The music man from Mana
band. Jazz guitarist Mike Stern was part of the 40th anniversary tour in 2013. He’s a fantastic player and a really nice guy who supported what we were doing. One thing I’ve achieved with the big band is building the support of high-profile musicians.
Any performances stand out?
When I took the Rodger Fox Big Band to Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland in 1980. That was the biggest festival in Europe around that time. We were the first New Zealand jazz band to be invited. The band played well. There was a good recording made and it showed off New Zealand music, which we played. Most people didn’t know where New Zealand was in 1980.
What are your hopes for the future of the band and New Zealand jazz in general?
My long-term goal is to have a fulltime New Zealand big band along the same lines as the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the Royal New Zealand Ballet and New Zealand Opera. It’s a bit radical thinking. Why isn’t there one yet? Classical music has been funded heavily for many years and it’s one of those things that’s kept going. I’m seeking advice from Creative New Zealand, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and others to make the proposal workable. There’s a lot of people interested in the music. There’s three university courses, 100 jazz bands in schools and seven or eight major jazz events throughout the year in New Zealand. But this style of music has always been underfunded. The time has come when it needs to change.
What shows do you have coming up?
I’m doing a series of concerts with Michael Houstoun, the classical piano artist, playing some classical genre in a big band style with arrangements by American composer Bill Cunliffe. The first performance is at the Tauranga Jazz Festival on April 5. Then we’ll come back and spend four days in the recording studio. I’ll be playing in the Expressions Jazz Festival in Upper Hutt on May 29, then the Manawatu Jazz Festival the next day. I’m musical director for both. The main concert is the Wellington Jazz Festival at the Opera House on June 7.
Rodger Fox: ‘‘I was pretty novel, being a trombone player in a rock band.’’