Stephen Magnusson is considered one of Australia’s most accomplished, versatile and distinct musicians with incredible technique and an astoundingly beautiful tone. His hectic schedule shows that he is a delight to work with and someone that has ‘something to say’ in the world of improvised music.
He was given his first ukulele at 3, his first guitar at 6 and began performing at 10 on an electric guitar that he loaned from his schoolteacher. At 13, he started to study under the guidance of Gordon Pendleton at the Box Hill Tafe and discovered the world of improvised music.
In 1986, he studied at the esteemed Victorian College of the Arts under the supervision of some of Australia’s finest musicians – Tony Gould, Bob Sedergreen and Mike Doyle. Here he expanded his practice regime and playing. He joined various bands playing numerous styles and developed an understanding of different methods. But, his main focus remained, to develop and hone the craft of mastering the guitar.
He travelled to Europe and lived there and after being appointed on the staff at The Academy of Contemporary Music (Zurich) in 1997, Stephen met his long time collaborator – Sergio Beresovsky. They began to perform regularly with Swedish bassist – Bjorn Meyer and in the July of the same year, Australian saxophonist Julien Wilson travelled to meet and play with the trio. After the first week of playing, they formed SNAG and produced a self-titled album (released in Australia ‘Hey Guess What’).
After 3 years of living in Zurich, Stephen returned to Melbourne in August 2000. He entered the National Jazz Award at Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival, were he tied for first place amongst much controversy. At this festival he performed with his trio featuring Sergio and Eugene Ball. This recorded result is captured on the CD ‘Healing Songs’.
He has worked with many artists including Charlie Haden, Meshell Ndegeocello, Ricki Lee Jones, Sinead O’Connor, John Cale, Gurrumul Yunupingu, Paul Grabowsky, Vince Jones, Katie Noonan, Lisa Young, Christine Sullivan, Michelle Nicole, Martin Breeze, The Assumptions Trio, Megan Washington, Paul Kelly, Jim Black, Mike Nock, Barney McAll, Enrico Rava, Arthur Blythe and many others. As a part of the Katie Noonan trio Elixir, the ensemble won the ARIA for Best Jazz Album in 2011.
In 2013, Stephen was awarded the Melbourne Prize for Outstanding Musician, and the Australian Jazz Bell Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Album with his quartet MAGNET (with Carl Pannuzzo, Eugene Ball and Sergio Beresovsky).
Stephen is currently concentrating on writing for his duo Boundaries with Frank DiSario, and trio MAG featuring DiSario and Dave Beck. He will also be completing the second release from MAGNET, SOM.
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)