Affectionately know as “The Beast” Tony began his musical career on E flat Tuba twice being awarded National Tuba Champion in his early teens.
In the early seventies he attended the Sydney Conservatorium of Music High School and with trumpeter Paul Terracini started the first Big Band at the Conservatorium.
After hearing John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” Tony became transfixed with the saxophone. One of the first jazz students to graduate from the Conservatorium, Tony continued his musical career becoming lead alto saxophonist in the Daly Wilson Big Band from the late 70’s till relocating to Europe in late 1982.
Settling in Amsterdam Tony began writing Big Band music in earnest drawing on the firm foundations and inspiration from his education at the Sydney Conservatorium with Roger Frampton, Richard Toop, Geoff Bailey, Bill Motzing and many others.
During his 3 years in Europe Tony studied classical saxophone under the tutelage of Professor Daniel Deffayet at the Paris Conservatoire and was embraced by his Netherlands jazz colleagues as co-director of the Maiden Voyage Big Band, Lead Alto Saxophonist in the Frank Grosso and Bridge Big Bands and taught at the Sweelinck Conservatorium for the Improvised Music Department.
On returning to Australia he taught saxophone at Brisbane State High School and at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music and in the early nineties lectured at the Elder Conservatorium of Music, Adelaide.
Tony was awarded his Masters in Music Research from the Queensland Conservatorium before his untimely departure to the Big Band in the sky on the 19th April, 2008.
His major influences in the Big Band idiom are extensive and include innovators Bob Graettinger, Franklyn Marks, Johnny Richards, Stan Kenton, Thad Jones and Mel Lewis Big Bands, Oliver Nelson, Bob Brookmeyer plus saxophonists John Coltrane, Art Pepper and many more.
Tony’s passion for harmony, colour and melody shine on for others to explore in his musical creations and within the many students that have been inspired and touched by his love and passion for music.
Tony family gratefully wish to thank Andrew Garton for his generosity of spirit, time and energy dissecting Tony’s handwritten score of “New Bossa” so meticulously into parts for others to play and enjoy.
Bio kindly provided by Lynette Irwin. Photograph by Elisabeth D’Orcy