Calgary

Al Muirhead, longtime Calgary jazz musician, gets Juno nomination at age 80

An 80-year-old Calgary jazz trumpet player has been nominated for a Juno Award for his first-ever 2014 album.

'Isn’t that amazing?' Muirhead thrilled to be honoured after more than 60 years in music business

Al Muirhead has been a fixture on Calgary's live music scene for decades. (www.almuirhead.com)

Al Muirhead's music career has mainly focused on one thing — making a living.

That worked well for the hard-working musician because he's played at every live jazz venue in Calgary with artists ranging from Diana Krall, to Dizzy Gillespie and Chaka Khan. 

He's now 80, but didn't record an album until 2014. That album, aptly titled It's About Time, is nominated for a Juno award in the category, Jazz Album of the Year.

Muirhead got his start in Calgary when he moved from Regina in 1966 to open a downtown music store called Arcade. And he never left. 

So, why after all those years of playing live performances did Muirhead decide to make an album?

"Actually it wasn't my idea at all," he said laughing during a radio interview with Eyeopener host David Gray.

Calgarian Al Muirhead is nominated for a 2016 Juno award for Jazz Album of the Year. (CBC)

Fellow musician, double bassist Kodi Hutchinson, who runs Chronograph Records, asked Muirhead to do it.

Muirhead is joined on the album by longtime collaborators, pianist Tommy Banks (also up for a Juno this year), and saxophone player PJ Perry, both from Edmonton.

Jazz on the ropes

While Muirhead is celebrating the recent honour for his career, he also says the popularity of jazz music is at an all-time low.

"I think it's because all the young jazz musicians are learning to play in colleges and universities ... they have magnificent technique, but somehow I think they've left the audience behind."

Muirhead notes that training for his own generation of jazz musicians was very different.

"We used to play live venues all the time, and that's how we learned how to play — being out there in front of people."

As for recording, his first album won't be Muirhead's last; he has a second album in the works now.

Muirhead plans to attend the 45th Annual Juno Awards ceremony on April 3 at the Scotiabank Saddledome. 

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