Founded by Paul Grabowsky in 1994, The Australian Art Orchestra has built an unparalleled reputation for the breadth and quality of its output. Initially conceived as a contemporary jazz orchestra the group was soon recognised as a serious commissioner and interpreter of new notated works. It also developed a reputation for cross-cultural collaborations that were more ambitious than anything seen in Australian music previously and it delved into hybrid forms well before the terminology for such approaches became commonplace.
The AAO’s work constantly seeks to stretch genres and break down the barriers separating disciplines, forms and cultures. It explores the interstices between the avant-garde and the traditional, between art and popular music, between electronic and acoustic approaches, and creates works that traverse the continuum between improvised and notated forms.
In January 2013, the AAO entered a new period of artistic leadership under the guidance of Artistic Director, Peter Knight. Knight is an internationally acclaimed composer, trumpeter and sound artist who has toured extensively throughout Europe, North America, Asia and Australia, garnering wide acclaim for an eclectic approach that integrates jazz, world music, and experimental traditions.
With its multi-faceted programming initiatives, the AAO fosters and supports a strong and vibrant local contemporary music scene drawing inspiration from Australia’s cultural diversity. Central to this is an ongoing dedication to nurturing and deepening its dialogues with Australian indigenous cultures as well as maintaining strong connections with artistic collaborators in India, Korea, China and Indonesia. The Orchestra has a record of commitment to the notion of a future in which truly new music that integrates Asian and Western influences is part of the cultural fabric of our region.
The Australian Art Orchestra regularly tours both locally and internationally with recent cities including Hong Kong, Toronto, Paris, London, Brisbane and Chennai. It has won numerous awards for its work including three Australian Jazz Bell awards (most recently in 2014), the 2014 AMC/APRA Art Music Award ‘Excellence by an Organisation’, 2013 AMC/APRA Art Music Award ‘Performance of the Year’, a 2010 Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards (Group Award), the H C Coombs Creative Arts Fellowship (2010), a Helpmann Award (2004), and a 2009 Classical Music award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Australian Music in a Regional Area’.
The MJC has premiered several important new projects, including the Paul Grabowsky Orchestra (forerunner to the Australian Art Orchestra) and Andrea Keller’s Bartok Project. On top of this the MJC has regularly debuted interstate acts, providing a vital link in any Australian tour, and exposing Melbourne audiences to the best jazz from across the country. Of note, the MJC provided Melbourne debuts for The Necks, the catholics, Sandy Evans, the Mike Nock Quartet and Bernie McGann Quartet.
Since 1993 the majority of MJC performances have been at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club, though in recent years the regular program expanded to include performances at the Paris Cat, as well as supporting other performances around Melbourne. In 1992 the MJC was responsible for bringing jazz in concert format to the Melbourne Festival for the first time, and in 1997 the MJC founded the Melbourne International Women’s Jazz Festival, organizing the festival until 2004 before handing it over to a Festival Board.The MJC presents the largest program of its type in Australia, and is a crucial element in Melbourne’s diverse arts scene.
Contact Person: Martin Jackson, email: email@example.com
Paul Grabowsky is a pianist, composer, conductor and founder of the Australian Art Orchestra. Born in Papua New Guinea in 1958, and raised in Melbourne Australia, he began classical piano lessons as a five-year-old, studying with Mack Jost from 1965-1978. He began informal studies in jazz around 1976, and devoted his energies fully to improvised music from 1978. Paul lived in Munich, Germany from 1980-1985, where he was active on the local and European jazz scenes, performing and/or recording with Johnny Griffin, Chet Baker, Art Farmer, Benny Bailey, Guenther Klatt, Marty Cook and many others. He returned to Australia in 1986.
In 1983, he formed the Paul Grabowsky Trio, winner of two ARIA awards and still one of Australia’s longest-living and most influential bands. Their latest recording Big Adventure was released in November 2004 on ABC Classics.
As a performer, he became known for his work with the Wizards of Oz, a group he co-lead from 1987-1989 with saxophonist Dale Barlow and Vince Jones, and for whom he was musical director from 1988-89. From 1990-1992 Paul lead the Groovematics, the band on the nightly national television show Tonight Live.
He performs and records regularly with singers Robyn Archer andKatie Noonan (george / Elixir).
In 1994, he founded the Australian Art Orchestra that features the cream of Australian improvising musicians.
Paul produced and presented the television series Access All Areas in 1996, and was Commissioning Editor for ABC Television Arts and Entertainment 1996 -1998.
He is regarded as one of Australia’s foremost screen composers, working with such directors as Fred Schepisi (Empire Falls, Last Orders), Paul Cox (Human Touch, Innocence), John Irvin (The Grooming, Shiner) and Gillian Armstrong (The Last Days of Chez Nous). His television credits are numerous and include the ABC series Phoenix and Janus and the award-winning Channel Ten mini-series Jessica directed by Peter Andrikidis.
His works for the theatre include the operas The Mercenary(1997-99) and Love in the Age of Therapy (2000-2001). His music for the shadow play The Theft of Sita (1999-2000) won a Helpmann award. Before Time Could Change Us – a Song Cycle with lyrics by Dorothy Porter and music by Paul Grabowsky – is scheduled for a 2005 CD release featuring Katie Noonan and the Paul Grabowsky Trio with Scott Tinkler.
In 2004 Tales of Time and Space (Warner) was released to critical acclaim. Paul recorded this in New York with Branford Marsalis,Joe Lovano, Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts, Ed Schuller and Scott Tinkler.
Photo Credit: Jeff Wassmann
Tinkler Rex Grabowsky Edie (2005)
Tales of Time and Space (2004)