Jeannie McInnes introduces the 20-Part series
Last year we celebrated the centenary of recorded jazz, where the emergence of a new music was so aligned and intertwined with the emergence of a recording technology encouraging its dissemination that the two were shared widely. This meant that jazz became the first new music to be available, albeit with delay, around the world.
As musicians and bands began introducing jazz songs and sounds into their repertoire, so came the beginnings of our local adaptation of this musical genre. The Great Depression, however, stunted the appeal of such a lively and spirited music and when Australian popular music again adopted jazz, it was under the name ‘swing’, played by dance bands such as those led by Frank Coughlan at Sydney’s Trocadero and the ABC Dance Band of Jim Davidson. This style was greatly invigorated by the influx of around a million US service personnel who passed through during the early 1940s.
Following the enormous changes of WW2, Australian jazz again came to the fore. In 1946, the world’s first and longest surviving jazz festival was inaugurated as the Australian Jazz Convention, focusing on ‘traditional’ styles of jazz. Figures such as Graeme and Roger Bell and Ade Monsbourgh were not only important here in their home country, but also took their music to Czechoslovakia, France and Britain in the late 1940s and early 1950s, becoming leaders in the worldwide revival of jazz.
At the same time other musicians were turning their attention towards more ‘modern’ styles. The Australian Jazz Quartet (and at times Quintet) was formed by three expats living in Canada. Bryce Rohde, Jack Brokensha and Errol Buddle, along with Dick Healey and several other US musicians, toured and recorded extensively.
On home soil, we have been blessed with a plethora of excellent jazz musicians, each making their own interpretations through collective playing, improvising, exploring and developing their jazz sounds. Dave Dallwitz created jazz suites with a uniquely Australian bent, such as his Ned Kelly and Ern Malley Suites, while Ian Pearce and Tom Pickering were an integral part of a thriving scene in Tasmania. John Sangster evolved from the trumpet to drums, vibes and percussion to become one of our leading composers. Other household names included Frank Traynor, Frank Johnson and Dick Hughes. Our musicians have continued to play on the world stage as well. Bob and Len Barnard became highly respected wherever they performed, as did Don Burrows and George Golla. James Morrison is known internationally having performed and recorded with many jazz greats. Our jazz musicians continue to play internationally, with numerous examples of performances worldwide. It is possible to list hundreds of names, but this becomes meaningless without reference to the music.
Dr Bruce Johnson, author, researcher, historian, honorary Professor (Universities of Technology Sydney, Glasgow and Turku in Finland), musician and former jazz presenter here at (then) 2MBS-FM had just published The Oxford Companion to Australian Jazz (1987) when he produced and presented a multi-award winning radio series A History of Jazz in Australia. Airing from June 1988 to March 1990, this 20-part series explored not only the music, but the social context of its time. It begins with the birth of jazz in New Orleans and takes us on a journey through our own sounds of jazz to the time of broadcast.
Through it all, Bruce has firmly positioned the music into the milieu in which it was created and also taken a few detours along the way. In Fine Music’s move from old to new studio premises, these original programs have been carefully protected, and have now been retrieved, digitised and renewed for rebroadcast to mark their 30th anniversary.
In them, Bruce discusses the music and musicians, with many examples to illustrate the journey. All of the music is played in full.
Much of it is known to aficionados, but much is also unavailable and seldom heard. All of it is immensely interesting, and Bruce’s analysis illuminating.
This is a series you will not want to miss. The programs will be played at noon on the first and third Sundays of the month, beginning on 6 May. After broadcast you will then also be able to listen again to each via our website as part of our Jazz on Demand programs under the jazz tab.