Can you recall your first encounter with an instrument?
I was 8 years old when the trumpet first came into my hands. To be fair, I had started with the piano, which was a very useful experience as I got to learn the basics and get to know the notes. However, I had no passion to pursue it. In 1984, thanks to the Maria Mater Gratiae Band Club in Żabbar, I tried the trumpet. This is where I can proudly say my musical journey had started. I knew from the very first moment that this was going to be my instrument for life.
Where has your music taken you around the world so far?
With the Army Band, we represented Malta in various international military festivals. We’ve been to Bremen four times, and we’ve also played in Edinburgh, St.Petersburg, Cervia and Modena.
I’m also a resident musician with the local ska band, The Rifffs. We’ve toured three times in Europe, playing in Berlin, Prague, London and Bournemouth. When I was with Versatile Brass, a 7 piece band, we went to Hannover and Rome.
Tell us more about being a member of the Band of the Armed Forces of Malta.
I joined The Band of the Armed Forces of Malta in 1994. I’m the lead trumpeter and I’m also responsible for the Combo Band, a 4-6 piece band with the army band, and it’s musical arrangements. We play on special request and we represent the army band on various events, where the full band is not required to perform. Traditionally, the army band plays marches and classical music, however for parades we try to expand our repertoire by adding some popular songs to entertain and satisfy our audience better. When we play at international military festivals, I usually play solos . I also enjoy jamming with other foreign musicians at these events. 4 years from now I will have finished my 25 years of service as a band member and soldier.
If your trumpet could speak, what would it say?
Ask him. I think he likes all kinds of music, but his favourite is jazz, which is one of the most challenging styles. He’ll probably complain about needing more rest, like me.
If you had to create a line up of musicians for your dream concert, who’d be on the list?
I’d create a quintet line up. I’d have Brian Blade on drums, Herbie Hancock on keyboard, Marcus Miller on bass and Joshua Redman on the sax.
If I had a big band which involves a section of 4 trumpet players, I’d have Louis Armstrong, Arturo Sandoval, Roy Hargrove and Wynton Marsalis.
Where did you get your nickname ‘Irrussu’ from?
My brother originally had this nickname as he was very much interested in Russia when we were children. Therefore, I became ‘little Russia’. So I partly inherited it from him, but it stuck even more because I resemble an actor called Dolph Lundgren, who had played Rocky Bilboa’s opponent, ‘the Russian’ boxer.
Which has so far been the most exhilarating performance of your life?
One of the hardest things about being a musician is maintaining a very high level with every live performance. We’re obliged to always deliver the best we can! It’s not easy to keep up, and there are no small or big gigs for me. I believe that a real artist is always judged by his last performance.
When I play music, I’m always having the time of my life! So, I can’t really choose one performance. I play classic, jazz, swing, ska, reggae, funk, ethnic world music and pop. It gives me a lot of satisfaction, and I love the challenges I’m presented with.