Martin Jackson

Glass half empty? Martin Jackson faces a lean year in the Melbourne Jazz Co-operative’s mission to support musicians and live music in Melbourne.

There will be no Arts Victoria money for the Melbourne Jazz Co-operative next year, unless pressure can be applied to have this decision reversed. Now the co-operative is putting its case:

The MJC has issued the following statement:

The State’s Arts Victoria has again set itself on a collision course with the local jazz community over its latest rejection of two funding applications from the Melbourne Jazz Co-operative. Its refusal to support the MJC comes as the co-operative gets ready to celebrate a milestone achievement for any arts organization – its 30th anniversary in January with events at Federation Square and the City Square.

Its impressive record of achievements include providing over 100 performances annually (featuring over 100 different ensembles) since 1998 via its twice weekly series at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club, enabling young and established creative and improvising jazz musician to be heard. It has been at the start of most jazz careers for local musicians. In 1997 it also founded, developed and has continued to support, the Women’s International Jazz Festival. It has done all this while struggling to secure adequate funds from arts funding bodies from year to year to support local musicians.

Triple-ARIA winning pianist/composer Andrea Keller commented today that, “I really truly value all the opportunities you’ve given me since 1997 – I’m quite certain I wouldn’t be the musician I am without the MJC”.

Yet while the Music Board of the Australia Council has consistently seen fit to fund the co-operative for 31 consecutive years, the Baillieu State Government has declined to put in any corresponding funds for 2013. In contrast, the NSW State Government has again kicked in $130,000 to support its two local jazz advocacy groups in 2013.

The Government spokesperson’s defence of these results has been that, “The Victorian Government has been a very generous supporter of the Melbourne International Jazz Festival, which received over $500K in support this year. Similarly, a number of jazz artists have benefited through the contemporary music grants in recent years”.

MJC Artistic Director Martin Jackson responded that, “If our state arts funding body cannot grasp the fundamental distinction between a 10-day festival and support of the Melbourne’s on-going jazz community, then this should be a major concern. Contemporary jazz is different to classical music because it is created by individuals collaborating together in ensembles within a jazz community”.

If the response to this news on Facebook is any indication, Melbourne’s Jazz musicians – not normally inclined to get involved in politics — are not going to take this lying down.

Adrian Jackson, artistic director of the Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival and Stonnington Jazz, has sent a protest letter to the Arts Minister and Liberal Premier Ted Baillieu.

Among those joining in what is becoming a storm of protest after it was posted on Facebook is performer Tracy Bartram. The MJC has set up a Facebook causes page and is collecting signatures on a petition to be sent to the State Government challenging its decision to disenfranchise the state’s jazz community in its funding allocations for 2013.

Prominent jazz identities Mike Nock, Tony Gould, Rob Burke and Barney McAll have weighed in with their support for MJC in its battle to regain some funding. MJC has released their statements:

Robert Burke, saxophonist and head of the School of Music and Co-ordinator of Jazz and Popular Music at Monash University:

The Melbourne Jazz Co-op has been the catalyst for development of jazz and music in the state of Victoria and nationally. On minimal funding the Co-op has nurtured artists and presented ‘cutting edge’ music that is internationally significant.

Professor Tony Gould, improvising pianist and Australia’s first Professor of Jazz. Monash University, School of Music:

For many years the Melbourne Jazz Co-op has been a major factor in promoting the great art of improvisation. It should be supported wholeheartedly by musicians and listeners who value music in Melbourne. Indeed the co-op has made an invaluable contribution to creative music-making.

Mike Nock, pianist, composer, bandleader, Lecturer in piano (Jazz) at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Sydney University and holder of the ONZM, the New Zealand Order of Merit:

The Melbourne Jazz Co-op’s on going commitment to supporting and presenting the very best modern jazz available should be a model for similar societies around Australia. The consistent and knowledgeable depth of programming has seen many deserving groups gain exposure to their music, in the process, making the MJC a trusted go-to source for fans and an invaluable resource that continues to contribute hugely to the vibrancy of the local scene.

Barney McAll, Melbourne-born internationally performing pianist and composer, now based in New York:

The MJC has been a life buoy in a sea of funding cuts, musician misrepresentation and of venues/club owners with agendas. Even amidst its own poor funding, the MJC has managed to foster so much of the best creative music Australia has to offer. Co-op gigs give musicians a platform to prepare and compose for that is pure and open. This is vital. If music fights evil, than so does the MJC! In a culture which is increasingly all about profit, personal gain and self service, Martin Jackson (MJC artistic director) is a man who is all about music.

Saxophonist Jamie Oehlers, winner of the 2003 White Foundation World Saxophone Competition and coordinator of Jazz Studies at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts:

The Melbourne Jazz Co-op has been an incredible support to me and many of the projects I have been involved in over the past 15 years. The MJC has given opportunities to so many rising artists as well as established performers, helping to further enhance and develop this music both artistically and publicly. A landmark on the Australian jazz scene for both national artists and local artists. I know we are all extremely thankful for its existence and the hard work contributed by Martin and his team.

Ausjazz blog will do all it can to help fight this Arts Victoria decision. More news as it comes to hand.



  1. It’s a shame–another knock to the arts and it appears this is felt all around the world.

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