Q&A with Sam Anning – 2008 NJA Finalist

Sam Anning, bass, Victoria

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

My dad was playing double bass in the Army Reserve Band when I was in primary school and I guess that was my first experience with the instrument. He then showed me recordings of Ray Brown and I realised just what this seemingly impractical instrument could do. I subsequently studied classical double bass at high school while trying to play like Jaco Pastorius, Tim Commerford (RATM), and Flea on the electric bass. Eventually playing double bass on jazz gigs became my source of income and inspiration.

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

My parents and brothers were responsible for influencing my stylistic direction from early on. There was always jazz playing in the house and strong encouragement to follow ones passion. I guess my biggest musical influences are people who’s music i can keep coming back to and never seems to wear out. They include Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson, Charlie Parker, J.S. Bach, Ornette Coleman, Charlie Haden, Keith Jarrett, and John Coltrane.

To me Wayne Shorter is the living epitome of what the art form of jazz is about, both in his playing and composing. It seems that he has managed to maintain artistic integrity throughout his entire career, which has spanned very dramatically shifting stylistic tides within improvised music. It seems that he is able to fit his strikingly honest playing style in any musical setting and never compromise himself. I think that is something to aspire to.

When composing or arranging, where do you get your inspiration? For example, do you ever find that other art forms (painting, writing etc.) feed into your own creative process?

Sometimes a rhythmic, melodic or harmonic idea may be the inspiration, sometimes a good book, artwork or other music can be the inspiration. I think the inspiration for my most personal (and preferred) compositions has come from real life experiences.

What’s your favourite place to play or practise?

Wherever there are as few distractions as possible, with fresh air and lot’s of sunlight.

What does the Wangaratta festival of jazz represent for you?

Feeling like part of a community, and a SAC Hang!

What are you listening to now?

Benjamin Britten, Bach Motets, David Binney, John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Andrew Hill, Beethoven’s Late String Quartets and music I need to learn.

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These annual Q&As with National Jazz Awards finalists are coordinated by Miriam Zolin.