James Morrison (jazz musician)

"James Morrison (musician)" redirects here. For other musicians with that name, see James Morrison.
James Morrison

A 45-year-old man is shown in right profile, he is playing a trumpet with his right hand manipulating the valves and his left holding the instrument to his pursed lips. He has sparse thin head hair, his eyes are closed and he wears a brown pin-strip suit jacket. The front of the trumpet is out of shot.

Morrison, performing at Sunset Jazz, Skycity Casino, Darwin, in August 2008
Background information
Born (1962-11-11) 11 November 1962
Boorowa, New South Wales, Australia
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter, jazz educator, artistic director, TV presenter
Instruments Trumpet; saxophones: soprano, alto, tenor, baritone; clarinet, flugelhorn, bass trumpet, trombone, euphonium, tuba, double bass, piano, guitar
Years active 1983–present
Labels ABC Music
Associated acts Morrison Brothers Big Bad Band
Website jamesmorrison.com

James Lloyd Morrison AM (born 11 November 1962) is a multi-instrumental Australian jazz musician. Widely known for his trumpet playing, he has also performed on soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone saxophones, clarinet, flugelhorn, bass trumpet, trombone, euphonium, tuba, double bass, guitar and piano. He is a composer, writing jazz charts for ensembles of various sizes and proficiency levels.

He composed and performed the opening fanfare at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. In 2009, he joined Steve Pizzati and Warren Brown as a presenter on Top Gear Australia. At the ARIA Music Awards of 2010 Morrison and a cappella group, The Idea of North, won Best Jazz Album, for their collaboration on Feels Like Spring. In 2012 Morrison was appointed as Artistic Director of the Queensland Music Festival for the 2013 and 2015 festivals. He was inducted into the Graeme Bell Hall of Fame 2013 at the Australian Jazz Bell Awards. In July 2013 he conducted the World's Largest Orchestra in Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium, comprising 7,224 musicians.

In March 2015 Morrison opened the James Morrison Academy of Music in Mount Gambier, South Australia – a tertiary level, dedicated jazz school offering a degree in Jazz performance. The JM Academy is affiliated with the University of South Australia and offers an innovative approach to jazz education through integrated learning and a very hands on approach.


Early years

James Lloyd Morrison,[1] was born on 11 November 1962 in Boorowa, a rural farming community where his father, George Morrison,[2] was a Methodist minister.[3][4][5] Morrison comes from a musical family: his mother plays alto sax, piano and organ, his sister is a trumpeter, and his older brother, John Morrison, is a jazz drummer.[4][5][6] The family relocated to various sites in New South Wales, due to his father's ministry, before settling in Pittwater.[5] From the age of seven Morrison practised on John's cornet.[4]

Morrison attended Mona Vale Primary School and Pittwater High School, then he enrolled at Sydney Conservatorium of Music where he completed a jazz course.[5] While at the conservatorium he met Don Burrows, who became his mentor.[5] By February 1981 Morrison was a faculty member at his alma mater.[7]

Morrison Brothers

In 1983 Morrison and John formed a 13-piece group, Morrison Brothers Big Bad Band. By March 1984 their line-up included Morrison on trumpet, trombone and piano, John on drums, Warwick Alder on trumpet, Paul Andrews on alto saxophone, Tom Baker on alto and baritone saxophones, Peter Cross on trumpet, Glenn Henrich on vibraphone, Jason Morphett on tenor saxophone, and Craig Scott on bass.[8] Michael Foster of The Canberra Times reviewed a performance at Llewellyn Hall, where the ensemble provided "a stomping, laughing, audience-whistling affair" and found "[the band] is uninhibited in its attitude but disciplined in its craft".[8]

The group issued their debut album, A Night in Tunisia, in 1984, on ABC Records as part of the series: Don Burrows Collection.[9] The title track is a jazz standard by Dizzy Gillespie;[9][10] another track, "Burrows Bossa", was written by Morrison.[9][11] Also that year he backed Burrows on Burrows at the Winery, providing trumpet, slide trumpet, trombone, and flugelhorn.[12] The album had been recorded live at Rothbury Estate Winery.[12] Morrison Brothers Big Bad Band used the same venue for their album, Live at the Winery, Foster noted that it "features some of Australia's best playing some great tunes, [and] proves yet again the power, the presence, that can be generated by Australians playing jazz".[13]

Morrison and John have also worked together on other projects and recordings.

Association with other musicians

Morrison has performed with Dizzy Gillespie (the first Australian to do so); with Don Burrows, and with Ray Charles and B.B. King for a 1990 world tour. He has also worked with Ray Brown, Wynton Marsalis, Graeme Lyall, Frank Sinatra, Cab Calloway, Jon Faddis, Woody Shaw, Whitney Houston, Arturo Sandoval, Phil Stack, George Benson, Mark Nightingale, Herbie Hancock, Quincy Jones and Red Rodney.

In 1999, he collaborated with Gina Jeffreys and The Idea of North on the song "Blue Christmas", which is included on Jeffreys' album, Christmas Wish.

In 2005, he was the guest soloist at the 150th anniversary concert of the Black Dyke Band and in 2007, he again appeared as guest soloist at concerts with the band in Manchester and London. In 2003 he founded the band On The Edge together with the German keyboarder and composer Simon Stockhausen, son of Karlheinz Stockhausen (CD released on Morrison Records).

Morrison has also had a long association with composer and pianist Lalo Schifrin (composer of the theme from Mission: Impossible) and has recorded a number of CDs for Schifrin's "Jazz Meets the Symphony" series. These include recordings with the London and the Czech National symphony orchestras.

The discovery and development of young talented musicians is important to Morrison. He found his regular vocalist, Emma Pask, at a school concert, aged 16, and she has since gone on to become an internationally renowned jazz singer. Morrison sponsors yearly scholarships for young musicians, and is actively involved with several youth bands. His association with Generations in Jazz has spanned three decades and he is now Chairman of this organisation which runs one of the largest youth jazz events in the world.

Radio and TV presenter

Main article: Top Gear Australia

For a number of years, Morrison has been the presenter of the in-flight jazz radio station for Qantas Airways. In 1994, James presented Behind The Wheel, a motoring television series on Network Ten. Ten saw the benefits of a series like this and commissioned 18 episodes. It aired on a Tuesday night at 7.30pm to an audience of 2.1 million viewers. The pilot episode was produced by Tim Kupsch, Andy Wallace and James Morrison. Unlike Top Gear, the show ideas and script were largely conceived "on the fly" by Morrison and Kupsch.

On 19 December 2008, presenter Charlie Cox announced his departure from Top Gear Australia due to lack of time. Morrison replaced him in the second season,[14] alongside Warren Brown and Steve Pizzati. He had appeared as the "Star in a Bog-Standard Car" in episode 6 of the first series.


As well as playing instruments, Morrison has also had input into the process of creating them. In early 2010 he formed an association with Austrian brass manufacturer Schagerl and they have produced a number of "signature" models. These include two series – the custom, hand-made "Meister" series and the intermediate professional "Academica" series. There are trumpets and trombones in both series and the Meister series also includes a flugelhorn and bass trumpet. His new design is a trumpet called "The Raven". It is unique for using rotary valves with a long lead pipe normally associated with a piston trumpet.

An earlier instrument project with designer and robotics expert Steve Marshall, produced the Morrison Digital Trumpet, a MIDI wind controller that looks and acts like a futuristic version of a regular trumpet. It allows a trumpeter to play electronic sounds in much the same way as a pianist can play an electronic synthesizer.[15]

In addition, Morrison has broadened his love of musical technology to include vocal performing. On his collaboration album The Other Woman which features singer Deni Hines, he wrote a track called "(Tired of Being) The Other Woman". When Morrison performed this track at a performance in Sydney, he revealed his latest piece of music technology. It is a Roland keyboard (VP770) that has a microphone attached and 'sings' whatever Morrison speaks into the microphone, producing the sound of a choir.

Recording studios

Morrison has also built his own recording studio, located in Sydney. The studio has recorded a number of Australian jazz musicians including Dan Clohesy, Jake Barden, Don Burrows, Liam Burrows, John Morrison, The Swing City Big Band, The Generations In Jazz Academy Big Band, Graeme Lyall and more. The studio has five different recording rooms.

Spanish national anthem

Morrison played the wrong Spanish national anthem at the Davis Cup final in Australia in 2003. Instead of playing the current anthem, "La Marcha Real", he performed the "Himno de Riego", not heard since the Second Republic era,[16] causing the enraged Spanish Secretary of State for Sport to walk out in anger. Morrison later revealed he had mistakenly learned the incorrect tune due to being given the wrong sheet music. Fortunately an official quickly found a CD of the correct anthem, placating the Spanish and allowing the match to proceed.

Awards and honours

On 9 June 1997 James Morrison was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia with a citation "for service to music, particularly jazz, and the sponsorship of young musicians".[17] At the ARIA Music Awards of 2010 Morrison and the a capella group, The Idea of North, won Best Jazz Album, for their collaboration, Feels Like Spring.[18][19] Morrison was nominated in the same category in 1992 for Manner Dangerous, 1993 for Two the Max (collaboration with Ray Brown), 2002 for Scream Machine, 2008 for The Other Woman (collaboration with Deni Hines), and 2012 for Snappy Too.[19] On 2 May 2013, at the Australian Jazz Bell Awards, Morrison was inducted into the Graeme Bell Hall of Fame.[20]

In addition to Being made a Doctor of Music (Honoris Causa) by the Edith Cowan University and a Doctor of the University by Griffith University, Morrison is also an Adjunct Professor of the University of South Australia and a Vice Chancellor's Professorial Fellow.

Personal life

James Morrison met Judi Green, the 1987 Miss Australia winner, at a barbecue prior to both participating in a celebrity race at the Adelaide Grand Prix.[2] The couple were married in 1988 and are the parents of three boys.[2][21]


As sideman

With Don Burrows
With Lalo Schifrin

See also


  1. "'Belleclair Blues' at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 17 November 2013.
  2. 1 2 3 Denton, Andrew (26 July 2004). "Episode 52: James Morrison" (transcript). Enough Rope with Andrew Denton. ABC TV (Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 18 November 2013.
  3. James Morrison interview – Bob Rogers Show, Radio 2CH, 09:29 AEDT 15 March 2007.
  4. 1 2 3 "Fairytale epic of success for jazz maestro". The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926–1995). National Library of Australia. 2 August 1990. p. 3 Section: Good Times. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Thompson, Peter (23 November 2009). "Transcripts – James Morrison". Talking Heads with Peter Thompson. Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). Retrieved 18 November 2013.
  6. "Get set to be blown away by jazz legend". The Southland Times. Fairfax Media. 28 September 2007. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
  7. Foster, Michael (7 February 1984). "Slight shift in emphasis for Jazz at the Cross". The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926–1995). National Library of Australia. p. 11. Retrieved 18 November 2013.
  8. 1 2 Foster, Michael (14 March 1984). "Music: An uninhibited big band". The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926–1995). National Library of Australia. p. 30. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
  9. 1 2 3 Morrison, James; Morrison Brothers Big Band (1984), A Night in Tunisia, ABC Records. National Library of Australia, retrieved 19 November 2013
  10. "Gillespie's death a blow to music.". The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926–1995). National Library of Australia. Associated Press, Australian Associated Press. 8 January 1993. p. 8. Retrieved 19 November 2013.
  11. "'Burrows Bossa' at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 19 November 2013.
  12. 1 2 Burrows, Don; Morrison, James; Golla, George; Turnbull, Alan; Scott, Craig (1984), Burrows at the Winery, ABC Records. National Library of Australia, retrieved 19 November 2013
  13. Foster, Michael (11 November 1985). "Mostly Jazz: Some of the Best". The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926–1995). National Library of Australia. p. 12. Retrieved 19 November 2013.
  14. "Top Gear Australia loses Cox and blows Morrison's trumpet". AUSmotive.com. Retrieved 2013-08-07.
  15. http://newatlas.com/go/4393/
  16. "Christchurch Life: press.co.nz – the-press". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 2013-08-07.
  17. "Search Australian Honours – Name: Morrison, James Lloyd". Its an Honour. Australian Government. Retrieved 18 November 2013.
  18. "ARIA Awards 2010 : History: Winners by Year 2010: 24th Annual ARIA Awards". Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). Retrieved 18 November 2013.
  19. 1 2 "Winners by Year History: Search Results for 'James Morrison'". Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). Retrieved 18 November 2013.
  20. "The Australian Jazz Bell Awards 2013". The Australian Jazz Bell Awards Limited. Retrieved 18 November 2013.
  21. "Biography: Highlights". James Morrison Official Website. Retrieved 18 November 2013.
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