Strike Up The Band

3 September 2014 | 9:42 am | Jazmine O’Sullivan

Emma Pask dishes on the lessons jazz maestro James Morrison taught her.

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Emma Pask’s 20-year career as a jazz singer has seen her perform countless festivals and club shows with highly acclaimed musicians on stages across the globe. For a young girl starting out in the music industry, jazz might not seem the most common genre of choice, however for Pask it was a natural development.

“My parents were really big fans of what I like to call ‘the great music’. Mum was a huge fan of Ella Fitzgerald and Dad was into his rock’n’roll, listening to Bill Hayley & The Comets in the early days. It’s just something that captured me.”

Recently, Pask has found herself sharing the stage with probably her longest and strongest jazz collaborator, James Morrison, who plucked her from obscurity back in the early days to perform with him on stage, something which she still considers a thrilling experience.

“Playing these shows takes me back to when I first started 20 years ago with James – this year we’re celebrating 20 years of working together, which is fantastic. One of the first things I did when I started working with James way back in 1994 was to go on a big band tour with him, and it’s fantastic to stand up on stage with him and do it all over again. It’s just such a buzz, and big band is one of my favourite line-ups in jazz.”

Reflecting on what Morrison has taught her as a performer over the years Pask gushes, “Everything! Everything that I do on stage, and everything that I think about on stage comes from him because it all started with him. I was thrown onto the stage not knowing anything at 16, so I was put into this environment with his big band where I literally did learn everything on the road with him.

“I think one of James’ fantastic qualities as a musician and an entertainer is to bring audiences in to what you’re doing, to involve them, to set up a song and let them know a little bit about what you’re doing. I could go through so many things I’ve learned from him but really I learned everything from him. I’m still learning more things from him.”

Pask and Morrison are also set to play the Noosa Jazz Festival, but this time Pask’s experience will be a little different.

“For the last 15 years James and I have been up [at the Noosa Jazz Festival] every year, but this year is the first year for me to be coming up there with my own band. James is still going to be up there but I’m going to be doing something a little different this year, so it’s kind of exciting. I’m going to be at a different part of the festival, I’ll have my own trio and yeah, I’m really looking forward to playing up there.”