Peter Koopman | NJA Finalist Q&A

Peter Koopman | image by Eric Pozza

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

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

Peter Koopman

Peter Koopman | image by Eric Pozza
Peter Koopman | image by Eric Pozza

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

My dad is a jazz bassist in New Zealand, and he used to take me to a lot of gigs when I was just a wee lad, and he used to have a lot of great albums on around the house. Bill Frisell, John Scofield, Dave Holland, Django Reinhardt, Keith Jarrett, and Miles are some of the jazzier ones that stick out for me, as well The Police, Steely Dan, Queen, The Meters and Tom Waits

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

Dixon Nacey, my old mentor from NZ was and still is very inspiring to me. The fact that he is one of the busiest guitarists and educators in town, whilst also raising a family, and yet still remains one of the most passionate, positive and infectiously enthusiastic musicians I know, it never ceases to amaze me.

James Muller, for his seemingly boundless musicality and dedication.

Roger Manins was a huge influence for me, I used to have a couple of regular gigs with him in the motherland, and he always brought the vibe. Big time.

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

Usually it’s some kind of isolated idea or a mood that I’ve stolen from something I’ve been listening to. Lately I’ve been getting into voice leading, but I haven’t shown any of the recent ones to many people yet..

What’s your favourite place to play or practise?

I live with five other musicians, so playing in our lounge is always a lot of fun. And most of the neighbours love it. Probably.

What are you most looking forward to at Wangaratta?

Playing with Ben and Des will be a blast, and I can’t wait to listen and hang with the other guitarists. The gig I’m most looking forward to is probably Muller and Mags together. And I’m also looking forward to seeing what kind of mischief Ollie Thorpe gets up to.

What are you listening to now?

Bootlegs of some great gigs I saw in New York, Wayne Krantz’s Greenwich Mean, Reinier Baas, Seamus Blake, Nate Wood’s latest album, James Muller, Meshuggah.

About Peter Koopman

Originally hailing from the lush, verdant countryside of rural New Zealand, Peter Koopman has become a regular fixture on Sydney’s music scene since his arrival in late 2011, appearing with various jazz and pop groups around the country and abroad. His love of music was first sparked by the many and varied albums in his Dad’s record collection, and he spent his late teens gigging around the Auckland jazz scene in bands led by Roger Manins and Frank Gibson jr, before a couple of visits to Australia prompted him to up sticks and move. Recent highlights include tours to Asia with the Briana Cowlishaw Band, and playing in Tim Firth’s very loud and very excellent jazz-metal band Scoredatura.