The Jammers Bit: The truth…

Jane Little, singer

Kay Young, Singer,

Ivan Sultanoff, bass

Laurie Savage, saxophone

Seems like only 123 years since Adolph S Ochs, then owner of The New York Times, created the famous slogan “All the News That’s Fit to Print,” for that august rag. It is still on the masthead today. We treat it more as an exception than a rule, but it has always been the motto of the Melbourne Jazz Jammers Newsletter, ever since we moved in to Bendigo Towers in three packing cases, a hurry or a fit of pique.

Whatever, now seems like a good time to ring up a few regular jammers, annoy them, and wheedle their life story out of them before they realise they are victims, not guests…What we learnt is that the back story is often quite superior to the sort of racket that the jam sessions can induce..What follows is absolutely true in some cases…

Jane Little, singer

Born an only twin, she first sang at the age of 3 and performed her first gig at the age of 16. Asked for a career highlight, she nominated playing The Lakehouse, Daylesford with 7 piece band Private Practice. This gig ran for years, possibly proving that the clientele at the Lakehouse Daylesford had a high turnover, or short memories, or possibly that the band was quite good..

She then sang Bob Dylan tunes at Port Fairy Jazz Festival in front of around 20,000 people – an extraordinary number even accounting for the fact it probably goes up about 1000 a year….

Little known fact: in her early twenties she was quite a looker. Still is.

She would like to be 36 – a high point in her life from which it has been downhill all the way, but in a good way.

Jane is a confident performer as a regular at the jam sessions although she took a bit of coaxing when she first turned up at the Junktion (0.006 nanoseconds if I remember correctly)– and she secretly likes Diana Krall – so she doesn’t take her jazz too seriously.

Ivan Sultanoff: double bass.

Ivan speaks nearly six languages nearly fluently, goes to Europe every year for the skiing and has a knee reconstruction as soon as he gets back – so he clearly isn’t a very good ski instructor.

He started playing the violin at the age of 10 shortly before Czechoslovakia was invaded by the Russians. Coincidence? You decide.

Asked for a career highlight, he nominated backing The Supremes, and followed that up with the Elton John Tour, John Farnham, and four concerts with Frank Sinatra. Why such a gifted bass player needed Ol’ Blue Eyes to accompany him is a mystery to all of us.

Ivan also nominated the Montreux International Music Festival with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra as a classical highlight; and playing for the three Tenors. Real musos would have had at least four… Ivan reached his peak at 55, and has declined so fast he now plays at Jam Sessions…

The Supremes, on being told Ivan was playing for them:is it me or do they look just a little worried?

Elton John, on being told Ivan was playing for him

                                                   The three tenors, on being told Ivan was playing for Elton John

Kay Young, singer who didn’t set fire to her apartment in November 2014. Lawsuit pending

Kay Young: when she was so poor she couldn’t afford a pair of socks

Started singing at the age of 5, which is before most of us were born. I know for a fact I wasn’t born until I was at least 6…Sang her first paying gig at the age of 18, and nominated her career highlight as singing Garland, Dietrich and Piaf songs at the Sydney Opera House in front of 3,000 people. Pfft! even Joan Sutherland got to sing there…

Kay once flew from Darwin to a shed in Nhulunbuy in a DC3 with a 13 piece band for the Policemen’s and Firemen’s Ball. Half the band smoked weed all night and no one can remember what happened to the Policeman’s ball. She then ate a dodgy prawn or something, got an allergic reaction and ended the night in a Bauxite mine or the local Hospital, although it is not entirely clear (from my notes) which is which.

Kay singing with Bakers Dozen in Darwin.

Kay couldn’t name her worst ever gig – could be any day now… She was on TV in the cast for the last series of the infamous ” No 96 ” and supplied a photo as proof. Fully clothed, I doubt it was authentic.

Preferred age… 33

Has the biggest repertoire of any singer at the Jam Sessions, but a reprehensible habit of converting every tune to a latin number. Probably to upstage Joan Sutherland. Once sang Autumn Leaves in 5/4 at the Grand Hotel. It was appalling…

Laurie Savage, extraordinary saxophone player

Extraordinary because he was 33 before he started playing. Was born in England and didn’t get to Australia until he was 11, by which time, of course, the damage was done.

Age he would like to be: 33 if he could know then what he knows now…

Nominated a Blues Brothers gig at the Club House Hotel in Blainey (NSW) as a career highlight. Half way through the gig the shearers, who were into a bit of biffo, elected to take the fight outside so they wouldn’t interrupt the Band. How respectful!

Worst gig: playing in a paddock up in the Blue Mountains on mid-Winter’s day. Says he had an icicle hanging off his horn. Cool jazz, probably.

Laurie played Castlemaine with Stan Van Hooft in Standing Tall and particularly enjoyed it, but is now reduced to playing at the Jam Sessions.

So there you have it: extraordinary amounts of talent all round. Next week we will have a look at a few more jammers. Maybe even you.

Go to a Festival… Go to a jam session – Get up and boogie soon!

Toodle pip!

The Festival Edition

The Jammers

This week’s gambol in the park looks at the upcoming Festivals – fully aware that anyone who says he can see more than ten minutes into the future these days is either a rabid optimist, an habitual liar or quite possibly a politician.

Or, as it turns out, a Jazz festival organiser…Every event organiser we contacted said they were going ahead – subject to any Government imposed restrictions.

Festivals provide opportunities for a wide range of musicians to perform, to network, and to experience different genres of jazz. For musicians at the start of their musical adventure, this is a great way of getting experience and developing your chops.

Marysville Music Weekend: 16th -18th October 2020

Take note of the name – this has evolved from Jazz and Blues into a more diverse event: Jazz, Blues, Country, Folk – so whatever your musical tastes there is bound to be something you like.. or dislike. First cab off the rank (a month earlier than the next Festival), there has to be some doubt as to whether it will run, but that is true of all the Festivals at this stage.

Applications are open for bands wishing to play.

Wangaratta Jazz and Blues

The 2020 Wangaratta Festival of Jazz will begin on Friday, 30 October and ends on Sunday, 1 November 2020

Wangaratta cancelled in 2019 and needs to dodge Covid19 restrictions this year. The Festival seeks to showcase the best talent, and has had overseas musicians headlining year after year. This is an expensive exercise in hiring bands, and tickets ain’t cheap, but you will get a wide range of musical genres showcased.

First up, Captain Chaos is planning the annual Jammers foray up the Hume for The Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues. The cancellation last year was due to a lack of funds or committee members or something – but the word is that the Festival will happen this year. It has been the Captain’s habit in years gone by to so outrageously exaggerate the delights of Wang that a number of jammers have pedalled up the Hume to join him for a jam session. We have played a number of “off Broadway” sessions at the Bulls Head, (and they have grown more popular each year) and at the craft market which itself has grown over the years.

The Australian Jazz Convention, Albury December 26 – December 31st 2020 (yes I know it is last year’s logo…)

The daddy of them all, and now the longest running Jazz Festival just about anywhere. Last year was a blast (jammers in attendance included Annie Smith, Yuko Onishi, Mike Hirsh, Dave Taylor, meself, Steve Bray and the Captain, Marion Lustig, Jeff Harris and gawd knows who else, but)

This one has musos from all over and a definite bias towards the Trad Revivalists (the young punks and revolutionaries of their day, but that was in 1946). You probably won’t hear too much cutting edge moderne, but great entertainment.

The Port Fairy Jazz Festival:

12th – 14th February 2021 is given as the start date.

This link covers reviews, photos and videos of the 2020 Festival. Word is , the Festival Committee will make a final decision in October 2020– but are planning for the Festival to go ahead at this stage.

The Captain, meself, Mac Beshai and Peter Micevski accompanied Jess Dams at this Festival in February 2020 . We also got to hear some familiar and not so familiar bands. An enthusiastic crowd, mainly of older, wealthier types who come from all over. Port Fairy has an abundance of venues, a huge number of bands playing and “something for everyone”.

Now one of the biggest Festivals in Victoria in a very pretty location.

Newport Jazz Festival, Australia 1st/2nd May 2021

The new kid on the block and the only one in town. This is the Melbourne Jazz Jammers latest effort, deferred from May 2020. Wqe already have 60 bands registered and, thanks to the Covid19 inspired deferral, now have room for up to 72 bands.

Registrations are (technically) open right now, so if you are dead keen, put in an application. Otherwise, the Committee will be reconvening in December 2020, and looking for volunteers for all the various tasks that have to be done to make a Festival work.

Merimbula Jazz Festival

Queens Birthday weekend in 2021 (June 11th – 14th)

They have not yet announced a band list for the 2021 Festival, although it is likely to include all the bands that registered for the 2020 event which was cancelled: a pity because we got some very good reports on the 2019 Festival – seems like Merimbula is getting back to its best.

The Festival draws big bands and school bands from Canberra, has the $1,500 Jazz Quest for younger musicians ; and has a loyal base of trad bands as well as more modern jazz – that’s the sort where you might say “Is it still jazz?” but will like it heaps anyway. Six Venues altogether, so if there is a limit on crowd numbers, the Festival may still go ahead, but on a reduced basis.

Castlemaine Jazz Festival: date to be announced

All the information on this one appears to relate to the (2020) cancelled festival. Despite most residents of Castlemaine now claiming to be personally responsible for setting it up, this was the Festival originally set up by the Melbourne Jazz Jammers, mainly to prevent Captain Chaos from getting bored… – it worked… John Hannah and Ken Turnbull were the first locals off the mark.

We would expect the dates to be June 11th – 14th
June 2021 (Queens Birthday Weekend). Castlemaine has increasingly had a focus on younger musicians.

Inverloch Jazz Festival Friday 5th March 2021 – Monday 8th March 2021

Inverloch got lucky – they just squeezed in a Festival before the lockdown. They have run three venues for the last few years, and seem to be expanding again – which is good because this gives more opportunity for upcoming bands to get a spot.

Expect plenty of trad, some good more contemporary bands and lots happening in the street.

Go to a Festival… Get up and boogie!

So there you have it – as things stand at the moment. If you would like to play at a Festival, and are looking for a band, start by contacting Captain Chaos, and we will hopefully find you a spot. We will publish updates on all the Festivals as news comes to hand.

Stay tuned, stay healthy, stay 1.5m apart, unless you are American, in which case make it 6 foot. Good luck with that.

Next Newsletter will be the Featured Jammers edition – hopefully the true history of some of the regular jammers.

Cream in our coffee? Cucumber sandwiches on the lawn? No more tea for me, Mama, I’m going to fly my aeroplane…

Toodle pip!

The Story So Far

The Venue Menu – places we have destroyed

I am deeply indebted to some of the longest surviving jammers for their thoughts on the various places we have played – particularly Mike Hirsh who hasn’t let his failing memory or love of carpet diminish his thoughts. I must confess I thought the winning venue would be a lay down misere for the original Dizzy’s, but the various aforementioned jammers saw all sorts of advantages to the other joints. The fact that they are all now shut in no way detracts from our considerable efforts in sending a few of them to the wall ourselves.

So, to the Venue Rating Stakes:

POCKOTL, audience: The original princess of the cool and keeper of the list. Known for her occasional propensity for dancing on the tables clutching a gladioli and waving a hand thrown green porcelain jug, in defiance of the vague requirements for propriety that is the bane of all licensed establishments.

Favourite: The Glasshouse. POCKOTL recalls, quite rightly, evenings when the likes of Adam Rudegair and Anna Gilkison showed us how it should be done…

Least Favourite: The Night Cat

Gentleman John Curtis, piano:

A late starter for the Stakes. A mainstay of the jams over the years, whose piano playing has become increasingly sophisticated, particularly after being sent to the Jazz school in France for bad behaviour or something.

Favourite: old Dizzy’s in Swan Street – great setup with grand piano on stage, bar at back and audience space. Intimate, best acoustics and convenient location. First experience of jamming.
Least Favourite: Night Cat – Too large, not suited to jazz, very reverberant , poor layout, awkward location.

The Phillips, drummer: surprise runner, so modest we almost missed him.

Favourite: Picked Dizzy’s, and why not – the only venue with a grand piano, some surprising talent over the years, the original and best, where Paul got back to jazz as a drummer, after a 30 year hiatus, and has been going downhill ever since.

Least Favourite: Asked which was his least favourite, his reply is:

“Very difficult to think of a “worst” as any room with a bunch of people playing jazz, fuelled by alcohol, is going to be OK.

Carpet Hirsh: had to be prompted to get out of the stalls, but came up with a detailed assessment on mature reflection:

Dizzy’s Swan Street (old Post Office)

My fave of all time. On any given Friday night 6pm till 8pm was always packed with memories of some great talent. The musicians who ran the jam had no constraints on the instruments used, time on turnaround between sets, or the amount of alcohol that could be consumed. The more we drank the better we sounded, thanks Roger ..

Night Cat, Johnson Street

Went there once, but not then the jazz jam was on..

Scarlette Bar/Onderland.Smith Street

Great location as there was a lot of passing punters, problem was they never came in they just kept on passing.

The Glasshouse, Gipps Street

Loved this venue as Taariq always insisted on doing Frank Zappa tunes at ridiculous tempos, and obscure time signatures, which most of the musos couldn’t handle (or didn’t care to?)

Ramage, Park Street South Melbourne

Ummmm don’t remember. Editor’s note: Apart from the jams, Mike actually played a gig there – could have been pissed at the time, which may explain the memory lapse….

La Pena, Victoria Street North Melbourne

Vaguely remember – as do we all

The Royal Standard Hotel, William Street North Melbourne

Had some good Jams there, loved the way the bar was situated between the jammers which was a buffer and safe haven from any train wrecks Can’t forget the way overpriced beer. Beer was always an issue in the Dom and Cheryl days

The Leinster Arms, Gold Street, Collingwood

Will never forget Glen (the drummer landlord) Was he a drummer? Ummm… He had a knack of always saying the jammers were too loud. Problem was he was always louder than anyone else, and had this crazy idea that all drummers had to use his toys. Mind you we had some well attended Christmas do’s and some fine after jammers dinner dates.

This venue ran for eight years (longer than any other) so it must have had some redeeming features. Best pre Christmas bashes. Surprising how many of the long term jammers remembered it more for its shortcomings.

The Junktion Hotel, Kew Junction

The layout was s**t house, the sound was “boomy” and does anybody know what happened to my carpet ? (see The carpet Chronicles below) . Was this venue the one with the worst house red, or was it the Leinster Arms?

The Post Hotel, St Kilda Road/Inkerman, St Kilda

Great venue for musicians and punters alike…and cool and hip bar staff (Mel, Toby, Devon), giving out free drinks, much to the delight of the jammers who suddenly realised that this was too good to be true. Which, of course, it was.

Nobody ever got on top of the PA system ; its technical deficiencies compounded by the endless feedback, and constant failings of speakers, leads or mics not working or not plugged in.

(Some of the mics worked better when they weren’t plugged in)

We were finally abandoned by yet another misguided management.

The Carpet Chronicles:

These came about after years of watching the Hirsh (and other drummers) slap the drum kit across a slippery floor. On occasion, there might have been an uncharitable thought as to where the drum kit might slide to. Once he got wind of this cunning scheme, young Mike insisted on a carpet to hold the decrepit kit du jour together, and so far we have been through about six manky rugs, filched from various corporation tips.

The carpets provide a modicum of sound attenuation, and a soft landing for the dummy…

Pubs with Pianos I haven’t Played At – an ongoing series

Wall Drug: they had a piano I didn’t play it

It wasn’t until I spotted a sign on Interstate 90 saying “Wall Drug, 782 miles” somewhere in Wisconsin that I understood the signs I saw for years on the London Underground trains – “Visit Wall Drug”.

As I wondered what the sign was saying, (having never encountered a speaking sign before) I came across another sign “Wall Drug 769 miles”. Approximately 250 signs later, I rode my motorcycle into Wall and decided to visit the Drug Store, home of the Jackalope. It is the second most exciting thing in South Dakota, which isn’t saying much.

There was a piano in there somewhere, which I decided not to play. Rashly we ordered coffee and burgers. The American suicide kit – you drink coffee so bad you want to die, and if you keep eating American burgers, that will do the trick.





Those of you who have never travelled I90W, or I90E for that matter- a stop at Wall Drug is highly recommended. Just be careful about the oncoming traffic.

The Ocean Inn, Dymchurch, Kent

Played here twice and never went back

Esmeralda had changed her mind. “Let’s go to Amsterdam.” she said. We were in Dublin at the time, and the map clearly showed several blue bits in between. Ferries. Once we got to Amsterdam, we stayed in the hotel where Chet Baker died, had some ordinary coffee and remarkable cigarettes at a cafe by the canal, and then left the next morning. Esmeralda had changed her mind again. “Lets go to Southampton”


The Chet Baker plaque on the wall of the hotel in Amsterdam

Holland, Belgium, Northern France, then the Chunnel (not recommended on a motorcycle as you stand up the whole way.) Riding back through Kent we went past the Ocean Inn, Dymchurch. I remarked to Esmeralda that this was the pub where I played my first ever paying gig (10s for an hour in 1965) and my second paying gig (£1 an hour a day later). Shall we have a look? “Keep going” she said, so I did..


The Ocean Inn: it is a bit blurry – could be the beer…

Toodle pip!

Next week: Some Festival dates for you to consider. They all say they are happening…

Second Inaugural Newport Jazz Festival

May 1st and May 2nd, 2021



51weeks to go!

72 Bands looks like the limit…

Several people contacted us about the Festival which was originally due to play last week. The weather was far too cold anyway…

The Festival Logo: 2021 edition above. It is so subtle (the date has changed) that the Ed missed it last week and kept the old one.

Band Bookings: We have contacted approximately 60 registered band leaders to make sure they are available for 1st/2nd May 2021 – every single one that we talked to said they weren’t busy that weekend. They are now…

Grant Application: Hobsons Bay City Council: they contacted us to confirm that our grant application for 2021 stands. It does, but Council is holding back on a decision whilst the restrictions on public events are eased.

The Festival Committee plans to reconvene in December 2020

Live Streams, Dead Pubs, the Laws of the Jam Session

Apparently, last week’s article headed Epistrophy struck a chord. I should stop right there, should I not? As if….Thank you for the feedback all the same.

First up, a bit about live – streaming music. We have had time to catch up on comments from the main stream media, or what is left of it. Seems current circumstances are disrupting the model of music streaming.


Streaming model businesses have all sought to provide access to every artiste in the known universe, or on the planet at least. And they have all been jolly successful – if you can get it on Spotify, it is bound to be on Itunes, Pandora, Amazon and Tidal. So they are no longer competing on quality or exclusivity so much as on being cheap, easy and available. At 30,000,000 tunes, it would take 79.9 years of nonstop listening to Spotify alone to get through them all.

Going live online: Seems that the current trend is for musicians to create concerts on line rather than in person, bypassing the streaming services as wellas the great unwashed and going straight to social media – Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, Whats App and the like. Apparently no-one has yet come up with a more efficient way of spreading viruses than a music festival or concert

Adding fuel to the fire, the current users of streaming services are apparently moving away from new music, and going the nostalgia route. So musicians can now choose between not getting paid much a by a streaming service, not getting paid at all because the gigs have all been cancelled, and not getting paid much by putting on their own concert or getting paid heaps by being dead.

Anecdotally, those jammers who have tried the online caper say it is technologically unreliable, and in particular creates timing issues. All that technology can barely provide a substitute for the live experience, even if it does improve, which of course it will because technology is like that. Should anyone doubt that, I got it from several sources, including a Wiltshire based Ukulele group. So there.

Personally, can’t wait to play live again. Ditto, I suspect. Most jammers…

Pubs with Pianos I haven’t Played At: Somewhere in south western Queensland there is a run down shack called the Toompine Hotel. It sits on the side of the Quilpie Thargomindah Road – a dirt track halfway between nowhere and nowhere else – I had ridden up it on a 1000cc Honda, with no map, not much petrol, and no water, mainly because Thargomindah was closed.

Turns out around 70% of all passing traffic stops at the Toompine Hotel. So I did too. . It is a bit like Wall Drug in that respect except Wall Drug is also closed, and it is in South Dakota. But I digress. There was an Opal rush in Toompine in the late 1800’s, but only the Hotel and the Cemetery and about six street signs got built The streets were called 1st Street, 2nd Street and so on. Probably a saxophone player there somewhere. Dead opal miners made it to the Cemetery. Everybody else packed up their tent and went to Lightning Ridge.

So… parked the bike, walked in for a chat with the landlord. There was a piano at the side of the bar. Who’da thought?. “That’s nothing” the barkeep said, “there’s another one out the back – I’ll show you” So through the back door, and there was another bar, with another piano along side. Who’da thought? Whilst I mused on the statistical improbability of finding two pianos in the outback, he opened a door at the back of the bar, and there, in a dingy room, was another piano, only this one was falling through the floor as the floorboards had been eaten by termites. Turns out there is not, statistically speaking , much between the odds of two and three pianos.

As none of them were in tune, I finished my drink, got back on the bike and went to Quilpie instead – where they had a surf club on the shores of Lake Quilpie. I bought the story and the teeshirt in the Quilpie Cafe.

Next week’s newsletter Why I stopped at Wall Drug, South Dakota, but not at the Ocean Inn, Dymchurch

From the Archives

From the archives: a 2011 essay. Not much has changed


Like all other slightly deviant activities in the  universe, or the back bar, whichever you happen to be in at the time, the Melbourne (*) Jam Sessions are subject to immutable laws, generally empirically derived, and only clarified by the third or fourth round of drinks.

ABILITY The Inverse Law of competence: This states that the amount of time taken to set up and start playing your instrument is inversely proportional to the level of competence subsequently displayed.

IMPROVISATION: The Law of Improvisation states that the number of notes played per nano second is often a clear indication of the complete lack of creativity in any given solo. Or of a devotion to late stage middle age be-bop fixation, which is much the same thing.

SOUND LEVELS: This law states that the louder you play, the better it will sound. It is a crap law, but does appear to have widespread support.

COMPLEXITY: The Law of Complexity states that complex tunes and/or arrangements, must generally be attempted by people deeply unable to master them, and deeply unable to appreciate that they remain un-mastered.. This Law of Complexity is often enhanced by the attemptee indulging in long explanations to other players of the form, intro, outro, key, fifth page repeated three times etc. etc. This leads to the Law of Perplexity

THE LAW OF PERPLEXITY: This states that the extent to which any given musician could not give a rats posterior about the long winded explanation (see above) is exactly proportional to the relative ability of that player vis a vis the attemtptee (see above again…)

THE GADGETS PRINCIPLE: The Gadgets Principle is that the number of gadgets required by a musician multiplied by the number of minutes required to connect said gadgets, divided by the number of tunes that could have been played in the time taken to rummage around for all the gadgets in the first place, then added to the the number of musicians standing around waiting for gadget connecting sequence to be completed… is errmm… a very silly number indeed.

THE COOLNESS QUOTIENT: This quotient can be derived by dividing your age by the number of years spent in studying jazz,. If the answer is between 7 and infinity, you need to stay out of the sun, acquire black clothes, a pork pie hat, a supercilious sneer, thick rimmed spectacles and a goatee beard. If female, you can skip the pork pie hat.

If your answer is below 7, you rock, Dude, probably own at least one skivvy with no writing on it, prefer vinyl to CD, know someone who knows someone who has heard of you but never met, and have travelled extensively in third world countries such as Carlton North and Abbotsford.


Melbourne (Australia) is not known as the cultural capital of the South for nothing. It is a city of around 4.9 million people,  who all wear black, know where the best coffee in Melbourne is, and voted for someone else at the last election, so cannot be held responsible…

The Second Inaugural Newport Jazz Festival

The Second Inaugural Newport Jazz Festival

clip_image002May 1st and May 2nd 2021

52 weeks to go! 60+ Bands looks likely.

Have spent the week perusing the American jazz scene – and  found the first 2021 Festival cancellation (it was a American folk festival and we all hope thye have afew folk left by then. Whilst the local music scene is struggling, we have it a lot better than in the States.

The Festival Logo: 2021 edition above. Subtle innit?

Band Bookings: We have contacted approximately 60 band leaders to make sure they are available for 1st/2nd May 2021 – every single one that we talked to said they weren’t busy that weekend. They are now…

The Festival Committee plans to reconvene in December 2020

The Festival Committee plans to reconvene in December 2020