MUSICIANS are a hardy breed if jazz drummer Michael Pignéguy is anything to go by.
Not only has he been liaising with musicians across the globe to form The Awakenings Ensemble for an international tour, he’s also been preparing to move back to Perth after living in Qatar for 10 years.
The Ensemble is an interchangeable feast, with local musicians used for each gig.
In Perth the line-up features Harry Mitchell (keyboard), Peter Jeavons (bass), Simon Jeans (guitar), Ricki Malet (trumpet) and Australia’s best-loved saxophonist Jamie Oehlers.
The variety of musicians “keeps things fresh” and adds a “slight mystery” to shows, Pignéguy says.
The drummer, who also produces and composes, was born in Sydney, grew up in Auckland, and moved to Perth to study at WAAPA in 1989.
“My formative professional years were in Perth,” he says on the blower from Malaysia.
“That’s where I consider home from a professional point of view. It will be nice to be back,”
His first large-scale composition was an homage to famed WA engineer CY O’Connor, a four-movement work for 27 players commissioned for the opening of the 2003 Fremantle International Jazz Festival.
And he pulled off a tricky composition, meshing jazz and classical music, in Jazz Meets Mozart for the composer’s 250th birthday.
Pignéguy has travelled the world collaborating with Tex Perkins, Kate Ceberano, Augie March, renowned French composer Michel Legrand, US trumpeter Dominick Farinacci and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.
Arabic music piqued Pignéguy’s interest and is one of the reasons he moved to Qatar with his wife in 2006.
“The Gulf states have a rich musical history,” he says.
Jazz was relatively unpopular in the Gulf states when Pignéguy moved there, but the music has been embraced after the cultural emancipation during the Arab Spring: “There were no students at the Qatar music academy in 2011; now there are 500,” he says.
Michael Pignéguy and The Awakenings Ensemble is playing at the Ellington Jazz Club, Wednesday July 4.
Tix at ellingtonjazz.com.au/event/michael-pigneguy
by JENNY D’ANGER