Vale Bob Barnard – Specials
Australian jazz icon Bob Barnard has died aged 88. Alongside his brother Len, the trumpeter and cornetist played a key role in establishing the Australian jazz scene in the 1950s.
The family has always played a key role in Bob Barnardit is the sound. Born in 1933, he comes from a musical line and has never stopped passing on his knowledge and experience to his children and even his grandchildren.
With a taste for Louis Armstrong and Bix BeiderbeckeBarnard initially chose the cornet instead as a way to fill a hole in the family band, but soon performed professionally alongside his brother and drummer. Leon Barnard.
Imagine life in Melbourne after the war, a time when the city was flourishing and expanding outward. An influx of music from America poured into local record stores and young musicians eagerly wrapped their ears in the sounds of heavy spaniel, Superimposed Johnson and Sidney Bechet. A young Bob Barnard was in the middle of it all. He noted in Mike Williams’ encyclopedic book The Australian Jazz Explosion that “…these were great days, roaring days.“
However, life as a young Australian jazz musician in the 1950s also had its quirks. Tours went bankrupt, sessions failed, musicians had to work day shifts, and music money was relatively scarce. Barnard’s big breakthrough came after 10 years of hard gigging on Australia‘s east coast.
Pianist Graeme Bell had booked him for an engagement in Sydney and Barnard dropped everything to be there. Yet at the last minute the gig fell through, but with tickets booked for Sydney and no job in Melbourne, Barnard went anyway – and it turned out to be a successful move. From their meeting, Bell put together his revered “All Stars” jazz outfit with Bob on trumpet and the group would remain together for most of the 1960s.
“If recorded evidence and first-hand knowledge of witnesses who have visited the United States can be accepted, [Bob Barnard] is at least equal to any trumpeter playing in the traditional style anywhere in the world… there is a majesty to his music that is balanced by a glorious lyricism.”
Mike Williams, 1981
After working with the Graeme Bell Group for several years, Barnard settled permanently in Sydney. He began leading his own bands, adding to his work as a first-call sideman. A host of memorable sessions appeared during this time on Australian label Swaggie Records. Originally created by Bell in the 1940s, the label enjoyed great success under the watchful eye of the pianist Nevill Sherburn and Barnard was a regular on many iconic Swaggie releases.
Barnard became a household name in the 80s, appearing regularly in television performances on ABC, Channel 7 and Channel 9. He also teamed up with outfits like the Kenny Powell Orchestra, recording music for the ABC’s legacy radio show “Music To Midnight” hosted by Ian Neil.
Another milestone was his collaborations with the New Zealand-born singer. ricky may. Perhaps most notable was their tribute to Barnard’s idol – Louis Armstrong. In fact, he was actually able to perform (very briefly) with Satchmo on a 1963 Australian tour when Armstrong left the plane for Graeme Bell’s band performing on the tarmac. For the tribute, Barnard and May worked closely with the Julien Lee Orchestra, album release just fool Around with ABC Music in 1987.
In 1990 Barnard was made a Member of the Order of Australia in recognition of his service to the arts in Australia. In 2010 Barnard was inducted into the Australian Jazz “Bell” Award Hall Of Fame.
Bob Barnard will be remembered as one of Australia’s most revered jazz musicians – a master craftsman whose powerful, rich tone and flamboyant style helped define the sound of early Australian jazz. He and his peers like Graeme Bell, Errol Buddle and his brother Len helped lay the foundation for what is now a thriving music culture. Although he was always inspired by American musicians, he helped distill that Americanized style and made it his own as an Australian performer and composer – and his myriad of excellent recordings continue to testify to this.
Barnard also passed the music down to his family. Coming from a family of musicians, his offspring continue to carry on the Barnard legacy. His son Tony Barnard is a London-based guitarist, while his other son Adam Barnard is a drummer. His grandchildren Casey Golden and Beautiful Golden are also successful musicians in their own right. As the old saying goes: what goes around, comes back.