We take a look at a rising jazz talent
Written by Barry O’Sullivan
Photo by Aaron Blakey and Frank Crews
Falling in love with jazz at the early age of nine Tom Avgenicos also inadvertently discovered his future career path. He may not have known it at the time, but when his mother brought home one of the jazz educator Jamey Aebersold’s popular music method books to amuse two restless primary schoolboys on their school holidays, the wheels of his future had begun to turn.
Tom, with his older brother Michael, happily played along with the CD attempting to improvise as they progressed. Their father, a jazz fan, began to introduce the boys to the recordings of the giants, including saxophonist Joshua Redman and trumpeter Miles Davis. The boys were hooked!
Tom began busking jazz tunes fortnightly in the Victoria Street Mall, Chatswood, and occasionally in Bondi Junction and Eastwood.
Attending Chatswood High School, where he now also teaches music, his love of jazz was fostered with many performance opportunities. These included an overseas tour with his school band to Europe and the USA.
Being mentored by the acclaimed trumpeter Warwick Alder, Tom’s improvisational skill developed to the stage when he was able to enter and become a finalist twice in the James Morrison Generations in Jazz competition while still in high school.
In 2018 he graduated from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music with first-class honours. While completing his studies Tom was the recipient of the George and Margaret Henderson Scholarship, a Global Mobility Scholarship as well as being awarded the Outstanding Musician of the Year.
Upon graduation, he led his own ensemble, Delay 45, on an international tour of Europe performing in Cologne, Berlin, Siena, and Amsterdam receiving mentorship along the way from a selection of some of Europe’s leading players including Jonas Burgwinkel, Jeff Ballard and Matt Penman. Tom states that this tour was instrumental in shaping the improvisational language of his band, which who then went on to record their debut album big ears, which was reviewed and described by Sydney Morning Herald’s Jazz Critic, John Shand, as “a bold new chapter in Australian Jazz”.
“I’m into such a wide range of music at the moment… Hopefully music that is interesting and unique, that also reflects my personality and interests.”
This year Tom released his second album recording, Dash, a collaborative project with the Melbourne trombonist Josh Bennier, exploring earthy textures in a cordless ensemble within the realm of contemporary jazz and improvisation. A third album is also in the can with his older saxophonist brother Michael exploring electronic music production.
Tom is also an emerging active member of the Australian live jazz scene, performing alongside a number of Australia’s leading outfits including the Mike Nock Noctet, the Matt McMahon Quartet, Steve Barry, Chris Cody and the Australian premiere ensemble Ten Part Invention.
Tom was awarded third place in the brass section at the National Jazz Awards, Australia’s prestigious jazz competition in Wangaratta. Tom was also Sydney Improvised Music Association’s (SIMA) “TRIGGER” Artist of the Year in their Winter Jazz Program.
When asked – into the future what kind of music he wanted to create – Tom replied, “I’m into such a wide range of music at the moment so it’s difficult to say. Hopefully, music that is interesting and unique, that also reflects my personality and interests.”