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Vale John McBeath

Gerry Koster, John McBeath

Gerry Koster with John McBeath in June 2014 during the Melbourne International Jazz Festival.

Vale John McBeath

Today at 2pm in Adelaide, family and close friends will farewell John McBeath, who many in the jazz community will know through his critiques of major festivals and the regular publication of his album reviews in The Australian.

Not everyone was happy with what John wrote — that’s surely inevitable and appropriate for a music critic. But no one doubted his commitment to the task — not an easy one — of using words, in most cases too few words, to convey thoughts about music.

I don’t think criticisms of the critic worried John all that much. I can vividly recall a refrain of his, when assessing festival programs, that too many of the same old artists were appearing in the line-ups. He had a point, although budget constraints always make programming difficult.

John will be missed not only as a scribe, but by those who regularly engaged him in discussions on inspiring artists and performances in the broad church loosely described as jazz, whether well known or obscure. One person in particular who will feel that loss is his good friend Gerry Koster, pictured above with John in a happy moment before a Melbourne International Jazz Festival concert  in June 2014. I like that picture because it captures a little of the comradeship that exists among the small group of media people who follow the local jazz scene.

John will also be missed at Wangaratta when he and his wife, Mary, were able to share brief breaks over a hasty meal amid the bustle of the jazz festival. At those times the topics of conversation were not limited to the music.

Our love and thoughts are with Mary and family at this difficult time.

Martin Jackson of the Melbourne Jazz Co-operative has posted these details of John’s life and work:

“John McBeath, former jazz critic for The Australian and Adelaide’s The Advertiser newspapers (2003-2017) and Australian Jazz Award judge, passed away in Adelaide last night [12 March] after an extended illness. For over 25 years John had been a freelance writer, publishing a wide variety of genres: jazz reviews, news items, travel articles, features, personality profiles, and CD and book reviews for The Adelaide Review, The Republican, The Bulletin, The Australian, The Advertiser, the Melbourne Herald Sun, several regional newspapers and airline inflight magazines.

“He’s won national prizes for jazz reviews and travel writing, and written a memoir book, What Westerners Have For Breakfast (2013), about the five years he spent living in Goa, India, in the 1980s.

“In addition to living in India, he also spent time living in other parts of Australia (managing community radio stations in Cairns, 1990-1993, and Alice Springs,1993-1997), before moving to Adelaide in 1997. Due to ill-health he resigned from his role as jazz critic at The Australian around August last year (being replaced by Eric Myers).”

John’s funeral will be held in Adelaide today — Friday, 16 March, 2018 — in The White Lady Funerals Chapel at 209 Anzac Highway, Plympton, commencing at 2pm. After the service,  a wake in his honour will be held at ‘The Wheaty’ in Thebarton, from 4pm. Small donations to the Cancer Council are suggested in lieu of flowers.

ROGER MITCHELL

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