LUMINARIES OF AUSTRALIAN JAZZ
Compiled by Bill Haesler OAM
Luminary. noun: A person who inspires or influences others, esp. one prominent in a particular sphere; a famous person; a celebrity.
Jazz came to Australian theatre and dance circuits with US bands and vaudeville artists, following the musical sensation created in New York by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band in 1917-1918.
The first Australian jazz group was formed in 1918 although, from the 1890s we had already been exposed to American black and white entertainers, minstrel troupes, spiritual choirs, syncopated dancers, ragtime and associated musical forms via theatre, sheet music, piano rolls and, later, commercial records after the Australian recording industry emerged in the late 1920s.
Following the introduction of radio in 1923 dance music became an attraction, imported records featuring jazz were broadcast and our dance orchestras introduced popular music published by the flourishing Australian sheet music industry.
Because Australian professional musicians had too few opportunities to play jazz publicly, diehards and dedicated musicians formed jazz appreciation societies and rhythm clubs in the mid 1930s from which emerged dedicated musicians and bands playing authentic jazz performed mainly by jazz-only semi-professionals.
In December 1946, following World War II (1939-1945) the first Australian Jazz Convention [AJC] was held in Melbourne, an annual event that has continued, uninterrupted, ever since. The AJC helped initiate an Australian jazz revival in tandem with similar jazz movements worldwide.
Swing-based jazz and its modern offshoots from the US were another influence on young Australian musicians in the early 1940s.
As big bands worldwide gave way to pop music and more progressive jazz styles during the mid to late 1940s so it did in Australia. A separate Australian jazz movement emerged in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane as professional musicians and enthusiasts took to the new music. These young moderns played in clubs, coffee lounges and pubs, appeared on the popular jazz concert platforms along with revivalist jazz bands and created a dedicated following, with specific venues including Jazz Centre 44 and The Embers in Melbourne, The Basement and El Rocco in Sydney and similar places in Adelaide and Brisbane. When interest in jazz in Australia wavered during the 1960s, it was kept alive by the enthusiasts and jazzmen via jazz clubs and societies, the AJC, concerts and festivals.
Jazz in Australia survived thanks to these small, energetic and specialist enclaves. As the two camps gradually evolved and musical differences blurred, musicians and audiences merged to the extent that jazz now occupies a smaller yet unique public position in Australia.
Refer to JIA History Section for further reading.
No Australian jazz biography can be compiled without reference to the following:
The Oxford Companion To Australian Jazz. (1987. Oxford University Press).
Australian Jazz On Record 1925-80. (1988. Australian Government Publishing Service).
More Australian Jazz On Record. (1998. National Film And Sound Archive).
Even More Australian Jazz On Record. (2002. The Victorian Jazz Archive Inc.).
Australian Jazz On Record. CD-R (2010. Jack Mitchell).
Back Together Again. The Story Of The Port Jackson Jazz Band. (1995. Jack Mitchell).
Coggy. (2011. Jack Mitchell).
Graeme Bell. Australian Jazzman. His Autobiography. (1988. Child & Associates Publishing Pty Ltd).
Black Roots White Flowers. (1979. Golden Press Pty Ltd). (Revised Edition. 1987. ABC Enterprises for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation).
Tom Pickering. Jazzmaker. (2012. Jan Kuplis).
Peter J.F. Newton.
Hot Gold. Celebrating the Sydney Jazz Club’s First 50 Years, 1958 — 2003. (2009. Sydney Jazz Club Co-operative Ltd. And PNIN Press Balmain).
Pictures On The Margin. (1991. University of Queensland Press).
I wanted to be a Jazz musician. (2008. National Film & Sound Archive).
Australian Record And Music Review. (April 1989 – January 2007. Mike Sutcliffe).
Mike Williams with photographs by Jane March.
The Australian Jazz Explosion. (1981. Angus & Robertson Publishers).
Australian jazz magazines including:
Australian Jazz Quarterly, JazzChord, Jazz Notes, Jazzline, Quarterly Rag.
LP and CD album notes.
Numerous jazz club newsletters and magazines
The Victorian Jazz Archive.
Individuals including Tony Barker, Mel Blachford, Bill Brown, Eric Brown, Liz Currie, Kate Dunbar, Mal Eustice, Len Gilmour (unpublished manuscript), Don & Mel Hopgood, Jeannie McInnes, Barry Morris, Harry Price, Cathey Somerville, Pam Swanson and Ian Walter.
And importantly, in the case of many of the musicians and others, themselves.
BILL HAESLER OAM