Graeme Emerson Bell, AO, MBE (1914-2012): the King of Australian jazz is dead but the legend will live

GRAEME Bell died today, 13 June 2012 at the age of 97. Recognised world-wide as the founder of the jazz revolution in Australia, Graeme Bell and his Australian Jazz Band was acclaimed for its distinctive Australian style and the danceability of its music.

Turn to the index of any book on Australian jazz and you will find more entries for Graeme Bell than anyone else. The prestigious jazz awards presented every year to recognise excellence in Australian jazz are named after him. The Doubly Gifted Committee’s annual lecture on Australian jazz are The Bell Lectures.

While mourning his passing, the jazz community will not forget the musical debt it owes to Graeme Bell. Thank you Graeme: rest in peace.

Here’s one of the first recordings many current jazz fans had in their collections: The Graeme Bell Australian Jazz Band playing “South” recorded in London in 1948.

The ABC News on June 14 published this report on Graeme Bell.

5 responses to “Graeme Emerson Bell, AO, MBE (1914-2012): the King of Australian jazz is dead but the legend will live

  1. Reading about Graeme,whilst at the Canberra National Film & Sound Archive,2 stories particularly stuck in my memory.1. About how the brass players had to thaw the spittle out of their instruments over a burner,before they could play.That was in Korea.Graeme said he`d never known cold like it,not even in the worst european winters.2American Rex Stewart.In the lift the union boss said “You never told me he was black” Graeme said;”You never asked,would it have made any difference?” Bosses eyes slitted.He said;”It might have,it might have”.Funny when you think the blacks gave us jazz.

  2. Hi,i `found` Graeme on video at the superb National Film & Audio Archive in Canberra,in Dec 2009,& read up on him in their library,whilst over from the UK.Having loved trad jazz for over 70 years i was blown away by Greame & his band,& particularly loved his stories of being on tour in Australia with the UK musicians,`Humph`,Alex Welsh,etc.Graeme gave as good as he got.I have a super CD from the Archive & hope to get another when in Canberra 20.3.13/15.4.13.Phil Lambley.UK.

  3. Whilst i knew Graeme faily well my two drinking mates were Lou Silberisen and Jack Varney.
    In my collection I am fortuate enough to have “South”etc first Aust release
    by Regal Zonaphone.
    To my way of thinking there will never be another Graeme on tne Austln
    Trad Jazz scene. Goodbye Graeme

  4. Judi Anderson

    So sad to hear of Graeme’s passing. I grew up listening to South and Smokey Mokes on 78 which my mum had and had the pleasure of meeting and hearing Graeme on many many occasions over the years. A lovely man who brought so many to the wonderful world of jazz. My condolences to his family and friends.

  5. Truly one of the giants of traditional jazz! He did for the world as Lu Watters and the YBJB did to preserve it. Long may his music fill the air!

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