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.
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.
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.