9 July 2018
Wal Gregory (1938-2018)
Composer, arranger and trombonist Wal Gregory passed away in the afternoon of 30 June at his home in Tarrawanna, Wollongong NSW, at the age of 79. Born in Bathurst on 26 October 1938, Wal gained his love for music from his father, a semi-professional musician in Sydney before moving to Bathurst in the year of Wal's birth. In his teens, Wal was able to start playing with his father, receiving encouragement and advice from him and his musician friends. Wal also learnt music from books, scores, by listening and from friends.
After leaving school, in 1958, Wal Gregory moved to Wollongong and got involved with its then limited jazz scene, arranging and composing music for himself and his friends to play. In 1962, he gave music up for some years, establishing a family and studying to be a registered surveyor. He was enticed back to music in 1969 and played in club bands and in a big band in the 1970s, contributing arrangements for the bands to play. In 1977, the self-taught musician attended a course of jazz studies at the Sydney Conservatorium to improve his skills, writing arrangements for big and small band under George Brodbeck.
Wal began using his new skills in the newly founded EROS Big Band - EROS continued to be a supporter of Wal's compositions and arrangements from then onwards, and when the founder of the band passed away in 2007, Wal took over his position as musical director, a position he retained until his death. As a trombonist, he also mentored many young musicians in the band. Wal also composed for a variety of other groups.
Wal Gregory's compositions and arrangements are synonymous with the Wollongong jazz scene, with many bands, including EROS, the South Coast Big Band and the Wollongong Conservatorium Jazz Orchestras, playing his repertoire. He was a big supporter of other composers' music and in the audience of every jazz performance in Wollongong. He continued arranging and composing all through his life, with a 2017 composition entitled Frog Island among his last pieces.
Wal Gregory said of his music, "I try to make my music interesting (sometimes challenging) to play and to listen to. Sometimes I am guilty of adding a bit of deviant humour. I believe music is meant to be enjoyed (even the so called heavy classics like Wagner) and those who play my music all do that."
Wal Gregory was a member of APRA and the Music Arrangers' Guild of Australia and an Associate artist with the AMC since 2001.
> Wal Gregory's funeral service will be held on Saturday 14 July, 2018 at 10am at Hansen & Cole Funerals, Kembla Grange.
> Wal Gregory - AMC profile
Warm thanks to the Illawarra-based trombonist and band leader Des Cannings for bringing us up-to-date about Wal Gregory's latest work.
© Australian Music Centre (2018) — Permission must be obtained from the AMC if you wish to reproduce this article either online or in print.
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