Jazz trumpeter Dan Mclean
is one of the best around. And so he should be – he learned from, and studied, some of the masters of the form during his Bachelor of Music
and subsequent Honours at ANU.
He grew up in Nowra on the New South Wales south coast, where he launched his music career aged eight.
“I guess my first almost gig was at the age of 8 when I started playing The Last Post for many of the ANZAC services in Nowra,” Dan recalled.
He grew up in a household alive with music – his mother and nan were both piano teachers. But it was seeing a jazz band perform at a local high school, when Dan was still in primary school, that made him want to pick up a brass instrument.
“I really wanted to play trombone; that’s what I started on,” Dan said. “But after a few months we realised I was way too small and I couldn’t reach the 7th position.”
Dan finished his high school years at the Sydney Conservatorium before coming to ANU. In his Honours year he studied the different ‘devices’ Australian jazz trumpet players used, as distinct from those in the US and Europe. Dan explained ‘devices’ as being elements in the way they played.
“There were certain things that were a little bit unique,” Dan said. “There’s definitely an Australian jazz sound.”
Dan’s own distinctive sound involves using half-valving and sliding in his playing. And growls.
“It’s something that I just do a lot of,” he said, laughing.
“I can’t think of any other trumpet players that use it in the way I do. Maybe mimicking voice a little bit. But I couldn’t say what.”
After graduating, Dan played lead trumpet briefly for Royal Caribbean Cruises.
“I spent nine months on cruise ships. Backing different acts from musicians to comedians to magicians; just everything really.”
Dan described the experience as a great way to see the world, only stopping because he missed his family.
“But it was amazing and really good for my playing. I was playing something new every night, two shows a night. So you’re always reading different music and the variety of music was fantastic.”
A few years ago, Dan played with James Morrison’s big band when they came through Canberra.
“That experience made me start my own big band,” Dan said.
More recently, Dan has been immersed in the world of swing. His band Dan Mclean Hot Six teamed up with Melbourne vocalist Hetty Kate, and together they released “The Umbrella Man” in late January 2016.
“We’re really dedicated to swing and decided to create a swing album that could be used in the swing scene.”
To promote the album, they toured around New South Wales and the ACT. They’ll take the show to Melbourne later this year.
Until then, expect to see Dan around Canberra with his big band or other groups he plays with – and listen out for those growls.
(image above courtesy of Stuart Hay, ANU)