Australian jazz musician James Morrison, who plays the trumpet as well as numerous other instruments, is one of the artists featured on the 2019 BRAVO Cruise of the Performing Arts, departing from Sydney next month. He will be performing as part of a line-up that includes Bryn Terfel, Mark Vincent, David Hobson and Marina Prior among others. He spoke to Limelight before preparing to board.

James Morrison

Have you performed on many cruises?

I have done a few cruises; I do a thing each year called the Jazz Cruise which goes around the Caribbean but I’ve only done the BRAVO Arts cruise once before so it’s my second time. It’s obviously musically quite different and an amazing thing [to perform] with the orchestra. I think one of the highlights of it musically for the people coming along is also the chance to sing in the choir, under Jonathon Welch. I don’t know if many musical cruises offer [the chance to be] part of something like that.

You will perform with The Metropolitan Orchestra from Sydney, conducted by Guy Noble. Will you be taking any other musicians on board to perform with you?

Not many, most of them are there in the orchestra. I’ll just need a couple of extras to keep the jazz flavour, but there are some great musicians on board such as Dan Barnett who has some great jazz rhythm section players with him. I’ll be doing mostly materials from The Great American Songbook [the album of jazz standards Morrison recorded for ABC Classic, and the name of a concert he has performed with the Sydney and Adelaide Symphony Orchestras conducted by Noble].

Are you taking your sons [jazz musicians Harry and Will] with you?

Not on this one, they’re gonna be elsewhere on tour. 

 You have experience of working with Guy Noble?

Yes, and I’ve have to say, putting jazz with an orchestra, really, really requires the right conductor, who understands the orchestra and understands the jazz – there are a few of those. 

Will you just be performing your mainstage show in the theatre?

It will mainly be the one with the orchestra in the theatre. Mind you, that’s officially what happens but of course on a cruise like this [other spontaneous things happen]. I think Brad Child’s Quartet are going to be performing somewhere on the boat. The last time I did [the cruise] there was an impromptu all-night jam session, so that kind of thing does happen. 

A cappella ensemble The Idea of North is on the ship and I know you’ve performed with them in the past?

Yes, all that sort of thing happens and I think Melinda Schneider is on too doing her Melinda Schneider Does Doris Day show. I’ve played with her. I think that’s one of those great things about being on a ship. You could do this as a festival at a venue somewhere for a week but it wouldn’t be the same because everyone is on board and things just take off.

You famously fly planes, you drive fast cars, you’ve got your own boat. Do you enjoy being on a ship?

I do, yes. I don’t expect to be steering the ship much! But I do love to be at sea, is the best way to put it, yes. One of the great things for the audiences is that [it’s relaxing] for the artists too. Although we’re at work, we’re also on a cruise so it brings a different atmosphere.

You seem to have so many things on the go – last year you formed a new quartet and you’re constantly touring. Do you ever get tired of touring?

It’s nice to get home, but no, not really, it’s not quite like that. You get tired of some of the bits of [the travel], but once you’re there it’s great. 

How do you feel about the fact that your sons have followed you into the industry and are both jazz musicians?

That’s a great blessing, I just consider myself very lucky. 

But that was not something that you ever pushed?

Not at all. Almost the contrary. I really left it alone so they could make their own decisions. It’s great. 

I know you were involved in the ABC documentary Don’t Stop the Music, which highlighted the power of introducing music to primary schools. How did you feel about being involved in that?

That was very inspiring to see the difference that music can make in the lives of kids like that. Being musicians we all know that, and we could be a little biased too, but it was extremely rewarding and inspiring to be a part of it and see what happened. 

The 2019 BRAVO Cruise of the Performing Arts is sold out. The 2020 BRAVO Cruise of the Performing Arts, October 13 – 20, features artists including Anthony Warlow, Ruthie Henshall, Teddy Tahu Rhodes, David Hobson, Mirusia, Cheryl Barker and Peter Coleman-Wright, and is taking bookings now.