A STORY OF JAZZ IN SYDNEY

The 1970s and 80s were a unique and exceptional time for jazz in Sydney Australia. In the inner city area there was jazz everywhere. every pub, club and restaurant had a jazz group and it wasn't all watered down jazz for the average punter either. The music was new, fresh and vibrant and the people came to hear it in droves.

Sydney is no stranger to jazz, it has a long history of involvement with the music, going back to the 1920s in fact. During the 40s and 50s the big band era was well represented in Australia, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne where dancing was the thing.

Following this blurb is a very brief outline of the tale. The full story would only probably be of interest to those who were there, or those interested in the history of jazz worldwide.

If you would like the full text (which prints out to about 60 A4 pages) then just email me..PLEASE NOTE...substitute the usual "@" symbol for the word (cat) and substitute the usual dot (.) symbol for the word (hot). This coding is to stop spambots from finding the address and sending me 1000s of unwanted spams..... so here is the coded address

boothman123(cat)yahoo(hot)com(hot)au

I would be happy to send it to you (free of charge of course) as an email attachment. Please note I only access the net once a week so replies sometimes take a while.

You can also find out more about Australian Jazz by checking out the entry in Wikipedia titled Australian Jazz. I have written some of that, mainly re the 70s and beyond, and that piece has links to Wikipedia articles I have done on important contributors to Australian Jazz such as Roger Frampton, John Pochee and Horst Liepolt. (I am also in the process of doing a Wikipedia entry for Howie Smith).

Those Wikipedia articles also have a link at the bottom to the full version of "A Story of Jazz in Sydney" on the net, if you want to have a browse through it.

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A number of events took place in Sydney in the 1970s that turned our city into a centre for jazz that would rival New York or Paris at their peak.

A jazz club called The Basement was opened in 1973 by a former caterer, Bruce Viles. Bruce hired Horst Liepolt to do publicity and book the more contemporary bands that would appear in the early nights of the week. The club turned out to be a huge success and the place was packed 6-7 nights a week with jazz fans listening to local players and sometimes touring artists like Miroslav Vitous and Freddie Hubbard would play there.

Horst Liepolt is a dynamo when it comes to jazz production and publicity. When he left Sydney in 1981 he went to New York and is well known for his NY clubs Sweet Basil and Lush Life, where he booked musicians such as Art Blakey, Gil Evans, Doc Cheatham, Red Garland and the list goes on. He also produced a large number of albums, including Gil Evans' "Bud and Bird" which won a Grammy Award.

When he was active in Sydney in the 70s and 80s Horst produced concerts, established a jazz record label, the 44 label, produced a jazz magazine and a whole lot more. His "Music Is an Open Sky" concerts brought contemporary jazz to people who had never heard it before.

Another factor in the "Jazz Explosion" in Sydney was the establishment of the first Jazz Studies course in the Southern Hemisphere at the Sydney Conservatorium in 1973. Local saxophonist Don Burrows started the ball rolling and it was decided to bring Howie Smith to Australia to help set up the course. Howie is a highly respected jazz musician and educator from the USA, and he was recommended for the job by Gary Burton, with whom he had been working at that time.

Not only did Howie do a fine job setting up the course, he was also very active in the jazz scene, notably with the local group Jazz Co-op, which was Roger Frampton (piano and sax) Phil Treloar (drums) and Jack Thorncraft (bass). Howie joined the Co-op soon after arriving in Australia. They packed houses at The Basement and did lots of successful concerts too. Howie stayed here for 3 years, came back a few times later for special concerts, and is now at Cleveland State University as Head of Jazz Studies.

Australia has always had a high standard of jazz musicians and there was a lot of work around at that time that's for sure. For many players (including myself) it was possible to make a decent, albeit modest, living just from playing jazz. That doesn't happen often.

Nearly every inner city pub, club or restaurant had a jazz group and those that didn't were asking "Where can I get one?". Albums by local players (and there were a lot) got loads of airplay on local radio too. Concerts such as The Sydney Festival and the Manly Jazz festival packed them in.

This went on for well over a decade, and it wasn't until the mid 90s that things slowed down a bit in Sydney. It was just the happy chance of the coming together of all the above mentioned events that made it happen. But it proves that, given a chance, jazz can thrive. The people loved the music that was being played, it was fresh, vibrant, new and exciting and those that were there can hardly believe it happened!

Peter Boothman

February 2008

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