting,” Mr Diatschenko said.

“Someone asked if he could play the trumpet with his elbow, which prompted a fleeting demonstration to prove that he could.

“And he was asked if he could play the didgeridoo. Mr Morrison implied that he could, but said it messed with his trumpet playing. He talked about how both were wind instruments, and how that ‘circular breathing’ and ‘buzzing your lips’ were common skills to mastering such instruments.

“He said something always has to buzz or vibrate to make music, whether it’s string or skin or lips.”

Mr Diatschenko said the world class trumpeter told the masterclass “it’s only human to love music”.

“He spoke broadly and with passion about rhythm, beat, harmonies and especially about soul.

“He said soul came from the musician. It’s when they want you to feel what they’re feeling: sad, happy, whatever … it’s about sharing.

“He encouraged them to find their voice and develop their sound. The key to becoming a jazz musician was to listen to lots of jazz and to soak it up. ’Hear it, play it, find out why it works, then do it again,’ he said.”

The Hermannsburg Band members, who are enrolled in Certificates II and III in Music, have been demonstrating their skills and talents during a one-week stay in Alice Springs.

They presented an hour of surf music at Alice Springs campus and were special guests at the weekly open mic night at Epilogue in Todd Mall.