Ivan Zagni


Ivan Zagni was known (in New Zealand) in the mid 80’s as something of an impressive composer and orchestral arranger, putting together the thoroughly engrossing Long And The Short Of It take of the Tall Dwarfs brilliant single ‘Nothings Gonna Happen’, and released a succession of albums with Don McGlashan, Peter Scholes and Steve Garden in the early 1980’s.

Zagni arrived in New Zealand from the United Kingdom in 1980, where he had gotten his start as a boy chorister, and eventually the Choir Master at St John the Baptist Cathedral in Norwich.

In the pop and rock arena, Zagni had been performing in groups from the age of 16 (in 1958), from performing with his brothers in the Cadillac’s to the Continentals with Spooky Tooth vocalist Mike Patto, recording the album ‘Three’s Company‘ with Soft Machine’s Elton Dean, before working as a session musician in London – eventually being an important member of Jody Grind and Aynsley Dunbar’s (pre-Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention) group Blue Whale.

In Europe Zagni had become increasingly involved in the European improvisation scene, and this continued on settling in New Zealand – connecting with Don McGlashan (playing guitar on Blam Blam Blam‘s ‘Luxury Length’ LP) and becoming a member of groups such as Big Sideways and Avant Garage.

From the mid-1980’s, Zagni received a succession of orchestral commissions, and was awarded the inaugural Composer in Residence with the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra in 1989-90, and with Chamber Music New Zealand in 1992:

In 1986 Zagni and Peter Scholes’ work together was the subject of the Radio New Zealand Concert programme Music on the Wall. He composed Migration Nos 1 and 2 (1988) for the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. In 1989, while he was the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra’s first composer in residence, a position funded by the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council, he was commissioned to compose Breath of Hope, which is notable for its references to New Zealand nature.  

The Cospatrick Tragedy, commissioned for New Zealand Chamber Orchestra, was recorded at a live concert at the Auckland Town Hall in 1993 by Radio New Zealand, one of many Zagni performances recorded by the national broadcaster. Devonport, his third string quartet, was commissioned for the Devonport Festival on Auckland’s North Shore, and premiered in 1994 – it was described by Dart as having “a cluster of minor tonalities” at its core. 

Wikipedia Entry on Ivan Zagni.

After withdrawing from public life in the mid 1990’s, Zagni resurfaced alongside his former band-mates on Tim Mahon’s ‘Music for a Lightbulb’ in 2003.


  • Standards (w/ Don McGlashan – 1982 Propeller Records REV 207)
  • Four Minute Exposure (w/ Peter Scholes – 1983 Unsung Music)
  • A Selection Of Trouble Spots [w/ Steve Garden – 1984 Ode Sode193]


Big Sideways


No kidding big: this New Zealand band boasts a dozen members, including four horn people, four guitarists and two drummers.
Seven of ’em are songwriters, which (not surprisingly) makes this a pretty eclectic record, fusing rock, jazz, funk and antipodean ethnic musics.
Capped off with idealistic lyrics, big sideways is upbeat and intelligent; highly arranged but hardly slick.
– Ira Robbins: taken from Trouserpress.com

Big Sideways were a prominent Auckland-based experimental performance group in the early 80’s, and featured Ivan Zagni and Justin Harwood (also of The Chills, Coconut Rough) and Tom Ludvigson among their collective.


  • Chris Watts (Trombone, 1983)
  • Ivan Sagni (Guitar/Percussion/Vocals, 1982)
  • John Quigley (Vocals/Guitar, 1982 – 1983)
  • Mark Bell (Guitar/Percussion/Vocals, 1982)
  • Chris Green (Saxophone, 1982 – 1983)
  • Jacqui Brooks (Saxophone/Percussion/Vocals, 1982)
  • Kelly Rogers (Saxophone/Vocals, 1982)
  • Paul Hewett (Drums, 1982)
  • Phil Steele (Drums/Vocals, 1982 – 1983)
  • Robbie Sinclair (Bass, 1982 – 1983)
  • Scott Calhoun (Trumpet/Keyboards/Vocals, 1982)
  • Betty Monga (Vocals, 1983)
  • Debbie Harwood (Vocals, 1983)
  • Josie Rika (Vocals, 1983)
  • Lee Connelly (Drums/Vocals, 1983)
  • Graeme Cash (Vocals, 1983)
  • Tom Ludvigson (Keyboards, 1983)
  • Karen Hill (Trombone, 1983)
  • Mike Russell (Trumpet, 1983)


  • Big Sideways (1982, Unsung Music, UN2)
  • Let It Out EP (1983, Unsung Music, UN022)