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.
- Mervyn (Merv) Fletcher Acheson
Mervyn [Merv] Fletcher Acheson:
(b. Sydney NSW 31 March 1922 — d. Sydney NSW 11 August 1987) tenor sax/soprano sax/clarinet/bandleader/journalist.
A legend in his own lifetime, Merv studied violin with his professional musician father at an early age. He was educated at Fort Street Boys’ High School and took up tenor sax at age eleven after breaking his arm playing football. He was self-taught and at fifteen played his first professional job at the Cairo Ballroom in Drummoyne. He joined the suburban ballroom circuit, until inducted into the vibrant music scene playing in illegal after-hours nightclubs, at parties and jam sessions.
At sixteen he became a cadet journalist at the Labor Daily newspaper for which he wrote a regular jazz column, all the while playing one-nighters in dance halls and afterhours gigs. He volunteered as a musician for the army in October 1941 and joined the 17th Battalion Military Band where he taught himself to play clarinet and soprano sax. It was a great training ground with parades, war bond rallies, receptions for dignitaries, hospital fetes, changing of the guard and the dance band formed within its ranks. It was also a daytime commitment that gave Merv time to play casual civilian gigs at night. In November 1942 he was transferred to the large 116 Rhythm Ensemble entertainment unit and eventually led its small jazz combo. In 1942 when the US military came to Australia and required music for its troops, the Australian army obliged with musicians from its entertainment units. In Sydney the US Army set up officers’ and sergeants’ messes, opened the Booker T Washington Club in Darlinghurst for use by black American servicemen and merchant seamen using civilian musicians, requisitioned members (including Merv) from the 116 Ensemble and used visiting US musicians. With the escalation of the war in the Pacific the 116 Ensemble unit was broken up and in April 1943 Merv was transferred to a jungle warfare training camp in Canungra, Queensland. He immediately went AWL, returned to Sydney and for about ten months hid from the authorities while working at the 2KY Radio Auditorium, for the US army at the Booker T Washington Club and with the Bondi US Officers’ Club band led by Les Welch.
His army file had been mislaid and no one knew he was missing. As the result of a shooting incident he was arrested by the military police, served time in gaol and on a prison farm (where he formed a band) and discharged from the army in mid 1945. With the war almost over he joined George Trevare’s group at Ciro’s nightclub, led his own 7-piece band at the Maxine Club in Woollahra, played clubs including the Roosevelt, the Stork and the Golden Key until late 1947, worked at the Tivoli Theatre with George Trevare and at the State Theatre. In 1948 he moved to Melbourne and played at the Empress coffee lounge, an illegal gambling club and the Galleon with Stan Bourne’s band. At this time Merv, ever fascinated with guns and criminals, became the trusted minder for a colourful jazz-loving gambler and returned to Sydney, its nightclub scene and the George Trevare band. As a journalist, Merv was invited in 1950 to become editor of the monthly music magazine Tempo for which, over the years (along with its rivals Music Maker and Syncopation) he had provided freelance jazz articles. It was a part-time position that left plenty of time for playing music at the Embassy Club and elsewhere. He left Tempo to work as the Music Box jazz columnist for the Telegraph’s new show business magazine, Pictorial Show.
With the emergence in NSW of licensed clubs in 1954 and the introduction of ten o’clock closing in hotels in February 1955 there was a need for entertainment and it became a boom time for musicians. Sydney’s shadowy nightclub era was over. Merv took a band into the Balaclava Hotel in Alexandria, played with the Doc Willis band at the Port Jackson Hotel in the city, worked at Stone’s Cabaret in Coogee Bay for four years, the Ling Nam restaurant, the Figtree Bridge Hotel and from 1955 led his Mainstreamers at the Criterion Hotel for an unexpected ten-year engagement. In 1959 he became Vice-President and public relations officer of the Musicians’ Union Sydney, initiated and edited its Staccato newssheet and in the early 1960s was a director and Vice-President of the Musicians’ Club. During the 1960s Merv held long residencies at the Stage Club in Redfern, the Windsor Castle, Bellevue and Canberra hotels in Paddington, the Mansions in Kings Cross and could also be found at the Canberra and other hotels in the area. He worked with Adrian Ford’s Unity Jazz Band at the Old Push Restaurant in the Rocks during 1973, was with Bill Haesler’s Washboard Band and played with Dick Hughes’ Famous Five at Soup Plus from 1979 to 1985. Merv had joined Alan Geddes’ Sextet at the Bondi Icebergs’ Club in 1984 but ill health curtailed his activities until a series of medical operations forced his musical retirement.
- Jack Clarence Allan
Jack Clarence Allan:
(b. Sydney NSW 28 September 1929 — d. Sunshine Coast Qld. 7 February 1995) piano/actor.
Originally a self-taught piano-accordion player, Jack appeared on Australia’s Amateur Hour when twelve and toured Australia and New Zealand. He became interested in jazz and its pianists, took up piano as a teenager and joined Sydney’s modern jazz circle during its formative post-war phase. He worked in the nightspots and cabaret including Christy’s, Romano’s, the Celebrity and the California, played Town Hall concerts with various groups and formed his Katzenjammers. The band made its first appearances and recordings in November-December 1949 with visiting ex-Duke Ellington cornet player Rex Stewart and recorded as ‘Rex Stewart and his Sydney Six’. The Katzenjammers included some of Sydney’s top modern jazz players and in 1950 was popular with concert and radio audiences, recorded and made a NSW tour. Jack, a jovial, healthy 18-stone ‘fat man’ with an infectious personality then worked as a single comedy act in Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide. He returned to Brisbane for radio and theatre work and led a trio at the Havana Club. Back in Sydney in January 1953, using Don Burrows, he briefly reformed the Katzenjammers for engagements and an LP before returning to the pub, club and theatre circuits, ABC Swing Club broadcasts and a radio series, Katzenjammer Jazz. In 1956 his band toured Australia as the support act for drummer Gene Krupa after which he decided to give up music and concentrate on acting. During the 1950s-1960s he was the resident pianist on the children’s’ television programme ABC ‘Kindergarten Playtime’, wrote and directed musical and jazz revues and appeared in variety shows at the Tivoli, the Old Tote and the Theatre Royal. His TV credits include backing Hal Lashwood’s Alabama Jubilee, a fortnightly ABC minstrel show, King’s Men, Division 4, Spyforce, Homicide, Smugglers Beware and Skippy. His walk-on, musical and character parts in Australian films (1950s – 1980s) included On The Beach, They’re A Weird Mob, Ned Kelly, Sunstruck, Caddie, Barney, Far East, Hard Knocks and The Right Hand Man. Jack moved to the Sunshine Coast in Queensland and semi-retirement in the 1980s returning to jazz briefly in 1983 with John Sangster (piano and vibes) for festivals and concerts and recorded a piano solo cassette [CD] for Anteater.
- Judith (Judy) Mary Bailey
Judith [Judy] Mary Bailey OAM:
(b. Whangarei, New Zealand 3 October 1935) piano/composer/arranger/educator.
Judy studied piano from age ten, came to jazz at sixteen and arranged and composed with the Auckland Radio Band until moving to Australia in 1960 where she joined the Sydney jazz circle and performed regularly at the El Rocco Jazz Cellar. For eight years she worked as a pianist and arranger with Tommy Tycho’s Channel Seven orchestra, Don Burrows Septet (ABC TV) John Bamford’s orchestra (Channel Nine) and Jack Grimsley’s band (Channel Ten). She went into semi-musical retirement during the late 1960s – early 1970s to rear her two children. In 1973 she was resident pianist for the ABC program ‘Playschool’ and introduced children’s music programmes at Currambena and Lane Cove Primary Schools and was a founding member of the Tertiary Jazz Studies course at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. She formed a quartet in 1974 and worked with Margret Roadknight. In 1978 Judy made the first of three South East Asian Musica Viva concert tours for the Dept. Foreign Affairs. She was on the Australia Council Music Board (1982-86), an APRA award winner for jazz composition (1985), has a 1992 Mo Award for female jazz performer, Musical Director for the Sydney Youth Jazz Ensemble Association Jazz Connection big band, awarded an OAM in 2002 and performed for the world leaders private function of the 2007 APEC Summit at the Sydney Opera House. In 2008 Judy was honoured for distinguished services to Australian music as part of the APRA and AMC Australian Classical Music Awards. She performs regularly for Sydney residencies, festivals and concerts.
- Charles (Charley) Blott
Charles [Charlie] Blott:
(b. 21 January 1925 — d. Melbourne 2 August 1988) drums.
Charlie began playing drums in the Caulfield State School fife and drum band and found jazz through the family record collection, radio and an association in the early 1940s with the Roger and Graeme Bell and their friends. In 1941-42 he worked as a drummer with the Bell band, Don Banks, Jack Varney and Frank Coughlan’s orchestra. After 1943 his interest in the music became more progressive. A pioneer of modern jazz in Melbourne, Charlie still retained links with the traditionalists. He worked with Graeme Bell and recorded with the Errol Buddle Sextet in 1948-49, played with Splinter Reeves, the Don Banks Boptet and was a founder member of the Freddy Thomas big band. He helped Bob Clemens to establish the Jazzart record company and organised concerts in conjunction with Graeme Bell, recorded with them and Rex Stewart during his 1949 Australian visit, Errol Buddle, Splinter Reeves, Don Banks, Alan Nash and Frank Johnson and Frank Traynor. During the 1950s he played club, concert and radio engagements, helped promote Downbeat and Musicians’ Union Rhythm Festival concerts, worked in backing bands for overseas artists including Frankie Laine, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and Gene Krupa and was honoured in the 1955 Music Maker poll. During the 1960-1980s Charlie freelanced with both traditional and modern groups.
- John (Jack) Joseph (Jazza) Brokensha
John [Jack] Joseph [Jazza] Brokensha:
(b. Adelaide SA 5 January 1926 — d. Sarasota, Florida, USA 28 October 2010) drums/vibes/arranger/composer/bandleader.
The son of an Adelaide Symphony Orchestra percussionist, Jack began playing xylophone, with instructions from his father, from the age of six. He studied piano and also leant to play drums from his father. He was featured on ABC radio when he was nine and by the age of fourteen was percussionist with the ABC and Adelaide Symphony orchestras. He enlisted in the RAAF in February 1944, joined the No. 3 Mobile Entertainment Unit playing for the troops in the South Pacific, discovered jazz and on discharge in February 1946 went to Melbourne to play at Claridges. He returned to Adelaide and the ASO then formed the Rockets jazz quartet. The group toured the Fuller’s circuit to Perth WA, then Melbourne (1947-48) where he became interested in bop. Now called the Jack Brokensha Quartet, the band worked at the Galleon coffee lounge in St Kilda and for concerts at the New Theatre. It toured the eastern States playing a mixture of jazz, light classics and novelty items. Following a war-related breakdown he returned to Adelaide for six months’ repatriation then resumed concert work. He moved to Sydney in late 1949, playing at the Roosevelt and Gold’s, assembled a large concert orchestra then returned with the quartet to Melbourne. After a tour to Brisbane in 1950 it disbanded and Jack stayed in Brisbane working for the ABC, concert appearances and with Jack Thomson’s Cascades Quartet. On his return to Adelaide he and pianist Bryce Rohde worked together, went to Canada in March 1953 to join sax player Errol Buddle in Windsor, Ontario (adjoining Detroit USA) and the three formed the Australian Jazz Quartet with American bassist Dick Healey in December 1954. It recorded extensively (1955-58), featured at the national concert, festival and jazz club circuit and television. Internationally known by this time the AJQ returned to Australia for an ABC tour in November 1958 and disbanded in 1959. Brokensha remained in Sydney playing the studios and pubs then returned to Detroit USA where he worked in television, ran Brockensha’s restaurant-jazz club, became a disc jockey on WQRS radio, worked in pit orchestras as a studio musician for Motown with the funk brothers’ [session musicians]. He ran his own commercial recording studio, created musical productions. During this 40-year period he formed a Brokensha Quartet that performed at the Montereux Jazz Festival, nightclubs and concerts with symphony orchestras. He retired to Florida USA in 1997 but continued to produce shows and perform.
- Brian Brown OAM
Brian Brown OAM:
(b. Carlton, Vic. 29 December 1933 — d. Melbourne 28 January 2013) tenor & soprano sax/flute/alto flute/pan pipes/synthesisers/leather blowhorn/arranger/bandleader/composer/educator.
Brian played cornet in the Northcote Municipal Band and came to jazz in 1952 after hearing Graeme Bell’s Australian Jazz Band, He took up saxophone and played with the John Fordham Quintet, William Flynn’s orchestra and the Mick Walker dance band at the Trocadero. He went to Britain in late 1953, discovered hard bop and studied in London with musicologist, composer, teacher, conductor and pianist, Eric Gilder. On his return to Melbourne in early 1955 Brian led a band at Studio 1 then teamed up with cornet player Keith Hounslow and drummer Stewie Speer to form a quintet, recorded and played at the St Kilda Life Saving Club then at Jazz Centre 44 from 1957 to 1960. He left jazz in 1960 to study architecture at Melbourne University and worked musically in television, the studios and the theatre. He returned to jazz and led a band at the Fat Black Pussycat from 1965 until 1969 then freelanced and recorded. He moved to Sydney in the late 1970s and toured Australia and Europe with his Australian Jazz Ensemble in 1978. He became a lecturer, then founded and became director of the Jazz Improvisation Studies course at the Victorian College of the Arts. Brian retired in 1998 but continued to experiment musically and compose. He recorded annually until 2007.
- Errol Buddle
(b. Adelaide 29 April 1928) alto, tenor & baritone saxes/clarinet/oboe/flute/bassoon/pan flute/bandleader/composer.
As a child Errol studied banjo-mandolin at the Adelaide College of Music, took up saxophone at age eight, became a professional musician in 1944 playing in dance bands and discovered jazz. He worked with dance bands, including the Bobby Limb orchestra, moved to Melbourne and the early bop scene in April 1947 and joined the Jack Brokensha Quartet. Following a brief return to Adelaide he rejoined Brokensha at Gold’s in Sydney in mid 1950 where he worked with the Billy Weston and Bob Gibson orchestras and on the nightclub scene. He went to the US in August 1952, played in the Ontario Symphony Orchestra, joined then led the band at Klein’s in nearby Detroit USA, invited Jack Brokensha and Bryce Rohde over and in December 1954 they co-founded the Australian Jazz Quartet with American Dick Healey. It recorded extensively, toured the concert, festival and jazz club circuit, returned to Australia for an ABC tour in November 1958 (with Ed Gaston on bass) and disbanded in November 1959. Errol then worked commercially until joining Col Nolan’s Soul Syndicate in 1972 and as the Nolan-Buddle Quartet in 1974. He toured Russia, England and the US with the Daly-Wilson Big Band in 1975 and recorded.
He went to US in 1978 on an Australia Council grant, made a SE Asia Musica Viva tour in 1982 and returned to Adelaide and its jazz circle in 1985. Errol moved to Sydney in the 1990s, currently lives and freelances there and with his own groups and as a duo with keyboard/vocalist Maree Steinway.
- Donald (Don) Vernon Burrows AO, MBE
Donald [Don] Vernon Burrows AO, MBE:
(b. Sydney NSW 8 August 1928) multi-reed player/composer/educator/arranger/bandleader.
Don played flute at school and at the age of twelve was captain of the Metropolitan Schools Flute Band. He studied at the NSW Conservatorium in the early 1940s, turned professional in 1942, was principal clarinet with the ABC Sydney Orchestra in the mid 1940s and worked with Jim Gussey’s ABC Dance Band and other groups including those led by Kevin Ryder, Wally Norman and Bob Gibson for extensive work in Sydney nightclubs. He went to Canada, the US and England in 1950-51 and on his return resumed nightclub and session work and was with the Col Bergerson band at the Trocadero. In 1958 his Australian All Stars opened the popular Sky Lounge in Pitt Street. Don’s long musical association with George Golla began in 1960 at Club 11, he led groups at El Rocco and was a member of the Australian All Stars during the mid 1960s. During the 1970s-1980s he held long supper club residencies at Sydney’s Wentworth and Regent Hotels, was a member of the Australia Council and, after initiating the Jazz Studies course at the NSW Conservatorium, appointed its first director in 1980. Extensive worldwide touring throughout his career included the US, New Zealand, Hong Kong, South Korea, Europe, the UK, India, the Far East, Egypt, Iraq and Brazil. Regular musical support and tours with celebrated visiting jazz artists to Australia consolidated his international jazz reputation. Don went into semi-retirement in rural Victoria became ill and returned to Sydney.
- Ronald (Ron) Albert Falson
Ronald [Ron] Albert Falson:
(b. Clovelly NSW 21 January 1928 – Sydney 6 July 2008) trumpet/bandleader/arranger/composer/jazz photographer.
Ron was a self-taught pianist as a youngster, studied trumpet at fifteen, discovered jazz and formed a band while at school playing dances and surf clubs. Les Welch took over the band and for two years from 1944 it presented nightly shows for servicemen at the Red Cross Centre in Pitt Street, the GI Paradise at the Australian Golf Club and the Navy Hospital Base at Merrylands. He then joined the Darlinghurst Dixielanders, became interested in arranging and early bop, joined the Harbour City Six in 1947 and was with Ralph Mallen’s big concert band from 1947 to 1948 and studied piano and harmony. Ron became a regular on Sydney’s nightclub and the popular jazz concert scene with various groups including his Be-Boppers while working with Billy Walker’s orchestra at the Wentworth Ballroom then led it in 1949. He was at Romano’s with Gaby Rogers, Prince’s with Leo White’s band and with Craig Crawford at the Roosevelt in Kings Cross from 1949 to 1951. Ron began freelance recording with Bob Gibson, Ernie Rittie and Gaby Rogers that led to a long association with the ABC and commercial radio. He worked with Warren Gibson’s Metronome Dance Syndicate from 1951 to 1953 and the weekly dance circuit and during 1953-56 was with Don Burrows at Joe Taylor’s Celebrity Club then André’s. Ron also played and toured with Denis Collinson in backing and support bands for the touring Big Shows featuring visiting artists including Stan Kenton, Buddy Rich, Stan Freberg, Lionel Hampton and Frank Sinatra. In 1956 and the advent of television Ron joined the Bob Gibson orchestra and arranged, played and worked at the ABC, TCN-9 and ATN-7 with TV personalities including Barry Crocker, Johnny O’Keefe, Lorrae Desmond, Don Lane, Ray Martin and Graham Kennedy. From the mid 1980s he concentrated on playing and arranging for radio and television studio work until joining the licensed club circuit in the mid 1980s, then freelanced. He formed the Ozcats (a Bob Crosby Bobcats tribute band) in 2006 and arranged for and performed with it until 2008. Ron died on the bandstand while sitting in with the Bob Henderson band in Tailors Hotel near Central Station.
- George Golla AM
George Golla AM:
(b. Chorzów, Poland 10 May 1935) guitar.
From an early age George studied clarinet, saxophone, flute, trumpet and double bass. But it was not until he came to Australia in the early 1950s that he took up guitar. He joined the Sydney jazz scene in 1956 and began his professional career with jazz accordionist Gus Merzi’s band from 1957 until 1961. He also worked with pianist Bryce Rohde during 1958-1960 then commenced a long musical association with Eric Jupp’s weekly ABC-TV series The Magic of Music (1961-74) that included regular jazz segments with Don Burrows whom he had met at Club 11 in 1960. They formed a jazz trio with bassist Ed Gaston that later became a quartet with the addition of John Sangster; augmented when required for recordings, concerts, tours and festivals. He toured overseas regularly with the Burrows Quartet and worked its numerous local engagements and residencies including the popular hotel supper clubs. The 1960s was the era of modern jazz at El Rocco, the Sky Lounge and jazz concerts. It was also the advent of Australian television and George worked on numerous musical shows including Don Lane’s Tonight program and Bandstand and became a much sought-after studio musician during the 60s to 80s. In 1972 Rex Hobcroft became director of the Sydney Conservatorium and, on a suggestion from Don Burrows, its jazz studies course was initiated, George and Don were among its founding teachers and taught and mentored many of our now-famous local jazz musicians. George remained at the Con until the early 1980s then, for the next ten years, taught guitar at the Australian Institute of Music. The first recordings under George’s leadership were made in 1967 and subsequent others up to 1993, including the duos and small groups with Don Burrows and a session during violinist Stéphane Grappelli’s1977 Australian tour, have contributed an impressive legacy to Australian jazz. George is still musically active in Sydney, teaches guitar, freelances regularly and travels interstate for jazz concerts and festivals.
- Ralph James Mallen
Ralph James Mallen:
(b. Campsie NSW 27 January 1926 — d. Sydney 14 December 1956) trombone/bandleader.
Little is known about this legendary and respected Sydney bandleader whose popular big band became a nursery for many of Sydney’s young progressive jazzmen during the 1940-50s. In 1942 Ralph played in pianist Dolf Sayer’s big band, became interested in modern jazz and mixed with other now well known local musicians including Dolf’s brother Gerry Sayer, Ron Gowans, Dick McNally, John Cerchi, Andy McIntosh, Joe Singer, John Edgecombe, Norm Wyatt, Ron Falson and Terry Wilkinson. He enlisted in the army yet managed to play suburban dances when in Sydney. Following his discharge in 1946, he studied trombone at the NSW Conservatorium and joined the Ike Holborough dance band. In mid 1947, inspired by recordings of Woody Herman’s First Herd and the Stan Kenton big band and with rehearsals at the Parisienne Milk Bar in Campsie he turned the Holborough orchestra into a progressive big band cooperative playing frequent Town Hall concerts, a long residency at the dance hall behind the Gaiety Milk bar in Oxford Street, East Sydney (a music mecca for interstate and international visitors), the Bondi Esplanade Ballroom and lunchtime performances at the 2GB auditorium. In mid 1949 Ralph left the music scene to establish a transport company and handed leadership of the Gaiety band to trombonist Billy Weston. He returned to front it in early 1954 when Weston went down to work in Melbourne. The Gaiety Ballroom was badly damaged by a fire in the three-story building on the 8th June 1954, in which stage and sound gear and the band’s extensive arrangements were lost, Ralph continued playing for a short while then retired from music to concentrate on his trucking business. He was killed jumping from a runaway truck.
- James Lloyd Morrison: AM
James Lloyd Morrison: AM
(b. Boorowa NSW 11 November 1962) trumpet/trombone/saxophones/bass/piano/composer/bandleader/arranger.
James was born into a musical family. After moving to Sydney he took up cornet, played in the school brass band and formed a traditional jazz band with his drummer brother John. At high school, where he and John started a big band, James studied piano, formed a quartet and joined the Young Northside Big Band that performed at the 1979 Monterey jazz festival in the US. His long musical friendship with Don Burrows began while studying at the NSW Conservatorium in 1979-1980. The next year he became a lecturer at the Conservatorium then, in 1983, he and John travelled overseas to listen to and study jazz. They worked musically in New York when an agent discovered James, and they entered its jazz scene. They then went to the UK and Europe where James performed at the Montereaux Jazz Festival, the North Sea Jazz Festival, Royal Albert Hall and Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in London. The Morrison Brothers Big Bad Band was formed on their return to Sydney and he worked regularly with Don Burrows and led groups throughout the 1980s. In addition to trumpet, as multi-instrumentalist he also plays trombone, euphonium, flugelhorn, tuba, saxophones, double bass, piano, and is a competent arranger. He travels widely and is known and respected internationally for his contribution to modern jazz and has recorded extensively. In addition to his jazz activities, he has performed and recorded with the London, Sydney and Czech National Symphony Orchestras and played command performances for Queen Elizabeth II and US Presidents Bush and Clinton. James sponsors yearly scholarships for young musicians, holds numerous Australian awards and, in 2012 he was appointed Artistic Director of the Queensland Music Festival for the 2013 and 2015 festivals.
- John Andrew Morrison
John Andrew Morrison [The Cat in the Hat]:
(b. Taree NSW 7 June 1960) drums, bandleader, educator, broadcaster, record producer, sound engineer, commercial pilot.
John, the elder Morrison sibling, played cornet in the school brass band when he was eight, explored other instruments but decided to be a jazz drummer. At high school he and brother James started a big ensemble and during their mid teens played in a small group at local restaurants and clubs on Sydney’s northern beaches, the Paradise Jazz Cellar, Kings Cross and became part of the Sydney jazz circle. In 1983 the Morrison brothers travelled overseas, lived and worked musically in jazz in New York and London for over a year and became internationally known. On their return to Australian the Morrison Brothers Big Bad Band was formed. While James embarked on an independent musical career, John remained closer to home. He formed the Swing City Big Band in 1999, led a quintet, the John Morrison All Stars and became a frequent bandleader and sideman at major Australian Jazz festivals and concerts. He freelanced, worked with Don Burrows, George Golla, Bob Barnard, his mentor Bobby Gebert and in the backing groups for international artists including Jimmy Witherspoon, Eartha Kit and Richie Cole. He worked with James Moody and Scott Hamilton on two tours of Australia and New Guinea and has recorded extensively.
For many years John has been energetic and active in his encouragement of young musicians though school music programs, a mentor to countless young musicians and musical director of the Sydney Jazz Workshop Australia Jazz Camp since 1985. As acting chairman of the Board of Australian Government Contemporary Music Touring Program he has helped bring jazz music to regional and remote parts of Australia. His big band performed James’ anthem fanfare at the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games in September 2000. John and his wife, singer Jacki Cooper, currently run school workshops, perform with the Swing City Big Band, their New Generation quintet (a forum for young players) and tour to disadvantaged schools in the northern Australia teaching jazz to indigenous youth. In 2013 John and Jacki launched the annual Big Band Blast Jazz Festival in Port Macquarie NSW celebrating the music in a non-competitive environment. As a professional pilot John has logged over 6000 flying hours on 50 different aircraft often flying his bands to performances.
- John Kenneth Pochée: OAM
John Kenneth Pochée: OAM
(b. Ashfield NSW 21 September 1940) drummer/bandleader.
John’s mother, a jazz lover, took him and his sister to Sydney’s 1950s jazz concerts and venues and encouraged their fascination for the music. He met musicians his own age and as a self-taught drummer began playing at the Mocambo coffee lounge in Newtown in 1956 and the El Rocco in 1957. He became a professional musician in 1958, joined Australia’s modern jazz movement and its musicians including Bob Bertles, Dave MacRae, Graeme Lyall, Joe Lane, Bryce Rohde, Don Burrows, Bobby Gebert and Serge Ermoll. He worked and led groups in Melbourne during 1959-1962 and 1964 and in Sydney and Adelaide in 1963-1964, was the house drummer at Chequers nightclub for two years and singer Shirley Bassey’s personal drummer for her Australian and New Zealand tours during 1969-1970. In 1971-1972 he worked as musical director for the popular Australian variety vocal performers the Four Kinsmen for extensive Australian and eight tours to the USA. John was a founder member of The Last Straw in 1974 and, apart from a three-year break in the late 1970s, remained with the group until it disbanded in 1999. During its 25-year musical life The Last Straw made tours to New Zealand in 1988, the 1989 Montreal Jazz Festival and the Leningrad International Jazz Festival in 1990. He also played, toured and recorded with the Judy Bailey Quartet during 1974-1979, worked with the award-wining Bernie McGann trio and quartet from the early 1980s including its trips to Europe, UK, Russia, Canada and the US from 1988 to 1997. John formed Ten Part Invention in 1986, a unique ten-piece ensemble dedicated to performing Australian compositions. Up until 2008 the band appeared at prestigious Australian jazz festivals, jazz venues and on national television, received numerous music industry awards, toured South East Asia, the Philippines, China and Taiwan in 1994 and the US in 2004. The original Ten Part Invention rhythm section trio also performed as The Engine Room. It toured Russia in 1989 and played local jazz venues during the early 1990s often with the addition of a frontline Australian or international star soloist. Although in semi-retirement due to poor health he freelances, leads the Space Cadets quintet and Ten Part Invention for special functions. Throughout his long and influential musical career John has worked with Australia’s best modern musicians and groups, has served on jazz committees since 1985 including the Jazz Action Society, the Jazz Co-ordination Association of NSW, the Sydney Improvised Music Association (SIMA), the Australia Council for the Arts in 1988 and as president of the Professional Musicians’ Club from 2007.
- Adolphus Francis (Splinter) Reeves
Adolphus Francis (Splinter) Reeves:
(b. Jarrahdale WA 9 January 1924 — d. Tweed Heads NSW 23 January 1987) reeds/bandleader.
Splinter Reeves played concertina from the age of six, took up alto saxophone when he was eleven, became a professional musician at sixteen and in 1939 worked in His Majesty’s Theatre orchestra for the Will Mahoney Show. After moving to Melbourne in 1942 he played with Frank Coughlan’s Trocadero band, was at The Dugout with George Watson and played on the legendary Max Kaminsky September 1943 recordings with Roger Bell’s Jazz Gang. His band won the 3KZ P & A Parade amateur talent quest competition in 1945. In late 1945 he joined the Frank Arnold orchestra at Palm Grove, was at the Stork Club in 1946 with the Craig Crawford band and became its leader the following year and was an influential member of the early bop music scene in Melbourne. He played at the New Theatre Modern Music Society concerts in 1947, formed his Splintette in 1948 that featured on Bob Clemens’ Downbeat Concerts and recorded for Jazzart in 1949-1953. In 1949 he worked at the Delphic nightclub, with Michael Walker recorded with Rex for Jazzart in December 1949 and during the 1950s worked with Geoff Brookes at the Copacabana, played at the Galleon coffee lounge, appeared at concerts organised by drummer Charlie Blott, broadcast regularly, appeared at the 1952 Australian Jazz Convention with Charlie Blott, and in 1954 toured Australia with the Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong Big Shows. He left Melbourne in 1954, toured New Zealand with the Folies Bergéres tours then worked with Stan Bourne’s orchestra in Surfers Paradise, Queensland. He moved to Townsville, Queensland in the early 1960s before returning to Melbourne for a six-year residency with the Channel 9 orchestra. He moved to Sydney working on cruise ships for two years then did club work and jazz gigs until ill-health forced his musical retirement to northern NSW in 1981. Splinter Reeves died from injuries following a car accident.
- Bryce Benno Rohde
Bryce Benno Rohde:
(b. Hobart, Tas. 12 September 1923) piano/arranger/composer/bandleader/arranger.
The family moved to Adelaide where Bryce attended Unley High School, studied piano with private teachers for seven years from the age of eleven, joined the army in October 1942 and discovered jazz listening to V-Discs while recovering from an appendix operation in New Guinea. On his discharge in May 1946 he worked as a pastry cook with his father while studying piano, harmony, counterpoint and composition at the Adelaide Conservatorium. He played with Alf Holyoak’s band at the Tramway Ballroom, led a trio in 1949-52 at the Tivoli Swing and Jazz Shows, played jazz concerts, broadcast weekly as a soloist on national ABC radio, worked in big bands, became interested in progressive jazz from his working friendship with Adelaide-born Jack Brokensha and taught modern piano. In the meantime another Adelaide friend and musician, Errol Buddle, who had played sax in Melbourne and Sydney with Jack Brokensha had gone to work the US and Canada. He convinced Bryce and Brokensha to join him in Ontario in March 1953. The three worked locally and eventually, with American bassist Dick Healey, formed the Australian Jazz Quartet in December 1954. The AJQ recorded extensively, toured the concert, festival and jazz club circuit, returned to Australia for an ABC tour in November 1958 and disbanded in November 1959. Bryce remained in Sydney, formed a quartet with Ed Gaston, George Golla and English drummer Colin Bailey. It played at El Rocco and the Bel Air club/café, for jazz concerts at the NSW and New England universities, played the inaugural Australian International Jazz Festival in Sydney in October 1960, the 9th Festival of Perth in 1961, was the support group for the Kingston Trio’s Australian and NZ tour, made a five week US tour with a quartet after which Bryce stayed to work and study. On his return to Australia in 1962 he formed another Quartet with alto saxophonist Charlie Munro and bassist Bruce Cale, was the musical director for the 1965 Katoomba Jazz Festival then moved to San Francisco where he played, led ensembles and recorded until musical retirement.
- Francis (Frank) Smith
Francis [Frank] Smith:
(b. Sydney NSW 30 July 1927 — d. Melbourne, Vic 18 February 1974) alto, tenor saxes/flute/bandleader.
Frank grew up in Canterbury NSW and played tenor saxophone in his pianist father’s dance band. He took lessons on alto sax from Rolph Pommer and in 1946 worked with Reg Pedersen’s Colossal Casuals, was at the Surreyville ballroom with the Doug Cross band then worked up to the mid 1950s with bands led by March Goodwin, Raymond Ray, Billy Weston, Col Anderson, Johnny Best, Gaby Rogers, Billy Antmann, Craig Crawford, Warren Gibson and Bela Kanitz at venues including the Bondi Esplanade, Segar’s Ballroom, Romano’s, Sammy Lee’s, Christy’s, the Trocadero, the Roosevelt, on the Metronome Dance Syndicate circuit and at the El Rocco and licensed clubs. Frank became prominent on the Sydney jazz scene throughout the 1950s at jazz concerts with Ralph Mallen, Jack Allen, Joe Singer and Enso Toppano, recorded with US cornet player Rex Stewart in Sydney during Stewart’s 1949 tour with the Graeme Bell band, worked with the Ralph Mallen big band then freelanced. He won the 1957 Music Maker Readers’ Poll for best and recorded with the Music Maker 1957 All Stars for Parlophone. He moved to Melbourne to lead the band for the opening of The Embers nightclub in August 1959, recorded with it and played there until 1961, He then joined guitarist Bruce Clarke in the recording studios and in 1971 set up a music production company. When it collapsed in 1972 he worked with the Allan Deak big band at Wrest Point Casino in Hobart and returned to Melbourne just prior to his death.
- Lesley (Les) Welch
Lesley [Les] Welch:
(b. Newcastle upon Tyne, England 6 August 1925 — d. Sydney NSW 1 September 2014) piano/vocal/bandleader.
Les, the youngest of five brothers, was quite young when his father came to Sydney with the family in the 20s to work on the Harbour Bridge. When it was completed, his father went back to England to find work, had a stroke on the way home and never returned for them. Les went to Fort Street Boys High School and briefly to Sydney University. Self-taught, he became a blues-shouting pianist at the age of fourteen. He played piano at Christie’s restaurant and in 1942 led a band at the YMCA in Liverpool Street, Sydney. As a result of his band’s Town Hall concert performance alongside an American services big band Les was hired as musical program assistant to the US forces in Sydney and played exclusively for the American Red Cross at its Pitt Street centre, the GI Paradise at the Australian Golf Club, the Navy Base Hospital at Merrylands and organised bands for War Loan Rallies. After the war he worked musically in Kings Cross venues including the California Coffee Lounge and, using Sydney’s upcoming young jazz musicians, made his first records in 1946 with cover versions of overseas hits unavailable in Australia. With constant airplay, several became top of the Hit Parade but incurred censure for breaching a Musicians’ Union ban. He eventually made over a hundred records. In April 1948 Les was voted ‘King of Swing’ at a Sydney Town Hall concert and the first of his appearances at the Sydney Conservatorium in 1949 was probably the first complete jazz concert held there. In 1949 he signed a contract with Pacific records and, eventually had fifteen Gold record awards. His danceable repertoire was a mixture of boogie-woogie, dixieland, rhythm & blues and jump. During the late 1940s – early 1950s his bands held residencies at the Lido in Bondi, the Roosevelt, the Bay Tavern, Orchid Room and at Sammy Lee’s Stork Club in both Sydney and Melbourne. Using jazz musician friends his 8-Beat Boys featured regularly on Sydney’s concert scene with his Town Hall concert appearances regularly attracting full houses. Les was also a radio personality and in 1950 was voted ‘most popular bandleader’ in 2UE’s “Rumpus Room” talent quest and became a bobby-sox idol with a weekly radio show on 2SM. He was musical director for Pacific Records in 1950 before moving to Festival Records as its A&R man in 1952, a position he maintained for many years, then led the Channel 7 studio orchestra. Les’s career ended when he was knocked down by a car and severely injured in Pitt Street, Sydney on 31st October 1958. It finished his career, apart from occasional appearances, a 1972 recording session with Bob Barnard and a 2009 band reunion for the Kings Cross Arts Guild Ball at Club Swans. Sadly, his reclusive retirement was marred by ill heath until his death.
- Terence John (Terry) Wilkinson
Terence John [Terry] Wilkinson:
(b. Campsie NSW 9 March 1931 — d. Sydney NSW 21 February 2013) piano.
Terry, often referred to as a child prodigy, studied piano from the age of six and discovered jazz piano from records. He was featured, in short pants, as a boogie woogie pianist at the 2GB radio auditorium at age eleven and appeared on the Reg Lewis Modern Music Club in 1943. He found jazz locally at the Parisienne Milk Bar in Campsie where he met like-minded musicians Les Welch, Ron Gowans and Ralph Mallen at its Sunday jam session. He played his first jobs there and with Duke Farrell’s band in 1944 while still at Canterbury High School. He joined the Ralph Mallen Big Band at the Gaiety in Oxford Street in 1947, studied piano and theory at the NSW Conservatorium, worked with Ron Falson’s group at Wentworth Ballroom and recorded with it in 1948. At seventeen Terry went to Melbourne to replace Les Welch at Sammy Lee’s Stork Club in Black Rock. He also worked at Ciro’s, the Colchester and Copacabana nightclubs, the Wally Nash band, Denis Farrington’s Orchestra and jam sessions at the Galleon Coffee Lounge in St Kilda. Two years later in 1952 he returned to Sydney to play at Sammy Lee’s Stork Club at Sylvania, the Golden Key at Bondi, Christie’s, Andre’s, Prince’s and Romano’s nightclubs, the Orchid Room and the Les Welch quartet at Petersham Inn. During the late 1940s Terry also played for Bill McColl’s Sydney Town Hall and Assembly Hall concerts and in the early 1950s was with the Wally Norman and Denis Collinson bands for Lee Gordon’s Big Shows at Sydney Stadium backing overseas celebrities including Artie Shaw, Buddy Rich, Bob Hope, Betty Hutton, Johnnie Ray, Frankie Laine, Billy Daniels, June Christy, Sammy Davis Jr, Mickey Rooney and Eartha Kitt. He also worked with Johnnie Ray at the Silver Spade at the Chevron Hotel and opened the new Sky Lounge in 1958 with Don Burrows and the Australian All Stars and recorded with them. From 1960 he held a six-night residency at the Silver Spade room for six years. Other engagements at the El Rocco and the North Sydney Leagues Club followed in 1967-68. Terry went to the US in 1970 for two years and worked commercially including hotels in Las Vegas. On his return he freelanced, rejoined the studio bands and was with Richard Ochalski’s Straight Ahead bop group in 1978. Terry recorded infrequently and, for some reason, never as a soloist. His frequent radio and television studio work over the years involved everything from jazz to rock & roll and popular music. However, most of his playing from the 1970s was confined to the professional commercial scene and little is known regarding his later years and retirement.