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 (recording an album together and Zagni playing guitar on Blam Blam Blam‘s ‘Luxury Length’ LP) and forming groups as part of a government PEP (unemployment) scheme. Unemployed musicians were selected by Zagni to write music, practice and perform – which resulted in the groups Big Sideways and the more experimental Avant Garage. This also lead to the formation of the Unsung Music record label, which released the groups material.
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. In 2021 he released a second collaboration with Steve Garden entitled ‘Exiles’.
- 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)
- Exiles w/ Steve Garden (2021, Seventh House Music)