Tom Pickering

Jazz on the periphery of the periphery

Authors

  • Matthew Joshua Boden University of Tasmania

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/jazz.v10i1-2.29128

Keywords:

Australia, Australian jazz, jazz, Pickering, Tasmania, Tasmanian jazz

Abstract

This article explores the initial encounter with jazz by Tom Pickering, and documents his musical development until the first Australian Jazz Convention in 1946. The AJC is a useful demarcation in time: the broad division in Australian jazz, which still exists, between those pursuing more traditional styles and those focused on modern styles (bebop and beyond) can be traced to this event. Through the examination of the early career of Pickering, the cultural transfer of jazz is explored. I argue that given the sociological environment, scarcity of materials and sheer enthusiasm for the American models, Australian jazz has at its core a distinctive sound that is nevertheless closely related to its American roots. Pickering represents the typical encounter and pursuit of jazz in Australia during the first half of the twentieth century: a teenage introduction to dance music and hot music, experimentation with instrumental performance given little to no tuition, appropriation of the music by imitation of recordings individually and within a group setting, and the relentless consumption of all available information connected to the art form. By taking Pickering as a case study, I will demonstrate the initial period of exposure and appropriation that is common to many Australian jazz musicians, which was crucial in the formation of an Australian jazz sound. Through the dissection of the developmental processes of a typical Australian jazz musician in the former half of the twentieth century, this article sheds new light on the identity of Australian jazz and demonstrates modalities concerning the international movement of musical form. Aside from Bruce Johnson’s work in The Inaudible Music and Timothy Steven’s study of The Red Onions Jazz Band, there is little documentation of the processes of appropriation of traditional jazz styles undertaken by Australian musicians.  This paper explores the initial encounter with jazz by Tom Pickering, and documents his musical development until the first Australian Jazz Convention in 1946.  The AJC is a useful demarcation in time: the broad division in Australian jazz, which still exists, between those pursuing more traditional styles and those focused on modern styles (bebop and beyond) can be traced to this event.  Through the examination of the early career of Pickering, the cultural transfer of jazz is explored.  I argue that given the sociological environment, lack of endemic culture, scarcity of materials and sheer enthusiasm for the American models, Australian jazz has at its core a distinctive sound that is nevertheless closely related to its American roots. Pickering represents the typical encounter and pursuit of jazz in Australia during the first half of the 20th century: a teenage introduction to dance music and ‘hot’ music via radio and gramophone, experimentation with instrumental performance given little to no tuition, appropriation of the music by imitation of recordings individually and within a group setting, and the relentless consumption of all available information connected to the art form. Through the analysis of recordings and journals from the period, and Pickering’s own autobiographical notes, I will elucidate the role of the local importer in the creation of a differentiated jazz approach.  By taking Pickering as a case study, I will demonstrate the initial period of exposure and appropriation that is common to many Australian jazz musicians, which was crucial in the formation of an Australian jazz sound.  Through the dissection of the developmental processes of a typical Australian jazz musician in the former half of the 20th century, this paper sheds new light on the identity of Australian jazz and demonstrates modalities concerning the international movement of musical form.

Author Biography

Matthew Joshua Boden, University of Tasmania

Matt Boden, pianist, composer, arranger, orchestrator and producer, is originally from Hobart, Australia. Prior to his current appointments at the University of Tasmania, Matt was living and working around Europe, based in Paris, France. After completing a Masters in Music Performance in 2003, Matt moved to Melbourne, then Berlin and finally settled in Paris, rapidly establishing himself as a much sought-after pianist and educator, forging relationships that continue to this day. Matt is currently undertaking a PhD in musicology at the Conservatorium. In addition, he is lecturing and tutoring in classical and contemporary streams in units covering jazz theory and aural skills, classical theory and aural skills, jazz history, and ensembles. Matt is currently undertaking a PhD in musicology at the Conservatorium.  In addition, he is lecturing and tutoring in classical and contemporary streams in units covering jazz theory and aural skills, classical theory and aural skills, jazz history, and ensembles.  Matt is also Assistant Musical Director of The Southern Gospel Choir, the Conservatorium's flagship ensemble.  Career Highlights Matt has been the recipient of numerous awards, grants and prizes from various festivals and industry bodies.  In 2011, he won the Australian Jazz Bell award for Best Traditional Jazz Album, with Leigh Barker and The New Sheiks.  In 2008, Matt placed 3rd in the inaugural Boris Vian Concours du Jazz in Paris with his trio.  He was a finalist in the 2013 Wangaratta Jazz Festival National Jazz Awards.   Matt continues to perform at major festivals throughout Australia and internationally on a regular basis.  These festival appearances include The Melbourne International Jazz Festival, The Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues, The Stonnington Jazz Festival, The Paris Jazz Festival, The Jazz Pas Grave Festival (Paris), and The Ascona Jazz Festival (Switzerland).  Matt has performed in leading venues worldwide including Sunset/Sunside (Paris), A-Trane (Berlin), Caveau de la Huchette (Paris), CJW (Shanghai), The Paris Cat, Bennetts Lane, and The BMW Edge (Melbourne).    Matt performs regularly around Australia with leading groups Leigh Barker and The New Sheiks, Panorama do Brasil and Kingston/Boden/Haywood/Jackson.  Matt is continually interested in the development of the musical community in Australia, and is co-curator of the Hobart jazz club '60 Jazz Club' which presents local, national and internationally renowned artists.   Aside from his work as a pianist, Matt is also involved in the arranging, orchestrating and producing business.  His work includes: creating classical orchestrations for film, TV and the stage; arranging for and directing big bands; conducting, and score preparation.  He won the Original Music Composition category in the 2014 Tasmanian Advertising and Design Awards.   Research Interests PhD topic: Ian Pearce: Development, Contributions and Significance to Australian Jazz

Matt is interested in the notions of the importation of musical culture, and its sociological and cultural implications.  The construction of a local canon, issues of appropriation from incomplete data, prevailing attitudes towards popular culture, notions of 'island-ness', (de-) contextualisation and modernity are all of interest.  Aside from his PhD, Matt is interested in research topics pertaining to the performance of original music with Kingston/Boden/Haywood/Jackson, including relationships between performers, notions of musical texture and performance-as-composition.   Supervisors: Dr Anne-Marie Forbes and Assoc. Prof. Andrew Legg

References

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Published

2016-07-25

How to Cite

Boden, M. J. (2016). Tom Pickering: Jazz on the periphery of the periphery. Jazz Research Journal, 10(1-2), 109–125. https://doi.org/10.1558/jazz.v10i1-2.29128

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Section

Articles