The Sydney Improvised Music Association Inc (SIMA) was established in 1984 with Peter Rechnewsky serving as the Artistic Director until 2012.
“We had no idea that SIMA would be such a long-term project. Our immediate aim was to create an organisation dedicated to presenting contemporary jazz and to apply for funding in order to support what we all felt was a scene with unrealised potential.
As the ‘newbie’ organisation, we were the butt of a few jokes about being the group that supported musicians with no audience. And that was one of our first objectives: to show that musicians like Roger Frampton, Bernie McGann, Mark Simmonds and their colleagues not only had an audience, but that it was the audience of the future.
Our first presentations were in 1985: a four concert mini-festival called ‘States of the Art’ included as an umbrella event in the Sydney Festival, and later that year four triple bill concerts at The Basement. All attracted full houses and gave us the confidence and kudos to cover more ambitious plans.
SIMA was established as a non-profit association with a view to addressing the lack of performance opportunities for contemporary jazz and improvised music artists in Sydney. Today we are the largest organisation in Australia dedicated solely to jazz and improvised music
Since inception SIMA has used several performance spaces, including Strawberry Hills Hotel and the Side-On Café. Our current home is at the Seymour Centre’s Sound Lounge; the SIMA office is also onsite.
From a fairly modest beginning, SIMA has attained a unique place in the Australian jazz scene where music is developed and artists can find their own voice; leading to recording contracts and invitations to take part in international jazz festivals where many have gained worldwide recognition.
Artists regularly performing for SIMA read like a “Who’s Who” of Australian jazz for example:
Sandy Evans: recognised as one of the leading saxophonists and composers in contemporary jazz in Australia as a soloist and as part of ensembles such as Ten Part Invention, The catholics, the Australian Art Orchestra and austraLYSIS, Sandy has won numerous awards including multiple ARIA, APRA and Mo awards and the inaugural Bell Award for Australian Jazz Artist of the Year in 2003. She also leads the SIMA Women’s Jazz workshops.
Mike Nock: New Zealand born pianist/composer is one of the acknowledged masters of jazz in Australasia. He spent 25yrs working in the US with many of the world’s top jazz musicians.. Featured on over 80 recordings worldwide with works commissioned and performed by Cleveland Chamber Symphony (USA), Australian Chamber Orchestra, Synergy, Melbourne Windpower, Ensemble 24, and Umo Jazz Orchestra (Finland) he works with upcoming local artists.
The late Bernie McGann (1937 – 2013) : Among many achievements here and abroad, McGann was long regarded as the most original alto saxophonist in Australian jazz. In 2008, he won the 2008 Graeme Bell Hall of Fame Award. His highly individual style earned him recognition worldwide. His trio toured extensively in Europe and North America and played at the famous Ronnie Scott’s club in London and at the Chicago Jazz Festival. Bernie McGann Trio won four ARIA awards, two Mo Awards and in 1998 Bernie won the Don Banks Music Award, the first time it was been awarded to a non-classical musician/composer.
Dale Barlow: One of Australia’s most accomplished and internationally recognised jazz artists, Dale Barlow is an inspiring, virtuosic and original tenor saxophonist/ composer Dale has toured and recorded with many greats in jazz, including Chet Baker, Curtis Fuller, Dizzy Gillespie and Sonny Stitt and has won numerous awards including 4 Mo awards and an ARIA.
Lloyd Swanton: Bassist, composer, producer, bandleader and radio presenter, Lloyd Swanton is one of the most respected and in-demand musicians in the country. Apart from leading his own band, The catholics, and co-leading The Necks, he has performed with many of the cornerstones of Australian music: Clarion Fracture Zone, the Bernie McGann Trio, Vince Jones and Sydney Symphony Orchestra, to name a few. Lloyd appears on over 60 albums, has produced four ARIA Award winners with Bernie McGann, and has toured extensively overseas and in Australia
Many award winning musicians other than those mentioned above have contributed to SIMA’s reputation as a “centre of excellence” including:
James Muller – guitar. Freedman Jazz Fellowship 2004; acclaimed album KABOOM! Recorded in New York in 2007.
Ten Part Invention – “The Bentley of Australian jazz” Sydney Morning Herald. Several recordings, invited to perform at The Chicago Jazz Festival (2004). Bandleader John Pochee won the 2007 APRA Long-Term Contribution to the Advancement of Australian Music.
Alister Spence – piano. Outstandingly successful tour of clubs and festivals in the UK and Canada in June/July 2006.
Andrea Keller – Best Australian Jazz Album 2008 Little Claps. Inaugural winner of the MCA/Freedman Foundation Jazz Fellowship. Winner of the 2003 Bell Award for Best Australian Contemporary Jazz Album and the 2003 ARIA Award for Best Jazz Album.
Jamie Oehlers – Winner of the 2003 World Saxophone Competition at Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland; 2007 Bell Awards for Australian Jazz Musician of the Year and Best Contemporary Jazz CD Release for You R Here Vol 1 & 2.
Past winners of the prestigious National Jazz Awards and the Freedman Fellowship such as pianists Jackson Harrison, Andrew Keller and Matt McMahon, saxophonists Julien Wilson, Andrew Robson, Matt Keegan and Roger Manins, trumpeters Scott Tinkler and Phil Slater (also winner of the 2008 Best Australian Jazz Ensemble of the Year); singer Elana Stone and Kristin Berardi, guitarist James Mullerand bassist Brendan Clarke have all performed on the SIMA stage.
Not to mention iconic Australian performers such as Paul Grabowsky, Joe Chindamo and classic ensembles such as the Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra and Wanderlust.
Milestones and achievements
•2005 SIMA becomes the main presenter at The Sound Lounge, Seymour Theatre, helping to build the former restaurant into an outstanding venue to hear live music. SIMA is a resident company of the Seymour Centre.
•2015 Inaugural regional Festival, Berry Jazz
•2016 Young Women’s Jazz Workshops launched in ACT