Saturday, December 13, 2008

Graeme Bell - Australian Jazz Icon

Graeme Bell - Een Australisch Jazz Icoon! (Nederlands) Graeme Bell - Al Zijn Composities Vastgelegd (Nederlands) Graeme Bell - Australian Jazz Icon (English) Graeme Bell - All Recorded Compositions.(English)

( To a selected Graeme Bell discography.)

GRAEME BELL - Australian Jazz Icon.

Hans Koert

A year ago Bill Haesler, Australian producer, jazz historian and jazz musican contacted me with a request. He needed a clean copy of the Graham Bell composition Rocking Horse Rag as recorded in the early 1950s in Europe. He posted his request at a Keep Swinging blog, titled Rocking Horse Rag, which resulted in a clean copy of the tune played by the Paul Norman Orchestra in 1953. It is one of the 46 tracks of the Graeme Bell 2CD, titled A Compilation of his Recorded Compositions 1947-2007. Today I love to introduce you to the start of his career and this latest Graeme Bell 2CD released earlier this year; in the next contribution I'll introduce you to the rest in Graeme Bell: His Recorded Compostions.

Graeme Bell and his Australian Jazz Band (ca. 1950)

Graeme Bell, piano player, composer and bandleader, born in Melbourne, Australia, 94 years ago, retired a few years ago at the festivities held for his 90th birthday a few years ago. He organised a farewell tour along several Australian venues in Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney and Wagga Wagga, a city west of Canberra. But despite his old age he is still active in music, relied on the latest release, for which he made new arrangments, contributed the liner notes of the tunes and even played the piano on some of the tracks. This record was released this summer on the New Market label ( NEW 32542)

Big Walkabout - Graeme Bell and his Australian Jazz Band ( London, 25th of July 1951)

Born on the 7th of September 1914 he started to play the piano and came into contact with jazz thanks to his younger brother Roger, who passed away this summer and to whom he dedicated his latest 2CD. In 1935 he and his brother Roger played at a dance band famous in Melbourne and surroundings. In 1940 he founded his first jazz band named The Graeme Bell Jazz Gang, but, due to the Second World War ( Australia too became one of the fighting forces), it was disbounded. After the war he formed a Dixieland Band and was one of the organizators of the First Australian Jazz Convention in December 1946. In June 1947 he recorded for Regal Zonophone and one of the tunes recorded was his first composition The Lizard - well, in fact it was a spontaneous improvisation at the recording session which got the name The Lizard, Graeme commends in the liner notes. Graeme Bell composed 46 tunes and all these tunes have been gathered on this album.

Graeme Bell: Ninety-plus....

The second track in called Czechoslovak Journey, also a Graeme Bell composition, although it remembers to Lu Watters' Big Bear Stomp. It refers to the first trip to Europe with his, then called, Australian Jazz Band, where he played at the World Youth Festival in Prague. The concerts in Prague and later in England were unforgetable and the audience was wildly enthusiastic. The late John R.T. Davies, who was at one of these concert later said about these London concerts: We became drunk with the music, in that moment living, breathing jazz was reborn. No nostalgia, no aping Oliver, but jazz, starting up again from where it had lain dormant for the past fifteen years. I don't think anyone present will ever forget that night.

Graeme Bell: ca. 1970
In the early 1950s Bell had to return to Europe for more concerts. Back in Australia the group was disbanded and Graeme Bell founded his Ragtime Trio / Four, which made him famous in his country. As a member of the Combined Services Entertainment he played for the Australian soldiers in Korea and other hot spots. He also became the house band at the Beverley Hills Bennelong hotel in Sydney and founded his Skiffle Gang; a kind of music that was very popular around those days thanks to musicians like Chris Barber and Ken Colyer. This Skiffle Gang is to be found on this CD too with two tracks: Come Skiffle Chicken and Skiffle Board Blues. (to be continued)

Graeme Bell and his Australian Jazz Band - Australian Archive Series ( 1950s)
Big Bill Broonzy in concert with Graeme Bell & his Australian Jazz Band: Germany, September 1951
Graeme Bell - Chicken and Almonds
Graeme Bell Skiffle Gang - Come Skiffle Chicken
Graeme Bell - Bell's boogie (1958)
Graeme Bell - Australian jazzman - featuring ragtime - jazz and cakewalks (1970s)
Humphrey Lyttelton - Graeme Bell - Backroom Joys (1974)
Graeme Bell and his Dixieland Band (1980)
Graeme Bell All Stars - Graeme Bell jazz (1980s)
Graeme Bell and his Dixieland jazz band: Czechoslovak journey 1947 (1981)
Graeme Bell - The EMI Australian recordings (1990)Graeme Bell - The best of the EMI years (1995)
Graeme Bell & his Australian Jazz Band - The Historical Prague & Paris Recordings (1947-48) (2006)
Graeme Bell Reunion Band - 90 not out (2004)



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