Merv Acheson

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He was one of the grand old men of the Australian jazz scene, occupying a position of importance in that world that can be compared to that of the kangaroo in the island continent's wildlife scenario.…
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He was one of the grand old men of the Australian jazz scene, occupying a position of importance in that world that can be compared to that of the kangaroo in the island continent's wildlife scenario. Acheson was gigging back in the days when an Australian nightclub job might mean dodging bullets in a shoot-out, but remained active long enough to enjoy the transition from the early Wild West atmosphere to the relative sophistication of Syndey's nightlife. His freelance background in the decades before and after World War II meant he was, by necessity, thoroughly trained to fill the requirements of any and all nightclub or orchestra pit ensembles. By the late '40s he had begun gigging with George Trevare in Sydney, and became established on his own as a bandleader in the mid-'50s.

Hotels such as the Criterion, which booked the Acheson band from 1958-1965, were his most steady employers around Sydney. While this type of steady work seemed to fizzle with the onslaught of disco in the '70s, Acheson's talents as a saxophonist and clarinetist brought him back into action by 1979, when he began performing with bandleaders such as Dick Hughes and Alan Geddes. Encouraged by this new spurt of activity, Acheson also began leading his own group at the Canberra Hotel. Acheson also worked as a journalist during his career and was often quite involved with the Australian Musicians' Union. Much of what exists of his playing on recording was done during his final years, most notably the superb Merv Acheson Birthday Concert, recorded in 1982. The best collection of early material, from Acheson and many other stalwarts of the Australian scene, is the brilliant History of Jazz in Australia, a Sound Heritage Association publication that also includes a fascinating booklet.