Pianist Bob Sedergreen has won the 2008 Don Banks Music Award, Australia’s most valuable individual music prize.

Australia Council music board chair Dr Graeme Koehne presented the $60,000 award in Melbourne tonight.

“Bob has made an inestimable contribution to Australia’s musical and cultural identity over the course of his extensive career. A highly gifted pianist and composer and an inspiring educator and mentor, he has helped create the distinctive voice that is Australian jazz music,” says Dr Koehne.

“His impact and influence in performance, composition and education have secured his status as a national treasure. The Don Banks Music Award 2008 is recognition of this important contribution.”

Bob said he was deeply honoured to receive the award, and to “join such a distinguished alumni of award recipients, all of whom have had such a profound impact on Australian music.”

Bob has had a long and distinguished career as a performer, bandleader and educator. He has collaborated with leading Australian artists, such as John Sangster, Don Burrows, Brian Brown and Judy Jacques, and supported some of the biggest names in jazz, including Nat Adderley, Dizzy Gillespie and Milt Jackson.

He has recorded many albums and toured extensively in Australia and overseas, including Canada, Malaysia and Europe.

In 1990, Bob won the inaugural Jazz Award for Australia’s best keyboardist. In 2006, the Victorian Arts Centre awarded him The Kenneth Myers Medallion for contributions to the arts, the first musician to receive the award.

Born in British Palestine in 1943, he moved to Australia in 1951. He played with the Fred Bradshaw Quartet (1962-70), Ted Vining Trio (1971-72), Alan Lee’s Plant (1973), Brian Brown’s Quintet (1974) and Brian Brown’s Quartet (1977).

In the 1980s, Bob worked with the Australian Jazz Ensemble, Onaje and Peter Gaudion’s Blues Express and the popular Blues on the Boil.

In The Oxford Companion to Australian Jazz, Bruce Johnson described Bob as “One of the most creative and emotionally intense pianists in Australia, a player of great power”.

As an educator, Bob has lectured at the Victorian College of the Arts and the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Music. He has also been an artist-in-residence at many Victorian secondary schools.

The Don Banks Music Award is one of the most prestigious prizes in Australian music and is awarded annually to a distinguished artist who has made an outstanding and sustained contribution to the art form.

Past award recipients include Bernie McGann, composer Richard Meale AO MBE, music educator John Curro AM MBE, composer Peter Sculthorpe AO OBE, singer/songwriter Bunna Lawrie, and conductor Richard Gill OAM.

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The Age