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:
: 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.
: 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.
: 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.
: 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:
– 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.
– piano. Outstandingly successful tour of clubs and festivals in the UK and Canada in June/July 2006.
– 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.
– 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 Muller
and 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
Milestones and achievements
•1985 First autonomous production, States of the Art, a 4-concert series featuring 60 local musicians presented under the auspices of the Festival of Sydney and widely considered to have been the festival’s most successful fringe event, drawing capacity crowds
•1989 Establishment of longstanding jazz venue – Strawberry Hills Hotel (1989-1997)
•1999 Establishment of Side On Café as principal jazz venue (1999-2004)
•2002 Young Women’s Jazz Improvisation Workshops launched, led by Sandy Evans - interest and participation in these workshops continues to grow each year.
•2004 SIMA established the first annual Jazz: Now festival in collaboration with Jazzgroove and the Sydney Opera House, a boutique jazz festival showcasing innovative jazz
•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.
•2009 launch of Cool For Schools, Jazz education program for high school students
•2011 SIMA launches Jazz Career program, mentoring for young artists.
•2012 Sydney International Women’s Jazz Festival launched with support from City of Sydney
•2013 Invitation taken up from Aberdeen International Youth Festival to an Ensemble from the Young Women in Jazz program, including performance at the Edinburgh International Jazz Festival
•2013 Live recording program commenced in partnership with APRA/AMCOS
•2014 Young Women’s Jazz Workshops launched in WA
•2014 Partnership and performance series with the Freedman Foundation and Fellowships begins
Inaugural regional Festival, Berry Jazz
Young Women’s Jazz Workshops launched in ACT