Imagine identical, musically inclined identical twins growing up in Hong Kong, where they seldom heard jazz, and then at 15 moving with their Japanese mother and American father to musically rich Memphis.
Imagine these boys falling head over heels for jazz to the point of devoting their young lives to it—and then, during one of their regular visits to their grandmother in Japan, creating an enthusiastic following for the music in a town that had never been exposed to it.
But that’s not all, folks. Imagine drummer Carl Maguire and bassist Alan Maguire going into the studio with Memphis legend Donald Brown, barely into their twenties, and recording an topflight album with the likes of tenor saxophonist Gregory Tardy, trumpeter Bill Mobley, and pianist Aaron Goldberg.
It has indeed been a charmed, storybook life for the Maguire Twins, who at 21 have more worldly experience than many musicians acquire in a lifetime. And as signified by the title of their excellent new recording, Seeking Higher Ground, produced by Brown, they have only begun to grow as artists.
“It all goes back to Donald,” says Alan. “He has kept us motivated. He’s always giving us something new to work on.”
“Memphis is where most of our musical growing happened,” adds Carl. “I can't imagine us getting to where we are if we hadn’t come here.”
Seeking Higher Ground is a stellar showcase for the Maguires, as both players and composers. They contribute two originals each to the program, which includes songs by their illustrious bandmates and producer. And without sacrificing cohesiveness, the songs are stylistically diverse.
Carl Seitaro Maguire and Alan Shutaro Maguire were born on March 19, 1996 in Tokyo, Japan. The family moved to Hong Kong when the twins were three.
While attending a British international school in Hong Kong, the boys heard mostly electronic pop and trance music. When their older brother Kevin started a rock band at the seasoned age of 12, he recruited his 10-year-old siblings. Alan was assigned that instrument because he had started taking classical guitar lessons. (He also plays piano.)
Carl was tabbed to play drums because he was studying it, along with trumpet. After Kevin quit the band, Alan and Carl kept at it, forming their own bass and drum duo at age 14. “When we did a gig we only needed to find one player,” says Carl.
It wasn’t long after the move to Memphis and the Maguires enrolled at the Stax Music Academy that they were playing jazz. Saxophonist Kirk Whalum, then the artist in residence at Stax, had more than a little to do with that. So did Donald Brown, whom they met there when he came to scout students as a faculty member at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.