Jazz, a music genre normally associated with tiny, smoked filled clubs was championed in style last night at the 2015 Australian Jazz “Bell” Awards. The annual “Bells” took place at the opulent Regent Theatre Ballroom in a room filled not only with humble jazz musicians but also many corporate high flyers who had kindly supported the event. Presented for the first time by award-winning journalist Helen Kapalos, the awards kicked off with a speech by Chairman of the Jazz Bell Awards, Albert Dadon or Al Bare as he’s known to Australian jazz fans. Al implored those in the audience to keep supporting jazz and spoke about the launch of the Australian Jazz Award Academy. He promised to grow the event through the Academy by adding new music industry categories, more in line with the American Grammy Awards and encouraged music lovers to become members of the Jazz Academy. “From 2016, members of the Academy will be eligible to vote for the nomination process,” said Al. “Members of the Award Academy will be members of the Australian Recording Industry, musicians and academics.” (For more information visit http://australianjazzacademy.org.au. )
One of the first awards presented for the evening was the Best Australian Trad Jazz Album, which went to internationally acclaimed jazz stalwart James Morrison for his album ‘A-Z of Jazz’. Morrison’s award was accepted by ABC Music’s Toby Chadd. Toby returned to the stage soon after to collect Sarah McKenzie’s award in the Australian Jazz Vocal Album category for her recording ‘We Could be Lovers’. Chadd explained that McKenzie couldn’t personally accept the award as she had relocated to Paris in order to promote the album and make an assault on the European market.
The recipient of the Young Australian Jazz Artist of the Year Award, James Mustafa proudly accepted his prize and spoke of the inspiration of ‘The Pretty Road’, a composition by Maria Schneider, which he claims he still listens to every single day. Mustufa then took to the stage with trombone in hand to perform with the cracking house band. The big winner of the night was Daniel Susnjar, who took out awards for Best Australian Modern Jazz Album (Su Su Nje) and Best Australian Jazz Song of the Year (Forte Pulse Torte). Daniel also got behind the drum kit of the house band and displayed some amazing stick dexterity. Other winners were Monash Art Ensemble in the Contemporary ‘Avant-garde’ Jazz category, and Mike Nock Octet’s album Suite Sima received the Best Australian Jazz Ensemble award.
Joining a list of distinguished Australian jazz legends, Graham Lyall was this year’s Hall of Fame inductee. Inducted by Gibson Australia’s Con Gallin and Christopher Pyne MP, Lyall spoke fondly of the Australian jazz community and related some great stories on the pioneering days of AustralianTelevision bands. Mike Nock performed a beautiful solo piano piece (captured on video below) and the night finished up with some rousing brass tunes courtesy of Ken Schroder’s Big Band featuring Rebecca Barnard on vocals. It would seem that Australian jazz is in good shape and the late, great Graeme Bell, whom the awards are named after, would be very proud indeed.
The 2015 Australian Jazz Bell Award winners are:
Best Australian Jazz Vocal Album:
Sarah McKenzie – We could be lovers
Best Australian Modern Jazz Album:
Daniel Susnjar – Su Su Nje
Best Australian Contemporary ‘Avant-garde’ Jazz Album:
Monash Art Ensemble : George Lewis ‐ Hexis
Best Australian Traditional Jazz Album:
James Morrison ‐ A-Z of Jazz
Australian Jazz Song of the Year:
Daniel Susnjar ‐ Forte Pulse Torte
Best Australian Jazz Ensemble:
Mike Nock Octet ‐ Suite Sima
Young Australian Jazz Artist of the Year:
James Mustafa Jazz Orchestra ‐ The Last Sanctuary
Mike Nock’s solo piano performance at the 2015 Bells.