Vale Ian Pearce: another great jazzman dies

Ian Pearce
(from Bruce Johnson’s “Oxford Companion to Australian Jazz”)

Born Hobart 22 November 1921
Died Hobart 8 November 2012

Another iconic figure in Australian jazz has died. Legendary Tasmanian jazz musican, Ian Pearce died in the Royal Hobart Hospital on 8 November 2012 a few days short of his 91st birthday.

During a career spanning more than seven decades, Ian Pearce’s contribution to Tasmanian and Australian jazz is recognised by the many musicians who played with him, or were mentored or assisted by him, and by the audiences who delighted in his playing. It was also recognised through the award of Member of the Order of Australia in 1995 for service to jazz music.

Tom Pickering as a lad

Ian  studied piano as a child,  but discovered jazz through records and the radio in the mid 1930s  with his brother Cedric (who played drums)  and neighbour Tom Pickering  (clarinet).  He took up trumpet in 1936 and the quartet formed the Barrelhouse  Four with pianist Rex Green.   This group produced its first record in 1946, and with several name and personnel changes went on to record  further albums, play at countless concerts and dances, as well as regularly play for ABC broadcasts.

The Barrelhouse Four: Tom Pickering, tenor sax; Rex Green, piano; Ian Pearce, trumpet: and Michael Maxwell depping for Ced Pearce on drums. Note Ced’s caricature on the drum. (from “Black Roots White Flowers” by Andrew Bisset)

After Army service the group resumed playing in 1946.   In 1947 Ian moved to Melbourne to study at the conservatorium, became a member of the local jazz scene and swapped trumpet for trombone. He worked with the Tony Newstead and the  Bell bands as needed, and recorded with the Bells in 1948.  

In September 1949 Tom Pickering’s Good Time Music recorded “Doctor Blues“. Lineup was; Col Wells, trumpet; Ian Pearce, trombone; Tom Pickering, clarinet & tenor sax; Keith Stackhouse, piano; Geoff Sweeney, guitar; Ced Pearce, drums. Click on the song title to hear this track.

In 1950, like many other young musicians, he sailed for the UK, where he worked with various bands, including Mick Mulligan’s  Magnolia Jazz Band of colourful repute.  (see George Melly’s autobiography of the period, Owning Up.) 

Returning to Hobart in 1955, Ian was reunited with Tom Pickering and co-led the Pearce-Pickering band (1956-mid 90s).  A  series of CDs, published by Swaggie Records and available from the Victorian Jazz Archive shop, records the output of this collaboration.

During this period he was involved with various Australian Jazz Convention and other jazz committees, became a mentor to young musicians and recorded regularly.

When not involved in jazz, Cedric and Ian took over another Tasmanian icon, Fullers Bookshop, which they ran from 1961 to 1980 when Cedric’s ill health forced them to give up the enterprise.

Ian remained musically active into his 90th  year providing joy to himself, his fellow musicians and the jazz public.

Here he celebrates his 80th birthday at Wrest Point Casino, Hobart with his
quartet, (consisting of Ian on piano, Paul Martin on reeds, Ken Martin on Bass and vocals and Michael Colrain on drums and vocals).

HIS 90th birthday party was a great occasion with guest musicians including, amongst others, Bob Barnard and Paul Furniss flying in to perform with Ian in a concert at the University of Tasmania’s Stanley Burbury Theatre. The concert was of course sold out.

Throughout his 70-plus years as a musician, he entertained nationally and internationally. To those who knew him, he was truly a gentleman who was dearly loved and admired. Farewell Ian Pearce. A life well-lived!

The funeral will be held on Thursday 15th November at 3pm at Turnbulls Funeral Home, Letitia St, North Hobart. Messages may be sent by email to

(Thanks to Bill Haesler for providing some of the text for this piece)

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One response to “Vale Ian Pearce: another great jazzman dies

  1. Hi,
    I thought you might like to know about my facebook page for Jo Lennard. Jo was my mum and sang with Mick Mulligan/George Melly and of course knew Ian Pearce as a fellow member of the band.

    I have included photos of the band as well as a copy of a programme including a mention of Ian Pearce.
    All welcome to come along and have a look:)

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