Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Paul Grabowsky is without doubt one of the finest musicians, composers and artistic minds in Australia. Classically trained - he had ambitions to become a conductor, before becoming absorbed in jazz as a teenager - he quit his studies at the Melbourne Conservatorium to concentrate on jazz.
In 1980, he received an Australia Council grant which enabled him to travel to the USA and Europe, where he could accelerate his training as a jazz pianist. He had the chance to work with jazz legends like Chet Baker, Art Farmer and Johnny Griffin.
Then, having settled in Munich, he led his own bands, playing the music of heroes like Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk, before starting to develop his own ideas as a composer.
Paul returned to Melbourne in 1984, convinced that the Australian jazz scene had great potential, and keen to be part of it. He formed a trio with bassist Gary Costello and drummer Allan Browne, which won an ARIA for its first CD ('6x3' on Spiral Scratch). The Paul Grabowsky Trio is an ongoing concern, and won the 1996 ARIA for its second CD, When Words Fail (Origin).
Paul's career has followed several parallel (or sometimes intersecting) paths. As a composer, he has written scores for numerous films and television productions (including the ABC TV series, Phoenixand Janus). From 1990-92, he led the house band on the Seven network's Tonight Live variety show, hosted by Steve Vizard, which helped turn an underground jazz musician into a household name.
More recently, Paul was the co-host of the ABC's 14-part music series, Access All Areas. In 1997 and 1998, he was ABC TV's commissioning editor for Arts & Entertainment.
In the jazz sphere, Paul's trio became a quintet in the late '80s, with the addition of singer Shelley Scown and saxophonist Ian Chaplin. He recorded a series of albums for Warner Music. The first, The Moon And You, featured tracks by the quintet, alongside tracks from a New York session where Paul played with US jazz masters, Dewey Redman and Paul Motian. Tee Vee and Viva Viva were recorded by a sextet featuring US bassist Ed Schuller, which toured nationally and in Europe.
Paul was a member of the Australian Jazz Orchestra, a 10-piece, all-star group assembled for the Bicentennial celebrations in 1988, which toured nationally and in the USA. (Other members included Don Burrows and James Morrison). Another band, Wizards Of Oz, was a co-operative quartet co-led by saxophonist Dale Barlow; they toured Europe in 1989.
Paul has continued to work with Shelley Scown -- he is featured as player and composer on her Origin CD, Angel -- and has also been heard with Vince Jones, [Scott Tinkler], Bernie McGann and Niko Schäuble. He has performed with several international visitors, including Dewey Redman, Johnny Griffin, Sheila Jordan, Cindy Blackman and Steve Lacy.
Paul had long nursed an ambition to let his imagination run wild, writing music for a large jazz ensemble. He got his chance in 1990, when he was invited to arrange some Edith Piaf songs for a Munich-based ensemble, Die Konferenz. The success of this project led to another commission forDie Konferenz, to arrange some German popular songs of the 1930s or earlier.
From there, it was a relatively small step for Paul to conceive Ringing The Bell Backwards. With financial support from the Melbourne Jazz Co-operative, Paul secured a spot in the program for the 1993 Melbourne International Festival of the Arts. The rest is history... and the future.