Brilliant pianist Will Poskitt died tragically in hospital on November 8th. at the age of 31 after suffering from pneumonia. A full-time musician throughout his career, he was best-known nationally as a finalist in the Wangaratta Festival’s 2006 National Piano Jazz Awards, and as a member of the Christopher Hale Ensemble, with whom he recorded three albums. A modest and universally admired member of the Melbourne jazz scene, his sudden loss has been a deep shock to the local scene.

Born in England on June 20, 1977, he grew up there and in Canberra and Armidale. He came to Melbourne to undertake the V.C.A. course (he was accepted into both Classical and Improv streams, and choose the Improv one, completing it in 2000). He went on to do a Masters course in 2005 with the highly respected classical pianist Donna Coleman as his teacher, concentrating on classical repertoire.
He had initially emerged onto the Melbourne jazz scene by performing with V.C.A. peers, such as in Tony Gray’s Circa and Glass Trio projects. He was also featured in a trio, Poskitt-Robertson-Guthrie, formed by experienced bassist Ben Robertson, who combined with the two outstanding young talents of Poskitt and drummer Will Guthrie.
While generally seen as a more melodic soloist, he also had a substantial stint with the more adventurous ensemble Musikki Oy, and the trio of drummer Ted Vining, who particularly admired Poskitt’s strong rhythmic feel in both contexts. He also performed with the Emma Gilmartin Quartet.

Poskitt was highly respected by his peers, who often raved about his various abilities, such as his sight-reading, flawless technique, rhythmic feel, long improvised lines, and overall musicality. In a scene rich with pianists, Poskitt was not always as featured as centrally in the scene as his talent deserved. This was partially because of his modest nature, lacking the type of ambitious personality to push forward for opportunities. And also because he was often doing performances away from the local jazz scene. In 2002, for instance, he was working popular gigs in Darwin after performing Stravinsky’s technically-demanding “The Rite of Spring” score here in piano duet with Helena Kernaghan (both at the Iwaki Auditorium, and later at the Chopin Festival at Hamer Hall). In more recent years he dabbled in part-time work as a male model, and also worked accompanying cabaret artists, including the Soubrettes, and Vaudeville X.

Fortuitously, the Christopher Hale Ensemble provided an ideal collaborative showcase for Poskitt’s diverse talents. Fortunately still, its development was document in three albums and an international collaboration (due to some far-sighted Australia Council support for Hale’s proposal).
Bass guitarist/composer Chris Hale premiered this project group in 2001 with cellist Will Mattina, guitarist Stephen Magnusson and Poskitt. With three stringed instruments, the pivotal fourth voice was that of pianist Poskitt. As Hale described it, the concept was “exploring the subtle dark string timbres and earthy lower voicings of the instrumentation, balanced by the rich, lyrical piano of Poskitt, exploring textural improvisation and counterpoint in original works and excerpts from classical repertoire”. Their premiere performance was released on CD as “The February Concert” (on UAR), after The Age reviewer, Jessica Nicholas, wrote that, “This was music that quite literally glowed – it was so beautiful it almost made the audience afraid to applaud.” – Concert review, The Age, May 2001
They released their second album, “A Way To Be Fine” (on UAR) as a trio (after the group unexpectedly lost Magnusson for their extended 2003 stay at The Banff Centre, Canada, and then New York). After collaborations with NYC-based musicians Josh Roseman and John Stetch at Banff, they workshopped and recorded all original material there with a more structured, song-based approach, as well as expanding on their ensemble sound, with Poskitt adding Fender Rhodes electric piano and accordion to his piano.
NYC-based trombonist Josh Roseman came here in 2005 to record with the group, with the resultant album, “kodaly//we are none of us precious” (UAR/Stomp label) being critically acclaimed both here and internationally.
Poskitt toured a lot with the Christopher Hale Ensemble, including Canada and New York twice, as well as Denmark. He and Hale also spent time in Spain.
Poskitt and vocalist Gian Slater had just finished tracking for a duo album of originals, which was due to be released in late November. This year he was also performing as a member of a new version of the Anton Delecca Quartet, and this also an excellent showcase for him in a more straight-ahead context. Fortunately Delecca organised a video filming of a performance at the Paris Cat in March, and some recording. There is video of eight tracks on his website:
In tribute to Poskitt, Delecca has posted on his website, “He was a beautiful person, always a pleasure to be around, and also one of the most amazing and talented musicians I’ve ever had the privilege of playing with. He will be greatly missed by everyone in the Melbourne music scene. We are all feeling his loss very deeply”.

According to Christopher Hale, “He was playing amazingly (on the recordings with Slater). I think most people know what he was like as a person and a musician, though I’m not sure if people really understood how brilliant he was… .unlike any other piano player really”.

His funeral service is being held at Fawkner Memorial Park’s Crick Chapel, Sydney Road, North Coburg, on Friday, November 14th. at 2 p.m., with Donna Coleman providing musical accompaniment. A wake will be staged at The Peacock Inn Hotel (corner High Street and Bastings Street, Northcote) from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., with drinks and finger food provided.

Pictured: The Christopher Hale Ensemble, with Poskitt seated behind Hale, and Mattina standing.

Hash Varsani is the owner of The Jazz Directory, a network of sites related to jazz, travel and everything else he loves. He also runs a selection of jazz related sites including Jazz Club Jury, a jazz club and festival review site. Check out his Google+ Profile, to see what else he's up to...probably setting up another website from one of his many passions.