Gerry Koster Q&A

Gerry Koster at the Melbourne Recital Center | image by Roger Mitchell
Gerry Koster at the Melbourne Recital Center | image by Roger Mitchell

Gerry Koster’s voice is familiar to any jazz-loving Australian radio listener – and many internet listeners all over the world. He’s been broadcasting on ABC Classic FM as the presenter of Jazz Up Late since 2006, on ABC Jazz since its inception in 2009 and in community radio for many years before that! A familiar face at jazz festivals, concerts and teeny, tiny gigs, one thing is clear about Gerry: he really digs jazz.

We caught up with Gerry before his final Jazz Up Late on ABC Classic FM, to be broadcast on Friday 16 January at 10:30 pm, curious about where it all began. Why jazz? How did you find it? What were your early experiences?

Gerry Koster: I came to jazz by chance really. I grew up in what was a small country town at the time, and in years at high school I had a few friends who had some really switched on older brothers. I was introduced to one’s extraordinary collection of Mississippi delta blues LPs, another was heavily into Rolling Stone magazine and another pointed me in the direction of an ABC Radio program called Chris Winter’s Room To Move.

This was a world well outside of the mainstream – particularly in rural Australia – and I was immediately fascinated with it (I was a nerd before the word evolved, back then – a bit of a dag). And it was Ralph Rickman’s Music To Midnight program which I discovered shortly after this which stirred my interest in jazz.

I became serious about the music after a chance encounter with an outback artist who’d moved to town. Between trips to the bush he ran a small studio next door to where I worked after leaving school. I knew when he was in when I heard music coming across the way. One day I wandered into his studio and said ‘You’re playing The Hot Fives!’

Startled, he responded, ‘What!? You KNOW this stuff?’ He was a jazz lover, played a little, and had a huge collection of jazz recordings and was relieved find someone in town he could relate to with this passion. I was somehow provided with a mentor… and here I am.

AJN: What part has radio played in your jazz life?

Gerry: Radio played a vital part in my appreciation of the music. Over the years I’ve taken in all the jazz programs on ABC Radio – and my local community radio – and both continue to fuel my passion for the music. I’ve learned much. And through becoming involved with community radio I engaged with many like-minded folk – one or two not unlike my original mentor – and with the music community itself.

It remains an immensely enriching experience – not just from a learning point of view – and I continue to listen… AM, FM and digital.

AJN: What have been the highlights of your time on Jazz Up Late?

Gerry: Among the major highlights have been the times when we’ve engaged directly with the scene and our audience at festivals and individual events, recording concerts and producing live broadcasts for the program. These have involved some of best musicians not only from Australia but from around the world.

A couple which quickly come to mind are the live broadcast of Scott Tinkler’s FOLK from the 2009 Wangaratta Jazz Festival, and a concert we recorded at Melbourne’s Bennetts Lane with the British duo of saxophonist Trevor Watts and pianist Veryan Weston…

We’ve also recently instigated live broadcasts on the net on ABC Jazz – the most memorable of these was perhaps the Charles Lloyd Trio at the Melbourne International Jazz Festival last year.

Another important highlight for me has been the commissioning of studio recordings for Jazz Up Late. These are essentially to gather new Australian material for broadcast, and recently there have been a number of very successful sessions involving new groups and projects. One of these commissions resulted in the release of Paul Grabowsky’s first solo recording, Solo.

And another that I was rather fortunate to have been able to arrange, with an extremely small window of opportunity, was the piano duo of Myra Melford from America and our own Alister Spence – their improvised duets were released on the CD Everything Here Is Possible


ABC Jazz

The Jazz Up Late page on ABC Classic FM