John Sangster

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This article is about the Australian jazz musician. For the British industrialist, see John Young Sangster.
John Sangster
Birth name John Sangster
Born (1928-11-17)17 November 1928
Origin Melbourne, Australia
Died 26 October 1995(1995-10-26) (aged 66)
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments vibraphone, drums, percussion, cornet
Associated acts Don Burrows
Notable instruments
Vibraphone, Percussion

John Sangster (17 November 1928 – 26 October 1995) was an Australian jazz composer, arranger, drummer, cornettist and Vibraphonist born in Melbourne, most well known as a composer though also a gifted multi-instrumentalist. Sangster worked with virtually every big name in Australian jazz during his career, a list of musicians that includes Graeme Bell, Humphrey Lyttelton and Don Burrows, among others.

He played trombone with Graeme Bell and his Australian Jazz Band, 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 late 1950s he began playing the vibraphone, which he found "combined the percussive qualities of the drums with the melodic capability of the trumpet" (Bisset, 1979). He played with Don Burrows in the early '60s. Sangster formed his own quartet and experimented with group improvisatory jazz, after he became interested in the music of such musicians as Sun Ra and Archie Shepp. He rejoined the Don Burrows Group briefly in 1967 when they represented Australia at Expo 1967 in Montreal, Canada.

In 1969 Sangster began to work with rock musicians and he joined the expanded lineup of the Australian progressive rock group Tully, who provided the musical backing for the original Australian production of the rock musical Hair. He performed and recorded with Tully and their successors Luke’s Walnut, throughout the two years he played in Hair and in 1970 joined the Burrows Group once again, this time for Expo 1970 in Osaka, Japan.

In the 1970s Sangster released a series of popular The Lord of the Rings inspired albums that started with The Hobbit Suite in 1973. Sangster also was the composer of a large number of scores for television documentaries, films, and radio slots (including The Funky Phantom).

In 1988 he published his autobiography Seeing the rafters. Sangster died in Brisbane, Australia on 26 October 1995 at 66.



  • The Trip (1967)
  • The Joker is Wild (1968, Festival Records)
  • Ahead of Hair (1969, Festival Records)
  • Marinetti (Original Soundtrack, 1969) reissued 2009 Roundtable Records
  • Once Around the Sun (Original Soundtrack, 1970) reissued 2009 Roundtable Records
  • Australia and all that Jazz volume one (1971, Cherry Pie Records)
  • The Hobbit Suite (1973, Swaggie Records)
  • Paradise volume one (1973, Trinity Records)
  • Lord of the Rings volume one (1975) reissued 2002 by Move Records
  • Lord of the Rings volume two (1976) reissued 2004 by Move Records
  • Australia and all that Jazz volume two (1976, Cherry Pie Records)
  • Lord of the Rings volume three (1977) reissued 2005 by Move Records
  • For Leon Bismark volume one (1977, Swaggie Records)
  • Double Vibes: Hobbit (1977, Swaggie Records)
  • Landscapes of Middle Earth (1978) reissued 2006 by Move Records
  • Uttered Nonsense - The Owl and the Pussycat (1980, Rainforest records) reissued by Move Records


  • Bisset, Andrew, "Black Roots, White Flowers" (1979), Golden Press, ISBN 0-85558-680-X
  • Carr, Ian; Fairweather, Digby; Priestley, Brian, "Jazz: The Rough Guide" (1995), Penguin, ISBN 1-85828-137-7.
  • Sangster, John, "Seeing the rafters: the life and times of an Australian jazz musician" (1988), Penguin, ISBN 0-14-010928-5
  • Sharpe, John, "Don't worry baby, they'll swing their arses off" (2001), ScreenSound Australia, ISBN 0-9579390-0-0

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