Matt Lagan, 2020 Finalist

Saxophonist, composer and bandleader Matt Lagan is one of the most up-andcoming saxophonists in Canada. He has toured to 12 countries with the iconic Shuffle Demons and is featured on their 2020 release Crazy Time. He is currently working on his debut album with the Matt Lagan Band.

2020 Emerging Jazz Artist Award finalist Matt Lagan told us more about his debut album, his experience at Humber College and how it feels to be nominated for the Emerging Jazz Artist Award.

Artwork by Amber Williams-King
You’ve won the 2016/2017 Oscar Peterson Grant for Jazz Performance, the Gordon and Anne Wragg Scholarship in 2016 and were the first recipient of the Dave McMurdo Scholarship at the Kincardine Music Festival. How have all of these prestigious honours influenced your career?

Receiving these awards has influenced my career in two ways. First, they have enabled me to purchase new instruments, which broadens my artistic palette. Second, they are themselves recognition of my achievements and hard work. The awards give me some level of credibility to hiring professionals and fellow artists, and they inspire me to further improve my craft.

You’ve expressed a love of travel and in 2019 you spent time in Berlin. How have your travels helped you creatively?

My musical travels began in 2018, with a tour of New Zealand and Australia with the Shuffle Demons. Since then I have toured to 12 countries with them. Touring with the Shuffle Demons has been eye-opening. I have learned so much about musicianship, improvising and performing with this band and it has helped shape me into the musician I am today.

In September 2019 I decided to check out the music scene in Berlin for a couple months. I absolutely loved it. I have started to collaborate with some fantastic young musicians there in several different projects. Since then I have been back and forth between Toronto, Berlin and on tours with the Shuffle Demons.

Traveling has forced me to have a clearer musical identity. Because I have found myself in so many different performance scenarios, “what I do” as a musician has been focused. 

You’ve studied at Humber as part of their renowned Jazz program. Can you talk about this experience?

I had a really positive experience at Humber. I met many of my closest friends, studied with the best jazz musicians and educators in Canada and learned to play many different styles of music. Humber nominated me for the Oscar Peterson Award in 2017 which I won, and presented me with many memorable and inspirational recording and performance opportunities.

Tell us about what you’re working on, what’s your next project?

Due to the current global situation, my focushas shifted to composing and recording. Currently I’m working on releasing a recording with a group I am collaborating with in Berlin. I am also working towards recording my “debut” record with my band, along with another recording with the Shuffle Demons in October.

How does it feel to be nominated for the Emerging Jazz Artist Award?

It feels fantastic to be selected as a finalist for the emerging Jazz Artist Award! The music scene in Toronto is saturated with talented artists from all across the country. To be recognized as one of three exciting young artists in this vibrant city is truly an honour.