Celluloid Improvisations logo Jazz on Film Mark Cantor

Graeme Bell and his Australian Jazz Band “At A Georgia Camp Meeting”

Jazz has a long and varied history in Australia, and it has been successfully presented in night clubs, festivals and a variety of other venues since the 1920s. Australian musicians learned the music largely from recordings, although visiting American jazz bands influenced the Australia jazz scene a great deal. (Sonny Clay’s band from Los Angeles toured Australia in 1928, their departure forced by the fact that band members were fraternizing with Australian women … read that as “white women.”)

The 1940s saw a resurgence in tradition jazz performance, mirroring a similar movement in the United States. One of the finest of the so-called “trad bands” was Graeme Bell and his Australian Jazz Band. The band used Melbourne as a home base but traveled the world from 1947 onward.

Not a great deal of Graeme Bell’s music has turned up on film, and this is the only clip that I know of that features the musicians who were with Bell in the 1940s. Filmed in December 1971 at the Australian Jazz Convention, Dubbo, New South Wales, this performance of At A Georgia Camp Meeting (Georgia Cakewalk) is an important reminder of Graeme Bell’s music, and the power and importance of the “trad” movements in jazz.

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