Formed in 1983, the Melbourne Jazz Co-operative has been supporting jazz and improvised music continuously for over 30 years. Since presenting the Browne-Costello-Grabowsky Trio at its inaugural concert in January 1983, the MJC has presented around two and a half thousand performance,s featuring many of Australia’s most respected musicians, from Melbourne and interstate, as well as a number of expatriates and international artists who otherwise may not have performed in Melbourne. Since 1998, the MJC has presented an annual average of 110 performances featuring over 100 different ensembles.
The MJC has premiered several important new projects, including the Paul Grabowsky Orchestra (forerunner to the Australian Art Orchestra) and Andrea Keller’s Bartok Project. On top of this, the MJC has regularly debuted interstate acts, providing a vital link in any Australian tour, and exposing Melbourne audiences to the best jazz from across the country. Of note, the MJC provided Melbourne debuts for The Necks, the catholics, Sandy Evans, the Mike Nock Quartet and Bernie McGann Quartet.
This has all been done while the MJC maintains its core work – providing opportunities for local musicians to present new work in some of the country’s best jazz venues. High standards have been set by the established generations, and the younger generations of musicians have well lived up to expectations. In recent years the MJC has supported performances by the some of the finest musicians emerging on the scene, such as Marc Hannaford, Sam Anning, Shannon Barnett, Aaron Choulai and Gian Slater. It continues to do so with artists such as Joseph O’Connor.
Since 1993 the majority of MJC performances have been at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club, though in recent years the regular program expanded to include performances at the Uptown Jazz Café (after a series at the Paris Cat ovewr 2007-2009), as well as supporting other performances around Melbourne. In 1992 the MJC was responsible for bringing jazz in concert format to the Melbourne Festival for the first time, and in 1997 the MJC founded the Melbourne International Women’s Jazz Festival, organizing the festival until 2004 before handing it over to a Festival Board.
Alongside SIMA, the MJC has presented one the largest program of its type in Australia, and is a crucial element in Melbourne’s diverse arts scene. This organisation has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body, and the Victorian Government, through Creative Victoria, via its Arts Development Programs, as well as APRA/AMCOS since 2013/2014.