Category Archives: Instruments

Johnny Adams and the joy of music

John with Herman Schweiger (Photo: Ron Jobe)

John with Hermann Schweiger
(Photo: Ron Jobe)

JOHNNY Adams’s joy in making music glowed from his smile, and was evident from his body language when he was in full swing at the piano.

Born in Castlemaine, Victoria in October 1938, John studied classical piano there at St Gabriel’s College for 3 years. When he was about 15 he was impressed by Graeme Bell’s version of Black and White Rag, but it wasn’t until he moved to Melbourne in 1954 to work at the Commonwealth Bank that he really came into contact with jazz. One lunchtime when he was “fooling about” on the piano in the Bank’s auditorium, John Morey, a fellow bank employee, asked him if he would like to join a band that he was putting together. This comprised Lachie Thomson (clarinet), Graham Bennett (drums) and John Morey himself who played trumpet.

At this stage John knew nothing about playing jazz chords or the relationship of one chord to another. As far as jazz was concerned he was basically self-taught as are many jazz musicians, having picked things up from observing and listening to other musos and recordings. His first professional gig was in 1956 with John Morey’s group when they played for a party for one of the girls at work.

A stint with the Dave Rankin Band followed which led to other bookings including intermission piano at Nick Polites’ Melbourne New Orleans Jazz Band gigs at the Glen Iris RSL in 1957-58.

The 1960s was an exciting period for John as his growing reputation brought him opportunities to play in a wide range of styles and with a variety of high quality musicians. These included appearances on Channel 7’s Cool Cats Show with modern players such as Ted Vining (drums), Barry Buckley (bass) Alan Lee (vibes) and Graham Lyall (tenor sax); Bob Barnard’s Band; the Driftwood Jazz Band; the Kenn Jones Powerhouse Band; the John Foster Quartet on Channel 9’s In Melbourne Tonight; and various Storyville groups put together by Allan Leake with whom he maintained a musical connection for almost 20 years.

Cathay Pacific Jazz Australia Band Steve Miller, Ian Smith, Rex Swann, John Adams, Dave Hetherington, Hermann Schwaiger (photo: Ron Jobe)

Cathay Pacific Jazz Australia Band
Steve Miller, Ian Smith, Rex Swann, John Adams, Dave Hetherington, Hermann Schwaiger
(photo: Ron Jobe)

In 1990 John accepted Rex Swann’s invitation to join the Cathay Pacific Jazz Australia Band, a group presenting an eclectic mix of material to suit a wide ranging audience whilst playing good jazz. The band made a number of very successful visits to Hong Kong, Thailand and South Korea. He also visited Thailand with Allan Leake’s Storyville Allstars and The Storyville Jazztet.

Trio and small group playing were also an important feature of John’s musical career, including backing singers such as Beverley Sheehan and Patsy O’Neill. Other bands with which John played were the 8-piece “little big” orchestra Mainstem, The Melbourne Jazz Ensemble, The Jazz Buffs, The Alex Hutchinson/Alan Lee Quintet, The Syncopators, Stevenson’s Rockets, plus various small groups too numerous to mention. More recently he had a regular gig with Johnsy’s Red Hill Bakery Boys on the Mornington Peninsula.

John at The Red Hill Bakery

John at The Red Hill Bakery

John was also a very regular participant in the long-running Jazz Piano Lunches at the Rosstown Hotel in Carnegie where local jazz pianists who were available turned up to play for the delight of diners. Amongst these were such names as Graham Coyle, Rex Green, Kim Harris and Neville Turner. Here John plays Our Love is Here to Stay with saxophonist Barrie Boyes in September 2011.

In 1993 fourteen of Melbourne’s top jazz pianists got together for a marathon recording session as a fund-raising event for The Victorian Jazz Musicians’ Benefit Fund. The pianists played tunes of their own choice. John was one of the participants of course and one of his three choices was Billy Strayhorn’s beautifulLotus Blossom. Strayhorn was a pianist in Duke Ellington’s band, and this tune was one of the Duke’s favourites. In 2012 The Australian Jazz Museum (formerly The Victorian Jazz Archive) issued the session on a 2 CD set (VJAZZ020). Click on the photo of John to hear him play Lotus Blossom from that CD.
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In a different jazz genre, John played with Barry Wratten’s Uptown Swing Band at the Victorian Jazz Club on St Patrick’s Day 2012 (exactly 3 years ago). Unfortunately you can only glimpse the top of his head and the occasional hand, but this is another example of his versatility. The lineup is Barry Wratten, clarinet; Ian Orr, trumpet; Les Fithall, trombone; Peter Baylor, guitar; John Adams, piano; Richard Mander, bass; Lynn Wallis, drums.

On a personal note, John played at a number of our birthday parties and at a special wedding. It was at my birthday party four and a half years ago that John told me that he had just been diagnosed with the cancer which finally overwhelmed him. During these final difficult years he continued to play beautiful piano and to smile his beutiful smile.

As a wonderful pianist Johnny Adams will be very sadly missed from the jazz scene. Equally as a joyful and gentlemanly presence. RIP John

John’s funeral will be held on Wednesday 18 March at St Christopher’s Church, 5 Doon Avenue, Syndal followed by a celebration and wake at The Whitehorse Club, 298 -336 Burwood Highway, East Burwood.

Clarinet legend Acker Bilk dies at 85

ACKER_BILKPhotograph: Allstar/Cinetext

The celebrated and much loved jazz clarinettist Acker Bilk died on 2 November 2014 aged 85.

The following tribute appeared in The Guardian

Bilk was perhaps best known for his 1961 song Stranger on the Shore and was one of the most important figures in the revival of traditional jazz in the middle of the last century.

“He was vastly important to the jazz movement, he could play the clarinet like nobody else, he had a special tone and vibrato – other musicians would tell you that,” his manager, Pamela Sutton, said.

Sutton, who worked with Bilk for 45 years, said: “His life was music and performing. He only gave it up because his age caught up with him and he couldn’t perform any more.”

Bilk’s last performance was in August 2013 at the Brecon jazz festival in Wales.

Sutton said: “He was a charming person to be with and he was famous worldwide, especially in Australia.

“He was a brilliant musician. He had a great sense of humour in every way. He just loved life.”

She said that he died around 2pm with his wife Jean by his side. “I am very happy that so many people have called [since news of his death broke]. As he was 85, age had just caught up with him. He was in some pain from different things that were going wrong.”

He also leaves two children, Peter and Jenny.

Bilk, who was made an MBE in the New Year Honours List of 2001, had previously overcome throat cancer.

Poet Ian McMillan tweeted: “Goodbye Acker Bilk, creator of one of the great earworms. That shore was strange, but memorable.”

He was born Bernard Stanley Bilk and raised in Somerset, and soon took the name Acker – a local expression meaning “friend” or “mate”.

Bilk’s uniform of garish waistcoat and bowler hat set the tone for onstage outfits for anyone performing in that genre.

He was 18 when he took up the clarinet while in the Royal Engineers during his National Service. Posted to Egypt, he found himself with plenty of spare time in the desert and borrowed a marching clarinet, learning by copying recordings.

Vale Graham Coyle: piano master and gentle man

coyle cdGRAHAM FRANCIS COYLE was born in Melbourne on 10 August 1932. He died in Cabrini Hospital, Melbourne on Sunday 17 November 2013 at the age of 81.

In his long and musically fruitful career he played and recorded with almost every Australian traditional and mainstream jazz musician, and was valued widely not only for his masterly skills but also for his unfailing enthusiasm, good humour and generosity of spirit.

Graham’s funeral will be held on Monday 25 November at St Finbar’s Catholic Church, 86 Centre Road, Brighton East (near corner of Nepean Highway) at 10.30am. The service will be followed by a wake at The Local Taphouse, 184 Carlisle Street. A keyboard will be available for any pianists who may wish to offer a musical tribute for Graham.

His brief entry in The Oxford Companion to Australian Jazz by Bruce Johnson, possibly contributed by Graham himself, is very sparse and modest. I have augmented this from Bill Haesler’s entry on Graham from the Jazz in Australia website

Graham was classically trained on piano. In the late 1940s he played dances in his father’s trio and by 1950 had joined with Frank Traynor and Martin Finn to form the Black Bottom Stompers. He also played with Tony Newstead during this period.

He moved to Shepparton as a surveyor 1951-53 and played with the Goulburn Valley Jazz Band. It was here that he met and was inspired by pianist the late Rex Green, who was working there as a bank teller

On his return to Melbourne he joined Len Barnard’s Jazz Band (1953-55).

Len Barnard’s Jazz Band c.1955: Graham Coyle, Doc Willis, Bob Barnard, Len Barnard, Tich Bray, Ron Williamson and Peter Cleaver.
(from The Oxford Companion to Australian Jazz)

He was a founder member of the Melbourne Jazz Club Band (1958-65), with Frank Traynor (1961-67), Max Collie (1958), Alan Lee (1959-61) and Kenn Jones (1958-63). To Canberra ACT (1969) and played with the Fortified Few, Mood Indigo, and as a soloist at the Press Club (1976-81). Returned to Melbourne (1980), joined the Storyville Jazzmen and went to the UK and Europe with Bob Barnard’s Jazz Band (1980). Worked with Kenn Jones Powerhouse group(1984) and Bev Sheehan’s Swing Shift (1985).

Graham left the Public Service in 1987, became a professional musician and worked long residencies with Khyatt’s Khortet, and Hotter Than Six (which became the Fireworks Jazz Band) and made annual trips with this band to the US, Europe and Japan. Here is Part 1 of Firework’s famous 12th Street Rag performance at the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee 1998, with Graham on piano, Jo Stevenson and Tom Baker on saxophones, Simon Stribling on trumpet, Mark Elton on bass, Paul Finnerty on banjo, and Ian Smith on drums.

You can find Part 2 on YouTube.

In 1993 14 Melbourne jazz pianists got together for a marathon recording session as a fundraiser for the Victorian Jazz Musicians Benefit Fund. At the time a double audio cassette was released which contained 28 out of the total number recorded. In 2012 The Victorian Jazz Archive produced a double CD set containing 40 tracks, and it is no surprise that two of Graham Coyle’s contributions are first up on CD 1. Click on the CD cover to hear Graham’s version of the lovely Andy Razaf/Fats Waller tune, My Fate is in Your Hands.

Graham was a regular performer at the bimonthly Rostown Hotel piano lunches, which were started by his mentor and friend, Rex Green. Here Graham plays Oh Daddy Blues in September 2011. That’s Bob Whetstone appreciatively singing the lyrics in the background.

Graham played at every Bob Barnard Jazz Party, at the Leake’s Jazz Parties and freelanced widely throughout his career. There cannot be many Australian jazz musicians who have not played with Graham Coyle. They’ll have great memories of the music and friendship they shared.

coyle newstead

Graham playing with Tony Newstead at the U3A Hawthorn Jazz group party December 2007

Marian McPartland: Grande dame of jazz piano dies at 95

Jazz pianist Marian McPartland died on 20 August 2013 at her home in Long Island, New York. She was 95 years old.

She was born Margaret Marian Turner in Slough, England, on March 20, 1918.   
Marian began playing piano by ear at the age of 3, and at 17 she entered the Guildhall School of Music in London. Against her parents’ strong objections, she left school in 1938 to go on tour with a four-piano vaudeville act, taking the stage name of Marian Page. “My mother said, ‘Oh, you’ll come to no good, you’ll marry a musician and live in an attic,’” she recalled in 1998. “Of course, that did happen.”

She began entertaining troops in Britain and in 1943 joined the USO, entertaining US soldiers near the European battlefront. In 1944 she met the U.S. jazz cornetist Jimmy McPartland in Belgium. McPartland had been one of the Austin High School gang in Chicago in the 1920s which included Bud Freeman (tenor sax), Frank Teschemacher (clarinet), brother Dick McPartland (banjo/guitar), Jim Lanigan (bass, tuba and violin), Joe Sullivan (piano) and Dave Tough (drums). Marian and Jimmy married in Aachen, Germany in early 1946, and moved to Chicago soon after.

Marian worked for a while in her husband’s group, but he was a tradition-loving Dixieland musician and she was more interested in the new bebop sounds coming from New York, where she moved in 1950.

Marian McPartland, Bill Crow, Joe Morello

Encouraged by her husband, she formed a trio and found work at the Embers, a Manhattan nightclub, in 1950. Two years later, she began what was supposed to be a brief engagement at The Hickory House restaurant , 52nd Street, Manhattan which turned into an eight-year residency.

Here the Marian McPartland Trio plays at The Hickory House in 1954. Tickle Toe, is the tune. Bill Crow is on bass and Joe Morello on drums. Morello is probably best known as the drummer with the Dave Brubeck Quartet.

As a British white woman McPartland was an outsider in the American jazz scene.  She was one of only three women included in Art Kane’s iconic group portrait of jazz musicians on a Harlem street.   The photo -“A Great Day in Harlem” – was taken  on 12 August in the summer of 1958 by Art Kane for Esquire magazine.   Fifty seven of the leading jazz musicians then playing in New York City gathered at 10 o’clock in the morning (an unlikely time for jazz musicians!) at 17 East 126th Street, between Fifth and Madison Avenues .  Marian McPartland is in the front row with the large black handbag next to her friend, pianist Mary Lou Williams. Thelonius Monk is next to Mary Lou, figuring he would be most noticeable in his light coloured jacket and near a couple of good looking women!

In 1994 Jean Bach made a documentary about the occasion which is totally fascinating. Click on the picture below to link to the film.  The musicians were of course an unruly bunch, difficult to herd together, especially since many of them hadn’t seen each other for some time. Count Basie is sitting on the kerb where a group of local kids soon joined him. One of them kept stealing his hat!  Marian, as one of the few remaining alive from the original group,is one of the commentators on the film.

For a list of the musicians in the photo go to Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Great_Day_in_Harlem

Marian McPartland became an unexpected jazz star. She forged a distinctive style, made scores of albums and composed music and sogs that were recorded by superstars, including Tony Bennett, Peggy Lee and Sarah Vaughan

But perhaps her greatest contribution to jazz came later in life, through her illuminating interviews and impromptu performances with musicians on her long-running NPR radio programme, Piano Jazz. She was 61 when the first episode went to air  in 1978. By the time she stepped down in 2011 she had won a Peabody Award for broadcasting and a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement. She also helped a generation learn about jazz through her searching interviews, conducted in her dulcet-toned, sometimes irreverent voice. “Marian McPartland has done more for jazz pianists than anyone in the entire world,” the jazz impresario George Wein said in 1991.

Click on the picture below to listen to a Piano Jazz program recorded with Ray Charles in 1991.

The McPartlands’ marriage ended in the early 1970s but they remained close friends and continued to work together occasionally.  In the 1980s,  Marian and Jimmy decided that “our divorce was a failure,” and they moved back in together on Long Island. They had no children. In 1991 they were remarried 46 years after their first wedding. Two weeks later, Jimmy died.

Marian McPartland was without question one of the finest jazz pianists of her generation, and years from now her records will be making that fact perfectly clear to youngsters who’ve never heard of “Piano Jazz,” or radio.

The bare-bones accompaniment of bass and drums was always her preferred format, but she also appeared in concert with symphony orchestras, and in 1996 she recorded an album of her own compositions, Silent Pool, on which she was accompanied by a string orchestra.

And she continued playing almost to the end. Unlike some jazz musicians of her generation, McPartland never became set in her ways; her playing grew denser and more complex with time, and even late in life she was experimenting with new harmonic ideas.

Who the dickens was Goober Sly!!!

I WAS listening with only half an ear to the “Swing and Sway” program on Radio 3CR Community Radio in Melbourne a few Saturdays ago, and heard a very fine version of a catchy song which has been a favourite of mine for some time – You’re a Sweetheart. It was played with a beat just made for the current crop of swing dancers and featured a vibraphone player whose name I interpreted as “Goober Sly”.

Turning to Tom Lord’s Jazz Discography on my computer (which claims to list every jazz recording since 1898), I couldn’t find Mr. Sly. However Adrian Rollini and his Goofus Five had recorded the tune in 1938 which was the right period. Could Goofus Five be a Chinese whisper for Goober Sly? Yes indeed!! Click on Rollini’s picture on the left to hear the recording which features Bobby Hackett (cornet), Adrian Rollini (vibraphone), Frank Victor (guitar), Harry Clark (bass), Buddy Rich (drums) and Sonny Schuyler doing the vocals.

Amongst many instruments, Rollini played the GOOFUS,(aka the Cuesnophone), a quirky instrument invented by French musical instrument manufacturer Cuesnon in 1924. Hence, of course, the origin of the name The Goofus Five.

The Goofus is a free-reed instrument resembling a saxophone in looks. Its reeds vibrate when the desired keys are activated and the player blows across them through a rubber mouthpiece. It may be held upright like a saxophone or horizontally. The keys are set in two parallel rows: one corresponds to the white keys of a piano keyboard, the other to the black keys. Click on the picture of the goofus to hear how it sounds -(somewhat like an harmonica) – in Tessie! Stop Teasin’ Me issued in 1924. Lineup for this recording was Rollini on Goofus, Irving Brodsky – Piano, Ray Kitchingham – Banjo, Stan King – Kazoo and Bill Moore – Trumpet. Stan King does a very creditable kazoo solo in the first part of the track, while Rollini on goofus follows the “vocal” element. (I must do a bit of research on “great kazoo players” and bring you the results!)

Rollini, however, is best regarded for his skill on the bass saxophone. It was during his work with The Goofus Five and The Little Ramblers – both subgroups of The California Ramblers (a band with which he played for many years) – that Rollini developed his distinctive style of saxophone playing. His swing and impetus are very evident in And Then I Forget recorded with The Little Ramblers in 1926 which is amongst some of the best recordings that typify the era. Click on the picture at the left to listen.

Vale Geoff Bland (1928-2013): another master of the keys gone

MORE sad news. Much loved and respected jazz pianist Geoff Bland died in Hobart last Saturday at the age of 84.

I am indebted for much of this obituary to Bill Haesler who knew Geoff from 1948 and his early playing days with the Frank Johnson Fabulous Dixielanders during the band’s long Collingwood Town Hall residency in Melbourne.

In this photo Geoff plays wih the Dixielanders at Clovelly Life Saving Club in Sydney in 1949. Members of the band on that occasion were Warwick Dyer, Ken Evans, Frank Johnson, Jack Connelly, Geoff Kitchen, Bill Tope, Wes Brown, Geoffrey Bland. (From Norm Linehan’s Australian Jazz Picture Book.Child & Henry, 1980).

Geoffrey Brian Bland “Blandy” was born in Melbourne on 17 November 1928 and died in Hobart, Tasmania on 25 May 2013.
Geoff took formal piano lessons from age six and discovered jazz when twelve through his older brother. He played with his high school orchestra. He attended the first Australian Jazz Convention in 1946 at the age of 18, and when the Bell Band was preparing to go on its first overseas trip in 1947, Geoff took part in a fundraising concert at the Brunswick Town Hall run by the Eureka Youth League. With fellow pianist Rex Green, Geoff played ragtime and blues piano at this concert.

He was a founder member of Frank Johnson’s Fabulous Dixielanders (1945-53) then left jazz for a commercial career, apart from recordings and occasional freelance work with the Atlantic Trio (1968), Roger Bell, Ade Monsbourgh and Tony Newstead.

During this period he recorded with , amongst others, Ken Owen, Neville Stribling, Keith Hounslow, Ken Evans, Jack Varney, Nick Polites, Geoff Kitchen, and Lachie Thompson. In September 1948 Bill Miller recorded three tracks of Ken Owen’s Occasionals (Ken Owen, Ken Ingram, Keit Atkins, Ray Simpson, Barney Smith, Murray Bassett with Geoff (aged 20) on piano) These tracks were unissued until the Victorian Jazz Archive produced a 2CD set in 2012 of Unissued Bill Miller recordings, 1944-1951. Click on the CD cover to hear “Strictly Improvised” which features Geoff Bland on piano.

Geoff Bland playing with The Creole Bells in 1986

He returned to further study in advanced music and teaching in 1977 and worked as an education officer and a keyboard consultant (1979-82). He was founder director of the CAE Jazz Piano Studies faculty, established the Hawthorn School of Music (1978-86) and played with Steve Waddell’s Creole Bells (1984-86).

He left Melbourne in 1986 to live on the NSW north coast. In 1998 he moved to Bellerive, Hobart, where he taught music, freelanced and held a long solo residency at the Shoreline Hotel, Howah.

A section of the collection of the SPA

He was a very active member of the Sound Preservation Association of Tasmania which has its headquarters in Bellerive. The Association aims to identify, collect and preserve recorded sound, sound recording and playing equipment, literature, memorabilia and oral histories of especially Tasmanian origins. This of course includes many music recordings.

Geoff Bland was a wonderful talented pianist and a quiet gentleman, loved by all who knew him. Rest in Peace.

At the Clyde Hotel, Carlton, Vic. last Sunday, The Louisiana Shakers played this appropriate tune for Geoff.

Vale Margaret Cleaver: 1931-2013

SAD news from the people at the Victorian Jazz Archive: Margaret Cleaver, widow of Melbourne banjo player, Peter Cleaver, died on Tuesday 26 February 2013 at the age of 82.

Margaret had been a volunteer at the Archive for many years. Her wealth of knowledge about jazz and the Australian jazz scene made her a very valuable asset as a guide, providing as she did first hand information and tales of past jazz greats and events to enliven her tours of the Archive. She will be much missed by her friends and colleagues.

She is survived by her sons and grandchildren.

Here is a photo of Peter Cleaver playing with the Len Barnard Band in 1953.

Peter Cleaver

It is from the Archive collection, and was used in Nick Ribush’s hour long video: “Australian Jazz: the Melbourne Sound, the first forty years” which you can watch on YouTube.

Judy Carmichael’s Australian visit

JUDY Carmichael, one of the world’s leading interpreters of stride and swing piano, is making another of her very welcome visits to Australia, this time under the auspices of the US State Department’s celebrations of International Women’s Day.

Judy’s first stop was on Saturday 23 February at Burnie, Tasmania where she ran a workshop for “an impressive group of intelligent and engaged students”, and in the evening gave a performance in the High School’s Performing Arts Centre. Someone at this school must be on the ball – the UK band The Dixie Ticklers did a similar gig there in October last year (2012).

Judy with Burnie High School students

The rest of this whirlwind tour sees Judy in Brisbane (27-28 February), Adelaide (1-3 March) and Canberra (4-5 March) at venues “to be advised”. She then has two public performances in Melbourne on Thursday and Friday, 7 & 8 March at Bennetts Lane, 25 Bennetts Lane, Melbourne. 8.30pm. $28. Book online

She will be performing with UK guitarist Sam Dunn.

Sam Dunn

“Sam Dunn is a wonderful musician on all levels. He has a wide, interesting repertoire, beautiful sound, and is equally compelling with ballads and burners. And with his fast ears and quick wit, he’s great fun on the bandstand” Judy Carmichael

As well as a busy life as a performer Judy also hosts and produces her own weekly radio show Judy Carmichael’s Jazz Inspired which is broadcast on 170 Public Radio stations across the United States. Celebrated artists discuss their creative process and how their passion for jazz has inspired their work. They share their favorite recordings with the listener as well as insight into their life and art. We can listen to it here in Australia via SiriusXM Channel 122 Click here.

Another outstanding guitarist who in the past has joined Judy Carmichael on the world stage is American guitarist James Chirillo. Here Chirillo plays with The Judy Carmichael Trio at the “I Love Jazz” Festival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2009. The third arm (leg?) of the trio on that occasion was saxophonist Harry Allen.

And finally,to demonstrate how everything is connected to everything else eventually, here’s a clip of James Chirillo playing with The Earregulars at The Ear Inn, a jazz-friendly restaurant at 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City. Bria Skonberg, fabulous trumpeter who sometimes plays with Baby Soda, a street band which I did post about a few weeks ago is part of the group. This video is by Michael Steinman, of Jazz Lives. May 2012

Jazz Piano back @ The Rosstown in 2013

THE NEW YEAR starts, and with it the return of the bi-monthly piano lunches at the Rosstown Hotel on the corner of Dandenong and Koornang Roads, Carnegie. Bookings: 9571 1033. Enquiries: Marina Pollard 9781 4972.

This is the 19th year that the Rosstown has hosted these piano events (beginning in 1994, although the original lunches stretch back to 1987, when they were held in various locations). At the Rosstown they are held on the last Thursday of the month, in alternate months starting in January.   If that’s all too hard to cope with, here are the dates for the 2013 series:
January 31
March 28
May 30
July 25
September 26
November 28

On Thursday January 31 from midday until about 4.00pm you can be entertained by a group of Melbourne’s top jazz pianists which may include on any given day, John Adams, Graham Coyle, Kim Harris, Keith Stevens, Neville Turner, Michael Llewellyn, Jo Abbott, Ron Anderson, Jeff Bartrum and Kathy Connor.

Here’s the legendary Graham Coyle playing on a cold winter’s day last year.

A guest musician often accompanies the pianists. On 31 January the guest will be well-known trumpeter, Graeme Steel.

Graeme has been on the Melbourne jazz scene for over 50 years. He has worked with many of the top players, and has earned a reputation as one of the more reliable jazz players, equally at home in Modern, Mainstream, Dixie and Traditional styles. He is a popular choice as a backing player to singers Pippa Wilson, Anita Harris, Patsy O’Neill and Beverley Sheehan.

See Graeme in an uncommon pose – on Puffing Billy – with Mike Edwards, Noel Dollman and Neil Taylor as the Mast Gully Quartet which plays jazz for diners on the historic steam train 4 times a year. If you are interested in a unique experience – jazz, dining and scenery – visit the Puffing Billy site. The first dining journey for 2013 is on Friday 15 March.

The Mast Gully Quartet on Puffing Billy

And while we’re in a piano mood, a way to hear some of Australia’s jazz piano greats all together in one place, you can’t go wrong with the Victorian Jazz Archive’s 2 CD set, “The Pianists: a showcase of Melbourne’s Jazz Pianists, 1993”. The genesis of this set was a marathon recording session in August 1993 organised as a fundraiser for The Victorian Jazz Musicians’ Benefit Fund. Fourteen of Melbourne’s top pianists – Stephen Grant, Ben Johnston, Rex Green, Bob Sedergreen, Doug Rawson, Graham Coyle, John Adams, Kim Harris, Margie Lou Dyer, Frank Gow, Stan Spragg, Merle Phillips, Frank Milne and Dave Eggleton – played tunes of their own choice. Sadly several of these musicians are no longer with us.

The 40 tracks on this set are a permanent tribute to the talents and various styles of some of our best piano men and women. You can order online from the VJA website, or by phone on Tuesday or Friday, 9800 5535 or by email.

Last Piano Lunch for 2012: Rosstown regular program

Michael Llewellyn: one of the new breed

THIS coming Thursday – November 29 – will herald the final Rosstown Piano Lunch for 2012.

These piano lunches have been held at the Rosstown on the last Thursday (in alternate months starting in January) since 1994, but earlier were held in various other locations. To read more about the history of the lunches, click here..

The original lunches were set up by a group of jazz lovers to listen to that wonderful pianist, Rex Green, who sadly died earlier this year. He was a regular participant in the jazz lunches until shortly before his death.

Rex Green and Graham Coyle taking their bows
in Shepparton, 1952

Here’s a photo from the Victorian Jazz Archive journal, VJZZ No 55 which shows Rex and Graham Coyle performing for the Shepparton Apex Club in 1952.

Starting at midday and going on until about 4.00pm, an array of some of our best jazz pianists wil play for the delight of the diners.

Numbers may range from six to a dozen, depending on which musicians are available on the day. Often on deck are such household names as Graham Coyle, John Adams, Kim Harris, Neville Turner and Ken Cowan, but the new breed of pianists are also represented such as Michael Llewellyn whose picture appears at the top of this column.

Bob Whetstone and Kim Harris

This Thursday, inimitable trumpet player, Bob Whetstone, will be guest star. Here Bob performs at the May piano lunch with Kim Harris.

To book for this very pleasant jazz experience, phone 9571 1033.
The Rosstown is at the corner of Dandenong and Koornang Roads, Carnegie, a short walk from the Carnegie railway station. If driving, there is plenty of on-site parking. Meals are good and good value, the staff pleasant, and you’re bound to see people you know.