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25 June 2012

Graeme Bell 1914-2012

jazz world mourns the passing of a father figure

Graeme Bell in 2007 Image: Graeme Bell in 2007  
© Photo courtesy of the Music Show, ABC RN

The Australian jazz world mourns the passing of a father figure - the legendary pianist, composer and bandleader Graeme Bell (1914-2012) passed away in Sydney on 13 June at the age of 97.

Bell was born in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond to an artistic family and started learning the piano at an early age. Recruited to his first jazz band in 1935 by his older brother Roger, Graeme Bell went on to establish several bands of his own. 'I was more interested in composing and arranging than I was actually in my own playing. My instrument was the band', said Bell in a radio interview in 2003.

His early fame was made through successful European concerts of his Australian Jazz Band in 1947. Back in Australia, he founded a record label, toured for the ABC, performed in clubs, and hosted a television show. He continued touring overseas as well as in Australia, and established his famous Graeme Bell All Stars in 1962. Bell went on performing into his 90s, and made more than 1,500 recordings over his long career. He was also an active promoter of other musicians, and had a particularly important role during the post-war years in reviving traditional jazz not only in Australia but also internationally.

Graeme Bell was made a Member of Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1978 and an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for services to music in 1990. He was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 1997. The yearly Australian jazz awards, the Bell Awards, are named in his honour.

Further links

ABC Jazz - Graeme Bell (links, audio, Youtube tracks)
'Graeme Bell - father of Australian jazz' - interview with Graeme Bell on The Music Show (ABC Radio National, first broadcast 2003)
'Grand old man of jazz had boyish sparkle' - obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald (16 June 2012)
'Jazz pianist led local dance music revival' - obituary in the Australian (15 June 2012)
ABC Jazz: Remembering Graeme Bell (Jazztrack - recordings from 1947 to 2008)
'Jazz legend Graeme Bell dies, aged 97' - The Age (14 June 2012)
'Jazz legend Graeme Bell dies aged 97 ' - The Australian (14 June 2012)
'Jazz legend Graeme Bell dies at 97' - ABC News (15 June 2012)

Subjects discussed by this article:

The Australian Music Centre connects people around the world to Australian composers and sound artists. By facilitating the performance, awareness and appreciation of music by these creative artists, it aims to increase their profile and the sustainability of their art form. Established in 1974, the AMC is now the leading provider of information, resources, materials and products relating to Australian new music.


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