Jazz musician James Morrison has been delighting audiences all over the world for decades and has played alongside music legends like Dizzy Gillespie, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles and B.B. King.

Recently appointed as Artistic Director of the Queensland Music Festival, James Morrison is residing in South Brisbane, part time. Best known for the trumpet, James also plays trombone, saxophone, double bass and piano amongst other instruments. Trumpet is not actually his favourite.

“They’re like children. They’re all different and you love them for different reasons, so I don’t have a favourite. Having said that, my favourite instrument, I always have a favourite, it’s the one I’m playing at the time.”

James splits his time between touring, being home with his family in Sydney, and now a few days, most weeks, in Brisbane where he’s been enjoying strolling the boardwalk and riding the city bikes. “Admittedly I don’t use them enough but I like the fact that I can,” he says with a smile. “I love South Bank and that whole area, especially now with the ABC there, with the Con and QPAC and GoMA, you’ve got this incredible stretch of culture, of arts all in the one place. You don’t get that in other cities. And it’s a great feel with all the restaurants and everything around there too. I plan to use that area extensively for the festival.”

While Morrison has performed in hundreds of festivals, this is his first time being an Artistic Director. It wasn’t something he had planned to do. “That means having an office and typing letters and things and I want to be out on the road playing music … but when I read the vision statement for the festival which is ‘to transform lives through unforgettable musical experiences’, I thought, `well that’s my goal with my own playing … I can continue to do what I do, but on a larger scale’.”

In his role, James is responsible for the artistic content of Queensland Music Festival and has been keeping his ears open for new talent. He recently approached a busker playing a kora on Boundary Street. The busker clearly didn’t know who James was.
“The only way I could get to talk to him was to put a large enough sum in his case so he’d stop playing to say thank you. He was playing away, he could have gone on for hours … I gave him my card and I said ‘please call me, we have this great music festival it would be wonderful to have you in it’, so hopefully he will. If he doesn’t, we’re going to go cruising that street again and find  him!”

James says his own aim as a musician has not changed since he first picked up an instrument. He simply wants to move people through music. “It’s just to keep doing that in new ways and ever expanding ways and with different people and to find other avenues for connecting with people. That’s always been the plan.”

Words by Leah Carri  |  Images by Darlia Argyris