Monthly Archives: August 2012

The Many Faces of Charles Powell

A MEMORIAL for Charlie Powell was held at the home of his beloved Louisiana Shakers, the Clyde Hotel in Carlton, on Sunday 19 August. What a great day and certainly a great tribute to dear Charlie.

Every seat was taken (and there were plenty of extra chairs there) and it was wall to wall standing room of people right back to Elgin Street. Among the musos and fans paying their respects, my friend Bill Liddy noted Steve Grant, Peter Gaudion, John Hawes, Janet Arndt, Bill Beasley, Kim Rushworth, Ron Hayden, George Halliday, Harry Price, Rob Wood, Roger and Ann Beilby, Tony Orr, the entire Peninsula Rhythm Kings band (John Kent, John Roberts, Graeme Davies, Peter Grey, Lee Treanor, Frank Stewart and Kay Younger), “plus many faces I could not put names to, but have seen at gigs. And of course all the Shakers, with Nick Polites back from overseas plus Mike McQuad and Les Fithall.”

My reporter, Bill went on to say “After the formal bits, just about the whole day was taken up with sit ins. It also should be noted how brilliantly Ashley Keating conducted the entire day. What else would you expect from a real pro. like Ashley anyway??

They also had a video of Charlie’s life and his musical career running all day on the wall. There was even one picture of the Nick Polites’ Melbourne New Orleans Jazz Band, with Charlie on trombone, Frank Turville on trumpet and Nick on clarinet. Nick thought that it would have been 1959. On checking my notes from the Oxford Companion to Australian Jazz of course, he was right. Charlie replaced Dave Rankin in 1959 and was replaced by Kevin Shannon in 1960. (I think Charlie went back to England for a few years about this period).

On Swing and Sway on 3CR last Saturday they played a track from The La Vida Jazz Band recorded live at The Limerick Arms Hotel in South Melbourne 1986? (I can’t remember) where Charlie was singing a Jazz version of the old Hank Williams classic of 1952, Jambalaya Definitely in the Charlie “way out there style” that we all loved and will remember him for.”

Here are some photos of Charlie from the memorial brochure, and the program for the day.

And finally, click on this photo of Charlie below to hear the Louisiana Shakers playing The Darktown Strutters’ Ball from their CD “On a Coconut Island” recorded in Melbourne in 2001. Charlie plays trombone and “sings/talks” the lyrics, Lindsay Meech is on trumpet, Nick Polites on clarinet, Ashley Keating on tenor banjo, Andy Ross on bass, and Kevin Bolton on drums.

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Back to The Berg: 75th anniversary of the Heidelberg Town Hall, where Graeme Bell played in the 1940s

Heidelberg Town Hall, now The Centre

OPENED in April 1937, the Heidelberg Town Hall (now The Centre) was designed by architectural firm Peck & Kemter in association with A.C. Leith & Bartlett for the Heidelberg City Council (now Banyule City Council) and was influenced by the Hilversum Town Hall in the Netherlands. It is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register, described as “the greatest and most eloquent expression of the interwar brick Moderne style in Victoria.” (From Wikipedia)

Architecturally it may be memorable, but for many of my vintage the Heidelberg Town Hall is memorable for another reason: it was part of the post Second World War dance boom when town halls, church halls, scout halls and other venues were crammed to the rafters every Saturday night with teenagers and older dancing – and often just listening – to those early jazz bands – the Bells, Frank Johnson, the Barnards, and later the likes of the Yarra Yarra Jazz Band, the Red Onions and the John Hawes Jazz Band. In fact, the Bell band initially led by Roger and later by Graeme, had a very successful early residency at the ‘Berg in 1943/44 before their rise to stardom.

Well the Banyule Council is about to celebrate three quarters of a century of the glamorous building with a Dinner Dance complete with a Big Band led by John Wanner, and the small jazz combination Silver Service. Geoffery Orr, Daina Jowsey, Patti Lewis, Dorothy Baker and several other regular singers with the JW Swing Orchestra will be part of the 18 piece orchestra presentation.

The big night out will be on Saturday 8 September from 7pm to midnight. Tickets $95 each with seniors discounts. Contact

Here the J W Swing Orchestra plays Glenn Miller’s arrangement of “In The Mood”.

The Silver Service Jazz Band is the smaller grouping from the JW Swing Orchestra. It prides itself on performing many rare and precious Jazz and Swing melodies from the 1920s through to the 1950s. The band’s regular personnel is: John Wanner (leader – reeds), Kevin Morrow (reeds), Geoff Orr (vocals), Helen Jowsey (piano), Neil Jowsey (double bass) and Richard Opat (drums). Here they play “Too Marvellous for Words”.

Doubly gifted Andy Baylor: exhibition @ the Collingwood Gallery

ANDY Baylor is not only an outstanding musical talent on guitar and fiddle amongst other instruments, he is also an artist of note.

Andy currently combines his painting and musical passions in an exhibition “Ooh Bop Sh Bam” at the Collingwood Gallery, 292 Smith Street, Collingwood. 9417 0690.

As you can see from the above poster, the exhibition will run until Thursday 30 August, and is open daily (except Monday) from 12.00 to 5.00pm.

On opening night, some well known jazz musos added sound to the images:
Liam O’Connell, Andy Baylor and Sam Lemann on guitar, Howard Cairns on bass, and Stephen Grant on trumpet.

And a sample of the works on show:

Visit Andy’s website to see what else this versatile artist is doing.

Shirazz at The Vic Market: Wednesday night markets during August

MELBOURNE’S iconic Queen Victoria Market announces a series of night markets, Luna 1878, on Wednesdays in August from 5.30pm – 10.00pm.
Location: M Shed – J Shed – Queen Victoria Market
Cost: FREE
[The Market was founded in 1878, hence Luna 1878!]

Luna 1878, will be unveiled on August 8. Cocooned within the historic sheds of Queen Victoria Market, the new night market event will be a sensory overload featuring some of Melbourne’s best independent performers, designers, artists, chefs, winemakers and foodies.

To be held on Wednesday’s in August, Luna 1878 is set to become a new winter ritual, where Melburnians can embrace some of the city’s craftiest talent coming together for the first time at the iconic ‘Vic Market’.

Be entranced by performance, where a whimsical sense of fun awaits. And, yes, it will be cosy. There will heaters to gather around, mulled wine and exotic yet hearty food.

We’ve missed the first two Wednesdays, but for the rest of the month the entertainment program is reported as:
Wednesday 22 August: Soul and New Orleans theme
Wednesday 29 August: Jazz, Swing theme

I don’t know who will be providing the Soul and New Orleans flavour on 22 August, but the jazz entertainment on 29 August will be the preserve of that exciting band Shirazz!!

So leave your shopping until late on the next two Wednesdays and join the crowds defying winter’s miseries with food, drink and music – what could be nicer, what could be better for you!!!!

You can also follow the fun on Facebook at

Freddy Thomas dies at 91: another Australian jazz master passes

Bertram Henry Frederick (Fred, Freddy) THOMAS
28.8.1930 – 7.8.2012
Obituary by Geoffery Orr
IT’S with sadness that I pass on the news of the death of Australian trumpet ace Fred Thomas.
A third generation highly decorated brass band trumpet virtuoso, Freddy’s earliest jazz trumpet recordings date from the War years in 1942. Both Fred and his younger brother John, who plays tenor saxophone, worked at times on a regular basis with Denis Farrington’s Society Orchestra in the 1940’s and 1950’s.

Freddy Thomas, Bob Gibson and Geoff Brooke, in later years

Serving in the Australian Army with distinction, our young trumpet man joined Bob Gibson’s Music For Moderns and played on 3UZ radio in Melbourne with the likes of Pam Corrigan, vocalist supreme and her husband to be, Bob Storey, well known saxophonist.


[Click on the song title to hear the Gibson band playing “Swingtime Up in Harlem” with Freddy on trumpet and Pam Corrigan doing vocals. This track is from the Lyric 2 CD set mentioned below.]
Fred’s highly respected All Star Orchestra wowed audiences during the early 1950’s and his vocalist was June Carey, co-star to the ace jazz crooner, Edwin Duff who also recently left us.

[Geoffery Orr has produced under his Lyric label a two CD set of rare recordings from the ABC Radio series “Thursday Night Swing Club” which ran from 1949 to 1959, and then with a name change to “ABC Jazz Club” until 1965. Freddy Thomas and his various groups were frequent performers on this show. Click on the CD cover to listen to “St Louis Blues” performed by Freddy Thomas and his Allstar Orchesta from this wonderful set. Recorded at the Melbourne Town Hall in 1952. ]

Jack McGlade, Ken Coburn, Keith McDonald and Freddy Thomas, Shell Show 1947

Freddy then joined GTV9 to head a long line of orchestra leaders at that TV station. This position was also was held by Arthur Young, Brian Rangott and Ron Rosenberg. Not much better than that.
Freddy was part of the trumpet trio comprising Ronnie Webb, husband of singer Dorothy Baker, and Englishman, Max Goldberg. He of the Ambrose Orchestra and Ray Noble’s London New Mayfair Orchestra.
After the GTV9 Orchestra was disbanded in the 1970’s, Freddy worked everywhere including Smacka Fitzgibbon’s Firing Squad, where Fred played piano, as the trumpet was getting to be a chore. But he did regular stints with Denis Farrington’s Big Band playing trumpet and Denis’ smaller group with singer Patti Lewis. Fred was also on hand at the Box Hill Brass Band to join in and assist young players and to teach.

Ron Rosenberg, John Wanner and Freddy Thomas

He was the greatest and most unassuming genius of the trumpet who could have held his own on a stage anywhere in the world. Bix Beiderbecke, Bobby Hackett, Raphael Mendez: Fred Thomas was all these rolled into one. A supreme diplomat as a musician and the nicest man you could meet.
I worked with Freddy Thomas in the John Wanner JW Swing Orchestra in the 1990’s and we are lucky that John has recorded Fred with the Orchestra in 2003 in several trumpet showcases for this special CD.

Click on the image above for more details

I’ll never forget this wonderful man, as the likes of such gentlemen comes along once in a lifetime, and you are lucky to share some time with them. I’m sure there are many others including record producer Bill Armstrong, who could tell many more stories of Fred Thomas, the greatest of the best this country has produced.
Ironically, I learn that Hollywood composer Marvin Hamlisch also died in the last few hours. He wrote “The Way We Were” for Barbara Streisand, he composed and adapted Scott Joplin’s music for the film “The Sting” and a host of other Hollywood films and Broadway shows. He was 68. Freddy Thomas would have been 92 on August 28. Freddy Thomas has had a full and satisfying lifetime in music. More than seventy five years of it.
Geoffery Orr

For more information about the wonderful 2CD Lyric set of recordings from the Thursday Night Swing Club, contact Geoffery Orr by email.

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Farewell Charlie Powell : the “Silver Fox” dies at 86

ANOTHER sad loss from Australia’s jazz pantheon (of which there have been too many lately), the Louisiana Shakers’ effervescent trombonist and vocalist, Charles Powell died from leukaemia on 6 August 2012 a few months short of his 87th birthday.

He was still playing with the Shakers at their Sunday afternoon gigs at the Clyde Hotel in Carlton until very recently. Here Charlie sets up for 3 hours of New Orleans jazz at the Clyde on Sunday 20 May this year.

Born in Birmingham in 1925, Charlie left George Huxley’s Jazz Band without its regular trombone player when he came to Australia in 1964. The bands with which he played in Australia include Llew Hird’s Melbourne New Orleans Jazz Band, Mabel’s Dream and Peter Cass’s Poppa Cass’s Dixielanders, but in recent years he was best known as a foundation member of The Louisiana Shakers (formed 1994 and still going strong). Here is a film of the Shakers recorded in March 2011 with Charlie playing and singing in his inimitable style.

Charlie, with the Shakers, made many overseas trips as well as touring extensively in Australia. The following was recorded in Zurich in 1998.

As well as playing trombone in the tailgating New Orleans style, Charlie studied classical guitar and also played in the brass section of his son’s rock and roll band.

Musicians, jazz followers, his family and friends outside the music world will all feel the loss of Charlie Powell. None more so than his fellow Shakers:

The Louisiana Shakers are saddened by the loss of a foundation member of the band. Chas, your trombone playing was quirky, your vocals often unfathomable, and your enthusiasm an inspiration to us. Sing On Chas.

There will be a special tribute session at 2.00 pm at the Clyde this coming Sunday, 19 August to remember Charlie and send him off in style. All welcome.

And here Charlie sings “Just a little while to stay here” with the Shakers. The visuals leave a lot to be desired, but the song goes to the heart of the matter.