ON the last Thursday of every second month, starting in January, the Rosstown Hotel in Koornang Road, Carnegie holds its famous PIANO LUNCHES. From midday until about 4.00pm a pantheon of some of Melbourne’s best jazz pianists play tunes of their choice, with occasional informed chat about the music.
The next session will be held on THURSDAY 29 MARCH. Pianists will be the usual suspects (who may include Rex Green, Kim Harris, Graham Coyle, Keith Stevens, Michael Llewellyn, Jeff Bartrum, Neville Turner, Kathy Connor, John Adams, Ken Cowan or Jo Abbott). This month’s special guest will be Alan Lee, the renowned vibraphonist. For bookings ring 9571 1033.
The piano lunches have been held at the Rosstown Hotel since 1994 – for the first 5 years in the Dining Room, but since 1999 in the Bistro, which is better for all concerned, particularly the security guards who used to have to carry the baby grand down from the Bistro for each session.
But the history of the lunches goes back much further than this. (and for the following I am indebted to an article by Tom Wanliss in the Victorian Jazz Club journal Jazzline vol. 32 no. 4, Summer 1999).
In 1987 a group of jazz lovers, which included Bill Bunnett, Tom Wanliss and Ian MacKenzie, organised an informal party at Bunnett’s home to hear Rex Green play. Over the next 3 years, these functions continued on an irregular basis, with further pianists and listeners being added.
In 1992 the lunches moved to the Palace Hotel in Burke Road, Camberwell where they stayed for the next two years. Neville Turner made his appearance during this period. When The Palace moved its piano to another hotel, yet another venue was required. With an interlude of one or more sessions at the Elsternwick Hotel in Brighton Road, the piano lunches came to The Rosstown in 1994 which has been home ever since – 18 years of free music from the cream of the jazz keyboard over a pleasant lunch! How sweet it is.
Here are a couple of clips from the September 2011 lunch:
First John Adams, with special guest Barrie Boyes on tenor saxophone.
Now Graham Coyle plays that classic Bessie Smith song Oh Daddy Blues with Bob Whetstone singing the lyrics appreciatively in the background.