James Morrison is, by anybody’s standard, a virtuoso in the true sense of the word. Besides the trumpet, this multi-instrumentalist also plays piano, all the brass, saxophones, and double bass.
At the age of six he started on piano, at seven he took up brass, at nine he formed his first band and at thirteen he was playing professionally in nightclubs. His international career developed just as quickly with a debut in the USA at the Monterey Jazz Festival at age sixteen.
Following this were performances at the world’s major jazz festivals, including Montreux, North Sea, Nice and the Hollywood Bowl, playing with many of the legends of jazz – Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Dave Brubeck, Chick Corea, George Benson, Ray Charles, B.B. King, Quincy Jones, Ray Brown and Wynton Marsalis to name a few. James also frequents the world’s most famous jazz clubs – Birdland, The Blue Note and Village Vanguard in New York, New Morning in Paris, The Tokyo Blue Note and Ronnie Scott’s in London.
Now 58, James Morrison’s career has included much more than just jazz…
He has recorded with The London Symphony Orchestra, rock legends INXS and the European Brass Ensemble, performed at the Royal Albert Hall for the BBC Proms, written the opening fanfare for the Olympic Games, played Royal Command performances for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and for US Presidents Bush and Clinton. He has played classical trumpet at the Kremlin, was TV presenter on Top Gear Australia and on International Jazz Day 2016, James was a guest of President Obama at the White House.
James has been appointed a member of The Order of Australia, he is a Doctor of the University at Queensland Conservatorium of Music and has received a Doctor of Music from the Edith Cowan University Western Australia and the University of Adelaide. He is an Adjunct Professor at the University of South Australia and Vice-Chancellor’s Professorial Fellow. In 2015 James founded his own academy of music in Mount Gambier, South Australia. The James Morrison Academy of Music @ UniSA is an innovative school dedicated to teaching jazz and offering both a Bachelor Degree and post graduate programs. This exciting initiative involves educators from all over the world, transforming young musicians’ lives with inspiration and a love of jazz. In 2017, the JMA partnered with The Juilliard School in New York City to offer an exclusive Honours Program.
James has also written and performed his own concerto with the Tonkünstler Orchestra at the Musikverein in Vienna and has appeared as a guest with the Berlin Philharmonic, the Czech National Symphony Orchestra at the Prague Proms and many more of the world’s major orchestras.
In 2018, James’s activities included a return performance to the legendary Bern Jazz Festival in Switzerland, The New Zealand International Jazz and Blues Festival, the Melbourne International Jazz Festival and a as special guest at UNESCO International Jazz Day at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg. James and his new quartet embarked on an Australian jazz club tour to promote their debut album “Midnight Till Dawn” as well as a tour to the United States and Europe (Austria, Ireland, Portugal and the UK). In London, James presented a 4-part documentary series “Top Brass” for the BBC. James also appeared in the 2018 seasons of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra and the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra.
2017 highlights included a world premier of a jazz concerto written specially for James by Gordon Goodwin on International Jazz Day, a debut at the BBC Proms in London alongside Dianne Reeves, return performances at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Ronnie Scott’s and the Jazz Cruise, a debut at The Green Mill in Chicago, headline appearances at Melbourne International Jazz Festival, Canberra International Music Festival, Oslo Jazz Festival, Vail Jazz Festival Colorado and Grahamstown International Music Festival South Africa, an Australian tour with Grammy Award winning diva Patti Austin and featured appearances at the Sydney Opera House for Australia Day and the Australian Embassy in Washington DC for the Presidential Inauguration. 2017 recording releases included a recording of the Great American Songbook at Abbey Road Studios with the BBC Concert Orchestra. James also continues his education work with appearances in New Orleans at the Jazz Educator’s Network Conference and workshops at the Juilliard School, the Thelonious Monk Institute and University of North Texas’s One O’Clock Lab Band.
Highlights of 2016 included a recording at Abbey Road Studios with the BBC Concert Orchestra for international release, sold out performances at the Prague Proms, Berlin Philhamonie, Budapest Music Centre and the Lionel Hampton Club in Paris, two sell-out return performances at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London, two Australian tours, two European tours, a season with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, a hugely successful solo tour all over the USA including the Miami Beach Jazz Festival, the Newport Beach Jazz Party, performances with John Clayton, Jeff Hamilton and the One O’Clock Lab Band and, of course, International Jazz Day at the White House with the President of the United States.
Other career highlights include performing with artists as diverse as Phil Collins, Chaka Khan and Sting.
He spends much time in education, doing master classes and workshops in many countries and presenting the James Morrison Jazz Scholarship at the world’s largest youth jazz festival Generations in Jazz.
When not writing film scores, composing or serving as patron of some of Australia’s major music institutions, James relaxes in some unconventional ways for a musician – flying his private plane or driving in a rally championship.
In a recording career spanning 3 decades, James has released a huge variety of albums from gospel to big band to electronic fusion. Nominated for eight ARIA Awards winning ARIA in 2010 and again in 2017. In 2013, James was inducted into the Australian Jazz Hall of Fame. In 2016, James’s disc “In Good Company” charted simultaneously in both the ARIA Jazz and Popular Album Charts, remaining at No 1 in the Jazz charts for over 20 weeks. James currently records for ABC Jazz/Universal and Fanfare Jazz and is an exclusive artist for Schagerl Instruments. He is also a proud Friend of the Brand for Mercedes Benz and Brand Ambassador for Oris Swiss Watches.
In 2012 James was appointed Artistic Director of the Queensland Music Festival, a state-wide music initiative whose vision is to “transform lives through unforgettable musical experiences.” As part of the festival, in 2013 James conducted the World’s Largest Orchestra, breaking a Guinness World Record with 7,224 musicians at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium. In 2014 James presented ‘A Tribute to Oscar Peterson’ at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival as part of the Commonwealth Games celebrations.
In 2019, James was the Co-Artistic Director (with Herbie Hancock) of International Jazz Day which was ‘live streamed’ from Melbourne, Australia to a world-wide audience of more than
With interests so broad and a career so filled with highlights it seems that James Morrison must have done just about everything he could want to do – but not so…
When asked, “What is there left to do?” James’ reply is typically “This is just the warm up!”