THE late Australian jazz icon Graeme Bell has been honoured on what would have been his 98th birthday when the Wagga Jazz and Blues Festival kicked off last night.
In honour of Mr Bell and his close friendships with musicians in Wagga, the 2012 festival will pay tribute to the man who gave so much of himself to music and sharing his musical passions.
As an official guest of the festival, his widow Dorothy Bell said she was touched when told of the plans to honour Graeme’s memory.
“I immediately said ‘That’s his birthday’. He would have been 98 today,” Mrs Bell said yesterday.
While emotional to be without Mr Bell for the first birthday since his passing, she said there was no better way to honour the day then kicking off an entire weekend of jazz.
“I’ve very glad to be doing this on his birthday,” she said.
Mr Bell was born in Melbourne in 1914 and was originally a classical piano player.
However, his younger brother, Roger, influenced his conversion to jazz and they played together at Melbourne dances and clubs from 1935.
He was an influential musician who contributed to Melbourne’s 1940s traditional jazz boom and his band went on to have great success internationally following a performance at the World Youth Festival, in Prague.
He became a household name in Australia for his concert tours.
He received the order of Australia in 1990 and was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 1997 as “Australia’s foremost jazz musician”.
During his concert tours he would always ensure a trip to Wagga to visit with the late John Ansell, of Riverina Jazz Band fame, with their friendship spanning many decades over the love of music.
MUSICAL GROUP: Heather Harper, Wagga Jazz and Blues Festival patron Shirley Ansell, the wife of the honoured Jazz great Graeme Bell Dorothy Bell and Mildred Anderson stole a moment together before making their way into the first official function of the Jazz and Blues Festival. Picture: Les Smith
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