Innovation is one of my primary reasons for playing music, the other is expressing feeling-Matt Keegan

One of Sydney’s most in demand Saxophonist, Matt Keegan regularly performs throughout Australia and around the world. He appears on over 50 albums, is a featured soloist for many well-known groups both past and present and has performed at music festivals across the globe.

In 2011, Keegan won the prestigious MCA Freedman Fellowship for jazz and has subsequently produced a recording with new cross-cultural group The Three Seas in New Delhi, India.  His band, The Matt Keegan Trio, have released five albums to critical acclaim and regularly tour nationally Keegan’s saxophone playing currently features in a variety of professional ensembles. He is a band member on the hit TV show, The Voice, arranging for, and leading the horn section.  He performs in Mahalia Barnes’s band, The Soul Mates and is an integral member of jazz ensembles including the Mark Isaacs Resurgence Band, The Stu Hunter Experiment, the Steve Hunter Band, 20th Century Dog, and the Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra.

In professional capacity he has also played, recorded and or toured with groups including the Darren Percival band, James Muller Band, The World According to James, Phil Slater’s Sun Songbook, The Beautiful Girls, Jackie Orszaczky, Thirsty Merc, The Japan Australia Jazz Orchestra (JPN) and Maroon 5 (USA).

How did your tryst with saxophone begin?

I began playing the clarinet from the age of 8 at my school and added the saxophone when I began high school age 12. Most saxophone players are encouraged to begin their practice on the clarinet. 

Describe your compositional process? From where do your initial ideas come from? 

I generally have ideas for compositions when I am in a relaxed mood with a clear mind, often while walking. When an idea pops into my mind it is my practice to record into my phone or write it down immediately.   I will then return to these initial small inspired ideas at a separate time to develop them into pieces in a more considered manner. 

How important is musical innovation to you?

Innovation is one of my primary reasons for playing music, the other is expressing feeling. I have always found I can put more meaning into music if I have made it myself and I feel it is fresh. I have always been attracted to artists that are innovators in their fields and in my personal music practice I strive to develop interesting ideas that I have not heard before. 

Any challenges with being a jazz musician?

There are challenges to be faced in any creative pursuit or self employed person. At the moment, my main challenge is maintaining the right balance between using my musical talents as a source of income to provide for my family whilst maintaining high standards and integrity in my own artistic output.  Another challenge as a musician is the unpredictable nature of the work and cash flow. 

Music has been transformed so much by technology in recent times. What has that meant to your music and the way you view music?

I personally find it very exciting and inspiring. These days you are only limited by your own imaginative process as to what can be achieved.  Technology can be used to generate amazing sounds and of course it is so much easier to record music now. It was this kind of recording technology that made my most recent project in India possible. I am the director of a new group, The Three Seas - we were able to live and record an album together in a beautiful haveli in a remote part of the Rajasthan desert. The surroundings inspired us and the technology captured the sounds and feeling. 

Any upcoming projects we can look forward to?

Yes. The Three Seas project I was describing will be released in India in a few months.  It is a blend between Bengali folk music and western contemporary styles. You can find out more about it at:

How was your experience performing in Kolkata? Do you plan to collaborate with Indian musicians in the future?

I really enjoyed performing in Kolkata on this occasion. Playing with Kendraka at Plush was a great experience through which I made some new important musical relationships and friendships. This was my 3rd trip to India and I will definitely return again soon.  I intend to perform concerts with The Three Seas but also wish to develop my new musical connections with people like Bumpy and Kendraka.   

Any words of wisdom for aspiring musicians?

Don't be afraid of your own musical heritage. I hear many young musicians from different cultures who try to sound like western bands at the total expense of their own musical heritage. I am not saying don't be influenced by these bands - go for it!  But it is the way you choose to assimilate these influences. To me it is the blend of styles and ideas that is interesting. Innovation, not just copying.  Keep your ears open! Listen to as much different kinds of music as possible. Work hard at your craft. It's only those that give up that don't succeed.  

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