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John Sangster

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Born on the 17th November, 1928, John Sangster was a central and charismatic figure in Australian jazz. An accomplished and highly innovative performer, he started out playing traditional jazz with Graeme Bell and his Australian Jazz Band on trombone, later taking up the cornet, and then drums. He toured several times with Bell between 1950 and 1955, playing in Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and Korea.

In the 1960s Sangster played at the El Rocco, a famous Sydney venue for modern and experimental jazz at that time. He formed his own quartet and with them experimented with group improvisatory jazz, after he became interested in the music of such American jazz musicians as Sun Ra and Archie Shep. He rejoined the Don Burrows Group briefly in 1967 when they represented Australia at Expo 1967 in Montreal, Canada.

Sangster always encouraged Australian musicians to compose and perform their own music and although he did not begin to compose in earnest until in his late thirties, he was one of the most prolific jazz composers in Australia. His compositions include several inspired by the works of J.R.R. Tolkein, including The Hobbit Suite (1973), Lord of the Rings (in three volumes - 1974, 1976 and 1977), Bilbo Nods Off (1977) and Landscapes of Middle Earth (1978). Another productive area of Sangster’s career was the composition of music for television documentaries, radio, and feature films.

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