The reception of jazz in Adelaide and Melbourne and the creation of an Australian sound in the Angry Penguins decade


  • Bruce Clunies Ross University of Copenhagen (retired)



jazz, Australia, Graeme Bell, Roger Bell, Ade Monsbourgh, Dave Dallwitz, Southern Jazz Group, Max Harris, Ern Malley, Angry Penguins, Inez Cavanaugh, Tom Pickering, Cedric Pearce


This article re-examines some of the arguments in ‘An Australian Sound’ (Clunies-Ross 1979) suggesting that jazz in Melbourne and Adelaide in the 1940s was developing distinctive local attributes, before it was swamped by the international revival of traditional jazz. Jazz developed in Adelaide and Melbourne simultaneously with modernism in literature and the visual arts, and was associated with the formation of the Contemporary Art Society in both cities. The poet Max Harris took an interest in jazz and was perhaps responsible for the introductions leading to the first Australian jazz convention, in 1946, which brought the Graeme Bell band and the Southern Jazz Group together. He added jazz sections in his magazine Angry Penguins and its off-shoot, which formed the programme of the first convention. Local jazz experts debated Australian developments in the pages of these magazines, in the context of contributions from New York and London. Australian sounds in jazz culminated in the forty-five original tunes recorded for the ABC by Dave Dallwitz with the second Southern Jazz Group in 1951, and then they faded, until Dallwitz re-emerged as a jazz musician in the 1970s and recorded a lot of original music, including the Ern Malley Suite, which brought him international recognition and confirmed the distinctive qualities of Australian jazz in what is now identified as the ‘traditional’ mode.

Author Biography

Bruce Clunies Ross, University of Copenhagen (retired)

Bruce Axel Clunies Ross was Professor of English at the University of Copenhagen before his retirement.


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How to Cite

Clunies Ross, B. (2015). The reception of jazz in Adelaide and Melbourne and the creation of an Australian sound in the Angry Penguins decade. Jazz Research Journal, 8(1-2), 91–110.