SOUNDS OF OUR TOWN
QUEENSLAND JAZZ MEMORIES
The Queensland Jazz Memories project saw Dr Lauren Istvandity work with both community and institutional branches of the Queensland Jazz Archive to increase the number of stories, music, and ephemera about the development of jazz music in the state under preservation.
Though the rise of jazz music in Australia has received some attention, the focus is on bigger city hubs of Sydney and Melbourne. Yet Queenslanders also danced, partied, and courted to the sounds of jazz – from as early as the 1920s. Much of this history now lies within the personal archives and memories of artists and audiences who lived these experiences firsthand.
COMPONENT 1: REMINISCING ABOUT JAZZ IN QUEENSLAND
The collection of materials about Queensland jazz sits between a community-run branch, and a small archive held at the State Library of Queensland. Both contain some important yet sparsely dated materials – when the project commenced in 2017, there were hints of jazz activity in the 1940s and '50s in these collections, and an increasing number of items dated from the 1980s onwards.
With an aim to fill this gap, Lauren travelled around Queensland seeking out oral histories, recordings, and any other pieces of ephemera that could help tell the story of jazz in Queensland prior to 1980. She was gifted a great many things including photographs, meeting minutes, programs, newspaper clippings, and posters, along with some valuable recordings, many bootlegged from the ABC radio series 'Short and Sweet'.
The project captured striking stories not only about musicians and bands, but also venues – such as The Adventurer’s Club and The Primitif that were integral to hosting jazz nights, regularly sneaking around Queensland’s conservative regulations on liquor licensing and opening hours. Musicians described how they came across the right instruments and learnt how to play jazz from others in a time before jazz tuition became formalised. Stories were also told of the influence of overseas styles as crucial to the maintenance of jazz in Queensland. From the US Army band stationed in Brisbane and Townsville during World War 2, to the pickup of the UK’s trad jazz revival, Queensland has followed global trends.
As many of these oral histories as possible, alongside music recordings and ephemera, have been donated to the State Library of Queensland where they are undergoing digitisation.
Sinnamon, S, 2015, 'Opening of the Trocadero Dansant (1923)', State Library of Queensland, 15 May.
Istvandity, L, 2017, 'Queensland Jazz Memories – Protecting histories of pre-1970s jazz scenes', State Library of Queensland, 11 October.
Istvandity, L, 2018,'Queensland Jazz and the Australian Musicians' Union', State Library of Queensland, 17 April.
Istvandity, L, 2018, 'Defence Force Bands and the Development of Jazz in Queensland', State Library of Queensland, 8 October.
COMPONENT 2: TRADING FOURS WITH QUEENSLAND JAZZ HERITAGE
The Trading Fours project draws on the initial research undertaken for Queensland Jazz Memories. This was a practice-based research project bringing together present-day composers and performers with the heritage material of Queensland jazz.
With the commission of eight new jazz compositions inspired by previously unseen heritage material, local composers and performers reanimate pieces of Queensland’s past in conversation with current trends in jazz. These new works were recorded by a super-group of Queensland jazz musicians (dubbed The Riversides), in studios on the Gold Coast.
The resulting suite of music, together with the experience of composers and performers forms provocative territory to enquire about the ways compositional practice, performance, and heritage can intersect, and highlights the value of thinking creatively about the preservation of cultural heritage.
19 October 2019
The album Trading Fours: Celebrating Queensland Jazz Memories was launched in late 2019. It is available for free download from Bandcamp here.
Johnson, B (ed.), 2016, Antipodean Riffs: Essays on Australasian Jazz, Equinox Publishing, Sheffield.
Johnson, B, 2008, 'Australian Jazz: An Overview', in S Homan and T Mitchell (eds), Sounds of Then, Sounds of Now: Popular Music in Australia, ACYS Publishing, Hobart, pp. 113–129.
Johnson, B, 2011, 'The Australianisation of Jazz: A Strange Outcome of Media Convergence', in Instruments of Change: Proceedings of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music Australia-New Zealand 2010 Conference, International Association for the Study of Popular Music, Melbourne.
Johnson, B, 1995, 'Australian Jazz in Post-War Europe', Perfect Beat, vol. 2, no. 3, pp. 49–64.
Neuenfeldt, K, 2014, '"I Wouldn't Change Skins with Anybody": Dulcie Pitt/Georgia Lee, a Pioneering Indigenous Australian Jazz, Blues and Community Singer', Jazz Research Journal, vol. 8, no. 1–2, pp. 202–222.
Scott-Maxwell, A, 2014, 'Early Jazz in Australia as Oriental Exotica', Jazz Research Journal, vol. 8, no. 1–2, pp. 52–70.
Whiteoak, J, 1994, '"Jazzing" and Australia's First Jazz Band', Popular Music, vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 279–295.
Component 1 of this project, Reminiscing About Jazz in Queensland, was supported by funding from a State Library of Queensland John Oxley Library Fellowship (2017) and from Griffith University's Queensland Conservatorium Research Centre.
Component 2 of this project, Trading Fours with Queensland Jazz Heritage, was supported by funding from a Griffith University Arts, Education and Law Group New Researcher Grant.