Will Vinson: ‘Australia produces excellent jazz musicians’

Originally from London, alto saxophonist Will Vinson moved to New York in 1999 and has remained there ever since, playing with the likes of Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Marcus Gilmore, Chris Potter, Kurt Elling, Lage Lund, Rufus Wainwright, Sufjan Stevens, Sean Lennon and Beth Orton.
A formidable musician, with a “coolly restrained” style (according to the New York Times), he is currently ontour around Australia, playing in various settings, gaining rave reviews. On Thursday 3d March, he will be performing at JMI Live in Brisbane, with none other than Steve Newcomb. Prior to this exciting duet performance, he spoke to Ange Gadd, sharing his Australian experience.

Ange Gadd: What brings you to Australia this time around?
Will Vinson: I’ve always loved coming to Australia to perform, and these days, now that I’m married to an Aussie, it’s that much easier to make it work, and tie it in to visits to family.

AG: What has been the most memorable thing about performing in Australia in the past?
WV: Hard to say, but I’d probably have to mention the pleasure it gives me to know that I’m going to be playing with musicians who I know will play the hell out of my music. It’s increasingly impressive to me how Australia punches above its weight in terms of its record of producing excellent jazz musicians.

AG: Have you ever performed in Brisbane before?
WV: Many times, dating back to 2001

AG: What was your favourite thing about performing in Brisbane?
WV: I love the community of musicians and music lovers that exists there.

AG: What can the audience expect from your JMI Live show on 3rd March?
WV: Not even sure what I can expect – that’s the beauty! But it will be great to reunite with one of my earliest musical collaborators, Steve Newcomb. On that night, the performance will be like two old pals catching up after a few years, each one filling the other in on what they’ve been up to (in this case, musically) in the intervening time.

AG: Your new album, Perfectly Out of Place, will be out on 22nd April. Will you be performing material from the new album at your gig at JMI Live?
WV: There will be some music from the upcoming CD, some from previous ones, and probably some standard repertoire.

AG: What inspired you to write the songs on the new album?
WV: The recording project was setup about two months in advance (usually it would be longer, but the guys on the record are so busy, you have to take whatever time you have when everyone’s available). Then all I needed was the fear of knowing it was rapidly approaching. That’s a great motivator!

AG: What were the challenges you faced in writing and recording the new album?
WV: Each project carries its own challenge. I’d say on this occasion that it was the unknown. This group had never performed together (some of them had never met). Lots could go wrong, but you need that possibility in order to produce the best spontaneous results. Some stuff did go wrong, but a lot went right. The goal is to keep the balance in your favor!

AG: At what stage of your career were you able to travel and perform internationally?
WV: That began when I left Manhattan School of Music, age 24. I’ve been trying to develop it ever since.

AG: What advice would you give to an aspiring instrumentalist looking to have a career in music?
WV: Be a sober critic of yourself. Don’t beat yourself up, but don’t wait for others to tell you what you should be doing differently. I think if we’re all honest with ourselves, we know deep down what our flaws are. Don’t assume that because other people don’t mention them that you’re getting away with it!

AG: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
WV: I’ll add it all on the gig!