Sam Anning: “Excellence is being successful whilst being yourself”

Sam Anning left a big void in Melbourne’s jazz community, when he relocated to New York – to study at the prestigious Manhattan School of Music. This is obvious by the excitement caused by the news of his return to Australia – and even more obvious when he won this year’s National Jazz Award at the Wangaratta Festival. Latest in the line of the great artists who have won this award, the charismatic bass player shares his thoughts on this and other matters.

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AustralianJazz.Net: What was the first thing that came to your mind when you won the National Jazz Award?

Sam Anning: I was playing with ‘Speedball‘ (Mat Jodrell, Carl Mackey, Grant Windsor, Daniel Susnjar) when I found out I had placed first, so the first thing in my mind was to make sure I’m in the right place in the music.

AJN: What does this award mean to you?

SA: It means that the level of bass players this country produces are at an extremely high level. Hearing them was inspiring and humbling.

AJN: If you were to give someone an award, what kind of award would that be? Who would get it?

SA: I think the best kind of award is the one you can’t give. It’s the one that you get from being intimate with music. The award comes when you listen and the hair on the back of your neck stands up, your skin shivers with ecstasy, you cry because there can’t be anything more beautiful than this right now. Anyone who can hear is capable of winning that award, all they have to do is listen.

AJN: What is your idea of excellence?

SA: To me, excellence is being successful (whatever that means to you) whilst being yourself.

AJN: Are you competitive?

SA: I am competitive, but I try to use it as positive energy, so that I can crush my competitors!!!! Mwaaa ha haaaa!!!

AJN: How did it feel, coming back to Australia?

SA: Coming back to Australia has felt incredible so far. I’ve been here a week (mostly spent in Wangaratta) and it feels right. It was so good to catch up with so many old mates at the Wangaratta Jazz Festival, I realised how much I’d missed them. Reuniting with the ‘Speedball’ fellas after almost a decade made the return feel good. Also, the food and coffee in Melbourne are close to perfect.

AJN: In what way have you changed, during your absence?

SA: I feel that I have a stronger sense of identity and an awareness that there is so much more to learn about life and music.

AJN: What have you discovered about yourself, while studying in New York?

SA: During my studies I discovered that community is one of the more important aspects of education. What I learnt from my peers and the relationships formed are more important than the doctrine of the institution.

AJN: What has been the most important part of this experience?

SA: To make sure I don’t miss any of the lessons to be learnt from it.

AJN: What are your plans for the near future?

SA: I am organising music to play at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club on November 15th. Joining me will be Mat Jodrell (trumpet), Carl Mackey (sax), Julien Wilson (sax), and Danny Fischer (drums). I am working on my singer-songwriter project ‘George & Ivy’ and dreaming up ideas for the ABC recording I received as part of the National Jazz Award.

AJN: What is your greatest aspiration?

SA: To make something beautiful.