Michael Anderson | NJA Finalist Q&A

Each year since 2005, in the month leading up to the jazz festival in Wangaratta, Miriam Zolin interviews the finalists in the National Jazz Awards.  The awards are decided at Wangaratta in a series of heats culminating in a finals performance on the Sunday of the festival. Wangaratta Jazz Festival in 2014 runs from Friday 31 October to Monday 3 November. Find out more at wangarattajazz.com

This year the awards feature guitar players and the ten finalists are: Quentin Angus from New York (originally from Adelaide) | David Gooey from Melbourne | Ryan Griffith from Melbourne | Peter Koopman from Sydney | Paul Mason from Sydney | Carl Morgan from Sydney (originally from Canberra) | Michael Anderson from Sydney | Hugh Stuckey from Melbourne (originally from Adelaide) |  Jeremy Thomson from Perth | Oliver Thorpe from Sydney

Michael Anderson

Mike AndersonWhen did you start playing jazz and why? For example, was there a ‘moment’ when it came to you as a calling or vocation?

I started playing jazz around the age of 15. My father is a professional saxophone player so I grew up hearing a lot of Charlie Parker, Stan Getz and Paul Desmond around the house. That was his bag and it definitely rubbed off on me, a lot more than I realised. My first guitar teacher, Vince Hopkins, was really instrumental in unlocking the sounds I was hearing on the guitar. Vince is a really fantastic player and one of the most musical people on the planet.

Which musicians (jazz or otherwise) have been your greatest influences? What about them stood or stands out for you?

Wes Montgomery, Jim Hall, Pat Metheny and John Scofield were definitely my main sources of inspiration, particularly early on. Clifford Brown and Sonny Rollins were also big for me. They all have such unique voices and approaches to their respective instruments that still make me smile. I also loved the bands Nirvana and Soundgarden. They wrote such beautifully crafted melodies with that grunge aesthetic that really resonated with me as a teenager.

When composing or arranging, where do you get your inspiration?

I get inspiration from all sorts of places. I might steal a melodic/rhythmic/harmonic concept or idea from somewhere and try and do my own thing with it. Other times I will sit down with a clean slate and see what happens. Both approaches render very mixed results.

What’s your favourite place to play or practise?

I don’t really have a favourite place to practise. Wherever I feel comfortable I guess- many loungerooms and bedrooms in both Melbourne and Sydney.

What are you most looking forward to at Wangaratta?

I’m really excited to play with Des and Ben. I feel really honoured to be performing at the festival full stop. I can’t wait to check out some amazing musicians, hopefully catch up with some old friends and make some new ones as well.

What are you listening to now?

Right now, I’m listening to a lot of Keith Jarrett’s earlier trio recordings and digging on Gilad Hekselman, Lage Lund and Ari Hoenig.

About Michael

Born and raised in Melbourne’s south eastern suburbs, Michael Anderson now lives and works in Sydney as a professional guitarist and teacher. He has performed in various styles and groups all over Australia and on cruise ships around the world.

Michael first started playing guitar at age 14 after 9 years of classical piano and grew up in a very musical household where he first developed his passion for jazz, as his father was a professional saxophone player.

Michael completed his Bachelor of Music-Improvisation in 2005 at the Victorian College of the Arts, learning and playing with Ashley Cross, Geoff Hughes, Peter Petrucci and Geoff Kluke. Gigging in the Melbourne jazz scene, Michael moved to Sydney in 2012 looking for new inspiration and most recently, was a featured member in the band “Greg Gould and the Chase” which finished runners up on Australia’s Got Talent and had many live TV performances.