Bruce Clarke (musician)

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Bruce Clarke OAM (1 December 1925 – 24 July 2008) was an Australian jazz guitarist, composer and educator. He lived in Melbourne.


From 1949-1956 Clarke worked as a freelance guitarist-arranger among the many live radio orchestras. He accompanied overseas artists on their Australian concert tours and played in the dance halls and ballrooms that were the mainstay of pre-television social life.

In 1956, television arrived in Australia and brought this era to a close. Bruce moved into film and television music production and composition. He established his own studios and production company The Jingle Workshop in 1957.[1] He wrote and directed over 3000 television and film soundtracks for local and overseas producers between 1957 and 1974, some including vocalist Helen Reddy. As well as guitar he made extensive use of electronics, including the Moog synthesizer.[2]

During this period he continued to perform. He accepted a commission to realise the first major Australian electronic work for the 1968 Adelaide Arts Festival, and conducted performances in Melbourne of works by 20th-century composers Stockhausen, Berio and Webern. He toured Europe as guitarist with composer Felix Werder's Australia Felix Ensemble. He also appeared with the ABC orchestras under the batons of Sir John Barbirolli, Charles Mackerras, John Hopkins and others. In 1981 he played second guitar to John Williams with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in André Previn's "Concerto For Guitar And Orchestra".

In 1974 Bruce moved into the realm of teaching. Phasing out his commercial activities he accepted a position on the music board of the Australia Council and became Kenneth Myer Music Fellow to the Victoria Institute of Colleges - two positions which made him very aware of the need for more realistic approaches to the problems of students wishing to find a role in the world of "non-classical" music. With this in mind, in 1977 he instigated the Jazz Studies program at the Victorian College of the Arts, followed by the establishment of his "Guitar Workshop". In subsequent years he hosted many teaching clinics with visiting "guitar greats" including Joe Pass, Ike Isaacs, Ted Dunbar, Barney Kessel, Herb Ellis, Charlie Byrd, Martin Taylor, Emily Remler, and George Golla.

During the late seventies Bruce taught guitar using the Berklee method books and his own pre-recorded cassette tapes. His technique emphasised tone and quality of the guitar. His son Marshall Clarke is a fine jazz drummer and good friends with Hey Hey It's Saturday's Drummer Des 'Animal' McKenna who played on lots of Bruce's Jingles. His past guitar students include Mick Harvey, Robert Goodge (of I'm Talking), Pierre Jaquinot, Laszlo Sirsom, Mark Cally, Anne McCue, Doug de Vries, Dominic Kiernan, Barry Morton, and Andrew Pendlebury (of The Sports).[3]

Clarke also founded Cumquat Records to issue recordings of Australian Jazz from the 1950s onwards. From his catalogue of recorded works the author quoted his collaboration with George Golla on "In Memory Of Charlie Christian" (aka "Soft Winds" CQCD-2712) as his favorite.

Bruce Clarke worked with Frank Sinatra and recorded with him on his tour of Australia, and also worked with Mel Torme, Dizzy Gillespie, Stephane Grappelli, Stan Getz, and jazz guitarist John Collins (by whom he was greatly influenced), amongst many other world class musicians.


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