Q&A with Damien Maughan – 2010 NJA Finalist

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

I grew up in Perth, started playing the trumpet in year 8 and joined the school jazz ensembles-which consisted of a small trad group and big band-when I was in year 9. It was around this time that I went through my music teacher’s record collection and borrowed anything with a trumpet player on the cover. Quite a few of those were Louis Armstrong albums, and I started listening to them every day.

Two years later I was introduced to a local trumpet player by the name of Paddy Fitzallen and I started going to watch his band play quite regularly. I really liked Paddy’s playing because he had a great swing feel, great tone, and he played many of the Louis Armstrong tunes which I loved. I started having trumpet lessons with Paddy and he introduced me to recordings of trumpet players like Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Clifford Brown and Maynard Ferguson, and he had me begin trying to transcribe solos. By this stage I knew that I wanted to become a professional trumpet player, I loved playing the trumpet and wanted to become as good as I possibly could.

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

I have been influenced to a great extent by all of the jazz musicians whose solos I have transcribed over the years, including Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Sonny Stitt, Tom Harrell, Cannonball Adderley, Kenny Dorham, Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan etc.

I think the two musicians who had the greatest influence on my trumpet playing would have to be Freddie Hubbard and Kenny Dorham. Freddie Hubbard played with so much fire and had a beautiful tone over the entire range of the trumpet. Many of the things he played were technically amazing and yet they seemed to be effortless for him.

The first album I heard with Kenny Dorham was The Jazz Messengers at the Cafe Bohemia and I’ve been a big fan of his ever since. I loved the way Kenny played long, flowing melodic phrases in his solos and the way he articulated, so I transcribed many of his solos and tried to incorporate some of his style into my own playing.

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

I don’t think there are any particular things I could point to as a source of inspiration for anything I’ve composed, I just sit at a piano and play until I come up with an idea and then continue to build on the initial idea until I have a complete tune.

What’s your favourite place to play or practise?

My favourite place to perform would be anywhere with an audience who are enjoying the music. My favourite places to practise are big empty rooms such as the theatre at one of the schools I teach in.

What does Wangaratta Jazz represent for you?

Wangaratta Jazz festival provides me with the opportunity to hear some of the great Australian musicians who don’t come to Melbourne regularly.

What are you listening to now?

One of my favourite albums, Bill Evans Will We Meet Again.

Return to the main Q&A page… These annual Q&As with National Jazz Awards finalists are coordinated by Miriam Zolin.