Monthly Archives: November 2011

Bell Award for Best Traditional Jazz Album: Leigh Barker and The New Sheiks

Leigh Barker at the Bell Awards

Leigh Barker and the Bell Awards

IN MAY 2011 Leigh Barker was awarded the Australian Jazz Bell Award in the ‘Best Traditional Jazz Album’ category for his CD – THE NEW SHEIKS – with his six-piece band of the same name.

The New Sheiks

The New Sheiks CD

‘The New Sheiks’ CD and band feature Leigh on the double bass, Eamon McNelis on trumpet, Don Stewart on trombone, Matt Boden on piano and piano accordion, and Al McGrath-Kerr on drums. The CD also features renowned Melbourne blues singer, Heather Stewart. In 2011 Heather won the ‘Vic/Tas Blues Awards’ for best debut album and best female artist, and in 2010 won the award for best self-produced album.

Leigh Barker

Leigh at the Amora Riverwalk Hotel, Richmond with Smithy's Trio

LEIGH has been adapting the early blues material and combining it with jazz and compositions from the other band members, to create a mix of Jazz, Swing and Blues that is unique and accessible.

EAMON is well known to jazz audiences around Australia, and is a master of all styles of the trumpet from the history of jazz. In 2010 he won the ‘National Jazz Award’ at the Wangaratta Jazz Festival.

DON STEWART has played around the world with the finest traditional Jazz groups, including the Graeme Bell band and Fireworks Jazz. He is also a member of popular Melbourne group ‘The Band Who Knew Too Much’.

Pianist MATT BODEN lives in Paris but is originally Tasmanian. His dedication to swing and real acoustic music means that he plays a piano accordion when there is no piano available.

Drummer AL MCGRATH KERR has played with many Australian greats and also opened a concert for Cuban piano master Chucho Valdes in 2010.

CD Baby You can buy a copy through CD Baby (click on the image to the left), through reputable shops such as Readings in Carlton, Basement Discs in the City, or a new boutique music chain called Title with stores in Fitzroy, Northcote and Brunswick. Or straight from the horse’s mouth by emailing Leigh

Barker has toured Australia extensively, usually with a Quintet. In 2010 he was asked to be the support act for jazz superstar Branford Marsalis, which culminated with Leigh performing an encore with Branford at the Sydney Opera House.

Barker with Branford Marsalis

Barker with Branford Marsalis

In other guises Leigh played with George Washingmachine at the Victorian Jazz Club gig on 19 November 2011, and with Hetty Kate and The Irwell Street String Orchestra on 12 November 2011 for the same club

Here’s a clip from the Washingmachine gig. With George are Andy Swann on drums (recently returned from touring Europe with The Syncopators), Leigh Barker on bass, and Sam Lemann on guitar. There’ll be more of this ineffable performance in a later post.

Geelong’s First Trad Jazz Band

THE City of Geelong is 70km from Melbourne – a mere commuter drive – so that musicians and audiences have always flowed between the two.

From the 1920s Geelong enjoyed several dance and swing bands, but arguably the first Geelong traditional jazz band was the Dixieland Ramblers (1943-c.1947) founded by trumpeter Clem Harris. The band played occasional local gigs, made one recording, and welcomed the visits of sit-in musicians including Stewart Speer and Frank “Doc” Willis.

Under the name of the Geelong Jazz Group, the band performed at the first Australian Jazz Convention in 1946. The lineup on that occasion was Ken Evans, trombone; Jack Connelly, clarinet & banjo; Vern Dolheguy, trumpet; Ron Grimison, clarinet; George Barby, piano.

Courtesy of drummer Ian Coots, here is a track from that rare recording of the Dixieland Ramblers, captured in Geelong on 17 January 1946.

Discounted luggage deal for musicians

Posted by Joanne Kee of Jazz Australia, Sunday, 06 November 2011 19:33

This is the process advised by Virgin bookings to take advantage of the new deal for luggage for musicians.

Bookings of 10 or more are done through the Group tab on Less than 10 travelling, book online.
10 or more people travelling, book through Groups online Group Quote

Once flights are booked, email the Booking Reference Number to with details of the instruments travelling and the weight estimate. Virgin Australia will then organise from their end and you make payment for the baggage amount you want to purchase.

First $32 KG is free.
2nd 32 Kg is $15 then increases in increments of 32 KG @$15.
96 kg of luggage = $30.

Please note you need 48 hours notice as the Virgin Head Office is in Queensland. Virgin Australia Groups Department phone number is 136 700.

Please double check directly with Virgin as this may change. However the information was accurate at the time of this posting.

New Deal for Musicians Travelling in Australia

Virgin Australia planeIN JUNE 2012 Virgin Australia and QANTAS announced a new initiative aimed at addressing the ongoing problems musicians face when travelling with musical equipment. Check here for details.

After discussions led by national body, The Australian Music Industry Network (AMIN), Virgin Australia have made an offer exclusively to the music industry that includes a baggage allowance of 32kg (across three pieces of checked baggage) for individual artists – with an additional 32kg able to be purchased in advance for just $15.   Bands will also now be able to ‘pool’ their baggage allowance across their travelling group.

”Victorian musicians have been hampered by recently imposed prohibitive baggage policies,” said Music Victoria CEO and AMINdirector Patrick Donovan. ”We commend Virgin Australia for taking these concerns seriously. It’s not just about reduced excess baggage fees; it’s about not treating musicians as second class citizens. By being able to access the Group Bookings system, they are being afforded the respect they deserve.”

AMIN Director Denise Foley says the agreement will have a major impact on the ability of Australian artists to tour more often and more cost effectively. “Dealing with high and inconsistent excess baggage charges has been a
burning issue across the music industry for many years,” Ms Foley says. “And Virgin Australia should be congratulated for having the willingness to not only listen to the industry’s concerns, but actually putting in place a system that addresses the problem.

While the discussions have been led by AMIN, a range of key music organisations from around the country have played a key role in the development of the new deal.  They have included the Association of Artist Managers (AAM); Australian Independent Record Labels Association (AIR); The Australasian Performing Right Association : The Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (APRA:AMCOS ); Live Performance Australia (LPA); Music Council of Australia (MCA); and Symphony Australia – alongside AMIN’s member organisations Queensland Music Network; Contemporary Music Services Tasmania (CMST); Music NSW; Music NT; Music Victoria andThe Western Australian Music Industry Association (WAM).

The deal offered by Virgin Australia will be made available only to members of music industry organisations that elect to partner with the airline – the complete list of organisations is included in this news item

Barnacle Bill the Sailor: New Harlem Band 1983 style

I KNOW it’s not fair to dredge up images from earlier days – a bit like naked baby pictures at 21st birthday parites – but I could’t resist this lovely version of BARNACLE BILL THE SAILOR performed by the New Harlem Band on the afternoon children’s show of the 1980s, “Shirl’s Neighbourhood”. And a fine swinging version it was with at least one unsuitable word creeping in.

Do you recognise Sandro Donati on trumpet, Pat Miller on tenor sax, “Charlie” Farley on banjo, Neil Orchard on piano, Bob Gilbert on alto sax, Richard Opat on drums and Bill Morris on tuba? That girl at the back faking it on clarinet is probably Liz Rule, co-host with Graham “Shirley” Strachan.

This was not the New Harlem’s only appearance on the show: who knows how many kids were turned on to jazz by their performance. There should be more jazz written into all Australian TV shows! Let’s campaign for a jazz quota!

Here’s another clip of the New Harlem Band, this time at the 1985 Australian Jazz Convention in Ballarat. Much the same lineup, but with the substitution of Chris Somerville on piano and Rod Evans on banjo. Note the very fancy piano stool!

When the Lights Went Out at Caulfield RSL: the end of Friday Night Jazz

John Morrison

"Doc" John Morrison

AFTER 17 years, or thereabouts,  that popular gig – Friday Night Jazz at Caulfield RSL in Melbourne, Australia – came to an end on 4 November 2011.  And to see the series out, a packed crowd danced, cavorted, sang and generally enjoyed themselves to the rousing music of “Doc” John Morrison’s Moonee Valley Jazz Band, augmented by a few “sit-ins”.

The regular lineup was John Morrison, leader on piano, Paul Ingle on trombone, Frank Stewart on reeds, Graham White on trumpet, “Slappin’ Simon” Vancam on bass (I love Simon’s style, but unfortunately didn’t get many shots of it this time), and Richard Opat on drums and washboard (as you’ll see later).

From the start, the atmosphere was fizzing like New Year’s Eve.   Here you will see many of the well known jazzers about town dancing to MARGIE.

Then Tony Feehan, “The Irishman”, fronted the band to sing that lovely ballad IF I HAD YOU.

Coincidentally, this morning I got a post from one of my favourite sites – “20’s Jazz” – with a link to another version of this song (which was new to me until I heard Tony sing it) this time by Cliff Edwards, (a.k.a. as “Ukulele Ike”). Edwards was a very popuar recording star in the 20s and 30s, but died penniless due to the demon drink etc.
Click here to listen.

There is a school of thought that says that jazz and dancing don’t mix. I’m not of that school, but when you’re trying to get a good video image, dancers can get in the way. So if there are too many gyrating bodies in the next clip, just shut your eyes and listen. Big Bob Whetstone joined the band with his trumpet-cornet (shorter than a trumpet but longer than a cornet) to produce this great rendition of TIN ROOF BLUES.

Next visiting musician to take the stand was Kay Younger with a good raunchy version of MOVE THE BODY OVER. Kay was singing with the Sammy Rimington band in the UK when she met future husband Frank Stewart in 1969. Frank was touring with the Yarra Yarra New Orleans Jazz Band, and before long Kay was singing with the Yarras!! Here Frank accompanies Kay on alto sax.

As promised earlier, drummer Richard Opat demonstrated his skill on the washboard – a very elegant washboard without the bells and whistles favoured by some boardists!

Another well known musician, Ian Smith, dropped in for a blow. Here he joins the Moonee Valley lads for MUSKRAT RAMBLE.

Then things really started to hot up with a three-horn front line, and an energetic drum solo from Richard Opat, not to mention an enthusiastic kazoo cameo from the audience:

The last hurrah, the final blow – and thanks to all the musicians who made it such a memorable night.

This has been a bit of an indulgence I know, but it was an historic occasion – the end of a long-standing venue for trad and mainstream jazz in Melbourne.  So here’s a record to remind us of the fun we had.  And a hope that a new venue will soon emerge to take its place!