Tunes by James Wakeling
- Way Out WestStraight · 1990-2000 · Easy · Instrumental · E · 4/4
- DanzaBallad · 1990-2000 · Medium · Instrumental · E · 3/4
- Falling BackwardsStraight · 2010-2020 · Medium · Instrumental · D · 4/4
- First LightBallad · 2010-2020 · Easy · Instrumental · B · 4/4
- The Still Dark NightBallad · 2000-2010 · Medium · Instrumental · C · 4/4
- To ElginOther · 2010-2020 · Medium · Instrumental · F#/Gb · 6/8
- Whirling DervishFusion · 2000-2010 · Medium · Instrumental · A · Odd meter
Born in Brisbane, James started piano lessons with local music teacher Geoff Goon at the
age of eight. Following his older brothers lead, he switched to guitar two years later. Self
taught initially he returned to Mr Goon’s tuition as a guitar student in his mid teens. At
seventeen he was accepted as an external student at the Queensland Conservatorium of
music in 1977 were he undertook AMEB exams. In 1980 James enrolled at the Brisbane
College of Advanced Education to commence a diploma of Secondary School Teaching.
Upon graduating he taught music and drama at the Gap State High School for just over
two years. After resigning from the Qld education department at the end of 1985 he spent
a year successfully preparing for the Associate Diploma in Music Performance from the
AMEB. Throughout this period James played in a variety of different music groups. The
new wave band Felony during Brisbane’s punk explosion of the late 70’s and early 80’s,
Vocal jazz ensemble SCAT including a tour of California in 1984, pop duo The Blue in
1986 and flute and guitar duo Parrot Laureate.
In 1987 James moved to Sydney to form the duo Snakes & Ladders with his sister
Margot Leighton. For four years, firstly in Sydney then in Melbourne he made his living
as a professional musician specialising in pop covers and original songs including
performances on TV and as part of the Spolleto Fringe Festival in 1989. Whilst
performing with Snakes & Ladders James took voice lessons with renowned Australian
tenor Gregory Dempsey.
Seeking a change in musical direction, in 1990 he enrolled at the Victorian College of the
Arts completing an Honours degree in improvisation in 1994. In the first year of the
course he was awarded the prize for best student. After completing the VCA course
James performed with the Brian Brown Ensemble at the Montsalvat and Wangaratta Jazz
Festivals, Judy Jacques’ Lighthouse at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Lucky Star
Band throughout Victoria (Port Fairy Folk Festival,) New South Wales (Opera House,)
and southeast Queensland (Woodford Folk Festival.) In 1997 he toured India as part of
the Natya Sudha dance company celebrating 50 years of India’s independence. From
1998 he has played frequently with traditional Irish singer Kathryn Clements at various
events including the Port Fairy Folk Festival. James spent three years in Continental
Drift, the house band at the Titanic Theatre Restaurant. In 2000 he was guest soloist with
the Bendigo Symphony Orchestra performing Rodrigo’s Concerto de Aranjuez. He
currently performs as a duo with saxophonist Robert Vincs, world music trio the Nexus
Project with Serge de Lucio and Scott Dunbabin and his quintet the Last Band Standning.
In 2004 James opened the Famous Blue Raincoat with business partner Kaz Seed. A
restaurant and music venue, it has been operating successfully for nine years and in 2010
received the Hobsons Bay Business Excellence Mayoral achievement award. With the
success of the ‘Raincoat,’ James and Kaz started a new venture with Sam & Kath Anicic
in 2010. Pip & Seed is a gourmet deli, green grocers and organics store.
A prolific songwriter and composer, James has written a musical called Private Eye
(1985), a mini rock opera entitled Sometime Somewhere (1989), a concerto for guitar and
orchestra and a vast number of instrumentals & songs, one of which, The Ballad of James
Alexander Leighton, was a finalist at the Port Fairy Folk Festival song writing contest in
1995. His composition Way Out West was recently included in the first edition of the
Australian Jazz Real Book.
James has played on CD’s with Judy Jacques Lighthouse, Going for a Song (1997,) the
Lucky Star Band, Bursting Moon (1997,) Continental Drift, Rearranging the Deckchairs
(2003,) and Moonlight Drive @ the Famous Blue Raincoat (2005,) In addition he has
produced CD’s as a soloist, String Theory (2010.) as well as a compilation CD of
performances from the Famous Blue Raincoat called 41:G12 Music from the Famous
Blue Raincoat (2008). The Nexus Project CD, First Light will be released toward the
middle of 2013.
Throughout his career James has taught guitar privately and in schools most recently
tutoring VCE students at Williamstown High School. He has written a series of Guitar
tutors, which are as yet unpublished.