The Themes of Fine Jazz on Fine Music Sydney

The magic behind our jazz presenters’ theme tunes

Fine Jazz on Fine Music Sydney covers 15 quite different programs, presented by 18 jazz enthusiasts. Choosing jazz for our Fine Music Sydney audience is exciting and contemplative.  Each of our presenters has their own musical preferences from the 120-year history of jazz: 1900s classic jazz; 50s bebop; 60s cool jazz; 90s European and Latin jazz; jazz versions of 21C pop; modern Australian; non-traditional instruments; and emergent jazz for tomorrow.

Our Fine Jazz catalogue has 48,000 jazz tracks, some the same with different musicians creating a different feel. And then there are the presenter’s own collections.

In this series, we will bring you some of the magic that is jazz, expressed by presenter’s theme tunes.

Jazz Pulse – Chris Wetherall Mondays at 7pm

Theme: St Thomas (Sonny Rollins 1956)

Chris chose St Thomas because of its universal charm and appeal.  Originally released on Rollin’s hallmark album Saxophone Colossus in1956, it has been described by the Library of Congress as culturally, historically and artistically significant.  Its calypso feel reflects Rollins’ lineage in the Virgin Islands, being named after one of the islands. The tune was based on the traditional English song The Lincolnshire Poacher, which evolved into a nursery song in the Virgin Islands, and which Rollins’ mother sang when he was young.

It was originally composed with lyrics: “I’m here on the beach in St. Thomas and it’s hot. Mojitos, toasty toes. Everything’s great, we’re on the beach.”  However, it is Rollins’ bouncy phrasing that gives a rhythmic island feel, along with his humour, gentleness, and delicacy.  The energy and tonality of St Thomas match the wide range of jazz in Jazz Pulse, from early Louis to Coltrane, with plenty of Ellington and Basie, through to hard bop.

Jazz After Hours – Sundays and Mondays at 10pm

Can’t We Be Friends (Kay Swift, lyrics Paul James -1929)

Jazz After Hours has a number of presenters with different styles but a common approach to late night jazz.  For a theme tune, Sue Jowell (Sundays) suggested the first track off her very first jazz album, which of course was vinyl, and then her very first jazz CD.  It was the satin smooth voice of Ella Fitzgerald, the distinctively rough voice of Louis Armstrong, with Oscar Petersen and his trio of Herb Ellis’ guitar, Ray Brown’s bass and Buddy Rich’s drums.

Some time ago, Sue was asked to fill in for another of our presenters, “… a big ask and even bigger shoes to fill”.  Rather than mimic, she chose her own style. She hoped she would not loose audience, there would be few tracks to enjoy, and that “… we could still be friends”.  Now she rejoices, starting each program with Sonny Stitt’s 1951 rendition.  “Yes, we can be friends”.

Jazz Rhythm – Tuesdays at midday with Jeannie McInnes

Theme: ‘Rockin’ In Rhythm’ (Duke Ellington and Harry Carney -1931).

Most music has rhythm!  But for Jeannie, what makes jazz speak to her whole being, making her move, is the talent of jazz musicians improvising within the melody, so that each rendition of a tune is unique.

Jeannie felt her theme tune needed rhythm in name and spirit, and had been recorded by many different performers creating a variety of rhythms. ‘Rockin’ in Rhythm’ by Ellington and Carney has been recorded by many in the 90 years since the Ellington in 1931, providing a different performer each week. From the original Ellington Orchestra, there are other big bands like the Swedish Harry Arnold Big Band and the Togo Orchestra, small groups like the Modern Jazz Quartet and Oscar Peterson Quartet, individuals like Joe Pass, vocalists Ella Fitzgerald and Maxine Sullivan, and very differently Miriam Makeba and Weather Report. For Jeannie, an ultimate example of “… variations on a theme”.

The New Jazz Standard – Thursdays at 7pm with Frank Presley

Theme: ‘Hey Ya!’ (Outkast -2003).

The concept of Frank Presley’s program is jazz interpretations of non-jazz music.  Frank was reviewing the album “The Blues of Joy” by Adam Simmons from Origami.  It reminded him of Sonny Rollins’s 1957 “Way Out West”, when Rollins used only saxophone, bass and drums to transform unlikely pop themes into sophisticated jazz.  

Simmons chose just the alto saxophone. None-the-less, he embraced pop without compromising artistic integrity, swing, groove, interplay, or self-expression. “Perfect I thought, a catchy three-minute interpretation of the 1990’s chart topper” ‘Hey Ya!’ by Outkast from Origami.

A Jazz Hour – Barry O’Sullivan on Fridays at midday

Theme: Dances on the Harbour (Andrew Robson, 2000)

This tune pays homage to the vibrant jazz music scene in Sydney, and has been the program’s theme since inception on the CBAA Network in 2004.  While Barry presents the program from Fine Music Sydney, it is syndicated across Australia, and focuses on contemporary jazz from Australia and international recordings, with regular interviews of local/visiting musicians.

It was composed by saxophonist Andrew Robson for his iconic trio with Steve Elphick on bass and Hamish Stuart on drums, and released on their 2000 album Sunman.  The album showcases his creative voice on trumpet, anchored by the melody and groove of his rhythm section.  It features some truly creative bass, saxophone and drum solos. This is the Sydney jazz scene, and indeed what the Australian jazz scene is all about.

Urban Jazz Lounge – Leita Hutchings on Saturdays at midday

Theme: Blue Samba (Ike Quebec 1962)

Leita’s program focuses on chilled-out bar-room jazz with new, hip, fun and traditional music, frequent hints of blues, all presented in a laid back, lounge style.  Lunchtime Saturday is for those who have just rolled out of bed after a big Friday night, are driving their kids somewhere, or for those who have always listened to jazz and are just cool and groovy.

Blue Samba was released on Quebec’s Bossa Nova Soul Samba album and was his last recording before his death in 1963.  Listening to Blue Samba, you’re struck by the Quebec’s very sexy tenor sax; it almost speaks.  It’s the perfect music to listen in a comfortable chair with your GnT … or to play while you chat to someone you’ve made a special dinner for … or just be lazy with. knees to the sky, sun baking on the beach … or … whatever! 


A Tribute to Chick Corea

By Robert Vale (Jazz Sketches, Wednesdays at noon) The passing of American jazz pianist Chick Corea at age 79 was recently announced, leaving the jazz...

Jazzed About Your Birthday

Celebrating the great musicians of jazz on their special day! February Birthdays Joshua Redman1 February, 1969 “If I knew what it was going to look ...

Australia Day Jazz – Jazz Rhythm, Tuesday at midday

Jazz has always been inventive, a bit out there, allowing the musicians to improvise on core tunes. Very Australian characteristics. Jazz started ...