In the past 20 years modern jazz has undergone an unprecedented transformation and expansion. Once Sydney dominated a modest national scene; today, with tertiary jazz courses generating a stream of talent, the impact is nowhere more visible than in Melbourne. Our jazz musicians tour overseas; their recordings are reviewed in the international journals. The Necks have achieved cult status in Europe while the pianist Aron Ottignon this year was named the London Observer’s new voice of the millennium.
Yet few Australians know of these milestones. Despite the changes progress is fragile. Australian jazz culture is divided and has not yet managed to counteract its marginalisation by the media. Across the spectrum of Australian music, jazz is a permanent underground, somewhere between high and low culture. Peter Rechnievski defines the causes and makes a way through to the light.