World-Class Jazzman

Local musician relies on emotions and influences to create big sound

By Daniel Barnes
October 2019

For a jazzman of the world like saxophonist, composer and educator Jacam Manricks, it seems almost inevitable that his music would offer a fusion of influences.

Manricks grew up in Australia, and his parents played classical music at the symphony in his hometown of Brisbane. However, Manricks’ grandfather led a swing band in Sri Lanka, and Manricks fell in love with jazz through his father’s vinyl collection. Jazz and classical music come together in Manricks’ music, but he also points out influences of hip-hop and heavy metal.

“Those influences are all in there,” says Manricks, a New York jazz-scene veteran and recording artist who also plays locally in Super Saxramento. “The music is primarily a jazz-classical hybrid, but it’s contemporary sounding. It’s meant to explore a wide spectrum of emotions.”

Manricks will gather his wide spectrum of emotions and influences, as well as 19 of the region’s top jazz musicians, Oct. 13 for the premiere of the Jacam Manricks Orchestra. Sponsored by the Capital Jazz Project, the event is part of the Midtown Vanguard Jazz Series at The Auditorium at CLARA in Midtown. Manricks helped get the series off the ground by curating and performing in shows at CLARA.

“People can expect to have their minds blown,” Manricks says. “It’s going to be 19 of the best musicians in the region playing original compositions and arrangements. It will be a big sound, and there will be some exceptional playing.”

Of course, that big sound doesn’t come without logistical issues. It’s not easy gathering 19 of the busiest musicians in the area for a single performance, much less getting them all to rehearsals. The monetary investment is also considerable, and Manricks hopes to supplement his budget through a Kickstarter campaign. “It’s going to be a live recording, and we’re going to have a videographer there as well,” he says.

Performing in front of a crowd is second nature to Manricks, who would often watch his parents play classical music in Brisbane. Manricks started playing piano as a 6-year-old, but when he got his first saxophone four years later, there was no looking back. He played in the school jazz band, finding early influences in alto saxophonists like Charlie Parker and Paul Desmond.

In 2001, Manricks moved to New York, eventually earning a doctor of musical arts degree from the Manhattan School of Music. Manricks made New York City his home base for 13 years. He performed at local venues like the Jazz Standard and Cornelia Street Café in between annual tours across North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

Despite his extensive performing experience, Manricks says his favorite place to play is his recording studio. “I love playing in front of an audience because you get that immediate counter-response,” he says. “But there’s something Zen about being in a recording studio and getting in a meditative state and feeling as though you’re spontaneously making something beautiful.” Some of Manricks’ albums include Cloud Nine (2012) and Chamber Jazz (2016).

Five years ago, Manricks moved to the Sacramento area to work as a jazz instructor at UC Davis. He also recently started teaching in the jazz department at Sacramento State. Manricks previously taught at The New School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, University of Toronto and Sydney Conservatorium of Music, among many other institutions around the globe.

Although Manricks felt a slight culture shock upon moving from Manhattan to Sacramento, he remains enthusiastic about the local jazz scene. “It’s like chocolate and cheese. You can’t even compare the two,” he says. “But the jazz scene is thriving here and it’s growing.”

When we spoke, Manricks just wrapped up his first week of classes at Sac State, and he was “blown away by the enthusiasm and knowledge” of his students.

“Jazz is a great art form for young people because it requires so much skill, and also the ability to improvise and be spontaneous,” he says. “It also teaches them that you can only get out of life what you put into it.”

Jacam Manricks Orchestra will perform Sunday, Oct. 13, at 7 p.m. at The Auditorium at CLARA (E. Claire Riley Studios for the Performing Arts) at 1425 24th St. More info on Jacam Manricks can be found at

Daniel Barnes can be reached at Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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