Meet Down for the Count's Musicians: Max Fagandini
Today we're launching a new series of "Meet The Band" articles, so you can learn more about our fantastic musicians.
We're starting off with our trumpeter Max Fagandini - who you'll also see playing trombone and singing on Down for the Count gigs!
How/when did you first get involved with Down for the Count?
I met Mike, who runs the band, back when we were both at uni in around 2009. I ended up playing trumpet in a musical that he was MDing outside of uni, and then off that he asked me to dep for a few Down for the Count gigs. Shortly after that the old trumpet player moved away, so Mike asked me if I was interested in filling that spot for the foreseeable future. And the rest is history!
What was your first experience of jazz/swing music?
The first time I particularly remember was when I was at school, I was in year 7 and I had already been playing trumpet for a few years. There was a year 7 concert and I was playing ‘America’ from West Side Story, and I was rehearsing it with my music teacher when one of the teachers who ran the big band poked his head round the door and said “hey, you look like you can play the trumpet, you should come to the big band rehearsals after school”. And so I did, and it all spiralled from there.
Who are your musical influences?
As a trumpet player there are some obvious names such as Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis. I think the first solo I ever transcribed was a Lee Morgan solo which was also great!
Most of the trumpet jazz pantheon has come across my radar over the years. I try to channel what bits of those giants I can when I play.
On the vocal side of things, Sammy Davis Jr. is a performer that, over the last few years especially, I have drawn a lot of inspiration from. He always performs with such joy and such sincerity, so I think I would probably count him as one of my influences as well.
What is your favourite jazz album, song or recording?
It is too difficult to pick a favourite as there are lots and lots that I absolutely adore, but I will make a recommendation of something that many people may not have listened to that I think is a really good album.
The album is Basie’s Beatle Bag, which is the Count Basie band doing covers of The Beatles’ songs, and it’s really really good! They’re still quite authentic to the original songs, but they’re really good big band jazz tunes as well. I would encourage anyone to go and have a listen to that!
What is the best gig you have ever been to?
This one I have an answer for right off the bat! Seeing Stevie Wonder live in 2016 at Hyde Park at the Songs in the Key of Life tour - I think it was the 40th anniversary tour. It was just incredible!
He played for almost 3 hours straight, and he was around 60. He absolutely smashed it out of the park, and that is still the best gig I have ever been to.
What is your favourite song to perform with Down for the Count?
It is a seasonal tune, so we can only wheel it out for about 4-6 weeks a year, but our arrangement of Christmas in New Orleans which I sing with the band absolutely is up there!
We used to do it as a small group tune, and then Mike arranged a larger band version for one of the recordings that we did and it’s a real joy to sing and perform (click here to listen to the recording on Spotify).
What has been your favourite Down for the Count performance?
The first time we played in the main club at Ronnie Scott’s is up there. The first time we played the Arena Stage at Twinwood festival as well - that was the biggest audience that we had performed to at that point.
Also any of the Down for the Count big band gigs… and Leeds Castle… there are a lot!
What other musical projects are you involved with outside of Down of the Count?
I dep for various other bands. I have run a couple of my own over the years, like my own function band and a brass band that I love playing with. That band is actually under the Mike Paul-Smith Music umbrella and is called Get Brassy, which I set up a few years before we married the two projects together.
I have MD’ed shows and done some choir stuff in the past as well. I like a nice mix!
What are your hobbies when you are not performing?
Like many people I like socialising and going out with friends. I like to write as well. During the lockdown when all the performing work disappeared I started doing some freelance journalism work in tech and entertainment and gaming, which married a few of my interests together. I like the written word a lot and I find it quite rewarding and enjoyable to do.