Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Jazz Gems #3 - Stephane Grappelli and George Shearing

Amusing/amazing snippets from the legends of jazz

Stephane Grappelli, jazz violinist with the Quintet of the Hot Club of France, was born in France in January 1908. George Shearing was born in London in August 1919.

When the outbreak of World War 2 was announced in Europe the Quintet was in London fulfilling a recording contract with Decca. Django Reinhardt and the others immediately returned to France, while Stephane stayed on in London to work in various hotels and clubs which would remain open despite the bombs and air-raids. Stephane told how he frequently played with George Shearing, the blind jazz pianist. After their gigs, while others were fumbling and stumbling their way through the darkened streets of wartime London, George was able to quickly and confidently lead the way home through the total "black-out".

Stephane died in December 1997. George remains active to this day.
Each have led full lives in the advancement and the enjoyment of jazz as composers, prolific recording artists and performers and both have won many awards.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Bundaberg Japanese Garden

A place of tranquility and peace in the Bundaberg Botanical Gardens, the Japanese Garden can be found nestling beside "Fairymead House" - a large high-set Queenslander with wide verandahs. Once the home of local sugar-cane pioneer families, 'the big house' was moved to its present location and is now a museum and a venue for Sunday afternoon musical soirees. The rich fertile soil of the area and the loving expert care lavished by the local council gardeners make the neighbouring Japanese Garden a haven of beauty and grace.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Jazz Gems #2 - Charlie Parker

Amusing/Amazing snippets from the legends of jazz.

Born in 1920 in Kansas City, Charlie "Yardbird" Parker is today considered one of the great musical innovators of the 20th century. He influenced generations of musicians, and helped to instigate one of the most important and successful American artistic movements - bebop. At age eleven he had just begun to play the saxophone; by age twelve he was playing in the high school marching band and local dance hall combos. Hanging around the Kansas City clubs, the young Parker first heard the new sounds of jazz from the musicians who passed through.
At age twenty he was leading a revolution in modern jazz music, but by the age of thirty-four he was dead from years of drug and alcohol abuse.
On his death in March, 1955 the coroner named pneumonia as the cause, estimating Parker’s age at fifty-five or sixty. He was only thirty-four. Parker was a titan among jazz followers during his lifetime, but it would take the country-at-large many years to realise the impact he made as one of the most original American musicians of all time.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

"Jazz 'n' Jam Tarts"

Wow!! What a week it was! National Seniors Week in Bundaberg really raged.

Apart from the Seniors' Expo explaining the services and activities available, we had lots of lovely JAZZZZ!
First, a party to celebrate the 20th birthday of U3A, (University of the Third Age), followed by a concert to launch the week's activities. From Brisbane we enjoyed "Moodswing" with Viv Middleton on piano and Irene Bartlett's beautiful jazz voice, coupled with the super soprano Judith Henley. (The trio in "Summertime" was a real treat).
"Arabesk" travelled up from Sydney to play at the Arts Centre on Friday morning supporting the "Jazz Apprentices" (combined students aged 13-17 from three local schools). Highlight was when music teachers Dale on tenor and Tony on trumpet, sat in with the "Arabesk" quartet, and an Arts Centre volunteer Dennis joined the jam on bongos!.
"Arabesk's" River Cruise that evening was a wild affair, I'll bet the "Burnett Queen" has never rocked like that - their mid-European music with violin, guitar, bass and drums had everyone dancing.
After a gig at the Agnes Waters Tavern on Saturday, by Sunday they were all back in Bundaberg to entertain the crowd at the Multicultural Festival in Quay Street.
The "Jazz Apprentices" led by music teachers Dale Lockley, Tony Brown and Dana King, gave us some of familiar big band swing numbers - these students were amazing and it brought home to the audience the evidence that jazz is indeed evolving and moving along towards the future. Aged between 13 - 17, the group of some fifteen young musicians came from the high schools of Bundaberg, Kepnock and Gin Gin.

Note for future 'Jazz Gems': Ed Wilson, trombone player and ex-leader of the old Daly-Wilson Big Band of the 70's, now owns his own publishing company and writes music especially for Australian schools, Police and Army bands. Ed would like to hear more Aussie music in these areas.
Check out his website:

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Jazz Gems #1: Lil Hardin Armstrong.

Amusing/Amazing snippets from the legends of jazz.

When you see a tune accredited to L. Armstrong it was most likely Louis' second wife Lil Hardin who wrote it. In the early days Louis couldn't read or write music, so Lil stayed up late at night writing material for the next gig. A real go-getter, it was she who pushed Louis along the road to success, even arranging his divorce from Daisy so they could marry in 1923. Lil was a major contributor to the Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings. They divorced in 1938 but remained friends until Louis died in July 1971.

Amazingly, while performing in a memorial concert for him one month later she suddenly collapsed and died on stage. She was playing "St. Louis Blues".

Friday, August 22, 2008


August 29th: Sydney group "Arabesk" will perform at the Bundaberg Arts Centre in "Jazz 'n' Jamtarts" - 10am. This is a free concert to celebrate National Seniors' Week with the U3A Jazz Appreciation Group. More information: ph. 07 4151 7996
August 29th: "Arabesk" will perform their "gypsy soul music" for an evening river cruise on the "Burnett Queen". Departs 7pm returning 11pm cruising down the Burnett River from Bundaberg. Cost $50 per head includes cruise, show and barbecue.
Licensed Bar available. ph. 0419528228.
Sat 30th/Sun. 31st
at Agnes Water Tavern/Town of 1770.


September 4,5,6th - NOOSA JAZZ FESTIVAL, Noosa Heads on the Sunshine Coast: Queensland's BIG one - held in various venues, parks and restaurants with top bands.

On the banks of the Fitzroy River with national and international bands.

off Townsville. 8 bands and over 30 national/international musicians in a tropical resort setting. http://www.cichappell.com/jazzparty/2008Program.htm

November 7-9th HERVEY BAY JAZZ FESTIVAL at venues in and around Hervey Bay on the Fraser Coast. www.herveybayjazzandbluesfestival.org

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Much Moore than "Cuddly Dudley"....

When Dudley Moore died in 2002 aged 66, he was described by Hollywood as “lovable 5 ft.2 inches of ‘Cuddly Dudley’, a ‘thimble-sized sex-symbol’ and a ‘British-born actor, comedian and star of over 40 films’. However, the other story behind those obituaries is that during his lifetime Dudley Moore had reached incredible heights of musical expertise despite painful physical and emotional handicaps that affected him for most of his life. He was one of my idols when I was a teenager frequenting the London Jazz clubs where he played piano.

Born in Dagenham, Essex to working-class parents, he had one leg shorter than the other and a foot that was turned and twisted inward. Even though he bore the brunt of taunts, jokes and rejection from schoolmates, his developing sense of humour usually diffused the first signs of any aggression. Humour, jokes and the ability to make people laugh became his means of survival.

Early in life he discovered a talent for music. While other boys were out playing football and sports, Dudley was developing his musical abilities. He writes: “Drawn towards the piano in the living-room at home I was soon experiencing the thrill of early discoveries like the sequence in classical harmony found in so many popular songs in some way or another. I played it endlessly, mesmerized by the wonderfully comforting sound it produced.”

From the London Guildhall School of Music he gained an organ scholarship to Magdalen College Oxford. It was rare in those days of the British class system for working-class students to enter the hallowed portals of a university. He encountered another obstacle: his deformed foot could not reach the organ pedals and to rectify this he wore one of his mother’s high-heeled shoes strapped to his foot and leg.

At Oxford he was invited to join Peter Cook, Alan Bennet and Jonathan Miller to form the University review “Beyond the Fringe”, to become a success on BBC TV and later the stage. His cabaret act with Peter Cook toured the world.

Dudley kept up with his piano playing. He joined John Dankworth’s orchestra and although a good accompanist for singer Cleo Laine, he was asked to leave because of his difficulty in restraining his own exuberant improvisations. He formed his Jazz Trio, which was enormously popular for regular club work, television programmes and international tours. He also ventured into the world of composing music in the classical style for ballet and opera and wrote the scores for six films.

In the 1970s Hollywood beckoned him to become the popular comedic character leaving a little scope for his musical talents; he would play the piano to amuse his restaurant patrons, or take gigs at various clubs. In June 2001 he was created a Commander of the British Empire (CBE). Despite his deteriorating condition he attended the ceremony at Buckingham Palace to collect his honour.

He died from a rare degenerative brain disorder similar to Parkinson’s disease, alone and wandering in a strange foggy world without the use of mind or hands to create his beloved music. Dudley Moore had certainly made his mark on the world of show business, but for many people like me he will always be remembered for his incredible musical talents, especially as a jazz pianist.