I had been thinking about the Queensland jazz scene (and jazz education generally) when I learned of the sad passing of Lynette Irwin, after a long and courageous medical battle.
After his recent visit here, John Hoffman generously sent me the CDs that I had not come across from his “The Con Artists” series, produced from 1998 during his 26 year teaching tenure at the Queensland Conservatorium at Griffith University. The albums feature Con. big bands with well-known guest artists (including Jim Pugh, Will Vinson, Graeme Lyall, Mat Jodrell, Tony Gould, Scott Tinkler Dale Barlow and Joe Chindamo). They present programs of compositions by U.S. artists (such as Maria Schneider, Pat Metheny, Kenny Wheeler, Sondheim) and impressive originals by some of the students and guests.
But it is the list of students that is the most impressive aspect: vocalists Megan Washington, Katie Noonan, Kristin Berardi, Elly Hoyt, and Hannah Macklin; saxophonists Zac Hurren, Jacam Manricks; Angela Davis and Phil Noy; trumpeter Dan Quigley and Carl Harvoe; pianist Steve Newcomb and Gemma Turvey; and bassist Georgia Webber.
This list is a tangible reflection of Hoffman’s teaching legacy at “The Con”, as well as indication of the talent in the Brisbane scene in the early 2000s.
However, students also need to develop their craft “on the bandstand” on public gigs. Brisbane did not exactly have a reputation for a contemporary jazz scene when Ted Vining and his group Musiikki Oy moved from there to Melbourne in early 1986. Lynette Irwin succeeded Ted Vining in the part-time Australia Council-funded position of Queensland Jazz Co-ordination, and held the position until it transitioned into Jazz Queensland.
In addition to this role, Lynette stepped in and personally entrepreneured some touring acts to ensure that they performed in Brisbane. At least once she “loaned” her own grand piano for a concert (to Mulgrew Miller in 1988).
In addition to the Con students mentioned above, she assisted and encouraged numerous other Brisbane musicians at various times, including Jeff Usher Unit, James Sherlock, Artisans Workshop, Rafael Karlen, West End Composers and Joe O’Connor, as well as Melbourne quintet Morgana.
She also self-funded her Pinnacles Music label, which produced a dozen or so albums from 2008 to 2018.
On the December 3 edition of our eNews I had written of Lynette’s significant contributions to the Melbourne Women’s International Jazz Festival over a 17 year period. Highlights have included Japan’s Satoko Fujii Trio combining with the Bennetts Lane Big Band in 2007, while other international artists have included Norwegian saxophonist Froy Agaare and Canadian pianist Emie R Roussel with her Trio. She was a great advocate for women artists in jazz.
On various National Jazz Forums at Wangaratta and elsewhere, I always found Lynette to be a very supportive and staunch colleague, and who worked for what was best for the national jazz scene.
Last year a Tribute concert for her was staged in Brisbane, in a tangible demonstration of the appreciation and affection with which she is regarded by Brisbane’s jazz community.
All together, Lynette has left an incalculable legacy with the Brisbane jazz scene, as well as the broader Australian jazz scene. Horbelt was left with the role (also on a purely voluntary basis).